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

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When Did You See Her Last? (All the Wrong Questions)
When Did You See Her Last? (All the Wrong Questions)
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.34

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lemony Snicket delivers yet again!, 31 Oct. 2013
I can't say it enough - I love Lemony Snicket, and I love Daniel Handler. I have thoroughly enjoyed his previous series "A Series of Unfortunate Events", but I've been enjoying this one a lot more.

A younger Lemony Snicket is such a joy to experience. His curiousity, the way his mind works, all the questions he asks (wrong or otherwise), and the people he meets throughout are absolutely delightful.

In this second part of the series, Snicket is still seeking Hangfire and trying to stop him from creating more evil in the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea. The reason for this unusual name is that back in the good old days, the town was known for manufacturing ink from Octopuses/Octopi/Octopodes, hence "stained" by the sea.

This book focuses on Snicket's search for a missing girl - Cleo Knight - who is a chemist and is looking for a new product to bring the town back to its old fortune. Miss Knight is also the daughter of the previous owners of the ink factory, and she finds it her duty to take over and make things better. However, someone is stopping her from doing so, and Snicket, who suspects Hangfire, makes it his business to find out who and why.

As he goes around town asking the wrong questions, he is accompanied by Moxie, a journalist who asks a lot of the right questions and becomes a great assistant to Snicket. Together, they join forces with several other bizarrely unique characters to find Miss Knight and bring her home. All the while, his mentor, S. Theodora, remains completely useless as she wrongly concludes that Miss Knight has simply run away to join the circus, leaving it to Snicket to do her job.

Filled with wit, sarcasm and so much humor, Snicket takes us on an incredible ride that - in my opinion - ends abruptly leaving us impatiently waiting for the third installment in the series to find out what happens next.

My only fear is that the series will end in an unfortunate way, similar to that of his previous series.

The Lucy Variations
The Lucy Variations
by Sara Zarr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Hit and miss, 31 Oct. 2013
This review is from: The Lucy Variations (Paperback)
I seem to have a hit and miss relationship with Sara Zarr. Some books I love (How to Save A Life), others I completely hate (Lost), then there are those so-so stories that I just can't seem to categorise (Story of a Girl). The Lucy Variations is one such story.

I couldn't decide whether I liked Lucy or not. Whether I sympathized with her or not. There are so many factors to take into here, but not all of them were properly discussed in the book, so I'm left feeling on the fence.

Being a musical prodigy, you can't always relate to the characters and their struggle, but you can at times relate to the family situation, the friendships and relationships formed. Lucy, at fourteen and following her grandmother's passing, walks away from what could have been a very successful musical career infuriating her grandfather and mother. Her younger brother, Gus, takes on the weight of her choices becoming next in line, while her father is just completely useless.

Now at sixteen, Lucy tries to revive Gus's piano teacher who has suddenly dropped dead but fails at doing so. And when the family hire a new instructor - Will - Lucy finds herself missing her old musical days. My main problem with Lucy is her inappropriate behavior and attraction to older men, first her English teacher, and later Will. At first, their friendship seemed one that I thought Lucy really needed at this point in her life, but as the story progressed, it just put me off both of their characters completely.

At a certain point, Lucy starts acting really strange, repelling her own friends. And Will turns from a mentor into a creepy, hipster, wanna-be musical prodigy - not to mention the fact that he is married, which just intensifies the dodginess of the situation.

The story started out going in one direction, but soon enough it seemed to spiral out of control. I did enjoy the ending, I found it interesting, and appreciated the way Lucy took charge of the situation, not only with Will, but with her own family as well. I felt it wrapped up nicely, but there were still many chunks in the middle that I could have done without - especially those involving Lucy and Will.

