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Needful Things
Needful Things
Price: 6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Typical King, 23 July 2014
This review is from: Needful Things (Kindle Edition)
Stephen King back to what he does best - small town and everyday things taking a sinister turn. And we are back in the (fictional) Maine Town Castle Rock.
A new shop called 'Needful Things' has opened in Castle Rock which is being run by a charming old gentleman called Leland Gaunt. A kind of second hand shop which seems to have always exactly what however comes into the shop is looking for. A special baseball card, a special book etc. And he offers it at an incredible price for this one special customer. But, yes, you have guessed it, there is a price to pay other than in dollars and dimes. Mr Gaunt asks his customer to play tricks on other people in town. Nothing horrendous is asked of them initially. Simple pranks like throwing dirt on freshly washed laundry. But Gaunt seems to know exactly what makes people very angry, seems to know about some of the feuds and animosities in Castle Rock. And it doesn't take long for things to escalate. At the same time, Gaunt's customers start to feel strangely attached to the items they purchased in his shop. It slowly dawns on the local Sheriff that Gaunt is to blame for the utter destruction which is sweeping Castle Rock. And also … what is Gaunt, or is he even human?

Now one of the best parts for me was the ending, and it reminded me a bit of the ending to 'The Stand'. After Gaunt is about to be found out, he leaves Castle Rock. And we see him opening a similar kind shop in another town, continuing is business to bring evil.

Though this is tagged as a 'horror novel, I always slightly resist this label for many of King's works. In typical King fashion, he shows us the evil that everyday things and everyday people can bring. It is suggested on Wikipedia that this is the first book King wrote in 1991 after coming out of rehab. I personally can't see that it had any kind of impact on the story. I quite simple enjoyed it as what I would say is a typical King. For the seasoned King fan, I was also happy to find characters in this story we know from other books, and especially Ace Merrill, the bad boy from 'The Body'.

As it was often suggested, Gaunt is representative of the Devil here who has his many ways to do mischief here with us humans. For no other reason than that he can, and bringing pain is his business. It is quite simply his business to buy the human soul.

The Heir: 3 (Kingsland)
The Heir: 3 (Kingsland)
by Deborah Hill
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Clean historical romance, 12 July 2014
This is the final volume in the Kingsland Series, and this book starts in in 1920's. Things have certainly for the women - they go to parties, and alcohol flows. Emily Merrick enjoys all this and when she is asked after a party to go out on his boat by dashing Tim Bradley , she can't resist adventure. But their love making by the beach is not without consequences. When Emily realises, and Tim has vanished, she has no option but to trick the rather unpleasant Charles into marrying her. But Charles finds out quickly that all is not what it seems with Emily's pregnancy - with devastating consequences for Emily and her son Steven. Charles marries her and brings up Steven like his own son, but he treats them absolutely dreadfully and they have no choice but to obey him.

But Steven grows up, and the majority of the story really is devoted to Steven and his life story through his first love, his marriage, working in corporate America of the 50's with a suburban home. But his real love is the sea. And Steven is the heir of Kingsland.

As always, all the characters are beautifully drawn. The romances are clean and believable, and the author keeps great attention to detail as this 3rd volume we come closer to the decades many readers may have experienced themselves. For me, being slightly older, it was fascinating to read about the corporate culture of 1950's America. In some ways not so much different to the dog-eat-dog culture often quoted today. At the same time, I really felt like the author had planted me back in that decade.

I think my favourite volume remained Vol 2 - Augusta and her sacrifice shall remain in my mind for a while. Kingsland is a family saga, starting back in early 1700 in coastal Maine, giving us the stories of several different lines of the Merrick family. It's the women who are, as so often, are the real heroes. The only negative thing for me was that I could not see the family tree which the author provided on the Kindle (too small)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by Rowling, J. K. Classic Edition (1998)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by Rowling, J. K. Classic Edition (1998)
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Gets children reading, 2 July 2014
I didn't read the HP books when they first came out, but only in 2013, after I've seen all the movies, so I do knew the story of course. But that doesn't really matter - its the beauty and incredible drawn fantasy world of the books.

