Second hand book stores, and holiday time to actually finish books, are a dangerous combination. The pile on the left are what I came home with, and the pile on the right are those which I finished before we even got back.
I had read a few dismissive reviews of The Codex, but I enjoyed the first couple of Magicians books so when I stumbled across this earlier stand-alone story I picked it up anyway and loved it. It is disjointed, yes. Parts of it have no connection to anything else, and are just left dangling there tantalisingly. The writing is mostly deceptively simple, but entirely stunningly poetic in places. Lev Grossman certainly has a gift for writing fairly unlikeable young male protagonists (and I do love a book in which we are not *meant* to fall unquestioningly in love with the main character, and mainly would like to give them a good shake). The story is uniquely strange, desolate, beautiful, raw, and frustrating. I finished it in a couple of happy sitting-by-the-fireside grey and chilly evenings in the cottage. *bliss*
At least fifteen years after I read Maya Angelou's first autobiographical stories, I finally finished. A Song Flung Up to Heaven made me cry, as did every one of its predecessors. Maya Angelou's poetry has captivated me since my early teens, and her life story likewise is lyrical, devastating, wise, and perfect. I have so much admiration for this powerful beautiful woman. Her books really are a must-read.
Last but not least, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell took me a good deal longer than many other books of a comparable size. That is mainly due to its painstakingly furnished world and incredible level of detail; every paragraph is exact, and fascinating. No period flourish is ignored, no element left to chance. It is the kind of book that takes what would be in other hands merely an interesting fantasy story, and transforms it into the utterly believable. (But the footnotes drove me a little insane. This is not a book to easily read whilst constantly distracted by children.)
I also managed to finish the crocus-coloured Coffee Bean for Talia (though I cast off the sleeves after we arrived home):
I think she likes it.