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Roman Clodia (London)
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The Track of Sand: The Inspector Montalbano Mysteries - Book 12
The Track of Sand: The Inspector Montalbano Mysteries - Book 12
Price: £1.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 29 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I love this series, but this is one of the lesser books for me: Montalbano is his usual wonderful self but the plot feels both unnecessarily labyrinthine and yet perfunctory at the same time. All the same, with not just the beautiful Ingrid to upset his equilibrium but also her friend Rachele, this is full of pleasures.

An enjoyable read, as always, but certainly not the best this series can do.


Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great poem, messy Kindle formatting, 28 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Venus and Adonis (Kindle Edition)
Beware, like so much poetry on Kindle the formatting here is a mess. Lines are split which upsets the metrics, and line numbers appear all over the place, sometimes in the middle of the text, sometimes on the next line - check the 'look inside' feature to see whether you can live with this or not.

That aside, this is a great poem. Partially, at least, a response to Marlowe's Hero and Leander, this is Shakespeare's erotic epyllion (little epic) drawing on a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Venus who picks up Adonis and carries him off under her arm has been linked to Elizabeth I, well known for her court favourites but even without the politicised overlay this remains worth reading. Shame, then, that the Kindle version makes reading so messy... I was looking for a portable Kindle copy to save me having to carry my Oxford edition on the train but this isn't really fit for purpose.


Black Roses
Black Roses
Price: £3.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trivialising, over-simplified and anachronistic, 26 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Black Roses (Kindle Edition)
My, this is a wasted opportunity. Inverting the conventional masculinised view of Nazi Germany, this focuses on the wives and girlfriends of the elite inner circle, and their infiltration by half-English, half-German Clara. The problem is, very little happens as the narrative stalls on endless back-stories, lush descriptions of interiors, exactly what everyone is wearing, the make-up they carry around and so on - almost a parody of the sex-`n'-shopping novel.

More pertinently, this takes an extremely simplistic view of German fascism, one completely controlled, in anachronistic fashion, by our view rather than that of 1933: so Clara hates the Nazis, gets shivers when she's close to them, feels the hairs rise on the back of her neck etc... when almost all the other women in the book (and let's not forget the real-life Mitford sisters, for example) dote on them, especially Hitler. This is, after all, a time when Churchill and his wife were socialising with fascist leaders, when plenty of Britons approved of Hitler's ideas, when even the British embassy characters in the book admit they don't know what the Nazi thinking is which is precisely why they want Clara to get friendly with the wives in the first place - but she is like one of us, pushed back in time but with the benefit of historical hindsight - a failure of imagination on the part of the author.

I loved Thynne's Patrimony for its subtle and complex approach towards WW1 and the concept of heroism. This book couldn't be more different as it oversimplifies and paints everyone in black or white colours. Portraying the Nazi elite as a group of ruthless and one-dimensional thugs flattens the true horror of fascism which is precisely that many of the party elite were extremely well-educated, vastly intelligent and cultured men - and, yet, still did what they did. By demonising them as merely straightforward and undemanding bullies and brutes, I found this book both disrespectful (though I'm sure unintentionally) and distasteful.

There's a really good idea at the heart of this book about the Nazi back-to-the-home (`kinder, küche, kirche') view of women and how the party wives responded, but the treatment here just feels trivialising and anachronistic.


Hostage
Hostage
by Kristina Ohlsson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hijack thriller delivered with authenticity and political intelligence, 25 Sep 2014
This review is from: Hostage (Paperback)
Four bomb threats in Stockholm, then the next day a Swedish plane on the way to New York is hijacked - and with a 'we don't negotiate with terrorists' strategy, the police, Swedish security service and 'colleagues' in the CIA and FBI have to find a way to save the hostages before the plane runs out of fuel...

This is a distinctly Scandinavian response to a fairly standard international terrorism plot. Thorny issues of immigration and integration serve as a back-drop to the story which struggles intelligently with the problems of how democracies can balance national security without compromising or eroding the very values which make them democratic in the first place: that is, the qualities which they are constitutionally based upon and ideologically sworn to uphold.

Alongside the liberal politics is a deep engagement with the characters. This is a few books into a series but it was no problem for me joining at this stage, and Ohlsson doesn't make the mistake of giving away everything that's happened before so I can quite happily go back to read the earlier stories without spoilers.

There are a few gaping, even glaring, holes in the plot which I can't discuss without spoiling this for other readers - and some moments where the book tries very hard to deliver a shock which, sadly, is far more predictable than the author assumes. The very personal connection, too, between the chief investigator and the hijacked plane feels contrived.

Those niggles aside, though, this is an intelligent thriller which makes good use of the author's authentic knowledge and experience: recommended.

(I received an ARC via Netgalley in return for an unbiased review)


Greenpan Venice 24 cm Ceramic Non-Stick Open Frypan, Grey Aluminium
Greenpan Venice 24 cm Ceramic Non-Stick Open Frypan, Grey Aluminium
Price: £25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Robust and easy to clean, 22 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a robust pan, quite heavy, but cooks very well. The ceramic non-stick coating has worked well for me, and makes this very easy to clean - I haven't needed more than a swish of water. That said, I suspect this wouldn't stand up for long to someone trying to use it without any oil, and the care leaflet also warns not to use spray oils as they build up a residue.

The sides are high enough to be able to stir fry, and the size is perfect for a meal for two. There are dire warnings in the leaflet about high heat damaging the pan and non-stick coating so I've used it on a lower heat than I would generally set which means that it's taking slightly longer to cook than normal - I guess I saved on washing up time, though.


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
Offered by Southern Electric
Price: £111.67

5 of 7 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

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2014 2:48 PM BST


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