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Reviews Written by
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom)

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Bricking It
Bricking It
Price: £1.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, but not funny :(, 29 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Bricking It (Kindle Edition)
I've come to the conclusion the the sort of humour that might have me laughing mercilessly at a dinner party, simply doesn't work in print. This book was the perfect example, it was so NOT funny, I'm sorry, but it was simply ridiculous!

I liked the pretext, an old house, bequeathed to two siblings by their Gran, provides the chance to make some real money - if they attempt to improve it, rather than selling the dilapidated building as-is. The added complication of a colourful architect and their appearance on the television programme, Great Locations, should have made this a four-star read.

Unfortunately I was not amused at the image of Dan working so hard on the roof beams, that he can't make it downstairs to the toilet and has to poo in a packing crate - predictably, just as his boss pops up through the hatch. I couldn't see the point of the cow and there really was no need to find a butt plug up the chimney, please!

So, a great opportunity for some amusing building anecdotes alongside a narrative about revamping an old house, lost in favour of a farce. Sorry for the scathing review, but I was not alone, my views were totally supported by my book group.

The Roundabout Man
The Roundabout Man
Offered by Audible Ltd

4.0 out of 5 stars 'The Triplets and Quinn'., 27 Jun. 2016
I enjoyed the audio version of this book, excellently read by Gordon Griffin. It was light enough to entertain me whilst driving, while having some deeper messages to make it worthwhile.

The Roundabout Man of the title, is none other than Quinn Smith, depicted in his mother's popular series of childrens' books, as a scruffy-haired little boy with falling-down socks. When we meet him he is nearing 60 and desperate to separate himself from this huge persona.
He now lives where no-one will ever look for him - in a caravan, in the centre of a roundabout.
Unfortunately one person does track him down, a nosey young magazine reporter, whose article sends his life spiralling in totally unforeseen directions.

The motorway service station, just off the roundabout, is his source of food, warmth and contact with people. But what starts out as an impersonal, transitory, brick building, turns out to house an interesting secondary family.

'The Triplets and Quinn' series also features Quinn's triplet sisters, who appeared to be close as children but seem to have fractured apart as adults.
Larissa Smith, their mother and the author of the famous series, writes knowledgeably about childhood adventures, yet seems totally unable to care for and love her own children.

Clare Morrall writes beautifully about isolation and the longing for a mother, but the reason given for why Larissa was so distant was the weak link for me. Otherwise, this was an excellent read from an interesting author.

Also read by Clare Morrall:
The Language of Others (5 stars)

How to Measure a Cow
How to Measure a Cow
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New name, new town. new life, 17 May 2016
(3.5 stars)
This short, concise novel by Margaret Forster was an enjoyable read that I looked forward to picking up, but I felt that it was let down by a rushed, unsatisfactory ending. I had previously read only one other novel by this author, 'Over', similarly short and succinct and also about people reeling from the after-effects of a life-shattering event.

The central character of How to Measure a Cow, is the vibrant, unstable Tara Fraser who chooses to restart her life as the dull, grey, Sarah Scott. The blurb doesn't say why she needs to make a new start so I shan't add any spoliers here. She chooses her destination by sticking a pin into a map and moves into Workington to begin her new unobtrusive life.
An elderly neighbour, Nancy, watches her move into the house over the road and is desperate to know more about her, while simultaneously shrinking from being too forward or asking invasive questions. This fear of stepping out of line rules Nancy's life entirely, she is the total antithesis of the gossipy neighbour. Tara/Sarah has no friends in the area and the two start to get to form a guarded friendship, in spite of the large difference in age.
We learn a fair bit about Tara's past but, frustratingly little about Nancy's - other than the fact that she was a farmer's daughter and knows how to measure a cow!
Three friends from Tara's teenage years bring a bit of colour to the line-up, but none of them are particularly likable and they're not sure how much they really like Tara either.

This is one of those well written books that conjure up convincing characters and images, while failing to produce anything much that actually happens. In spite of that I enjoyed it, I just wish the ending had been a bit more conclusive.

As Margaret Forster, sadly, died in February, this will be her last book, but there is an extensive back catalogue and I'm sure I shall be enjoying more of her books in the future.

