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J. Willis (London)
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The Earth Hums in B Flat
The Earth Hums in B Flat
by Mari Strachan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.51

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly charming, 30 Nov. 2011
When I first read the synopses I groaned and thought 'oh not another plucky girl playing detective book' (not that I read many of those, but it just didn't sound very original.) But it has some brilliant reviews so I gave it a shot.

The book is more about a small community rather than individuals or a missing neighbour (which only plays a small part in the book). Set in a small Welsh village in the 1950's, Gwenni introduces her family and the more colourful characters in the village she inhabits. Its the kind of village where everyone goes to church, everybody knows everyone else's business and gossip is rife.

The writing could be described as vibrant and charming, its an easy read and one to curl up with. When Gwenni first introduces herself and claims that she can fly in her sleep I did wonder where it was going and what kind of book this was going to be. As it turns out Gwenni does need to escape in her dreams as a way of making sense of the very adult world around her. Its not exactly a coming of age story but more about Gwenni learning about the adult village life and the harsh life lessons (and skeletons) that entails.

This turned out to be a real gem of a book and one I really enjoyed.


Wuthering Heights (Wordsworth Classics)
Wuthering Heights (Wordsworth Classics)
by Emily Brontė
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Horrible twisted people are also capable of falling in love, 30 Nov. 2011
This is one of those books where I thought I knew what it was all about but in-reality I didn't, much of the plot was a complete surprise. Most of Heathcliffs wrath is directed towards his son and Cathy's daughter. There are also other significant characters which heavily feature which again surprised me as I was expecting it to be all about Heathcliff and Cathy.

Much has been said about the general horribleness of the characters and yes as a reader I felt pushed to the limit at times with their cruelty towards each-other. But I'm not someone who has to like or connect with characters in order to enjoy a book, I guess it was the general horror at times and a kind of morbid fascination that kept me turning the pages. I couldn't look away and found it strangely absorbing. A lot of this had to do with the setting, I've read a fair few books that feature the English moors but none have had quite the desolate or foreboding atmosphere that Wuthering Heights gave to me in droves.

I can understand why it is a classic, there isn't quite another novel like it and I can also understand completely why people would hate this novel. But this isn't a classic just because of the nasty, cruel characters, there is much more to this novel in the passion, tragedy and the Gothic elements. It is a love story but just not in the conventional/normal sense.

Aside from the plot just getting downright silly towards the end I did enjoy this and I read it quite quickly. I can't say I loved it exactly but it certainly won't be one I'll ever forget. If you do decide to read this then you have to face it, you will have problems with some of the characters, as hard as it may be you kinda have to just let them get on with it and play out their own story.


The Road Home
The Road Home
by Rose Tremain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear oh dear, 29 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
The Road Home tells the story of Lev, a migrant worker from Eastern Europe who travels to Britain in the hope of working and earning enough money to support his mother and daughter, back in his home country. Lev is in his 40s and is grieving from the death of his wife from leukaemia but is willing to push his personal troubles aside and work hard.

This was my first Tremain novel and I liked the writing style and the way it flowed, I read this on holiday and this proved to be quite a quick read which entertained me. The parts when Lev arrives in the UK were great and it described well at first the confusion of entering a new culture before he then began to lead a rather charmed immigrant life.

But while Lev was slightly unpredictable in places, the characters surrounding him were nearly all stereotypes, like Christy the Irish heavy drinker or Sophie the Brit girl who is fun loving and easy to bed. Large parts of the plot did not ring true for me either but I am unable to give any big examples without spoiling the plot (ah Lev going from only knowing a few phases in English to reading Hamlet in a few months for one)

The more the novel went on the more far fetched it became until I was forced to suspend all belief in order to carry on to the even more unbelievable ending. I also had trouble believing the descriptions of (the unspecified)Eastern European country that Lev was from. I am just left with a image of everyone in this country drinking Vodka from dawn until dusk, children playing with goats during their lunch breaks and where £20 is a fortune.


Confessions of a GP (The Confessions Series)
Confessions of a GP (The Confessions Series)
Price: £2.48

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great insight and at the same time very entertaining, 29 Nov. 2011
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"Dr Benjamin Daniels" (real identity protected) writes about his day-to-day life of being a GP. Humorous anecdotes involving more of his eccentric patients are in abundance here as well as tales of the pressures of working under a constantly target driven NHS.

