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Hel S "Hel S" (UK)

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Frenchman's Creek (VMC)
Frenchman's Creek (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top form from du Maurier, 7 Sep 2009
DuMaurier at her best spoils the reader for anything else, and with this book she is definitely at the height of her talent. Dona StColumb has run away from London, irritated and dissatisfied with life. She takes refuge at the family's Cornish property, situated on the Helford River where she unexpectedly meets with the real excitement and adventure she craves.

This is really a rather deep story that goes beyond the superficial tale of bored upper class woman meeting French pirate and having a bit of a fling. The way duMaurier weaves the issues of obligation and women's role in society seamlessly into the narrative is the work of an expert. There was never a jarring note in this book. The author, seemingly without effort, has crafted a novel that could have plunged into melodramatic romance, but instead soars like the gulls Dona's Frenchman sketches during idle moments.

From the most minor characters to Dona herself, the characterisations were superbly done, the writing was full of feeling but never mawkish and Dona is portrayed as very real and human, someone who is selfish and petulant on the one hand, but with whom the reader can still relate as she tries to live life to the full and has the bravery to snatch at the bit of real happiness that comes her way.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2009 8:11 PM BST


The Murder Bird
The Murder Bird
by Joanna Hines
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent thriller, 7 Sep 2009
This review is from: The Murder Bird (Paperback)
A novel about the supposed suicide of a poet about to publish a damaging and revealing poem in her new book of poetry. The poet's daughter, Sam, is convinced the death was no accident, and sets out to try and prove this is the case.

The moving backwards then forwards in time had me completely befuddled near the start of the book, and it wasn't until the novel caught up with itself about a quarter of the way in that I gained full sense of what was going on. From that moment, I was reading a fairly gripping and interesting thriller concerned with Sam's search for the 'proof' that will explain her mother's death, and both the killer's and other people's desires for the verdict of suicide to remain.

Having read a few substandard thrillers recently, this was a pleasant surprise. There are plenty of characters who could be the murderer, and I was kept guessing until fairly late in the book as to which one it was. The way the author kept the tension high as Sam visits various suspects was very well done and, despite there being a bit of a favourite, it is not a done deal that this person is definitely the 'murder bird'.

The writing was good, the characterisations were very real and there was never a moment of unbelievability in the narrative, everything flowed seamlessly. Having read books where actions or plot points have jumped out at me and I've been able to see the author wondering how to deal with a situation, and the very obvious and clunky way things have been resolved, it is refreshing to read such a well-crafted book.


Losing You
Losing You
by Nicci French
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.03

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tiresome, 6 Sep 2009
This review is from: Losing You (Paperback)
This is the fourth book by these authors that I've read, and it's going to be my last. Once again we have a main character who behaves in a ridiculous manner and a plot point which begs for forgiveness. A woman is trying to finish tasks prior to leaving for a holiday in Florida with her family. Two hours before driving to the airport, an impromptu fortieth birthday party is sprung on her. Whilst she dashes around the house doing last minute packing and other associated holiday tasks, a houseful of people, many of whom she doesn't even know, drink and get merry! If you can believe this scenario, perhaps you will enjoy this book. The party was necessary in order for the abductor/murderer of the main character's daughter to steal some personal items from the teenager's bedroom to make it look as if she had run away.

The entire book comprises the main character running up and down screaming at people 'Have you seen my daughter!? What do you know about where she could be!? What have you got to do with it!?' It's very frantic and exhausting and I didn't find it at all pleasurable. Instead I skimmed a good chunk of it, and then skipped to the end to find I didn't care who had 'dunnit', or whether or not the daughter was alive or dead.

