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S. Shamma "Suad" (Abu Dhabi, UAE)

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by Bonnie Nadzam
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortably compelling *spoilers*, 5 Aug 2013
This review is from: Lamb (Paperback)
Wow, this book took me by surprise. Picking it up randomly at the bookstore I did not see it coming at all. When I read the little blurb at the back, I thought it was about two people who bring solace and comfort to one another, despite the massive age gap. In many ways, that was what happened, but not in the ways that I'd imagined! I did not think I was this naive, but maybe I am.

I guess most people's first thought upon hearing of a fifty-four year old man and an eleven-year old girl is to think of Lolita-like scenarios. But honestly, I was personally thinking and expecting more of Mel Gibson in The Man Without A Face or Hugh Grant in About A Boy.

All of that being said, I enjoyed this book immensely. So much that I found myself cheering and hoping and cringing and gasping and moaning and shouting at it. In that order, yes.

Now, on the surface, you would think this is a story about David Lamb, a man in his fifties going through some sort of mid-life crisis, whose father just passed away, who's in the midst of a divorce, is estranged from his children, and is having an affair with a younger colleague. His life is a mess, and as such, he finds himself making a series of ill-advised, rash, and strange decisions. In steps eleven-year old Tommie, who was dared by her cruel friends to dress scantily and walk up to this man to ask for a cigarette. Lamb decides to teach Tommie and her friends a lesson by showing her what could have happened if he were any "other" sort of man.

Satisfied that he's scared her, he drops her off and drives away. However, that was not the end of their encounter, as they find themselves drawn to each other, they go back to that same spot they met, every day for weeks. Tommie skips school to spend time with this man, and he finds comfort in being able to inject some sort of good to this neglected girl with the dead end life ahead of her. Projecting ten or twenty years forward, he could see this girl's life mapped out, knowing exactly how she'd turn out and what kind of life she'd have. For whatever reason, Lamb feels compelled to save this girl, to give her something that would urge her to step off this path and pave a new one for herself. He feels responsible. But it also gives him a sense of well-being to be able to add some sort of positivity to her life and change it to the better.

At least, that's what he keeps telling himself.

As the plan formulates in his mind, he decides to be a father figure to this girl with a dash of a knight in shining armour. He will be the one to liberate her from the drudgery of her life, he wants to buy her nice things, show her places, teach her about nature and the way of life, help her survive on her own and find herself and one day, she will remember him and be grateful for the greatest adventure of her life.

What I found disturbing about this book, but also brilliant, is the fact that Nadzam took us into the mind of a pedophile and almost convinced us (the readers) of all his reasons and justifications. We, as readers, were manipulated by the fifty-four year old man just as much as Tommie was. A man who basically groomed and then kidnapped a child, taking her halfway across the country to an isolated cabin, all the while persuading her as well as us that it is for her own good, and it will just be for a short period of time - five days, he said.

Five days.

And I, along with Tommie, believed him. When those five days turned into two weeks, having drugged her for two days I believe (at least I think that's what happened), I began to get wary of Lamb. But he kept insisting he would take her back, several times stopping right in the middle of the road and asking her if she wanted to turn around. I really wanted to believe that he meant well, a part of me still does in a very twisted, bizarre kind of way. Nothing justifies his criminal and disgusting acts, but I couldn't help but feel manipulated by his explanations and his narration. Nadzam made us almost understand why he did what he did and the temptation, which at first he tried to suppress, but later sat justifying his desires.

I'm probably just as gullible as Tommie, but leading up to that kiss there were many uncomfortable moments for me but I still held on to the hope that all this man wanted was to give her a better life to look forward to. However, months have passed, and this sweet, ugly child became beautiful in this old man's eyes. He wooed her until she grew attached and fell in love with him, and when he does fulfill his promise to her at the end (albeit months too late), it is she who wants to stay.

And that was the saddest part of it all.

Sheer Mischief
Sheer Mischief
by Jill Mansell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1.0 out of 5 stars BORING, 30 July 2013
This review is from: Sheer Mischief (Paperback)
This book was a disappointment and not up to par with her other books. I initially chose to read this book because I wanted a little escapism, something quick and sweet to read in between other books, and I thought Jill Mansell is definitely the right choice.

Boy, was I wrong. This book was absolutely ridiculous. I mean, yes, granted, it's a chick-lit, so certain expectations go with that genre. There will always be a happy ending, it will always be cheesy and romantic, it will include the jerk, and the chivalrous hero, and two female characters, one who is absolutely clueless and naive and the other who is a complete skank.

