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Roman Clodia (London)

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Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson
Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson
by Darryl Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.89

4.0 out of 5 stars A very good selection of literary horror stories, 22 Sep 2014
As befits an anthology published by OUP, this is a collection of horror stories from the more literary end of the spectrum. The period spanned is the ‘long’ nineteenth century, with the latest entry having been published in 1912, and the spread includes old favourites (The Monkey’s Paw, Dickens’ The Signal Man, The Yellow Wall Paper), as well as stories and writers new to me. I especially liked that this includes a story by Balzac, not a writer usually associated with the genre, and Zola’s The Death of Olivier Bécaille, a story which I first read during A level French.

Jones’ introduction summarises the genre well, the way it is both transgressive and at the same time deeply conservative, and the way that it reflects and refracts more general cultural anxieties.

So this is a great collection whether you are an aficionado of horror, someone who wants to dip into the genre’s nineteenth century past – or for teaching a university module on horror fiction.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)

Dear Daughter
Dear Daughter
by Elizabeth Little
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars A sharp, smart, gripping piece of entertainment, 21 Sep 2014
This review is from: Dear Daughter (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ten years ago Janie Jenkins went to prison for killing her mother - now she's out and she's determined to find out what really happened that night...

This is very sub-Gillian Flynn: not so much like Gone Girl but like a mash-up of elements from Dark Places and Sharp Objects. The search for the truth of the past, the vexed relations between mothers and daughters, the uncovering of secrets in small-town USA, even the role of the press, and Janie's relationship with police chief Leo reminded me of Flynn.

So, too, the voice of Janie: smart, sharp, occasionally tiresome and overdone ("eighteen months ago, on a day I can't describe for you because, hello, I was in a high-security prison where nothing ever changed"). That said, the dark humour keeps this buoyant.

This is a bit drawn out in parts-there's a very long preamble before the story really gets going, and the final confrontation with the killer is ludicrous, almost cartoon-like, especially when we remember that Janie is a self-confessed 7-stone weakling...

All the same, this is a readable debut, if not quite as original as is being hyped on the cover - as a gripping piece of switch-off entertainment this just tips over into 4-stars for me.

Murder at the Brightwell
Murder at the Brightwell
by Ashley Weaver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introducing the most divine man I've met in a long time!, 21 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a 'cosy' set amongst a group of Bright Young Things in a luxury seaside hotel. When the caddish Rupert is murdered, Amory takes it upon herself to play detective, and finds herself embroiled in red herrings galore, and - of course - in personal danger from the murderer.

Unlike Agatha Christie murders, to which this has been compared, there are no clues as we go along, and the uncovering of the perpetrator is almost an arbitrary afterthought without that 'ah' moment Christie pulls off so brilliantly.

The characters tend towards the tick-box usuals: the rich bored sexual predator, the mysterious young man, the odd couple, the bullying husband and meek wife - and it is, of course, this recourse to convention which makes this such a comfortably unchallenging read.

What really lifts it for me, though, is the utterly divine Milo, Amory's deliciously louche and rakish husband. The will-they-won't-they love triangle is given a sharp boost every time he makes one of his casual, lounging appearances in his impeccably cut suits, and his deadpan humour raises this far above the average. For the sake of Milo, I'd definitely read a sequel.

NUMATIC HVR200A2 Henry Vacuum Cleaner, 580 Watt, Bagged, Red/Black
NUMATIC HVR200A2 Henry Vacuum Cleaner, 580 Watt, Bagged, Red/Black
Price: £109.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You haven't hoovered till you've hoovered with Henry!, 20 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I hate housework, I hate hoovering, I hate dusting - but if you have to do it, then Henry's the best friend you could have. I’ve been using the HVR200A for the last 3 years – following EU regulations, it’s now been discontinued and replaced by this model which has an energy-efficient motor. Magically, though, the sucking power hasn’t diminished.

Cute and super-efficient, Henry cleaners are the ones that professionals use and it’s easy to see why. Everything about this cleaner is sleek, easy, and hassle-free from the extra-long lead, to the twist off lid with mega-size bag; from the giant filter, to the easy-touch power switch.

This keeps carpets clean, and the quick switch accessories mean that my bookcases, furniture and TV are also gleaming, dust-free zones.

I never thought I would say this about a domestic appliance, but I seriously love Henry!

The Children Act
The Children Act
Price: £6.45

4.0 out of 5 stars A moral fable about the ethics of responsibility and consequences, 19 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Children Act (Kindle Edition)
This starts off in an intriguing fashion asking questions about where the boundaries lie between state intervention and personal freedom: always, and necessarily, a vexed question. McEwan dramatises these questions via what at first appears to be a clash between religion and the law, only this dichotomy becomes blurred as for Fiona the law *is* a form of religion: it's the thing that she has complete faith in, which has shaped her life, and in which she still believes even when it appears wrong.

As the story progresses, though, the conflicts change and, ultimately, I think this is more about responsibilities, about what we owe to other people, and how far-reaching the consequences of our unthinking actions may be.

McEwan writes beautifully, of course, with a flowing and conscious ease. Despite this, there are false notes here: the unbelievable meeting in the hospital room complete with (bad) poetry and the singing of Schubert; the character of Adam who is like no 17 year old I've ever met.

Despite that, this is a probing, clever book which asks questions it doesn't necessarily, and perhaps can't, fully answer. Short and intense, this novella might be best read not so much as realist fiction but as a moral fable where psychological belief is not really the point - recommended as an interesting, thoughtful read.

