Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Up to 70% off Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop Amazon Fire TV Shop now Shop Fire HD 6 Shop Kindle Voyage Shop now Shop Now Shop now
Profile for J. Willis > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by J. Willis
Top Reviewer Ranking: 11,109
Helpful Votes: 270

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
J. Willis (London)

Page: 1-10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14
by Toni Morrison
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece but boy do you have to work at it, 28 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Beloved (Mass Market Paperback)
Beloved is the story of Sethe and the horrors she and her friends endured while working as slaves and the lives they try to forge for themselves afterwards. Sethe eventually managed to ran away from her life as a slave with her four children (one of whom she was carrying) but later when she realised she would be recaptured and her children would again be forced to live their live's as slaves, she began to harm her children and succeds in killing one.

There is a supernatural element to the book as Sethe's murdered baby daughter haunts the house she lives in. The spirit of the dead child seems full of anger and rage. As Sethe continues living in her house with her surviving daughter she is cut off and ostracised from the community for her crimes and her life as a slave begins to be told in flashbacks.

The setting for book alone immediately tells the reader that they are entering difficult and disturbing territory but this is not a book filled with gruesome horrors of slavery but rather more subtle questions are brought to the forefront; is a slave owner who treats their slaves well really better in principle as a slave owner who treats his slaves badly? Questions like these are pondered over by Sethe's friends as they think over and remember their experiences.

This is not an easy read because Toni Morrison really makes you work as a reader. The text is so dense and at times I had to re-read a paragraph several times in order to make sure I understood it. I was advised to look up the sparknotes for this novel which I ended up doing as there were still bits of the story I was missing even though I was reading it very slowly and carefully. But despite this it never crossed my mind to stop reading, something always made me pick it up and carry on. Perhaps because this dense and heavy style of writing suited the story and the narrative.

This is a very rich and very layered book with some fascinating and indepth characters. I was quite amazed at how Toni Morrison was able to easily mix flashbacks, domestic life, horrors and supernatural elements while feeding the reader the whole story in pieces throughout. I felt a little exhausted after I finished reading it but in a good way.

The Flight Of The Falcon (VMC)
The Flight Of The Falcon (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite but still very good, 28 Nov. 2011
The main character in this is called Armino Fabbio who works as a coach tour guide for American and British tourists. Fabbio is working in Rome when the novel starts and is run ragged by the timetable and the demands of his tourists. The first couple of chapters are actually quite comical as we meet the American lady who seems to think Fabbio cares about the impending birth of her grandchild, the two busy body English school teachers who makes the tour late one day because they were trying to find the owner of a stray cat, to the hopeless woman who cannot leave a hotel room or restaurant without leaving something behind.

However by chapter three a body of an old beggar woman (who Fabbio recognises) is found stabbed and the novel takes a sudden turn. Fabbio leaves Rome and returns to the city of his childhood; a dark, forbidding place. There he meets his long lost brother who isn't quite what he seems transporting the reader into more familiar Du Maurier territory.

The descriptions of the Italian city Fabbio returns to are superb, the dark narrow streets with their steep and perilous steps are all used to good effect to hide secrets and even a secret society. There was also familiarity in the two brothers Fabbio and Aldo. Fabbio is described as being short and he is also strangely sexless throughout which contracts to his older brother Aldo who towers over his younger brother and is obviously having sordid affairs. The more submissive personality of Fabbio compared with his dynamic, unscrupulous brother did put me in mind of Rebecca slightly.

Unfortunately there were plot elements which I couldn't quite believe and this book is about 50 pages too long so it began to drag during the final third part of the book. But as usual there was a good story with some interesting characters and some good twists and turns.

The House of the Mosque
The House of the Mosque
by Kader Abdolah
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic insight and well written, 28 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Set in an Iranian house which is attached to a mosque this book follows the lives of the three families living there as they go about running the mosque and their other day to day business. Told over two generations starting from the late 70s, Iran itself goes through turbulent times and turns their lives upside down.