I have read a few of these types of books (mostly of the policeman category) and this, like the others is humorous, addictive and thought provoking. Sometimes books like these can become an outlet for the authors rants about their chosen profession but thankfully Dr Daniels manages to talk about his day job without whining. The chapters are short, making this an easy read and I enjoyed reading Dr Daniels's thoughts on death, targets, and people asking for sick notes.

Dr Daniels is very forthright in his opinions ranging in quite a few more controversial topics including the MMR jab, patients that smoke or are over weight and GP salary's. Although these aspects of the book are more serious, it was these sections which I enjoyed the most and lifted it from just being a collection of anecdotes.

Recommended for anyone after a lighter read or is interested in the NHS.


Intruder In The Dust (Vintage Classics)
Intruder In The Dust (Vintage Classics)
by William Faulkner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book but did not agree with all of Faulkners views in this, 29 Nov. 2011
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The main story in this novel involves a black man called Lucas Beauchamp who is wrongly accused of the murder of a white man. The story is told through the eyes of Charles Mallison, a sixteen-year-old who Beauchamp rescued from drowning four years earlier. Charles sets out to prove that Beauchamp did not fire the fatal shot and must prove this before a mob breaks into the jail-house and lynches Beauchamp. Together with his friend Aleck and Miss Habersham, an elderly spinster they go on a mission to exhume the body of the murdered man- and make an unexpected discovery.

The above sounds like the plot of a thriller and indeed there are thrilling almost noir-ish elements which Faulkner uses to explore race relations in the south (and boy does Faulkner sometimes bash his message on the heads of the reader.)

This was my first Faulkner novel and it was not nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be, I struggled far more with reading Sam Bellow than I did with this one. Yes the writing is unusual (stream of consciousness involving page long sentences for a start) but I was able to easily let myself flow with the prose and see where it took me.

I enjoyed lots about this novel, the plot is a great one, the characters well drawn and the sense of the South as a place and culture are very prominent. While this is not considered to be Faulkner's best (and I didn't particularly like some of the preachy aspects in this novel) I look forward to reading more of his work.


Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics)
Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Saul Bellow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite, 29 Nov. 2011
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Hertzog is a highly educated man that has reached middle age and is on the edge of a mental breakdown. He is going through his second (and rather messy) divorce and everything in general seems to be falling apart. In order to help himself get back on track he continuously writes letters to people (sometimes written out, and sometimes just done mentally) with no intent to send them. The novel is not made up entirely of these letters but they do interrupt the narrative throughout.

This is my first Bellow novel and I would describe it as challenging. The writing itself is very good but quite dense so if your mind wanders even for a second while reading, you immediately lose track of what's going on and have to re-read parts. Added to the denseness of the writing are Hertzog's letters containing subjects which range from modern philosophy to general rants and reflections. These letters only made this more of a difficult read for me and I ended up becoming quite lost.

I did very much enjoy the last 50 pages but I am not sure if this is because the plot suddenly starts to move and become clearer or if because I had just gotten used to the writing? Hertzog hasn't completely put me off Bellow as I did like the more positive message towards the end that the novel was trying to convey.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2012 6:14 PM BST


The Heretic's Daughter
The Heretic's Daughter
by Kathleen Kent
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and well written, 29 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Heretic's Daughter (Paperback)
The Heretics Daughter is told from the point of view of Sarah Carrier, a young girl who's mother is accused and tried for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. Sarah was arrested along with her brothers and imprisoned in an attempt to force her mother to confess to her crimes.

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much from this novel, I thought it would just read like a standard best-seller and I only brought it because the subject matter interested me but I ended up really enjoying it. The book is well researched and the beliefs of the Puritan community are presented in a way that makes it believable to a modern reader, I would recommend this to any fan of historical fiction.

The first half of the book follows Sarah and her family as they struggle as best they can on their farm in Massachusetts. The life portrayed is a hard one as the threats of small pox and Native American attack are a real day to day fear and when mixed with the isolation and religious belief of these communities it is not hard to see how quickly suspicion and paranoia can spread. Although the witch trials do not start until halfway through the book, the first half covers the characters relationships, how the community works and creates a good atmosphere of foreboding and dread.