(I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley)

Mr Mac and Me
Mr Mac and Me
by Esther Freud
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A subtle, delicate tribute to the role of art in sustaining life, 18 Sep 2014
This review is from: Mr Mac and Me (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a slow, delicate book which traces the gentle friendship between a young boy, Thomas, and the artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s 1914, and Mackintosh and his artist wife are in Suffolk when war breaks out. As soldiers and sailors drift in and out of the small village, Mackintosh himself arouses suspicions for his ‘foreign’ accent (he’s Glaswegian, of course) and his correspondence with German artists.

This isn’t a book about plot: it’s more an elegiac meditation on a lost, slower, more innocent world. The story unfurls quietly, and though we have zeppelins overhead and an entire home regiment slaughtered, these don’t make up the peaks of the story: instead that place is taken by the role of art itself, epitomised by the end.

Freud doesn’t quite overcome the limitations of the first person narrative: Thomas has to recount actions he has only read about in the newspapers, especially awkward when he describes the sinking of a ship he can never have witnessed. There’s also a lot of steaming open of letters to get some kind of view of Mackintosh’s internal life. And I couldn’t believe that the narrative voice was that of a 13 year old boy with the barest education as was the case in 1914. We do, then, have to make allowances for these structural flaws.

Overall, though, this is book written with the lovely delicacy and detail of Mackintosh’s flower paintings which feature in the story. And the fast-forward ending puts the role of Mackintosh’s art into subtle personal perspective.

The Weight of Blood
The Weight of Blood
by Laura McHugh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

3.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 stars) More dead girls and sinister secrets in small-town America, 18 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Weight of Blood (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This starts well, if conventionally: a dead girl's body, dual time-frame 1st-person narratives from Lucy and Lila, an atmospheric depiction of small-town America haunted by dark and hidden secrets. And if, by about p.40, we're already completely sure where this book is going, well, it's always possible to enjoy the journey.

By section 2, though, (p.129) this careful structure collapses: suddenly six other people become point-of-view characters with their own revolving chapters, alongside Lucy and Lila - as if the author has only just realised that her chosen structure can't accommodate the story she wants to tell. And alongside the constant switching is an increasingly lurid and, frankly, unbelievable, story - I don't want to give away spoilers but Bess' 'revelations' are particularly incredible in a literal sense, and serve as a deus ex machina to solve some of the plot problems.

There is lots of good stuff here: McHugh technically writes well though some of her lyrical descriptions of the stark setting can get a little over-used. There is also some indication of emotional subtlety, especially the refusal to tie up the ends too neatly with regard to Lucy.

On balance, though, this shows all the marks of a debut novelist who hasn't yet hit her stride: the clunky structure, the well-worn plot-line which appears in what feels like every other crime novel being published, the lack of credibility in much of the plot (would Lila really have settled down so happily and silently in Henbane?). This shows potential but is also instantly forgettable: 3.5 stars.

Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest
Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A careful, subtle and informed biography of Wyatt, 17 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There have been two recent biographies of Thomas Wyatt: this one, and Nicola Schulman's Graven With Diamonds - so which one to choose?

Schulman's is the popular read: accessible, generalist, unfailingly jaunty and confident, generally unconcerned with scholarship or evidence. This book is quite different: Brigden is an early modern historian at Oxford, and her approach is one characterised by care, precision, and a subtle dialogue with the current academic positions on Wyatt, the Henrician court, and the cultural valencies of poetry at the time.

For a historian, she is also a remarkably sensitive reader of poetry, and pays close attention to the relevant manuscripts and what they might tell us.

So general readers wanting a lively rendering of Wyatt and the intrigues of the early Tudor court may well prefer Schulman (and the naming of Wyatt as `assassin' in the book's subtitle gives a feel for the almost journalistic approach it takes). Anyone, though, wanting a deeper, more informed, and more academically-invested approach would be well to consult Brigden's beautifully-written though robust biography - highly recommended.

ps. Faber have done a pretty good job of converting this to Kindle format: the notes link from the page to the end of chapter notes so that navigating references is convenient, not always the case with Kindle academic texts.

Leitz Wow A4 Ruled Notebook - Metallic Pink
Leitz Wow A4 Ruled Notebook - Metallic Pink
Price: £12.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Very pink, functional but expensive, 17 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very bright, almost highlighter pink notebook: the paper is smooth but not particularly heavyweight, and the title box, date box, lines and perforations on each page seem to indicate that it is to be used for school, college or work note-taking. The ruler bookmark is flimsy but handy, and the clear pocket at the back useful.

So altogether a functional notebook but not particularly stylish. If you want something classier and less utilitarian, you can pick up a similar product from somewhere like Paperchase at about half this price

IMEDEEN Hair and Nails
IMEDEEN Hair and Nails
Offered by Mayfair Export
Price: £22.55

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Specialist supplement at a premium price, 17 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These claim to specifically feed your hair and nails but a comparison with standard (Boots) multivitamins + iron show that the only additional ingredient they contain is 19 mg of silica - since there is no RDA for this, it's not clear what that quantity amounts to. There are high concentrations of B vitamins and some others supplements but a good multivitamin will cover these at 100% RDA anyway, as well as all the other vitamins (A, C, D, E, K) which are not here.

The pack says that these will take at least 8 weeks before they start to make a difference, and 4-6 months before you'll see the full benefit - at the current pack price that's a pretty expensive investment. So unless you have a very specific problem with your hair/nails, a good multivitamin will offer almost everything these do and more at a fraction of the price.

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