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DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   

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The Name On Your Wrist
The Name On Your Wrist
Price: 3.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A clever concept, 10 Oct 2013
This book started out with a great concept, the idea that a name secretly appears on your wrist at the age of about 3 years, and this is the person you are destined to spend your life with, your soul-mate. So what happens if you can't find that person or, when you find them, there's no connection?

Corin, however, is not happy with this, she wants to choose for herself, or even to choose not to have a life partner at all. She works her way through several lads named Thomas, or derivations thereof, and then takes a liking to Colton. By this time it is assumed by all that the name on her wrist is Thomas, so by going out with Colton, she basically labels herself a slut.
Her family life is hard, she lost her father when she was young and is at constant loggerheads with her older sister. The mother is very much a background character.

Unfortunately for me, the voice of the main character, was extremely irritating. She was constantly angry and self destructive - goodness knows why any of the Thomases, or Colton gave her the time of day. Her conversation was painful to read, there was simply no lull in her aggression.
The concept of having your 'carpinomen', or life partner, marked on your wrist, hidden under a wrist guard, seemed to cause a few logistical problems that weren't quite flushed out - the large number of some names and lack of others made for a strangely lopsided distribution, and if you were searching for a Thomas, you wouldn't know which Thomas might have your name on his wrist.

The author is still in her teens and this alone is an amazing achievement, but I'd have liked Corin to have showed a bit more maturity, some character traits that I could actually like. Maybe this type of behaviour is something that other teens can relate to more easily and if that is the case then this book is probably more suited to that age group and doesn't work so well as a cross-over novel.


Bee Season
Bee Season
Price: 3.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 12 Sep 2013
This review is from: Bee Season (Kindle Edition)
Oh my goodness, I thought this book would never end. I was listening to the unabridged audiobook, narrated by the author, whose voice was soooo slow that the book took even longer than it needed to. I have a policy of giving one star if I abandon a book and two if I make it to the end, but I very nearly downgraded this to one star because the ending was such a flop. Nothing was resolved and Eliza's act at the end was so unbelievably annoying.

Eliza Nauman, at nine years old, is a mediocre student. So when she wins the class spelling bee and gains a place at the district finals, her father (Saul) abandons everything to coach her to success, and her older brother Aaron has to sacrifice his guitar sessions with his Dad.

There was a lot of obsession in this novel; Aaron's reaction to his father's neglect and Saul's wife's strange behaviour, as well as intensive study of words and their origins. I was really uninspired by the lengthy descriptions of the 'A-ness of A and how an A felt to Eliza. Then there was the philosopher Abulafia and his strange ideas about words and their permutations. When Eliza sends herself into a trance I was completely lost, too weird.

So what did I enjoy about this novel? Well, not much, unfortunately, but I loved the collection that Eliza's mother made. I wished I could have seen it.

This book was not at all what I had expected - a lightweight coming of age novel with a spelling bent. Instead I got a tediously descriptive, drawn out philosophical and religious treatise. Not for me I'm afraid.


Amity & Sorrow
Amity & Sorrow
by Peggy Riley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Book Club choice, 4 Sep 2013
This review is from: Amity & Sorrow (Paperback)
This was an interesting read because the author managed to evoke a kind of surreal atmosphere, not in the way of fantasy, but effectively depicting the strangeness of a world not previously experienced. Amity and Sorrow are teenage sisters who have been raised in a religious commune and know nothing of the world outside, they cannot read and have lived all their lives in a polygamous cult with strict rules.

When a suspicious fire drives their mother to escape from the commune with her two daughters, the sisters find themselves in an alien world. After four days of driving, Amaranth, their mother, crashes the car into a tree and they are all stranded in an isolated farm, with a brusque farmer and his elderly dad.

The book follows their reactions to their new surroundings. Each of them behaves differently, but they all feel a strong pull to the 'family' that they have left.

Flashbacks provide the reader with an insight into life in the cult, where one husband has taken fifty wives. The children run wild, with many mothers. There are various rituals, such as winding their chests with cloth, and spinning, which supposedly brings the women closer to each other. But there are darker goings on behind the surface.

A fascinating read, with a really weird feel as the girls and their mother adjust. Not quite five stars though because I found it a bit confusing at times. This is a book that would make an excellent book group read, as there are some parts that are left in the air and I'd really like to know what others thought.....