That's a very simple synopses but the book is actually quite complex in its own way while not being complicated to read. In fact apart from the first couple of chapters where I had a little trouble placing all the characters (of which there are a lot) I found this an easy and rich read.

I was initially worried that this was going to be quite a 'political' read but it really wasn't. Most of the book is focused on the family's local affairs where they run the mosque, home, bazaar, go on religious pilgrimages, go to school, make carpets etc. It is through these day to day activities where the reader slowly learns about this family's culture and way of life and how the political unrest will eventually affect them, also interwoven within this are Iranian poems, songs and stories from the Koran.

This book is sometimes told in a fable like manner and then towards the end of the book there is also some historical fiction brought in, making this book hard to define, but its certainly not predictable. The author does not let his own agenda get in the way of how the characters think or behave (the story is set in quite a conservative part of Iran) and the author never informs the reader whether something is right or wrong, he simply tells the story.

The Shadow Of The Wind
The Shadow Of The Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling with a great atmosphere, 28 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Shadow Of The Wind (Paperback)
Set in Barcelona after the Spanish civil war a young boy called Daniel finds a book in the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' called The Shadow of the Wind. After becoming captivated by this book Daniel tries to find other books written by the same author Julian Carax, only to find that there aren't any in existence. Daniel also discovers that someone else, a burn victim who carries the same name as the devil in The Shadow of the Wind has been hunting all the books written by Julian Carax and burning them.

There is a lot in this book, mystery, love, and coming of age. Daniel is a young boy in the beginning of the book and a young man by the end and the tone of the book changes appropriately to accommodate this.

The story unfolds quickly and Barcelona is used perfectly in this packed tale. During the day the characters do their jobs and get on with the mundane day to day stuff, at night the mist seeps in and the story then fills with faceless men, sadistic police officers and people hiding in the shadows, there is even a creepy old mansion to boot. Interweaving through all this there is a lot of humour and some romance. There are a lot of characters but for me Daniels friend Fermin, (a man who when we first meet him is living on the streets) was the best character and he certainly made me chuckle a few times with his 'rants' about subjects ranging from love to crime.

This book has been a huge success and has been given good reviews but there have been some criticisms which I have pondered over. This book is certainly filled with its fair share of melodrama and its certainly not perfect but I don't want to dwell on this. The book is filled with enough atmosphere and has some well crafted characters which kept my interest and makes me want to read The Angels Game.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
by Patrick Süskind
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but left me with nothing, 28 Nov. 2011
This is a very unusual book. Grenouille is born into unusual circumstances and then abandoned in Paris during the eighteenth century. He discovers that he has an acute sense of smell and eventually becomes obsessed with bottling the most exquisite fragrance he has ever smelt; that of a young virgin. In order to get this smell he practices on plenty of other girls, killing them in the process.

Grenouille himself is a horrible human being. He is devoid of any personality and of his own smell, people seem to instinctively know there is something strange about him as they draw back whenever he comes near or go out of their way to avoid him. It is this that causes Grenouille to seek out his own 'scent'. Why this scent has to be that of a young virgin I think is purely about Grenouille's ego and greed.

The book is told very much in the style of a grim fairytale with beautiful prose which given the subject matter and the time period worked perfectly. The story had some scientific stuff thrown in with regards to the making of perfume. Some people I'm sure will find this boring but I personally found it fascinating. I enjoyed reading how the perfume makers extracted scent from Roses etc. in order to then use the scent as a tiny component in a perfume.

My main gripe with this book however is the lack of character interaction. I never felt as if I knew Grenouille as a person nor the young virgin who's smell he hopes to capture. Because of this I failed to actually care about any of them and none of the characters that Grenouille came across 'jumped off the page' for me.

The ending was fitting but I'm sure I missed something in it. I was sure the ending was going to have some kind of meaning or lesson given the style of the book but I felt as though I was left with nothing here.

The White Tiger
The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Good and entertaining but Booker winner?, 28 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The White Tiger (Paperback)
Born into poverty with no hope of improving his situation due to class and opportunities, Balram, a driver for a rich family discovers that if he is willing to lie, cheat and murder without fearing the consequences he can live the life he has always dreamed in this new emerging India.