As before, the 2nd book in the series is, in my opinion, written with children readers in mind. At the beginning, Rowling skilfully re-caps the important bits from book 1 in her familiar style. Anyone wanting to write for a younger age group should read her first chapter and can learn how it's done.

Apart from the imaginative constructed fantasy world - nicely woven in with the 'real world' (= the muggles), I feel that the other real strength of the story lies in the great characters. Not too over the top, and still what we expect from a proper baddy (i.e. Malfoy) or the posh impostor (Lockheart), the poor Weasleys, the mean Dursleys.

I personally still prefer the later, darker HP books. The greatest contribution of the books for me is the fact that it brought children back to reading books who wouldn't have otherwise picked a book up and in fact, got a whole new generation reading.

Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook
Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook
Price: 7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vegetarian certainly not boring, 30 Jun 2014
Firstly - I am not vegetarian nor do I require a gluten free diet. But my family always tell me that we should eat less meat and try to cook more vegetarian. I can't help but agree. I don't know many vegetarian recipes, and what I do know just conjures up an image of boring.I am pleased to tell you that this book put my perception of boring vegetarian recipes completely on it's head. I loved the vibrant and exciting recipes here.

At the beginning, a short intro story, the spice pantry and basic preparation methods are explained. Pictures come with every recipe.

One of my main problems with cookery books is that often there are a lot of ingredients to buy at great expense which you only ever use once, and they are difficult to get hold off. However, I know from personal experience that the ingredients used here are easy to get hold off in Asian sections in every supermarket, and/or, if you are in the UK, in India/Pakistani food shops. Once you have a bag of, lets say, turmeric power, it will last forever, and won't cost more than 2.

I'm not a trained chef and not even a very sophisticated domestic cook but found this book very appealing and easy to use without being too 'basic'. If you want to give vegetarian a try and have given it a miss so far for being boring, try this book.

The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.79

3.0 out of 5 stars Was a bit too complicated for me, 29 Jun 2014
Though time travel is well covered in literature in many aspects and by many authors over time, the idea which sits behind this book is unique in my opinion. Essentially a love story with complications.

Firstly, what did I like about the book? The fact that Henry's time travelling is explained - in his case, a rear genetic condition. It doesn't just happen, and there is no extraterrestrial force involved, it's all nicely grounded on this planet. No crime or CIA agents, but quite pure and simple, a love story. Clare and Henry find each other and lose each other and find each other and lose each other. The writing is beautiful and very accessible. Both Clare and Henry are great characters - not too complicated and easily likeable.

But … I still didn't like the book as much as I probably should. Reasons? Every chapter has a subtitle with the date and the respective ages of the couple i.e. Saturday, October 26, 1991 Henry is 28, Clare is 20 or March, 1994, Clare is 22, Henry is 30. Despite this, I still struggled to keep up with 'when' the book was and at what stage Clare and Henry where. I was too confused. I had to keep thinking constantly: ah, ok, have the met yet, where are they now in their relationship, has this and that happened yet…' It did spoil the flow of the book for me a bit, and unfortunately, left me thinking that I am obviously not intelligent enough to understand it? But I also heard that this was the exact reason why so many people did love this book. After all, this debut book was a huge commercial success.

From a Buick 8
From a Buick 8
Price: 5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite King, but still enjoyable, 29 Jun 2014
This review is from: From a Buick 8 (Kindle Edition)
Teenager Ned Wilcox has a hard time dealing with the death of his father, a police officer, who was killed by a drunk driver. He seeks the company of his father's former colleagues at the local police station. Ned discovers an old Buick which appears abandoned in a shed, and when he asks the other troopers about it, Sergeant Sandy Dearborn decides to reveal the Buick's story as it stands so far to Ned.