So yes, as usual, Jill Mansell delivered on all of the above. But besides the fact that story line was so overdone and predictable as hell (again, I realize most chick-lits are predictable), but the quality of the story is what bothered me. What I usually love about Mansell's books are the short chapters, because I feel like I can fly through the pages in no time. Not this time though, it took me forever to get through the book and through the chapters. At one point, I found myself skimming huge chunks of text just to get to the freaking point.

It was very long-winded, stalled like no tomorrow, the twists and turns were so frustrating and annoying, and both protagonists were MEH. In fact, I found Maxine and Bruno a lot more interesting than Janey and Guy.

Definitely not worth more than a star in my opinion, however, that does not mean I've given up on Mansell. I simply did not prefer this particular book.

by Milan Kundera
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars An Odyssey interpretation, 30 July 2013
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
This was my first Milan Kundera book and I was very pleased with my selection. Quite a straightforward and easy to read book, Ignorance is a novel that delves into the lives of refugees. Two, to be exact.

How their lives have changed when they left their country, in this case the Czech Republic during the Russian invasion, and moved to neighbouring countries to make a new life for themselves. What it feels like to go back to their country of origin after so many years, how the memories they had of their past lives have become distorted by time.

It was very interesting to go through this journey with Irena and Josef, and very personal as well. Both of them have come home only to feel like they did not belong any more. That their lives are elsewhere now, and that their memories as well as those of the people around them don't even match. Upon their return, they are haunted by memories they had of a time gone, they find themselves unused to this life that was once theirs, having to adjust to certain aspects and old acquaintances.

Home was no longer home.

I found it very interesting on a personal level, because I always wonder to myself what it would be like to return to my homeland, Palestine, and how it would feel to be back to a place I always thought I belonged to after living close to 26 years in another country that I now call home.

Definitely a thought-provoking book, with many great and profound moments. I look forward to reading more of Kundera's books.

The Hobbit
The Hobbit
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit., 21 July 2013
This review is from: The Hobbit (Paperback)
I have been very remiss where J.R.R. Tolkein is concerned. I remember people telling me how great The Lord of the Rings trilogy is, how I should attempt reading the books since I love reading so much. I remember saying I would never read Tolkein's books. I love the movies, but reading the actual books would be too much.

Boy, was I wrong.

I admit I only read The Hobbit after I watched the film, and only because my sister made me read it. Watching the film, I had no clue what The Hobbit was about, or what the book(s) were like. The reason I added an (s) there is because I actually thought The Hobbit was a series of big books as opposed to just the one children's book. I was surprised to find that it was such an easy read, and more so that Peter Jackson was planning on making THREE movies out of this short book.

It was such a pleasure reading it, delving into this magical world, meeting all these fascinating creatures, and forming strong connections to each and every character. To think that Tolkein wrote this in the 30s...THE THIRTIES...what a feat! What a brilliant mind, to create an entire world with just words. A world that has bewitched many since. The Hobbit is the epitome of childhood, and I'm only sad that I didn't get to experience it as a child. This world was meant for children to get lost in, to daydream about, to form their own stories in.

A simple, charming adventure story about a hobbit tricked by the great Gandalf to host dwarves at dinner, we find ourselves taken on this wonderful journey of self-discovery as the hobbit finds himself accompanying these dwarves on a great mission.

I am definitely on my way to reading The Lord of the Rings installments. I have much to catch up on with regards to Tolkein, and I take back any and all complaints I've made.

by Joe Dunthorne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and witty, 20 Jun 2013
This review is from: Submarine (Paperback)
I was very impressed with this novel. To start with, I only bought it (and heard of it) because I had heard that a film-adaptation has been released, and I didn't want to watch the film until I had read the book. Boy, am I glad I did that, as I was sorely disappointed with the film and would not have read the book otherwise.

When I started reading this book, I found myself a little intimidated by this character, Oliver. He is very intelligent, quirky, sarcastic, but also a bit of a bully. He has a mean side to him, and that made him a bit of a protagonist and an antagonist. As the book went on, I liked that. I liked that Oliver was his own enemy and he was both hero and villain, culprit and victim - so to speak.

He is, simply put, a bundle of hilarious anecdotes, retorts, and observations. I loved the flow of his narrative as he takes us through his journey and into his head where we're given a front-seat view of how his mind works. The main plot revolves around Oliver's relationship with Jordana and the problems in his parents' marriage, and how he deals with all of it. At times imprudent, rude, stubborn and annoying, Oliver remains a character that, although set in fiction, is as real as they come.

My favourite parts of the book were his diary entries. Those were absolutely brilliant, and if I were able to keep a diary as entertaining, brutally honest, and imaginative as his, I would've done it ages ago.