Your Blue-eyed Boy
Your Blue-eyed Boy
by Helen Dunmore
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars When your past catches up with you......, 20 April 2016
This review is from: Your Blue-eyed Boy (Paperback)
I'm not normally a fan of thrillers, and blackmail would definitely not attract me, but this book was chosen by my book group and so I agreed to read it.
I had particularly enjoyed The Siege by Helen Dunmore and more recently, Exposure. In addition, she was scheduled to attend our up-coming Lit Fest (although in the end, she didn't make it).

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. It was not so much a book about blackmail, as about the relationships that we make during our lives, how they affect us and how we respond to them.

I felt for the lead character, who was working as a district judge - a job she probably would not have pushed for, had her husband not lost his job and debts begun piling up.
She had to drag herself to work every day, where she would pass sentence on various cases, but notably, declaring people bankrupt, when all the time, her husband got closer to being in the same position. The irony of this appealed to me.

Then a past boyfriend erupted onto the scene, complicating an already difficult situation.
It was interesting how she responded to this, especially as he was no longer the sexy young man she'd known before. He also had some mental issues, which made him a bit of a 'loose cannon'.

For me, the resolution let the book down, but as a study of characters and interactions I enjoyed it.

Other books I've read by this author:
Burning Bright (4 stars)
Ice Cream - short stories (5 stars)
House of Orphans (3 stars)
The Siege (4 stars)
Exposure (4.5 stars)

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, just wow!, 19 April 2016
If I hadn't known that this was a true story, I wouldn't have believed it could have happened. If it had been a thriller I'd have been saying 'Come on, you expect me to believe this?!' The number of near misses and strokes of luck were incredible - but at the same time it made me realise how many North Korean defectors must fail along the way. If it is this difficult and so many people are just trying to trip you up, then it is amazing that anyone succeeds.

Hyeonseo Lee didn't even mean to leave North Korea, she realised that she could get away with things as a child, that would become illegal once she turned eighteen. So she decided to take her last chance to visit China, just over the river from her home, while she was still seventeen. Unfortunately she timed her visit badly and was away for a vital census - now it was impossible for her to return.

For the next ten years she lived a life of deception and secrecy in China, missing her mother and brother intensely. She had to learn Mandarin Chinese and unlearn her North Korean habits, for fear they would give her away. Defectors are regularly returned by the Chinese government and their fates, once back home, are beatings and torture in prison camps.

Hyeonseo's memoir describes how she eventually decides to live in South Korea, a country that she had been indoctrinated to think of as 'The Enemy' all her life, and how she makes a harrowing journey to bring her mother and brother to South Korea too.

This is a truly amazing story of courage and it is worth viewing her twelve minute TED talk on You Tube as well.

Also read:
Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (5 stars)

Is the Vicar in, Pet?: From the Pit to the Pulpit - My Childhood in a Geordie Vicarage
Is the Vicar in, Pet?: From the Pit to the Pulpit - My Childhood in a Geordie Vicarage
by Barbara Fox
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A taste of times gone by, 13 April 2016
This memoir of life as a vicar's daughter in North East England, was full of anecdotes, perfect for listening to on the road. Although I found the audio narration a bit twee, it kept me entertained for many a mile.

Even though I've never lived in a vicarage, nor in the north of England, I could relate to the era the memoir was set in, and it often reminded me of my own childhood. I clearly remember the miners' strike and doing my homework by candle-light during the three day week.

It could have been overly religious, but the author's father seemed to be more of a social worker than an evangelist. People would turn up at any time of the day and always be welcomed in for a cup of tea. The vicarage gardens sounded like a childrens' wonderland and quite a bit of the story was acted out under this back-drop.

Memories from a simpler era.

We Are All Made of Stars
We Are All Made of Stars
Offered by Audible Ltd

4.0 out of 5 stars Letters from the dying, 17 Mar. 2016
I've never read anything by Rowan Coleman before, I guess I had her down as a bit of a Chick-Lit author, but We Are All Made of Stars seemed to be getting a lot of attention so I decided to listen to the audiobook from Audible. Before I go any further I must say that this was an excellent narration from Avita Jay and Ben Allen and I particularly liked the voice of Ben, from Avita.

There are four relationships under the microscope here, Stella, the central character and her Afghanistan Vet husband, Vincent; Hope, a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer, recouperating from a severe infection, and her friend Ben; Hugh and Sarah, the girl who moves in next door (and his cat, Jake, who contrives to visit all the characters in the book); and Gladys who joins the cast later on but links back to Hugh.