Infinityglass (Hourglass Novels)
Infinityglass (Hourglass Novels)
by Myra McEntire
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.68

4.0 out of 5 stars It was OK. Just OK., 31 Oct. 2013
If I had to rate the Hourglass trilogy, I would say I like them in the order they were written. I will say I liked this book a lot, but not for the reasons that I should have liked it for. I liked it for the romance and thrill of Dune and Hallie together, but not for the mystery of the Infinityglass or for the more imminent storyline of having it resolved as well as getting rid of the villains in the story.

I think Myra McEntire seemed to be more concerned with the budding romance between the two protagonists rather than the actual plot as well.

Dune is the geek of the Hourglass group. The smart one that always stayed in the background, and never made much of an appearance in any of the previous books. Now, the general consensus is that girls like the bad boys, the reformed rakes, but I'm more attracted to geekiness. So Dune was definitely a character that interested me from the very beginning. Dune, being the nerd that he is, discovers with the help of Kaleb's girlfriend, Lily, that the Infinityglass is not an object but a person.

In steps Hallie, Infinityglass personified. Hallie can shape shift herself into any physical form she desires, which she uses quite often to get what she wants. She's rebellious, strong, witty and very attractive, so when Dune is sent to act as her bodyguard while he tries to keep her safe and find out more about her abilities and the purpose of the Infinityglass, as in all cliched "bodyguard" movies, he finds himself attracted to her and soon enough they are head over heels with one another.

I'm not saying it wasn't nice, but it was filled with cliches. The duration of the book was filled with how they felt about each other and how they wanted to protect each other, there was a lot of confusion and drama involved on how they could save Hallie who was slowly being possessed by ghosts from the past. My point is however, that there was very little information dedicated to the Infinityglass, and how her mother and Jack and Poe were all involved. It isn't until the last couple of chapters that we have this huge face off confrontational scene, in which everything is taken care of pretty quickly and everyone lives happily ever after.

So yes, I liked the book a lot. But the ending was rushed and did not give the story the conclusion it deserved.

Dear Life, You Suck
Dear Life, You Suck
by Scott Blagden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.03

2.0 out of 5 stars Dear Book, You Suck, 24 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Dear Life, You Suck (Hardcover)
The premise of this book is very interesting, somewhere between John Green's Looking for Alaska, Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story, with a touch - a very slight touch - of Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. But that's only the premise.

Unfortunately, it's not even a quarter as good as ANY of the books I've just mentioned. The execution was absolutely terrible, and very off putting. As one reviewer said, the most attractive thing about this novel is its title. I give it two stars because a. I appreciated the premise, and b. I enjoyed the parts in the story where Cricket sits with the children to tell them imaginary tales, otherwise though I can't say I like Cricket or any of the characters in the book. The most difficult thing for me was having Cricket narrate the actual book in first person because it made reading it extremely challenging. The language was vulgar, the tone was irritating, the attitude was foul, and the character was just annoyingly frustrating.

The characterization was weak and hurried, the romance was lame, and the dialogue not very gripping. I had to skim through parts of it simply because of the writing style. I've read a lot of YA novels, and so I'd like to think I have a good basis of comparison here and Scott Blagden does not measure up to some of the authors out there writing for YA - most of who convey darker topics and profound messages in their story lines.

If you are into YA I would highly recommend John Green, Elizabeth Scott, David Levithan, Rachel Cohn, Bonnie Nadzam, Maureen Johnson, Gabrielle Zevin and Suzanne Collins just to name a few. I'd skip this one.

The Tiny Wife
The Tiny Wife
by Andrew Kaufman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Small book, big impact, 23 Oct. 2013
This review is from: The Tiny Wife (Paperback)
I have been a huge fan of Andrew Kaufman since the very first book I picked up for him "The Waterproof Bible". Since then, I've been on a constant hunt for his books, every bookstore I enter, I go straight to the K section hoping to find his name. Unfortunately, his books don't seem to be very popular over here. I found All My Friends are Superheroes at a book fair, and I devoured that in one sitting, until a few months ago anyway when I found both The Tiny Wife and Born Weird in one of the bookstores I frequent. I rushed to buy them without even reading the synopsis.