The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

74 of 93 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Let's just agree to disagree (spoiler alert), 10 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
It hurts me to write this review, but it has to be done. One star may seem a little harsh, but truth be told, I am just mostly frustrated. It took me about a month to get through this book, when I usually breeze through them, and the only reason I couldn't is because J.K. Rowling gave me nothing to look forward to.

I will start out by pointing out the positives in this book: it is VERY WELL written. No one can deny that Rowling can write, and no one can fault her skill. She is an incredible writer. But I am not here to mark her on her writing, and unfortunately, everything else about the book for me (beyond the writing) just fell short.

A lot of the 4 and 5 star reviews said that Rowling has a right to change the genre of her books and this is what adult books are like and to stop comparing it with Harry Potter, but worst of all, that the characterization was so good that they were drawn in and could not put the book down.

The book started out interestingly enough, with what might have been the only interesting character in the whole book! In fact, Barry Fairbrother was the only one with any redeeming qualities, or so it seemed. Yet, his appearance was short-lived - literally - and we are left with this enormous mess that he left behind and with the collection of horrendous characters that live in this town. It's really hard to read a book when you can't like or root for any character, especially surprising with the amount of characters in this book. None of them were the least bit likable, and no, I'm not looking for a perfect Hollywoodified set of characters. If I wanted to read a book about perfect people, who live perfect lives where it all wraps up very nicely and everything ends happily, I'd have opted for a chicklit. But you can't even begin to feel sorry for them, you just hate them.

One reviewer put it best by saying, "It's as if Rowling said, 'I want to write an adult novel with adult themes, so how's about I throw in some pedophilia? AND some mental illness? AND a rapist? AND a sadistic, revolting teenager or two? AND some adultery? AND a crack whore? AND a self-mutilator? AND an abusive husband/father? AND wives who are hatefully contemptuous of their husbands? AND some husbands who act more like children than men? AND about a thousand f-bombs? AND some ugly sex? AND...AND...AND...'"

Some reviewers implied that we should be commending Rowling for this book the way we would Orwell for 1984. Um, seriously? I'm all for great literary novels that discuss serious themes and absolutely shred our society to pieces such as A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies, but this book was not framed in that sense, and it definitely did not read that way either. This book takes about eighteen or so characters, places them in a boring little town, kills an important member of their council and then we watch them as they all fight with each other on who gets this vacant seat, while little inner family dramas occur on the sidelines. I really would not place this book up there with the likes of 1984. There was nothing clever about it, nothing creative, and nothing ingenious. It is a boring story, a tale as old as time, told again and again and again. Yes, Rowling is an incredible writer, but this story with its plot and characters and so on, was just not good enough to be categorized with the brilliant books mentioned above.

I appreciate stories that are realistic and reflect societies in their true form, but this really had no redeeming qualities, not a shred of hope, and the last few pages (Part 7 that is), might have been her idea of reforming the characters and erasing the 400+ pages that just happened, but they really don't. If it was an interesting story, I would have forgiven all of that, but it was just dull. It was just one of those things where I lost interest because it was taking too long for me to get through this book.

I'll leave you with what one reviewer so eloquently said: "Oh, for one multi-faceted Severus Snape, with his venomous tongue and his doe Patronus! Oh, for a many-layered Dumbledore with his upright heart and his murky past! Why do the kids get all the fabulously-drawn characters with their wrongs and their rights, their petty hatreds and their monumental graces, and we adults get landed with a novel full of nothing but Dursleys?"

P.S. I have to point out, J.K. Rowling seems to have a thing with 7 parts.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 14, 2014 7:58 PM BST

An Invisible Sign of My Own
An Invisible Sign of My Own
by Aimee Bender
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What? Really? That's it?!, 20 May 2013
Mona Gray is the most annoying character ever. She is extremely unlikeable, and I honestly could not find any redeeming qualities. Page after page, she only got worse.

The book started out well enough, with a little background information on Mona and why she turned out the way she did (i.e. a quitter and a nutter). Her father needs a good kick to the backside. I don't even understand what is wrong with him, or how him pretending something is wrong is supposed to make me feel sympathetic towards him. I mean, you've ruined your family's life. You're a pathetic excuse for a man.

And Mona, who is allegedly some sort of Math genius? Fascinated by numbers, enjoys doing long division in her free time, and knocks incessently to ward off bad luck, is hired - almost forceably - as an elementary Maths teacher. Big mistake. This 20 year old failure can barely take care of herself, let alone take care of children.