One Step Too Far
One Step Too Far

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very clever twist, 24 Aug 2013
This review is from: One Step Too Far (Kindle Edition)
I was hovering around four stars for the first half of this book - but then it just took off in the last third and I had to stay up until the early hours to finish it. I tried to go to sleep before the end, but it wasn't possible, I put my kindle into white-on-black mode and read in the dark!

When we first meet Emily she is on the run from husband, home and family, heading towards London with no fixed destination, some cash in her pocket and no job. On arrival in the city she takes on her second name, Catherine, abbreviating it to Cat. In desperation, she takes a room in a squalid shared house in a run-down area of London. The house is peopled by various weird characters, but Cat is helped by Angela, appropriately known as Angel, and they become fast friends. Angel also has skeletons in her past and is tactful enough not to ask any questions.

As Cat starts to build herself a new life we are introduced to more and more of her back story. We learn that she has a twin sister, Caroline, but that they don't share the closeness associated with twins. Caroline has many problems and they have a habit of impacting on other members of her family. We learn about Cat's meeting with the man that would become her husband and the deep love they share. And about her parents and their rocky marriage. Angel's back story is also gradually revealed, though in less detail.

As all the pieces slowly fit together, an image begins to reveal itself, but the big question all along, is why did Cat leave home in such a hurry. Ms Seskis keeps us waiting for the answer, but when it comes it's a brilliant twist - I had to read that paragraph three times!

There have only been two other books in my reading history that had such an effective twist at the end: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris.
The only thing that did irritate me about this book, was the rather over played, sorry-for-herself moaning about her past, in the first half, especially as we didn't actually know what she was feeling so down about at that time. Still, the book soon redeemed itself and is up with my favourite reads of this year.

I am looking forward with anticipation, to reading Tina Seskis's second novel, The Serpentine Affair.


Necessary Lies
Necessary Lies
Price: 1.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My 'buzz' book of the year, 19 Aug 2013
This review is from: Necessary Lies (Kindle Edition)
I received this book for impartial review from NetGalley. They hope that we will read their books and create "buzz" amongst the public - well, I will certainly be doing that for this book. I'll be recommending it for all my book groups, giving it in everyone's stocking and generally giving this the hard sell - because it's just simply a fantastic book!

Now comes the hard part, when I would usually give a synopsis of the story, except I can't mention the central theme because, not only was it considered a Necessary Lie, but, judging by the information given in the synopsis, it's also a secret. What I will say, is that it's 1960 and there are two main characters - Jane Forrester, a middle class newly-wed who is fighting against the norm (and her husband's wishes), to be able to work as a social worker, and her client, Ivy Hart, who lives in desperate poverty in a tobacco growing area of North Carolina.

Already we are set up for a fascinating clash of experiences and backgrounds, but you'll have to read the book yourself to discover the hidden horror that was reality at that time, for many thousands of under privileged people.

Five stars just doesn't do this book justice and I can't recommend it highly enough.


The Woman Who Lost China
The Woman Who Lost China
by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.80

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting title and an eye-catching cover, 17 Aug 2013
Unfortunately the book didn't quite do justice to its title and cover. There was a lot of switching about time-wise and the book lacked a feeling of continuity.

When we meet Manying, in 1949, she is hurriedly escaping from her hometown of Nanjing with her baby son. She catches the last train out of Nanjing, to exile in Hong Kong with her husband's brother. Here she lives in poverty, on the charity of her brother in law.
We follow her through the Communist takeover and the rule of Mao, but her connection to China is remote now as she lives in Hong Kong. The final demouement takes place in 2000, but could have been given a lot more build-up.

In my opinion this book would have benefitted from completely losing the section on the sons of Wen En, travelling to Guangzhou in 1894, to petition for their father's release from prison. It was at this point that the book lost me. This part of the narrative does not reappear until very near the end, when it is used as part of the explanation for the twist in the tale. However, the revelation at the end would have been stronger if it had just been the reappearance of the one character and not the added double resentment provided by this episode. It felt like an unnecessary history lesson.

There was also a strange section at the end, where the author (now a male) explains how the story came to him via his grandmother, Manying. I have no idea whether we are being told that this was a true life story but I'm assuming not.

My other comment would be to suggest that the list of characters be placed at the beginning of the book - those of us who read on Kindle do not find these useful aide memoirs until we have finished the book, when it is too late.