The book is told in a series of letters from Balram to a Chinese official who will be shortly visiting India. Balram wants to set the record straight and expose India while at the same time telling his story on how he rose to the position he is in now.

The narrative is easy to read and quite clever in parts. Balram is a man who has had opportunities denied to him throughout his life (including being taken out of school) and he has a sense of pure anger throughout much of the book. A lot of the anger is entirely justified yet he also has very little regard for his family and refuses to send them any money even though working as a driver he is earning the equivalent to a fortune compared to his struggling family. He also tries to expose corruption within politicians, business men and the police yet will also rip off his employers when given the opportunity showing that he's certainly willing to play the game when it suits.

Balram also exposes his ignorance within the narrative. For example he will not use a mobile phone because he heard on the radio once that they give you brain cancer, and he also states little gems like this "Now, since I doubt that you have rickshaw-pullers in China - or in any other civilised nation on earth - you will have to see one for yourself." These points only highlight that he has not gotten to his
position by intelligence but by understanding the `jungle' in which he lives in.

Unfortunately some of the other characters came across as rather `flat' especially Balrams employers and his family and they failed to evoke any sympathy from me, they were very stereotypical although maybe the intent is that they are seen as through Balram's eyes?

This White Tiger never `preaches' but there are a lot of books coming out at the moment which all claim to highlight the dark side of India. So unfortunately in that respect this book will not give you anything new.

It is a very easy read and I found it highly entertaining and I would recommend it for these reasons but don't expect to find anything more meaningful within these pages.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Clothbound Classics)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Clothbound Classics)
by Lewis Carroll
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Far more enjoyable than I expected, 28 Nov. 2011
Like a lot of people my introduction to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was through various films or TV adaptations especially the Disney version. Before sitting down to read this for the first time one evening I tried to clear my head of any preconceptions and just sat back and tried to enjoy the ride.

Well I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, the world in which Alice finds herself is so bizarre and 'mad' I was quite prepared to be swept up along with it all. There is a huge amount of charm within this book which I was not expecting and the wonderful illustrations added to this.

I then went on to read 'Through the Looking-Glass' and was surprised to find that most of my favourite moments from the film like the Walrus and the Carpenter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the bread and butter-flies, were featured in Though the look-glass and did not feature at all in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In fact only three characters including Alice feature in both books.

Despite this I still preferred Adventures in Wonderland, I can't say why for sure but it just seemed to have more charm and innocence within the pages when compared to Through the Looking-Glass when Alice is a bit older and slightly less 'curious'. Aside from the Walrus and the Carpenter, I also preferred the rhymes in Adventures in Wonderland some of which made me laugh.

There's a lot of essays and analysis out there dissecting this book and a lot of people (like me) first read this book as an adult. But I'll keep my copy for my son when he's older as I was stuck by how much I think a small child would enjoy it.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but lets not let the adults hog this one for themselves.

The Children Of Dynmouth (Penguin Decades)
The Children Of Dynmouth (Penguin Decades)
by William Trevor
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling and sinister, 28 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The novel follows an awkward teenager Timothy Gedge around Dynmouth; a typical English seaside town. Timothy has convinced himself he is destined to become a famous comedian and in order to do so he should start by performing in his local Easter talent show. As he proceeds with his plans Timothy is confronted by obstacles that threaten to derail his dream. In response to these setbacks he becomes more and more delusional and sinister to the point of being evil. He terrorises numerous residents of the town and does his best to hurt people and mess up their lives.

This is just the kind of book I love and I enjoyed reading it immensely. A community is striped bare as Timothy does his rounds, threatening young children with a few words and blackmailing adults. The tension builds up throughout the book (which is less than 200 pages) to its conclusion where the community of adults are forced to ask themselves; did we create this monster?

The novel deals with plenty of other issues such as the effect on society when children are forced to bring themselves up with absent parents and the obsession with becoming a celebrity. These issues give the book depth and I found myself speculating on them, the book even hints that perhaps there is a place for people like Timothy in this world.