And honestly, the kids were just as annoying as their teacher. I wanted to give them a couple of good smacks to get them in line. The interactions between her and these children, in fact, between her and anybody, were so uninteresting that I kept expecting something to happen. And this went on for pages and pages and pages worth of this relatively short book.

How can I feel anything for someone who eats soap almost killing herself and then using it to detract herself from sexuality, frequently tries to hurt herself or at least thinks about it, and brings an ax to a classroom, then stupidly lets a student hold it?!

This book ended on such a dull note. I mean honestly, I expected some sort of huge revelation. An epiphany of some sorts. There was nothing for me there. We end up as confused as we were at the beginning. None of our questions are answered or even slightly addressed. Mona's character development takes her nowhere. And it baffles me that people found some sort of emotional depth in this story, and they came out of it with some sort of moral or lesson.

I admit, Aimee Bender writes well. There were certain lines that stuck with me. But the plot, the characters, the overall BOOK, that was just one waste of time.

This is my first book for Bender, and looking at other reviews, I am led to believe that as bad as this book was, she's actually a decent short-story author. Which is fantastic, because I happened to purchase The Girl in the Flammable Skirt along with this one and I can only hope that it's better.

Timepiece (Hourglass Novels)
Timepiece (Hourglass Novels)
by Myra McEntire
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.65

4.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected, 20 May 2013
I have to admit, I was a little put off by the fact that Kaleb was narrating the sequel. Only because, I didn't expect it. You don't see it done very often, and the way Hourglass ended, it just felt like Emerson still had a lot to say. It didn't feel like her role was done, and yet here we were starting almost a completely new story with Kaleb. So that took me back a little bit, especially the way the sequel begins with someone dressed as a pirate checking out this girl in a Tiger costume. I was like, huh? Did Emerson lose her mind? And then you read that "unknown" person's thoughts about his father coming back from the dead and you think's Kaleb!

So it was definitely unclear at first. And it took me a couple of chapters to get into the swing of things and accept the fact that this story was going to be told from Kaleb's POV.

As it progressed, I have to admit, I enjoyed Kaleb's take on events a lot more than Emerson's. Emerson got on my nerves a little bit, as did Michael, and their relationship. Kaleb however, was more real for me. I could really feel him, even though I've obviously never been through any of the things he's been through.

Then comes Lily - Emerson's bestfriend. That was another pleasant character addition for me. I really liked Lily in the first book, and seeing her in a more leading role was exactly what I wanted. I definitely enjoyed Lily's role more than I had Emerson's. She's a tough cookie, who can hold her own, and I was very impressed with the way she was able to take, accept and deal with everything she learned. More so, with the way she really understood Kaleb in ways no one else has. Not only him as a person, but his power, and his role in this whole big time travel conspiracy.

Also, the chemistry between Lily and Kaleb is so much more believable than that of Emerson and Michael. I mean, I understand it's cute that they can literally create sparks when they touch, but it got a little...irritating. Even playing supporting roles, I found them to be a bit on the annoying side. That one scene where Emerson loses it, she just went down a few notches in my estimation. I mean, let's face it. EVERYONE is going through a lot here, you're not the only one dealing with it. In fact, way I see it, Kaleb has a lot more to complain about than Emerson does. And Lily, poor Lily, brought in unaware, and having to absorb everything really quickly and stay strong for both Kaleb and Emerson. I definitely respected her for it.

That being said, there was so much more going on in this book than the first. A lot more characters are introduced, and the plot, is definitely, thickening.

The rips are getting out of control, everyone in the Hourglass organisation is now able to see them, and not just those who can time travel. Jack plays an even more villainous role, and so many people die. It gets stranger and stranger. By the end of it, I couldn't even begin to predict what was going to happen, and I like that in a book.

Ultimately McEntire was able to wrap things up well for this sequel, and it just gets me wondering who will be narrating the next book, and how will they find the Infinityglass.

by Myra McEntire
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Predictable, but good, 13 May 2013
This review is from: Hourglass (Paperback)
Emerson Cole sees ghosts. Hallucinations, some say. Then again, she has been through a lot. Her parents died in an accident, she was hospitalized after concerns for her mental health, and she now lives with her brother and sister-in-law.

I liked her as a character, she was spunky, sarcastic, endearing and does not do drama, which I always appreciate. I also love that she is a tough girl (brown belt in karate)! However, I do think she spends a little too much time feeling sorry for herself, not in a dramatic kind of way, but in a low self-esteem kind of way. It's understandable of course, but as the book goes on, it gets a bit old. Also, so much emphasis was put on her height (really short apparently), that I couldn't help but imagine her as a midget, which was really annoying. I mean, I know a lot of short girls, but stressing on that specific point as much as McEntire did just made me visualize this child in place of this seventeen year old girl. It was kind of irritating.

