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M. G. Gilbert (Worcester, GB)
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Keeping Secrets
Keeping Secrets
by Andrew Rosenheim
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.23

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't live up to the promise, 7 Feb 2008
This review is from: Keeping Secrets (Paperback)
The back cover reads very well, which is the reason I bought the book. The first 25 pages is very good, exciting and well written, as a young boy is witness to a brutal murder and then has to hide to save his own life, but after that, everything goes flat. The next 75 pages is about the boy, now aged around forty and rather boring, conducting a transatlantic relationship with an English woman. Hardly riveting reading! For the next seventy pages the story shifts to the UK, where the man, Jack, has moved to farm apples with Kate, the woman. This section is just as dull as the last, and is rather melancholy as Jack realises that as an American he will never be acceptable to Kate's upper class, snobbish family and friends. However, the next section is slightly more interesting as the story moves back to Jack's childhood and we learn how he came to be living on a apple farm with his uncle. Although eighty pages about a year in a child's life, through the eyes of that child, becomes very tedious, and at this point I seriously considered closing the book for good. However, after getting this far, I decided to persevere in the hope that things may pick up. Unfortunately, the following eighty pages becomes even more depressing, as Jack first begins to suspect, and then becomes convinced that Kate is having an affair with an ex-lover. For another quick twenty pages we are whisked back to Jack's childhood, and his last day on the farm. But then, Hurrah! the last 45 pages saves the book! Not quite exciting, but at last Jack goes into action, at last Jack moves, at last Jack proves that he is not actually dead, and of course, Jack saves the day.

Not as bad as a one-star, the quality of writing just saves it, but Keeping Secrets won't be going on my bookshelf.


The Secret Garden (Wordsworth's Children's Classics)
The Secret Garden (Wordsworth's Children's Classics)
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 1.89

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous children's story., 5 July 2007
We bought this lovely story for my daughter, after being fed up with the constant diet of Captain Underpants et al, that she always seemed to bring home from school. The idea was that I would read some classic literature to her each day before she went to bed. The first chapters brought forth constant grumbles and complaints (they are rather boring), but once the story got going, my daughter and I were hooked. She absolutely loved it and listened in rapt attention to every word. I don't know why the story is so magical, but somehow, it certainly is.

Unusually, the central character changes from one character to another, quite an interesting concept that actually works seamlessly, without the reader actually realising that the focus has changed.

As the garden works it's charm on the children, they slowly change from their normal selfish demeanor to care for one another and share in each other's joy.

A really lovely story. After we had finished, my daughter wanted more of the same. Captain Underpants was thankfully, relegated.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2011 12:40 PM GMT


Vulcan 607
Vulcan 607
by Rowland White
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very British Book Indeed!, 4 July 2007
This review is from: Vulcan 607 (Paperback)
What a corker! Books don't come much more British than this. A story that could have come straight from the pages of Valiant comic of the 1970's with one difference: This one is true.

I can't think of anything that I have ever heard of that sums up the British character more than this.

A plan was hatched to launch an air raid from Britain to bomb the only runway on the Falkland Islands, 8,000 miles away, to deny the runway to Argentinian fighter planes. The only aircraft that could possibly do the job was the aged Avro Vulcan, which was scheduled for obsolescence in only three months time. The majority of Vulcans had already been scrapped, there were just two squadrons left, and these were already in the process of decomissioning. The trouble was, to fly that far, the plane would need to be refueled in flight, something at which Vulcans had never been successful, and nobody currently flying in the RAF had ever tried it before. Every attempt at in-light refuelling was a failure. Each time, the probe leaked and spewed fuel over the windscreen, blinding the crew.

Then there was the problem of bombs: Although Vulcans could drop conventional `iron' bombs, they had been designed as Britain's Nuclear deterrent, so the racks that would support the iron bombs had been sold for scrap years before. Amazingly, the scrap dealer still had them, and they were hastily bolted back into the Vulcan's bomb bay. Of the 1,000 pound bombs required, there were only 168 in the whole country, all of them Second World War vintage. The bomb load was 21 bombs. Would there be enough for training, and more importantly, after all this time, would they still go off?

The Vulcan's radar jamming system had been designed to overcome Soviet technology, by now considered second-rate, but the Argentine forces were equipped with modern American and European radar and anti-aircraft weaponry. The Argentinian gunners would have no problem locating the Vulcan and shooting it down before the bomb run even started. The best radar jammer in the RAF was fitted to Buccaneers, so one was quickly borrowed and hastily welded to the Vulcan's belly, and the crews given on the spot training.

The in-flight refuelling plan required a fleet of 11 Victor tankers, just to get one Vulcan bomber over the target. The planners hoped they had a wide margin of safety, but the trouble was, nobody knew how much fuel a fully laden, fully fuelled Vulcan would burn. They estimated for 20,000lb per hour, but a trial flight showed that the Vulcan consumed 36,000lb, an 80% error. The plan was revised, but there were no more tankers available. The plan was revised and revised, but it would be touch and go.