Not a book I'd recommend but I may try the author again if she writes more, hopefully better edited.


Embroideries
Embroideries
Price: 4.68

3.0 out of 5 stars An insider's view of women in Iran, 16 Aug 2013
This review is from: Embroideries (Kindle Edition)
This simple graphic novel follows on from the author's two-volume Persopolis, though it is not a sequel. Presented in similar black and white drawings, we now get to hear the conversations between a group of women who have packed off their husbands for a nap after lunch, while they set the world to rights. A familiar enough concept, except that these women are in Iran and many of their topics of conversation reflect their different backgrounds. Sujects discussed all revolve around womens' issues, such as early marriage, plastic surgery and the 'embroidery' of the title, which allows women to appear virginal at the time of their weddings.

It is interesting to reflect on the similarities and differences between ourselves and these women.

A short, quick read which makes up for the fact that it lacks depth, by providing such an insider's view.


The Third Son: A Novel
The Third Son: A Novel

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating view of Taiwan, 15 Aug 2013
I had never read any literature from Taiwan and Julie Wu did not disappoint.
The narrative begins in 1943, towards the end of the 50 year rule of Taiwan by the Japanese. Suddenly Saburo must change his Japanese name back to the Chinese, Tong Chialin. All the Japanese school books are removed from the classes and replaced by Chinese ones.

Saburo is the third son of a Taiwanese family and this, combined with the fact that he was caring for his younger brother when he died, means that his share of everything, food love and education, is reduced to the bare minimum. If it weren't for the care of his cousin, Toru, who is a doctor, he would probably have died of malnutrition.
It was during the bombing of their town by American bombers, that 8 year old Saburo meets Yoshiko. She is fleeing the bullets from a jet plane, protected by just her writing board above her head. She describes her family, and for the first time Saburo becomes aware that there are such things as happy families.
Although his schooling is intermittent, Saburo is a determined scholar. He sees education as a way out of his situation. But how far can a downtrodden young Taiwanese lad go without the support of his family?

As I had hoped, this was not just a story of a young Taiwanese boy, although this part was well done - it was also an insight into the life and and experiences of the people in that time and place. I have definitely learned a lot about the country through reading this and hope that the author will go on to write other books set in Taiwan.


Carrot
Carrot
by Vanita Oelschlager
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.35

3.0 out of 5 stars Colourful illustrations, clunky rhyming., 15 Aug 2013
This review is from: Carrot (Paperback)
I have read and enjoyed three of Vanita Oeschlager's picture books, but the others were all based on true life stories and written in prose. Carrot is a somewhat moralistic tale, written in rhyme and I didn't rate it as highly as the previous three.

Carrot the cat is perfectly content, living in the city, spending her days chasing mice and keeping her family happy. Then she spots a glamorous looking cat who lives on an expensive yacht, and starts to imagine what life would be like for that pampered feline.
Initially she feels twangs of jealousy, but as she thinks about it more, she realises that her life is pretty good as it is and there would be disadvantages as well as perks to being a spoilt ship's cat.

The colourful illustrations are the best part of the book but unfortunately, some of the rhymes are rather awkward and clunky.
The comparison of Carrot's colour to a life jacket was also rather random, given that many children within to book's age range would never have seen a life jacket.
Disappointing in comparison to Vanita's 'true life' childrens' stories.


The First Lie
The First Lie
Price: 0.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Prequel to A Necessary Lie, 14 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The First Lie (Kindle Edition)
I was lucky to come accross this short story just before I started reading A Necessary Lie and so I just read straight through. I don't really understand why this wasn't just the first part of the story though, why did it need to be a short story at all?

The story is set in 1958, on a tobacco farm in a poor area of North Carolina. Sisters, Ivy and Mary Ella Hart, are living with their grandmother, subsisting with the help of welfare. Mary Ella, at fifteen, is the eldest by two years, and she is about to go into labour as the story begins. She has not revealed who the father is, if she even knows.

Although we only meet the characters briefly, they are vividly portrayed and their situation is well described.
The 'Lie' of the story was a fascinating insight into the handling of patients with mental health issues at that time in The States, I was completely unaware of such practices, and quite frankly, shocked.
Now you're going to have to read it to find out what I'm referring to!!


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