So, after going through all the options they had to attempt getting rid of the ghosts, Thomas (Emerson's brother) finally meets Michael, who is part of an organization called the Hourglass. Michael claims he can help Emerson deal with her "gift", and seems quite sure of himself. He goes on to teach her about her abilities, and expands on the organisation and what it is they do exactly. Emerson soon realizes, that there is a lot more Michael is keeping from her, and decides to take things into her own hands.

Now, again, Michael is a likeable character. He is the perfect gentleman - quite rare, I must say - he is strong, tall, dark and handsome and of course, indescribably hot. Again, so hot that I had no clue how to imagine him. And predictably, Emerson is immediately drawn to him in ways that she cannot explain. In fact, every time they touch, sparks fly. Literally.

I felt their relationship as it progressed was a little too mature and serious for people their age. It seemed a little unrealistic. Then again, I kind of liked that aspect of it. And there are a lot of factors to take in, such as um, well let's see, there's time-traveling, seeing ghosts both of the past and the future, life and death situations and know, things that don't happen in a normal person's day to day life. So, yeah, their relationship makes sense.

The secondary characters were all very interesting as well, including Emerson's brother and sister-in-law, who did not play a huge role in the story, but still made a significant contribution, in my opinion. In fact, I look forward to reading and finding out more about them. I have to say, I did form a little book-crush on Kaleb. He is the typical bad-boy that has been through a lot and is waiting for the right girl to reform his ways.

I will say, there is a lot of physics involved in the stories, which left a lot of questions unanswered. But, ultimately, the book has a very interesting premise, with even more interesting characters. I liked it well enough to have finished it really quickly.

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, Book 2)
The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, Book 2)
by Maureen Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars WHY MAUREEN WHY?!?!, 5 May 2013
I was dying when I read the last few chapters of this book...DYING! How could you leave us with such a cliffhanger?! Why are we supposed to wait so long to know what happens next?!?!

I cannot get over that ending. I cannot believe she went there. I was so caught up in the moment that I went up to my sisters after I was done reading the book and had to share with them what happened as if I were talking about real people. They attempted to comfort me, but they were also looking at me very strangely.

Anyway, back to the book. Another great read by Maureen Johnson. Absolutely fantastic style of writing. I am a huge fan of her wit and charm and sarcasm and humor. Her descriptions of London are so vivid, they make me very reminiscent of my time living in England, and makes me want to go back very badly. I definitely see why Rory wouldn't want to go back to America.

The reason I give this book 4 stars rather than 5, as opposed to The Name of the Star, is because there really wasn't much going on - so to speak. As reviewers have already said, this book acts almost like a filler or a set-up, rather than a full, complete, stand-alone novel. Many questions and issues remain unresolved and unanswered, leaving us confused and worried and curious.

The main focus of this novel is Rory, and her integration back into the world of Wexford and the Shades and how she copes with all of it in the aftermath of the attack. I do admit it was a little strange to have to delve back into this world and pretend it all happened 3 weeks prior, when I've been waiting more than a year to know what happened, so that took a little adjusting at my end. That being said, Rory is a fantastic character, and she did not bore me at all. However, I did hope we would see a lot more of her school friends, Jerome, Jazza et al, as well as the Shades, Stephen, Callum and Boo. To be fair, we saw a good amount of Stephen, in a more personal sense rather than an official sense, which I definitely liked.

There was very little action. We are given two murders, both dealt with very quickly. The second one, a little stranger than the first one, and seems completely unconnected, which is also strange...we are introduced to a new antagonist, this one alive and kicking as opposed to being a ghost. There's this whole cult feel to it at the end, which again, was a bit out of place I felt.

It basically focuses on Rory and her adjustment back at school after the horrific event of 3 weeks past. How she is very behind in her schoolwork - I do believe that aspect was given a lot more attention than necessary - and how she is dealing with the idea of being a terminus, and whether she wants to become part of this underground police force or not and how to separate her secret life from her social daily life and so on.

It makes sense to have an intermediary book that really sets up the whole scene for what happens next, but it also sucks big time when you have to wait so long for the next installment in the series.

And again, the ending...oh, the ending. It felt like you were holding your breath the whole time you were reading this book, and when you finally relax and let go and exhale loudly, she suddenly stabs you in the gut and twists that knife like no tomorrow, then leaves you there to bleed!! Thank you for that Maureen. Thanks a lot.

I love you, but I kinda hate you.

Absolutely love this series.

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