Stella works in a hospice for terminal and recouperating patients and has become known amongst them a writer of last letters to loved ones. This becomes the theme that holds the book together, though I wasn't so keen on the letters that bore no relation to characters in the book, possibly because in narration these came over as a bit superfluous, perhaps the written version has them in italics, or something.

The letters are always sealed and kept for the loved ones on the death of the patient, but Stella is not happy about one particular letter, which she wants to deliver now, before it is too late.

This was a great read, with an excellent balance of sadness,love and humour. I might well take a look at some of Rowan's more recent books, if not her earlier, more Chick-Lit titles.

The Voices of Marrakesh: A Record of a Visit (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Voices of Marrakesh: A Record of a Visit (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Elias Canetti
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.48

3.0 out of 5 stars Marrakesh in the '50s, 4 Mar. 2016
I had been wanting to read this book ever since I visited Morocco and wandered through the streets and market of Marrakesh. It's quite a short book and very atmospheric, but I didn't think it was particularly well written, given that Elias Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981.

Canetti visited Morocco in the 1950s but in many ways it is timeless. I particularly associated with the market stalls of very similar items: the row of handbag sellers, the section that sold carpets, another concentrating on herbs and spices. I bought a handbag from one of these sellers, having visited every stall before making my decision.

He commented on camels that had travelled through the desert for many days, just to be sold and slaughtered. A poor, starved donkey. I liked how he felt for these animals, a man with humanity. He was also touched by the beggars, one of whom sucked each coin before pocketing it, which was pretty disgusting.

He spent time in the Jewish quarter; being Jewish himself he identified with these people and felt at home. A young man attached himself to Canetti in the hope of securing a job from his American many snippets of experience, yet the book is also rather disjointed and doesn't really flow - not helped by my Pdf copy that had alternate blank pages.

I'm glad I finally managed to read this moment in time but unfortunately it's not going to encourage me to search out more from this author, in spite of his accolades.

Price: £5.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 3 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Concentr8 (Kindle Edition)
I thought this was an excellent Young Adult book, with just the right amount of suspense to keep the attention of youngsters, while sending out an interesting message about the power of drug companies and the ease with which drugs can be prescribed.

In a future Britain, Concentr8 is the new Ritalin and it has been prescribed to all children who are in any way disruptive. Huge numbers of children are on this drug, manipulated by the drug companies, who have convinced the government to give pay-outs to parents of children who take the drug.
Then, suddenly, there is a policy change and the drug is withdrawn to save money. Massive riots break out across the country, as children try to cope with their new-found energy.

Five teenagers; Troy, Karen, Lee and Femi, led by Blaze, go out to see the riots that are going on in their town. On a whim, they take a hostage and tie him to a radiator in an empty warehouse. What do they want? What will they do with the hostage? And how will it all end??

Each chapter is narrated by one of the youngsters, a journalist, the mayor, or the negotiator and it's interesting to see events from so many perspectives.
There are also interesting quotes from leading professionals in the field of ADD and ADHD at the end of each chapter.

Also read:
The Wall by William Sutcliffe (5*)

The Amazing Racist
The Amazing Racist
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read in a while, 1 Mar. 2016
I read this book because I was visiting friends in Sri Lanka and it happened to coincide with the author coming to visit their book group - what amazing good luck!
I had no idea what to expect, I'd never heard of Chhimi Tenduf-La before, but The Amazing Racist was such an entertaining book that the 240 pages flew by and when I met the author, he was charming.

The narrator and main protagonist is Eddie Trusted. He is in Sri Lanka, teaching English in a school, when he meets Menaka, a beautiful Sri Lankan girl. They plan to marry but first he must pass muster with Menaka's father, the irascible Thilak Rupasingh. Actually, irrascible is almost too generous a word as Thilak Rupasingh is wholeheartedly against the match and does everything he can to cause trouble.
Then Thilak Rupasingh becomes a grandfather and a softer, more loving side to his character appears and we can't help but feel some degree of affection for him, in spite of our better judgment.

There are some great lines in this book, I kept highlighting them one after another:
"Yes, they had made a special kind of 'mild' chicken curry for the white man. It seemed they had run out of chicken and subbed it with more red chilli. Even my nipples began to weep."
"Columbo mumbo jumbo"
" 'Your marriage to a suddha (white man) is more likely to be the death of me than a few drinks and cigarettes' "
" 'I'm embracing your culture', I say. 'You're embarrassing my culture' he says."

A lighthearted read with a message about love and loyalty, I'd recommend this as a most enjoyable book.

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