On the eve of the flight to Ascension Island, the mid-way stop that would be the launch pad for the raid, the refuelling leak problem was finally solved by RAF technicians, and two Vulcans and 11 Victors took off on their epic flight.

After a short rest at Ascension, the attack was launched and the 4,000 mile flight began. Two Vulcans began the flight, with the idea that if the primary bomber developed a fault, the second Vulcan could take over. In the event, the primary bomber experienced technical difficulties immediately following take off and had to turn back, so the second bomber, whose crew had anticipated an early round of drinks in the bar, were now the main focus of their following fleet of Victor tankers.

The Vulcan drank even more fuel than anticipated, so the first Victors to refuel the bomber got back to Ascension with only fumes left in their tanks. As the last Victor to refuel the thirsty Vulcan turned back for Ascension, it's crew practiced bail-out procedures, knowing that unless the Victor coming to meet them from Ascension found them first time, they would be swimming home.

When aircraft fly over land, the navigator compares plots from the radar with maps to determine the plane's position, but when flying over the featureless ocean, this system is useless. On approaching the Falklands, the Vulcan's crew could not be sure if they were anywhere near the target, but after sending a radar pulse towards where they hoped the Islands would be, to check their position, they found that after flying 4,000 miles over the ocean, their navigator had brought them to a position less than one mile from where they had planned.

As the Vulcan began its final run, it was detected by the Argentine anti-aircraft defences. But the borrowed radar jammer did its job; the defenders were confused, and the Vulcan roared over the runway, delivering its bombs, bang on target. Only after the bomber had turned and was on its way home, did the anti-aircraft gunners open fire, but by then, the Vulcan was miles away.

The drama did not end there; the Vulcan still had to meet up with a Victor to refuel in order to get home. The Vulcan was so short of fuel that there would be only one chance to find the Victor, but with only minutes of fuel to spare the two aircraft linked and the Vulcan refueled.

In the end, the tremendous skill of the aircrews and planners ensured that all the aircraft returned safely, and the raid was a success. A crater 60 feet wide and 40 feet deep was blown in the runway, and although partially repaired, the runway was never again suitable for Argentine fighter planes. It is arguable whether or not the raid contributed to the outcome of the Falklands War, but it cannot be doubted that to carry out the longest range bombing raid in history, and bring back all the aircraft safely is a remarkable achievement.

The book is a real page turner, I did not want to put it down. It is easily the best non-fiction book I have read this year. Many military history books are so dry; the authors really know their subject, but in filling the book with so many facts, make the book hard to read. Others pitch the book too low; they write down to the reader and the story seems frivolous. But this one is pitched right on the money, it is interesting, exciting, and even though I remember the event, the raid was so fraught with difficulties, that I found myself wondering if it had been carried out at all, and I had to remind myself that yes, it had actually happened. I think this is the author's first book, and if so, what a brilliant debut. I hope he turns his talents to other military histories, I will definitely be on the lookout for the next one.


The Interpretation of Murder
The Interpretation of Murder
by Jed Rubenfeld
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most entertaining, a real page turner, 22 May 2007
Having bought the book before reading any reviews, I was rather concerned after then reading the reviews, that I had bought a right turkey, so I was rather apprehensive about starting. However, after a few pages I was hooked and found myself snatching a few pages whenever the chance was presented. Consequently, although the book is a hefty 500 odd pages, so difficult did I find it to put down, that I managed to get through it in only a few days, much to the annoyance of my wife. I liked the dogged, easy going detective, the neurotic coroner, and the fallible narrator, and I enjoyed Freud, as the wise, kindly old sage, who seemed to have all the answers, although I wished that he would have had more to do with the plot.

The book seems to have been well researched and the descriptions of events taking place, such as the building of the underwater caissons that support the bridge, were very interesting. I knew little of Freud, or psychoanalysis, but found the theories fascinating, though I'm not sure if I agree with them.

All in all, a very good read which is however, rather let down by the unbelievable ending which twists and turns to fit the many angles and facets of the story. Disappointing the ending may be, but the story is entertaining enough that it is not particularly spoiled.


Relics
Relics
by Pip Vaughan-Hughes
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good fun, nice to take on holiday, 9 May 2007
This review is from: Relics (Paperback)
I bought this book believing it to be a medieval whodunnit, but happily, it isn't. Instead, we have a story about a novice monk, living a rather straitlaced life in a northern English town, who is forced to go on the run after being framed for a particularly nasty murder he did not commit. Finding himself to be rather adept at avoiding his pursuer, he is befriended by the captain of an unusual smuggling ship, who offers him a place in the crew.

The story jogs along at a fair pace, with plenty of colourful characters to spice up the action. Apart from a rather tedious and pointless voyage to Greenland, which does spoil the book a little, there is plenty going on to hold the reader's interest. As long as the reader does not take the story too seriously, the book is good fun.

This is a debut novel, and obviously intended to herald a series. I for one, am looking forward to the next installment.


Roberts Ridge
Roberts Ridge
by Malcolm MacPherson
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heroes every one., 7 May 2007
This review is from: Roberts Ridge (Paperback)
A great read for anyone interested in soldiers in combat.