The authors write well, better than most thriller/crime writers I've come across, but increasingly I find their believability factor nosediving in tandem with their portrayal of hysterical, tiresome protagonists.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2010 5:05 PM BST


KRISTIN KNITS: 25 Inspired Designs for Playing with Color
KRISTIN KNITS: 25 Inspired Designs for Playing with Color
by Kristin Nicholas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but useless for non-Americans, 1 Sep 2009
This is an absolutely beautiful book packed full of fabulous, colourful projects of the like you seldom see. British knitting books seem permanently stuck in the 1970s, both in style and content, so I was truly excited to see all the wonderful items - from scarves to jumpers, that I could make.

Unfortunately, this book is a book first published in the US (in the UK as 'The Knitting Palette') and with little or no changes other than the title made to cater for the UK market. We do get the difference in needle sizes and measurements are bracketed in metric. But I think that's it.

You would need to be a very experienced knitter I think to confidently convert everything into UK-knitspeak. Not only that but the yarn is an American yarn which so far I have not been able to find a distributor for in the UK. On the company's website, it states that the yarn is especially for the North American knitter. Again, an experienced knitter may quite easily be able to swop the recommended yarn for another one, and know what they are doing. I've been knitting for a while, but couldn't call myself an expert and, really, having to more or less rewrite the patterns seems a bit of a time-consuming project which will probably sap your will to live before you even get started on knitting in the round, which is the method used for all of these projects.

If you have the determination then go for this book, the results look to be amazing. For me, I'd like a book just like this but one written for the UK market.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2011 3:07 PM BST


The Knitting Palette: 27 Stunning Colour Inspired Designs
The Knitting Palette: 27 Stunning Colour Inspired Designs
by Kristin Nicholas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.89

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but useless for non-Americans, 1 Sep 2009
This is an absolutely beautiful book packed full of fabulous, colourful projects of the like you seldom see. British knitting books seem permanently stuck in the 1970s, both in style and content, so I was truly excited to see all the wonderful items - from scarves to jumpers, that I could make.

Unfortunately, this book is a book first published in the US (under the name Kristin's Knits) and with little or no changes other than the title made to cater for the UK market. We do get the difference in needle sizes and measurements are bracketed in metric. But I think that's it.

You would need to be a very experienced knitter I think to confidently convert everything into UK-knitspeak. Not only that but the yarn is an American yarn which so far I have not been able to find a distributor for in the UK. On the company's website, it states that the yarn is especially for the North American knitter. Again, an experienced knitter may quite easily be able to swop the recommended yarn for another one, and know what they are doing. I've been knitting for a while, but couldn't call myself an expert and, really, having to more or less rewrite the patterns seems a bit of a time-consuming project which will probably sap your will to live before you even get started on knitting in the round, which is the method used for all of these projects.

If you have the determination then go for this book, the results look to be amazing. For me, I'd like a book just like this but one written for the UK market.


White Ghost Girls
White Ghost Girls
by Alice Greenway
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a wave, 31 Aug 2009
This review is from: White Ghost Girls (Paperback)
Through the eyes of the young narrator, Kate, the author creates a beautifully evocative picture of Honk Kong during the time of the Vietnam war. The images and descriptions are stunning, and I felt as if I was there with Kate, watching and waiting. The narrative flows with that strong sense of waiting for something to happen. Somehow, seen through Kate's eyes, events that are not connected grow in significance and the reader is swept along with Kate's belief that they could be.

Woven through the narrative, quietly and almost unseen, is the nature of the relationship between Kate and her older sister, Frankie, which reaches an eventful and startling climax. Kate is a reticent narrator, wanting to protect her sister and yet admitting that she has feelings for others with results in, I think, a sense of guilt because she wasn't wholly focused on Frankie when Frankie wanted her full attention.

It's a quiet book, and the action is subdued and lingering, rather than being obvious and loudly proclaiming itself. Not for everyone, I would say, but definitely for me.


My Cousin Rachel (VMC)
My Cousin Rachel (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of her best, 28 Aug 2009
This review is from: My Cousin Rachel (VMC) (Paperback)
This book is one of du Maurier's best. The main protagonist, Philip, has grown up with his uncle Ambrose, a man who eschews women and lives the consummate bachelor lifestyle, to which Philip has become accustomed also. On a winter trip to Italy Ambrose marries, an occurrence which devastates Philip. Letters from Ambrose lead Philip to believe that something is very wrong and he goes abroad to find out more.