I loved this book (and not just for the pretty cover) a dark and chilling tale which will make you think.

by Willy Vlautin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Packs a punch, 28 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Northline (Paperback)
Allison is a young girl living in Vegas who is having a rough life. I mean a really rough life, every plausible terrible thing that can happen to a woman happens to Allison in this book. If you were to see Allison on the street with her tattoos and swigging from a bottle you would probably dismiss her as just some girl who needs to get her life together which is what she attempts to do throughout the course of this book.

This sounds grim and certainly large parts of it are but the only way Allison is able to make small tiny changes in her life is through the random acts of strangers. Every so often someone will show a small amount of kindness that when added together puts Allison in a much better place at the end of the novel than the beginning.

This has a simple plot which never strays into sentimentality and shows all the characters flaws and I emphasised with them and wanted their lives to get better. Nothing in this short novel at less than 200 pages is perfect and that goes for the ending but there is a sense of redemption and hope.

This story is simply told and a quick read, if you don't mind your books depressing and grim at times, there's a lot to get out of this novel. But as one of the other reviewers here has already pointed out there is a lot of telling from the author rather than showing hense the 3 stars

Jamaica Inn (VMC)
Jamaica Inn (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect escapism, 28 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Jamaica Inn (VMC) (Paperback)
Set in the early 1800s, Jamaica Inn is the story of Mary Yellan. She arrives to Jamaica Inn after promising her dying mother that she would sell the family's farm and go live with her aunt Patience. When she arrives at Jamaica Inn she realises very quickly that things are not as they should be, her aunt who was once pretty and lively has now withdrawn into herself and seems very frightened of her husband Joss. Joss is a big brute of a man who is secretive and keeps some very dubious company, what Joss's dealings are and what Jamaica Inn is used for is slowly revealed.

I had little expectations for this book. I loved Rebecca and was expecting this to not match up it. I'm glad to say that I relished Jamaica Inn and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. From the first chapter when Mary is travelling along Cornwall's desolate moors in the night towards Jamaica Inn, Du Maurier had me hooked. Du Maurier takes the reader very much into Gothic territory here (is there any alternative when moors are involved) but also throws in some adventure and a love interest which slots perfectly into an already atmospheric and gripping read.

Although Rebecca might be a better book I much preferred the Heroine Mary in Jamaica Inn. This is a girl is determined, strong and (for want of a better word) sassy. Instead of cowering in the corner with her aunt she stands up to her uncle, her uncle in turn respects her and a battle of words ensures between them. I just love this speech she presents to her uncle when he first tries to intimidate her upon arrival at Jamaica Inn..

'I understand you,' she said. 'I'm not curious by nature, and I've never gossiped in my life. It doesn't matter to me what you do in the inn, or what company you keep. I'll do my work about the house and you'll have no cause to grumble. But if you hurt my Aunt Patience in any way, I tell you this - I'll leave Jamaica Inn straight away, and I'll find the magistrate, and bring him here, and have the law on you; and then try and break me if you like.'

Mary is also attracted to her uncle's brother Jem. Jem is a charmer and a horse thief, he is quite upfront about his dodgy dealings with Mary and plays a good `bad boy', but can she trust him?

Mary also has quite a cynical (or perhaps realistic) view on love and marriage for a young girl. She sees young couples all the time in love but then sees them get married and have children and she sees their lives change as the husband comes home demanding his dinner and the wife who is tired from looking after a home and a baby that never stops crying. Mary just seems to accept that the world is simply made like this and she herself can either choose to be part of that or choose to go her own way.

This is quite a refreshing attitude for a book written in the 1930s, but what's even more refreshing is that she never needs `rescuing'. Yes she is beaten and dragged about but she uses her own resources to get herself out of the situation, Jem never shows up to `save' her. In this respect she would make a far better role model than a lot of modern heroines.

This is good book which contains atmosphere, deception and adventure and I found it pure escapism and a real treat to read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2012 7:18 PM BST

Page: 1-10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14