The prison scenes were particularly well done as other characters who were also arrested are introduced here and are either eventually released or condemned to hang. There is lot of hardship throughout with virtually no humour but the characters are very well drawn and I got a strong sense of the time period.

A good story and one I enjoyed reading.


The Confessions of Edward Day
The Confessions of Edward Day
by Valerie Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different and well written, 29 Nov. 2011
Edward Day is a stage actor living in 70s New York. One day Edward is rescued from drowning from a guy called Guy (most annoying character name ever) who looks uncannily like Edward. Guy is also an actor, is also in love with Edwards on/off girlfriend Madeline and just always seems to pop up in Edwards life at inopportune moments making things very difficult. The events which unfold are told from Edwards point of view and throwing a spanner into the works is the fact that Edward is a complete narcissist making the reader unsure what to believe.

Martin's writing flows very easily making this quite a quick read and I enjoyed reading the events unfolding, before then having to completely rethink the whole thing at the end. The triangle between Edward, Guy and Madeline is unusual as some events don't quite add up and its up to the reader to decide if this is because Edward is leaving stuff out of his narration or if this is how he genuinely sees it (given the narcissistic aspect I believe the events are how Edward sees it).

The novel also goes into detail of the stage lives of Edward and his fellow actor friends and the highs and lows that entails. These aspects coupled with the sinister undertones throughout makes for some entertaining reading and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these parts of the book. Unfortunately the ending was a little bit of a let down for me but only because I don't think I really 'got it' and I'm not sure why the character Guy had to look like Edward, it didn't really seem to add anything, but these are very minor criticisms.


Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read but contains one hell of a flaw, 29 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Gone with the Wind (Paperback)
Its not hard to see why Gone with the Wind is loved by a lot of readers. Its a cracking read which has 'best seller' practically stamped all over it. The four main characters are incredibly flawed to the point where I didn't even like one or two of them yet I still cared about them and the historical detail is packed in there helping to propel the story rather than bog it down.

Due to the novels size there is time for development of the four main characters. Scarlett and Rhett are quite often horrible to others as well as each-other but they are highly entertaining to read about and I found them believable, I also found Melanie very interesting with her extreme naivete mixed occasionally with some very strong actions. The only character I had a bit of a problem with was Ashley really, as the novel progressed I could not understand why Scarlett was so in love with the guy and some of his actions seemed really out of character, he just ended up really annoying me.

I do also have to mention the racism in Gone with the Wind, especially towards the later part of the book. Obviously you have to take into account when the novel was set so I'm not talking about the characters actions as I am about the reality of slavery being largely absent from the novel, the stereotypes, the depictions of the Ku Klux Klan and a few of the authors descriptions. This wasn't something I was expecting and it truly shocked me.

However this is a novel worth reading. Some scenes (like the final one) will stick in my head for a long time to come and I enjoyed not only the characters journeys but the historical details too. The story doesn't drag and overall it is a great read.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Price: £4.19

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping but has flaws, 29 Nov. 2011
This book is well written and is mostly well told, the story of Henrietta, what happened to her cells once they were removed and the impact on her family is interesting and makes for a gripping read. The science is not overdone and is dumbed down enough to appeal to a large audience. That's not a criticism, the author decided to focus on the human element side so has not gone into too much technical detail on the science thus giving the book more appeal.

The book contains details of Henrietta's life and death and the medical advances made possible as a result of Henrietta's cells and gives information on the ethics surrounding the issues raised. Unfortunately though the author only half succeeds on human story side as the book started to go downhill during the second part of the book.

Skloot relied very heavily on the co-corporation of the Lacks family to gain the information that she needed for her book. The Lacks family could have at any point cut Skloot off and as a result a troubled relationship between Skloot and Henrietta's daughter Deborah springs up which the Skloot chooses to focus on during much of the second part of the book which gets in the way of the more interesting story. I would have liked to have learnt more about why Henretta's cells were so important rather than endless details about how Deborah refuses to take her calls.

At 300 pages this book is too long but this is a book still well worth reading as it is interesting and very accessible but there are flaws.


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