The author plants various ideas in the reader's head as to what may or may not have happened in Italy, but then just as you are sure that events happened in a particular way, she introduces another element that completely changes these ideas. These twists and turns of plot aren't randomly dropped into the narrative, they form part of the drift and swirl of Philip's changing, confused thoughts as he moves from one belief to the next and back again about the woman who is his cousin, and what she may or may not have done.

The characters are well drawn, especially Philip who we see as a young man forced into maturity when he perhaps isn't quite ready for it, nothing seems to jar or take the reader out of the story, there is nothing unbelievable in either the plot or the narrative. All in all a very well told, interesting and compelling story which kept me entertained for a full afternoon.


Secret Smile
Secret Smile
by Nicci French
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating, 28 Aug 2009
This review is from: Secret Smile (Paperback)
This is my third Nicci French book, the last two have been quite good so I was expecting something similar here.

Unfortunately I was frustrated within the first few pages, and that frustration never left me. The main protagonist, Miranda, having dated a man for less than ten days, ditches him because he gives her the creeps, then finds he has moved on to her sister. He tells lies which she does little to refute. She allows things to happen which no person with more than a few brain cells would allow, including him moving into her flat with her sister, and everyone in the book believes this man they hardly know over what their sister/daughter/best friend tells them, with tragic consequences. The ending, which involved quite a big twist, was as unbelievable as the rest of the story.

It is a well written book with drama enough to keep the pages turning, but my feelings of annoyance with all the characters and their dimness spoiled things.


Today I'm Alice: Nine Personalities, One Tortured Mind
Today I'm Alice: Nine Personalities, One Tortured Mind
by Alice Jamieson
Edition: Paperback

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written misery memoir, 23 Aug 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In the product description this book was described as 'not a misery memoir'. But that's exactly what it is. It's not a genre I enjoy; reading this kind of book feels like the modern equivalent of paying to see the inmates in Bedlam during Victorian times.

I ordered the book because of the mental health aspect, to learn more about what it was like to have multiple personalities. In that respect I thought it was going to be more in the style of Kay Jamison's 'An Unquiet Mind', however I felt there was a lot of focus on the sexual abuse aspect, with repeated descriptions of what happened to the author in her childhood. Cathartic for the author, perhaps, but somewhat prurient in the case of the reader.

I did appreciate the insight into the author's disorder, and feel that I understand it more than I did. Mental illness and psychological disorders are still seen in a different way to physical illness, and anything that helps to change this perception is a good thing. However, I would have been interested to read more about the illness itself, perhaps on a more technical basis, however the nature of the book prevents that. It's a shame that there doesn't seem to be a midway point between the 'misery memoir' and academic texts for those of us who want something a bit more challenging to read, and to develop more understanding about what exactly is happening with the mind during its attempts to cope with horrific events, but for whom the academic approach is rather clinical and non-personal.

On the whole, the book is well-written account of childhood sexual abuse and the author's means of coping with it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2011 9:31 PM BST


The Savage Garden
The Savage Garden
by Mark Mills
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts..., 19 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Savage Garden (Paperback)
At page 80 I told my self that if the narrative didn't start to improve by page 100 I would bale out. Up till that point, the author had spent far too long setting up the story, and much of the text could have been cut with little detriment to the book as a whole. Thankfully, things picked up before I reached the cut-off page, and I found the rest of the book pretty interesting, especially the story surrounding the building of the garden. In fact, this was probably the more intriguing of the two threads woven together throughout the book. The other, concerning the death of a man during the war, never really 'got there', and by the end I found myself not caring terribly much about the outcome.

This was an enjoyable book overall, but throughout it felt as if it was striving for bigger things, yet never quite pulled it off. Certainly not a bad book, but not brilliant either.


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