The Buick just appeared one day abandoned at a petrol station, and not being able to find the owner, the local troopers took it to the police station for safe keeping. But it appears very soon that all is not what it seems with this car. Firstly, it is completely undrivable so how did it get there. The materials of the car appear alien. A police officer who sat in in simply disappeared, as if swallowed by the car. And over the next 20 years, strange creatures and plants appear from the car which have not been seen on this planet before. Ned decides to investigate.

There is more than a passing resemblance to King's earlier book Christine. A car with supernatural powers, a car who can heal itself. But here, the car is more of a gateway to a different dimension or planet. The story is told in 2001 but frequently goes back to the 1970's/80's when the police officers tell Ned the story of the Buick. There are several first person narrators throughout the book which at times, did get a bit confusing for me.

Though I did like the idea of this supernatural car as a gateway to another universe, it is probably not one of my favourite King books. I think I would like to have seen more about this other dimensions. I'm also missing the usual strong characters and I didn't 'get' the ending (or only after reading other reviews of it - this did not spoil the story for me though). However, having said that, it is of course still a very enjoyable read.

The New Cross Stitcher's Bible: The Definitive Manual of Essential Cross Stitch and Counted Thread Techniques
The New Cross Stitcher's Bible: The Definitive Manual of Essential Cross Stitch and Counted Thread Techniques
by Jane Greenoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars For beginners and advance alike, 29 Jun 2014
Cross Stitch is another one of my hobbies, and this book is a must-have if you are a beginner and need the basics but also if you are intermediate and either want to take your hobby a step further or (as it happens often with me) have to look up a particular stitch.
Jane Greenoff is the Founder of the Cross Stitch Guild in the UK and she is a regular at the cross stitch fairs around the country. You can usually find her at her stall, chatting to cross stitch enthusiasts and given out advice and just 'chatting cross stitch'.
The front cover states the book is a manual of essential cross stitch and counted threat techniques, and this is exactly what you get. If you are already an accomplished cross stitcher, it may be too basic for you. Still, I bought the book after doing cross stitch for quite a number of years and would still refer back to the book - mainly to look up a particular stitch which I don't do often (i.e. hemstitch - no idea why I can never remember it!)

The House of Kingsley Merrick (Kingsland Book 2)
The House of Kingsley Merrick (Kingsland Book 2)
Price: 7.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Romance, 23 Jun 2014
This is book 2 in the Kingsland Series - My review of Book 1 This is the House is here.

I read book 2 straight after book 1, so the books in this series quickly became a family saga to me and it was great to continue the book and the family story. However, in my opinion, book 2 can be read completely independently. It is stand-alone and while people from book 1 are being referred to, it doesn't build on the stories discussed in book 1.

Molly is already deceased at the beginning of book 2 (and I did miss her, there is no reference to her at all other than her portrait which still hangs in the house) and Elijah is a grandfather in his final years.

The story continues with 2 of Molly and Elijah's grandchildren - their son 'Lije's daughter Julia and and their son Sonny's illegitimate son Kingsley. Julia grows up with her family in Boston in middle-class surroundings, but gets to know the upper class and strives to reach the comforts of a rich husband. That doesn't go to plan and she quickly finds out that it is not that easy to escape her middle class roots when she gets dumped by a potential richer suitor who was obviously taken by her, but his family could never agree to this match. On the other hand, Kingsley had always been looked down by 'Lije and his family - his father being an alcoholic and him being illegitimate. But he is clever and he makes his fortune in Australia and is a rich man when he returns. 'Lije and his family are now on the brink of financial ruin, and welcome Kingsley very much and urge Julia to win him as a potential suitor. Well, it works and Kingsley and Julia do marry. But Julia is not a happy woman after an unpleasant experience with a rich lothario from her Boston days and she cannot stand the physical side of the relationship with her husband. 2 girls are born to the marriage, Caroline and August. But than Kingsley is thrown into the arms of Angelina Bradley, the wife of his archenemy who gives him everything he misses in the relationship with his wife.

