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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book at Christmas time, and having previously enjoyed ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe, I was really happy to get my hands on this. Essentially it is a collection of observations, memories and a few short stories all – obviously – based around a Christmas theme.

Stibbe discusses such things as how to cook a turkey without it being dry (she has chops instead!), the art of Christmas gift giving, spending Christmas with your parents despite being well into adulthood and more. Just as in Love, Nina, she is an engaging and amusing narrator and provided lots of smiles and giggles while I was reading this.

It’s lighthearted and undemanding – I read it over two days but only because I was stretching it out – and because those two days were Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we had places to be – I would think that it would be an easy book to polish off in one sitting.

I will be keeping this book and revisiting it at future Christmas times. I definitely recommend it.

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Caitlin Moran writes a regular column for The Times newspaper, and this book is a collection of those columns (almost 80 of them in fact).  They cover a very wide array of subjects – Moran’s childhood in Wolverhampton, late night conversations with her husband, the Eurozone crisis, the welfare state, Ghostbusters, and celebrity weight loss, to name just a few.  There are also some longer columns where she reviews/discusses some of her favourite TV shows, including Sherlock and Doctor Who, or where she describes a day spent with stars such as Lady Gaga, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney.

Just as the subjects of her columns vary widely, so does her tone – some of the columns have an air of melancholy, some are humorous, and some are angry.  Obviously, people’s enjoyment probably depends on their level of interest in whatever subject is being written about, so there were a few columns which I found, if not exactly unenjoyable, not particularly memorable or engaging (sorry, but I’m not interested in Moran’s holidays, not because the places she writes about aren’t interesting or beautiful, but because she focuses so much on how they affect her personally).  Occasionally she comes off as trying a bit too hard to be funny or quirky, but for the most part -and especially with the lighter hearted columns – her writing makes for enjoyable reading. I wish she didn’t write about so much about politics – it is a fascinating subject and I enjoy reading about it, but not in this kind of three-page-essay format.

So there were a few things about the book that didn’t grab me, but with a collection of columns on a wide variety of subjects, that is almost bound to happen.  If I sound negative, I should point out that many of the columns really did make me laugh out loud, and on a personal note, I did enjoy her mentions of Wolverhampton, because it is also the town where I grew up.  Moran is clearly a clever and witty writer, and quite frank about her own life (including her past drug taking, and her weight issues).  I’d like to read more by her, but I would prefer a book which stuck to just one or two main themes, as this one felt rather scattered, but that made it a good book for dipping in and out.

 

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Dear, oh dear.  I was sent this book as a freebie to review, and I have to say it just didn’t do anything for me.

It is essentially a set of essays ranging in length from one sentence to 2 or 3 pages, about all manner of things.  Supposedly, the author is supposed to find hidden meaning in all sorts of inanimate objects and common situations.  However, my view is that the meanings he found were not hidden; they just didn’t exist in the first place.  For example, I really can’t find too much about an ashtray that is worth waxing lyrical about.  Revolving doors are just not that awe inspiring to me.

I will say that the writing is elegant, although the translation sometimes left a bit to be desired.  A couple of the essays even had an element of truth in them – mainly the ones where the author describes any sort of interaction with other people.  But for the most part, Kral attaches such significance and meaning to so many objects that are just not worthy of it that I got bored and irritated while reading.

It was a relief to finish this (and if it wasn’t for the fact that I hate giving up on books, I would have given up on it very early on) – I won’t be seeking out any more books by this author.

(I would like to thank NewBooksMag for sending me this book to review. NewBooksMag’s website can be found here.

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