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Pedro (Lisbon, Portugal)

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A Song of Ice and Fire (1) - A Game of Thrones
A Song of Ice and Fire (1) - A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A world of possibilities, 29 Aug 2011
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Let me just start by saying this is not a typical fantasy story. Don't expect armies of wizards casting fireball spells, undead hordes ravaging towns and villages, or knights riding giant dragons spreading havoc everywhere. You do get a small taste of typical fantasy elements here and there -probably will get more frequent in the subsequent books of this saga.

What you really get is a complex medieval-type world: the continent of Westeros is ruled by King Robert Baratheon, fifteen years after a civil war in which he deposed the Targaryen dynasty. These fifteen years have been mostly peaceful, but there are still serious trust issues between many of the main Houses, who still haven't forgot some of the things that happened during that war.

During a visit of the King and his court to Winterfell, home of the House of Eddard Stark, his ally in the civil war and childhood friend, an invitation and an accident will start a chain of events that ultimately will threaten to tear the kingdom apart.

There are three storylines: one that follows most of the Stark family through court intrigue and rivalry with the House of Lannister; one that follows the last members of the Targaryen dynasty, now in exile; the last about the Night's Watch, a military order responsible to secure the Wall, a gigantic fortress that separates the kingdom from the northern wildling settlements. The three threads are loosely connected, but promising to clash in the following books.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of eight characters, making it possible to closely follow most of what's happening. This makes it easier to keep such a lengthy book permanently refreshing, although sometimes I'd rather have followed some key events from other, more crucial, points of view.

+: after 800 pages where so many things happened, you really get the feeling this is only the beginning and so much more is yet to come; amazing and unpredictable

-: some major events are narrated in the point of view of indirectly related characters, keeping us away from the very center of the action; the Daenerys Targaryen storyline has a very slow start compared to the others

=: let yourself enter a world of legends and omens, leaders and flatterers, princes and bastards, brothers and rivals -- you won't regret it!


Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle
by Ken Follett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From slipping to sleeping, 1 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Eye of the Needle (Paperback)
Set in the first half of 1944, when the allied victory is far from being a certainty but getting closer every day, a German spy gets a piece of information that can cause a major setback in the imminent allied invasion of Normandy.

At this time most spies were total amateurs and counter-intelligence organization was just getting started, which made life easier to Henry Faber, an elite German spy, to live and work in London without raising suspicions.

After getting vital information that might decisively influence the course of the war, Faber must escape from Great Britain so he can deliver his findings personally to Hitler, while slipping through the fingers of the British intelligence officers who are getting closer on his tail.

+: Faber is an amazing character and it's curious how you end up almost wishing he gets away with it; Ken Follett builds a very interesting fictional but believable scenario

-: Faber is focused, ruthless and cautious throughout his spying career, making his behavior in the final days of the story hard to accept; most of the time I couldn't care less about the guys who are chasing Faber

=: Unusual but interesting approach to WWII and the early days of professional espionage, lacks a consistent closing and more empathetic characters


The Help
The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars "Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.", 31 July 2011
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This review is from: The Help (Paperback)
"The Help" explores the relationship between black house maids and the families they worked for in the early 60's in Mississippi, in a time when the civil rights movement was starting to getting noticed across the United States.

While many white families trusted and depended on black maids to raise their children, there were boundaries that could not be crossed or even talked about. Segregation was a reality, and those who thought about changing the way things were risked losing their jobs, social exclusion, persecution, beatings or even death.

The story is narrated by Aibileen and Minny, maids, and Skeeter, a young woman whose parents own a cotton plantation. For different reasons, some of which not totally unselfish, the three women start a project of their own: writing about the life experiences, good and bad, of black maids working for white families.

Unwritten laws deeply rooted for generations would be challenged, and gradually the project turns into a burdensome and solitary life mission for Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter, who must keep it a secret even from their closest friends and families.

+: You will love Aibileen for caring, Minny for talking and Skeeter for her resilience; even though it's about a serious subject, there is room for very funny moments

-: Sometimes, when Aibileen is the narrator, there are some expressions a little bit hard to understand -- nothing really important though

=: Inspiring story of tolerance, respect, dedication and friendship of three women who tried in their own way to make the world a better place


The Physician: Number 1 in series (Cole)
The Physician: Number 1 in series (Cole)
by Noah Gordon
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It's choice--not chance--that determines your destiny", 7 July 2011
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"The Physician" is an epic story set in the 11th century about Rob, a boy who finds in the worst possible way that he has a skill which allows him to know if someone is dying just by holding their hands. This experience as a young boy will mark him for life, and as he grows into a man he realizes he is meant to heal other people.

Although Rob's skill is something that is present throughout the story, don't expect miracles, supernatural powers or wizardry. This is the 11th century, period.

Medical knowledge in the middle age is a privilege for few, but even so he desires to learn from Persian master Avicenna, the greatest physician of his time. This will take him on a journey across the known world, during which he will have to overcome religious barriers and social and cultural prejudice, sacrificing everything he ever had, loved and even his own identity.

+: an amazing story that will lead you through misery, plague, war, frustration, illumination and glory (not necessarily by this order); even though it is not 100% historically accurate (as acknowledged by the author) you can feel and smell the middle age (not the open sewers fortunately)

-: the book could be shorter; some fortuitous encounters are less than believable and have huge consequences in the plot

=: compelling tale about overcoming adversity and fulfilling your destiny; <cliché alert> you will not be able to put the book down until it's over!


Mater's Treasure of Tall Tales (Cars Toon)
Mater's Treasure of Tall Tales (Cars Toon)
by Disney Enterprises Inc.
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Daddy, please read me one more story!, 8 Jun 2011
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My three year old daughter loves Mater and she was delighted when she saw this book for the first time, which contains all nine tales from the DVD.

The next couple of months she always chose Mater's book as her bedtime story - her only problem was deciding which tale should I read to her!

+: beautiful and colorful book, with cool pictures from the DVD; each one of the nine tales has the right size for a bedtime story, not too long, not too short; some highlighted words encouraged my daughter to ask what's written in there

-: nothing, really

=: perfect for any three year old kid who loves Mater and being read to


Room
Room
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Boiled potatoes are not so bad if you've never tried french fries, 8 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Room (Paperback)
This book is about Jack, a five year old boy who has lived his entire life in a locked room with his mother. It's a very original approach as the narrator is Jack himself, who shares with us his views and thoughts on everything that happens in his world, which would seem horrific for any of us, but is in fact pretty normal for someone who has never experienced anything different before.

The book has a slow pace at the beginning, as Jack explains us his routines with a lot of detail, so you can really understand how life in Room is, day after night after day. His routines will eventually be broken, and by then you won't be able to put the book down.

+: original narrative, as it's actually fun trying to translate some of Jack's perspectives to what's really happening; watching how a desperate mother tries to spare his boy from the hell they're living and later on helping him adapt to change

-: slow start; a couple of times the characters have attitudes that seem less than believable

=: if Begnini's "Life Is Beautiful" touched your heart, this book will certainly do it as well; although it isn't a page turner from the start, you will remember Jack and Ma for a long time


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