The story than continues with Augusta who grows up and now comes into marriageable age. And she has to make a decision: Rescue her family from financial ruin and marry a rich man who will look after her and all her family or go with her heart and marry the poor farmer who happens to be the son of Angelina Bradley. Is there a middle way or will Augusta have to make the ultimate sacrifice?

I absolutely adored Augusta. She is down to earth but still understands her obligations to her family. Not easy, but more understandable when looking at the historical period. As we all know since Jane Austen, a good marriage was the biggest aim for girls and not just a choice effecting their own happiness, but the whole family.

The book covers a period in New England / Boston from 1838 to 1872 and while historic events are explained at the beginning of some chapters and have been researched well, they are certainly not the main part of this book and only serve as a back-drop. I did find myself skipping some parts of it and I did not make a difference to my understanding of the story.

The Stand
The Stand
Price: 5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Epic King, 21 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Stand (Kindle Edition)
The Stand divides the King community - well, apparently you either love it or hate it. Now, that's easy for me. In that case, I can wholeheartedly say I love it. This is a true Stephen King story. Epic, good against evil, an apocalyptic catastrophe, strongly drawn characters who journey through the country to eventually fight evil.

A virus escapes from a military testing facility and within a few days, almost all of earths population is dead. A few are unaffected and are seeing in their dreams the 108 year old Mother Abigail who is asking them to come to her and they set all off to see mother Abigail in a journey across the country to gather with her. Others are seeing a man called Randall Flagg who calls his followers to Las Vegas. It eventually becomes clear that Mother Abigail represents the good and Randall Flagg evil, both set against each other. (Fans of King will known Randall Flagg from the Dark Tower series). The fight against the virus is not paramount here, but rather what is symbolises - the decay of the world who now has to be re-arranged, and only one side can win.

My favourite part is the first part of the book, when all the characters come together and travel to either mother Abigail or Randall Flagg. It is almost road-movie style while we, the reader, still trying to figure out what is actually going on.

Despite the length of the book, I was never bored. Yes, some of King's books can have the tendency to waffle on a bit at the beginning, but curiously so, in this, is longest book, this was never the case. King is often advertised as the King of horror, and even though this is post-apocalyptic, there are no zombies or strange creatures taking over the world but as so often with his work, it's the common people who have the main starring role.

This is my favourite King book (and yes, I am a fan) and I would regard it as a must read not just for fans but for any book lover.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy but aimed at children, 21 Jun 2014
I actually remember the first time that I can across Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. I was on the bus, on my way to work, and a group of children, I would guess about 10-12 years old, where all reading the book and all chatting excitedly over it, discussing this and that detail. Now this was rather unusual - children discussing a book, and not whilst sitting in lessons or in the library, but actually out of school, in their leisure time. However, this didn't tempt me back than (was it around 1997/98) to buy the book, as it was obviously a children's fantasy book and that was not something I would normally really. I finally read it last year.

The book is beautifully written and at the same time, very accessible for children just starting out to get into reading a bit more seriously. At the same time, the first book is not too long. JK Rowling obviously has a very vivid imagination. All the things she comes up with, described beautifully and in details. The platform 9 3/4, the owls who deliver the letters, the stairs which change direction, Quidditch … too many things to mention. The other brilliant skill she has is to make it all understandable. She obviously didn't know at the start that there is going to be movies and she manages to make this completely 'strange' fantasy world come alive to us.

One of the best things for me is that this book made a huge difference to children's reading and encouraged whole generations to pick up books and that is for me the real legacy of Harry Potter.

Personally - for me it was a children's book and for my own reading, I prefer a more 'adult' world if that is the right thing to say. Not adult as in erotic, but prefer to have adult protagonists.

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