Given its size - which fits the title very well - I decided to start with The Tiny Wife first, another of his books that I devoured in one sitting. Kaufman has a knack for writing magical realism novels, and I do love a little bit of magic in my books.

The tale begins with a bank robbery, unlike any robbery you'll ever hear about. This one involves a flamboyantly dressed thief, wearing a purple-feathered hat, who walks in demanding not money but the most sentimental, precious object from all those present during the robbery. After he receives what he wants, he informs them all that he has just taken 51% of their souls, and they must fight to get it back, or else they will die. Those involved begin to experience the most bizarre happenings, some worse than others. A woman finds her husband has turned into a snowman, and he melts into nothingness, a woman's tattoo of a lion comes to life chasing her for days, a baby literally excretes money, and a wife with a husband and child, who has given her calculator to the thief as her most prized possession, begins to shrink in precise increments.

Her husband is the narrator of this wonderfully told, 88 page, novella. The wife, who loved to calculate every single thing in her life, now finds herself calculating how long she has before she shrinks into nothing, ceasing to exist. We discover that she has been facing problems with her husband for quite a while, and has forgotten how to be happy. As she becomes smaller and smaller, her own infant becomes a hazard to her and she finds she has to depend on her husband more than any other time in her life, as he carries her weight around (literally).

Short, it may be, but the lessons learned from this story are deep and true. We learn what happened to the other victims, as well as the Tiny Wife, and we find out in the end who succeeded in making their soul whole again and who didn't.

My favourite part of the book is a conversation that occurs between the husband and the thief:

Thief: "Perhaps one of the hardest things about having kids is realizing that you love someone more than your wife. That it's possible to love someone more than you love your wife. What's even worse is that it's a love you don't have to work at. It's just there. It just sits there, indestructible, getting stronger and stronger. While the love for your wife, the one you do have to work at, and work so very hard at, gets nothing. Gets neglected, left to fend for itself. Like a houseplant forgotten on a windowsill."

When you decide to read this book, I highly recommend you put a good hour or two aside with your favourite beverage, because you won't be getting up until you've finished reading it.

The Anthologist
The Anthologist
by Nicholson Baker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He had me from the very first line, 21 Oct. 2013
This review is from: The Anthologist (Paperback)
Before I begin reviewing this book I will say this, there is no doubt about it, Nicholson Baker is a brilliant writer.

The book pulled me in from the very first line, I was hooked. I even got my pencil out and started underlining parts that I enjoyed reading or lines that I found memorable. I am not usually a huge fan of poetry, and to be completely honest, the last time I engaged myself this deeply in the study of poetry was back when I was doing my IGCSE's.

As far as the plot and story goes, it's quite ordinary. Paul Chowder is a published poet, but he is not famous. He has been asked to compile an anthology of poetry that rhymes, and to write a 40 page introduction. But Paul has a problem, he can't seem to write this introduction. Paul has writer's block. Scratch that, Paul has two problems. Paul's girlfriend Roz left him, mainly due to his inadequacy in writing this introduction.

So we spend this time intimately getting to know Paul and his many eccentricities, while he educates us on poets and the art of poetry.

There is absolutely nothing exciting happening, in fact, it comes off as very academic but written in a very personable way. I enjoyed reading this book until about three-quarters of the way through, where I felt it began to drag. My favourite parts however were when he would go on about a certain poet, and when he would create scenarios that involved him and several dead poets - such as Poe.

Overall, what this book is, is a really good, well-written study in poetry.

Franny and Zooey
Franny and Zooey
by J. Salinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Work of genius, 21 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Franny and Zooey (Paperback)
This must be one of my favourite novels that I've read in a really long time. Everyone's read Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and almost everyone loves the book, so much so that you rarely ever hear of any of his other works. However, on one of my random trips to the bookstore, I caught sight of this book and the title (comprising of two names) intrigued me. Knowing it was written by Salinger, I decided to buy it, hoping I wouldn't be disappointed.

