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Victoria Blessing (Leicester UK)

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Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
by Nina Stibbe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't want it to end!, 9 Jan. 2014
This is a glorious book - warm, funny and uplifting - just the thing to cheer the long cold days of winter. The young Nina's letters capture perfectly the characters of all the people she writes about, often by reproducing their dialogue. I laughed out loud, a lot. I wanted to be that young woman, and then, no, I wanted her to be my best friend! She and I are of a similar age, I reckon, and I too was living in north London in the early '80s, so I guess that gave the book extra resonance for me. It's not life-changing, earth-shattering or deep... but it's very entertaining.


Pure
Pure
by Andrew Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, 28 May 2013
This review is from: Pure (Paperback)
Though not normally a fan of historical fiction I really loved this, and I'm missing the company of Jean-Baptiste and his friends and colleagues now that I've finished it. What makes it special is thw quality of the writing which i, simply, beautiful. It's poetic without being pretentious, and just a pleasure to read. The characterisation is spot-on, and the story and its setting - in time and place - beguiling. What more could you want from a novel?


Scissors, Paper, Stone
Scissors, Paper, Stone
by Elizabeth Day
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, moving tale, 11 May 2013
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This review is from: Scissors, Paper, Stone (Paperback)
This is a brilliant debut novel, full of emotional truths and ever so sad. I would have given it five stars except that it is at times a little over-written, with just a bit too much description and appealing to the reader's sympathies. That's forgivable though. Also, I'd hesitate to recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone because of its sadness - you need to be feeling robust to read it. The overall experience is satisfying, but heart-rending. It is, above all, thoroughly believable. I'm glad to have read it and will be seeking out the author's new novel.

The only thing I took issue with was the mention of cling-film in a domestic scene from about 20 years ago. Was it really around back then??
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2013 4:20 PM GMT


Instructions for a Heatwave
Instructions for a Heatwave
Price: £3.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, but not the best, 7 April 2013
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I couldn't wait to read this, having loved all of the author's previous novels part from one (My Lover's Lover, I think it was called). Sure enough I enjoyed this, although I didn't find myself hooked in the way I have with her other books. I thought the first half was pretty slow to get going, and most of the characters featuring in that half were kind of irritating. Aoife, the youngest daughter, is the most interesting member of the family, and I felt the pace picked up when she became the centre of the narrative. I cared more about her story than anyone else's, despite the fact that it is, to my mind, slightly far-fetched. Overall, it's a good dissection of a family's dynamics, but not a great one.


Missing Persons
Missing Persons
Price: £5.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bit hysterical..., 2 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Missing Persons (Kindle Edition)
I love the way Nicci Gerrard writes so passionately about family life and can bring to her stories a thriller-ish touch, but this one left me a little unsatisfied. It felt somehow unbalanced: the first half of the novel concentrates on the immediate aftermath of the crisis and on the heart-rending reaction of the mother, Isabel. it's very gripping and, for any parent, somewhat frightening. But then the wind seems to go our of the book's sails as the author moves on to other people's stories and whizzes through several years quite quickly; I found this section much less enthralling. The spark comes back a little towards the end as we hear Mia's story and warm towards her. Overall though I found that the way Isabel is portrayed as so hysterical made it a little hard to take, and her presence overshadowed that of the other characters. For all that, it's a good read - just not as good as some of her others, like 'Solace'.


The Red House
The Red House
Price: £5.49

45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively devastating, 8 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: The Red House (Kindle Edition)
At first i thought I was in for a humdrum tale of domestic angst amongst the Boden-wearing classes, but I soon realised there was a whole lot more to this story. I found it gripping, by the end - and the best yet of Haddon's books. It is very cleverly done - the author handles the constantly switching narrative point of view very skilfully, and his dissection of the emotions and foibles of each character is superb. None of the characters is immediately likeable but all the same I found myself feeling sympathy and empathy. There were tears! A great read, all in all. Just don't read it when you are on holiday with your extended family in a remote cottage.