An operation to insert observers onto a mountain overlooking a battle zone goes wrong, as the mountain is found to be occupied by Taliban troops and the helicopter delivering US special forces is hit by machine gun and rocket fire. As an explosion shakes the helicopter, one of the soldiers falls out onto the snow-capped mountain top. The operation then changes into a rescue mission involving Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, Air Force jets and all manner of surveillance aircraft in an attempt to recover the missing man. The result was seven US soldiers killed, with many more wounded.

The men involved were all highly trained and very capable special forces personnel, but rather than being gung-ho comic-book heroes, the author has gone to great lengths to research their personal histories, and so the men are shown to be not only dedicated soldiers, but also dedicated fathers and family men. The effect is to make the tale very personal, as these people are just like ordinary men. They could be your neighbour, your brother in law, someone at work. Therefore, you can see why the US military went to so much trouble to save just one man, even when they don't know if that man is dead or alive.

Not an easy book to put down.


The Devil In The White City
The Devil In The White City
by Erik Larson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't start it if you're busy!, 26 April 2007
This looks like a novel, and indeed reads like a novel, and several times I had to check that it really is not a novel! I have never before read a factual book that cracks along at such a pace. Very easy to read, yet very descriptive.

This is the story of two men: one, perhaps the leading American architect of his time, and the second, perhaps the most terrible serial killer known at that time. The Architect, Daniel H. Burnham, had the task of creating in Chicago the largest, most visionary World's fair ever, eclipsing even the famed Paris fair of 1889. The killer, H. H. Holmes, used the attraction of the fair to lure young women to their doom. Burnham fought against beauracracy, politics and personallity clashes, to say nothing of terrible weather and the death of his business partner, to build the greatest, most beautiful exposition imaginable. Holmes cheated workmen to build a hotel and terrible torture chamber, into which he drew young women to their deaths.

I really enjoyed this book, far more than I expected to. It is difficult to put down, as the author, in the style of a novelist compels the reader to read the next page. Before reading the book, I did not even know of the Chicago Exposition of 1893, but so descriptive is the writing, that by the end I was absolutely facinated by it, so much so, that I felt compelled to learn more. Here lies the only negative aspect of the book; it has very few pictures. I found photographs of the fair on the internet, which show the most beautiful, glorious buildings which housed the exhibits, and I felt that the book lacked much in not showing them. For this reason, I knocked off a star. If a few pictures had been included, then I would definitely have awarded this with 5 stars.


The Last King of Scotland
The Last King of Scotland
by Giles Foden
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So real, at times I thought I was there!, 9 April 2007
After seeing all the hype about the film after the film awards, I bought the book to see what all the fuss was about. I'm glad I did, this is easily the best book I have read this year. I was gripped by the first chapter, but I must admit the next few chapters were a bit slow and I was waiting, albeit with trepidation, for something to happen. I can remember when Idi Amin came to power, and the horrifying regime over which he presided, so I knew there would be times when Dr Garrigan would be terrified and revolted by the actions of his employer. When it did happen, and Dr Garrigan was offered the opportunity to be Amin's personal doctor, I was almost shouting "Don't do it!" into the book.

I found the book very easy to read, and yet I was drawn into the narrative in such a way that I often felt that I was actually there sharing the experience. The depiction of Amin is so realistic and believeable, that I felt embarassed along with his audience whenever he comes out with his bizzare and fanciful claims. The part where he threatens Dr Garrigan is so frightening that I was almost gasping for breath.

Strangely, although I know that Amin was a monster and did dreadful harm to the people of Uganda, his massive personality was brought out so well that by the end of the book, I was beginning to see why Dr Garrigan actually liked him. However, I was relieved that Amin's demise was well described, so that I the reader, could escape.

This is a very good book, well worth five stars.


Whiter Than the Lily (Hawkenlye Mystery)
Whiter Than the Lily (Hawkenlye Mystery)
by Alys Clare
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading!, 7 April 2007
This is the first Alys Clare I have read, and based on this one, I will certainly read more. When I bought it, I assumed it would be similar to most other medieval whodunnits, of which I am quite a fan. But this is in a different league. The mystery starts on the first page and then keeps on building. I thought that I had figured out what was going on, but I was completely wrong. This is a very clever story, not many people will anticipate the outcome. The story develops well and I found it difficult to put down. The characters are likeable and believeable, the story is interesting and intriguing. Try it, you won't be disappointed!


School's Out
School's Out
by Christophe Dufosse
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.34

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and pointless, 6 April 2007
This review is from: School's Out (Paperback)
Like other reviewers, I bought this book because of the complimentary comments adorning the front and back covers. I had hoped to be entertained by a "cool, sexy and sinister" story, penned by "a writer of wit and style". I was totally disappointed. The book is boring. I felt no empathy with the narator, who has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, or with any of the other characters. None of the described events are in any way connected, and are totally pointless. I absorbed these events carefully, hoping that the author would pull everything together at the end, but no, every event is just an occurance; there is no plot. I read all the way through the story hoping that somewhere, there would be a spark of life, but the end was just as dull and boring as the rest of the book. Don't buy this book, it isn't worth the time.


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