I started reading this book on a six hour flight, for whatever reason, I expected Franny and Zooey to be about two female characters. I was surprised to find out that Franny and Zooey were brother and sister, with Franny being the latter. The book is divided into two parts:

Franny's section tells the story of Franny coming back from Yale to spend the break with her boyfriend, Lane. Having corresponded with him while away, we get the idea that she is very keen to see him again and spend this time with him, however while on their date she begins to find him increasingly shallow and irritating. This is only exacerbated by his boasting about a certain essay he had written for class. She begins to judge him and to preach about God and more important things in life. Lane is at a loss as he tries to understand this change in her, questioning her attitude, her lack of eating, her disinterest in him and the book that she's reading and seems to hold almost protectively. She reveals that she is reading Way of The Pilgrim, a book about a spiritual and religious journey that inspires her to become more connected with her spiritual self. She excuses herself twice from the table, the second time collapsing while murmuring the Jesus Prayer.

Then begins Zooey's section, which is my favourite section and what made this whole book special for me. Zooey's part is divided into three main scenes, in the first he is lying in a bathtub, soaking while rereading a four year old letter from his brother, Buddy, and his most recent script (he's an actor). His mother suddenly walks in on him filled with concern over his sister, Franny, and pleads with him to speak to her. Thus begins the first of many brilliantly executed dialogues between mother and son. The second scene takes place in the living room, between Franny and Zooey, as he decides to try and speak some sense into his sister after all. This begins the second brilliant dialogue between the characters, leading up to the third and final scene in the book. Zooey having upset Franny, gets up and leaves the room. What follows is a long distance phone call to Franny from Buddy, the brother they haven't heard from in a long time, while Salinger creates yet more magic with his prose.

The way all the events played out made me think of it as a theatrical play. I could see it all playing out on stage so perfectly, the way the dialogue is quick and humorous and sarcastic and oh-so-witty. The characterization so strong that you can feel and see these people in front of you. Zooey's pages are some of the most beautiful and brilliantly written pieces of prose I have read.

There aren't many books like Franny and Zooey being written these days. Catcher in the Rye may have been Salinger's greatest achievement, and I did love it, but personally, I prefer this one.

Memoirs of a Beatnik
Memoirs of a Beatnik
by Diane Di Prima
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Should have been called The Pornographic Memoirs of a Beatnik, 5 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Memoirs of a Beatnik (Paperback)
I am going to make this short and sweet. I absolutely hated this book. I am far from being a prude, but the content of this book was neither worth my time nor money and I was majorly disappointed that it could even be called a memoir - of a beatnik no less. How interesting, I thought. The feminist in me thought how interesting it would be to read about beatniks from a woman's perspective. Diane Di Prima is not someone I ever want to read or know anything about.

Here's how one reviewer put it best:

"Porn, porn, porn. Let's see: chapter 1, sex with Ivan. Chapter 2, recollection of the first time she had sex with Ivan. Chapter 3, sex with Robin (a man in love with Ivan). Chapter 4, Sex with Tomi (a female friend). Chapter 5, Tomi has sex with Tomi's brother (incest). Chapter 6, Sex with 4 other women. Chapter 7, sex with Tomi's father Serge. Chapter 8, sex with young Jack and some guy with big ears while runaway girl watches. And so it goes, through all the chapters. So, if you're looking for a "spank" book, then check it out. If you're looking for a book about the beats from a woman's perspective (as it is boldly proclaimed on the front cover), look somewhere else."

The most uninteresting, disgusting life ever. And the ending was the most anticlimactic I've read. How do you think a memoir focused on a woman having nothing but sex for 14 chapters end?

Why, she gets knocked up of course.
Give me a break.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2014 6:46 AM BST

by Bonnie Nadzam
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

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: £8.99

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.

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