The Fear Index
The Fear Index
by Robert Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars unconvincing, 2 April 2012
This review is from: The Fear Index (Hardcover)
I don't normally read thrillers but thought I'd give this one a go as it was well reviewed in the press and the author seems to be well respected. On top of that I thought it might shed some light on the financial crisis.
On the plus side, the writing is accomplished and fluid, so it's easy to read. It is moderately entertaining. These two things meant I finished it.
Otherwise, it really serves to fuel my prejudice against the thriller genre. Why bother reading stuff like this when there is so much other fiction to read that is well written, moving, life-changing, uplifting, inspiring...? I recognise that the plot is the thing with thrillers, but when the plot is moved mechanically along by such thoroughly unconvincing characters it doesn't convince me in the slightest. The characters? Flat (cardboard), without emotion, stereotypical - even allowing for the informing cliche that geeks who work in computers and/or finance are probably positioned somewhere along the autistic spectrum. I didn't care about any of them, nor what happened to them. The end seemed a bit of a copout and left a major question unanswered. Unsatisfying. Sorry, but I think I'll stick to watching thrillers on the big screen rather than reading them.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2013 4:30 PM GMT


The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
by Edmund de Waal
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and beautiful story, 7 Mar. 2012
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This book is wonderful - one of the best I've read in ages. I come away from it feeling wiser and in some senses richer. I learned a lot about the period of history it covers and the society in which the Ephrussi family moved. The evocation of 19th century art collectors in Paris is particularly interesting, but the whole thing was a page-turner for me, especially when the collection goes unaccounted for in Vienna after the war. The author is very skilled at bringing his ancestors to life without resorting to speculation and made-up conversations, and the way he builds in his own feelings as he undertakes his search adds enlightenment and interest. It's made me think a lot - and think in a better-informed way - about memory, family, art, artefacts, Jewishness and history. I shall miss the Ephrussi family...

How those people who gave the book one-star reviews found it dull to read is beyond me. (What did they expect? A rip-roaring mystery thriller?)

I read the Kindle edition but enjoyed it so much I may ask for the illustrated edition for my birthday - saw it in a shop and it looks gorgeous! Great pictures would certainly add to the pleasurable reading experience.


The Beautiful Indifference
The Beautiful Indifference
by Sarah Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling and beautiful, 31 Jan. 2012
I found it hard to put this book down. It is beautifully, precisely written in an almost poetic style: the author is not afraid to search for and use words that we won't have come across before if they convey her meaning better. Each story plays out in the interior world of the protagonist, which is why, I suppose, another reviewer sees them as 'artificial'. I wouldn't agree that they are 'bloodless' though - blood features in several of the tales, as it happens, along with mortality and sex. All the stories look at how we relate to our physicality, and most are strongly rooted in the natural world. They all feel very visceral, and because of that have a very powerful, sometimes shocking effect. The cover blurb reckons they are erotic, but that's a bit misleading. This is brave writing - the author isn't afraid to write about taboo or frightening things. I won't forget these stories. I already want to read them again, to devour the language. It's an original, unusual collection, and ought to win prizes!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2013 4:32 PM GMT


Whatever You Love
Whatever You Love
Price: £2.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brave and compelling, 13 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Whatever You Love (Kindle Edition)
The upsetting theme of this might put some readers off but it is utterly compelling, and easy to read in a 'hard to put down' sense. I raced through it. What I like and admire is its brave, unflinching honesty: the author is not afraid to address feelings and indeed actions that might appear shocking, and conveys them with enormous credibility. She's clever, too, planting little clues mid-sentence that raise fears or suspicions in you and keep you reading. It's very easy to engage with the main character with all her flaws, and everyone else in it is equally believable. The contrast of the awful main event with the routines of Laura's everyday life is cleverly handled, and serves to highlight both the horror and the mundanity. The language is terrific - very controlled and precise, with none of that 'look at me' showy-offyness that can infect some authors. I'm glad I read this. It's the first Doughty I've read and I don't think it will be the last.


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