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

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The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughter and Tears, 14 May 2014

I always find it hard to review books that actually mean something to me. Books that leave a mark. Books that I've fallen in love with. Books that I close with a heavy heart.

It's so easy to rant and rave when you don't like a book. But what do you do when you love it? There's no amount of gushing and praising that I can do here, because it's not that kind of book. This book speaks for itself, and the story tells itself.

A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore on Alice island, called Island Books. He sells books, that's what he does. He's become grumpy, rude and disheartened since the sudden death of his wife and tries to drink himself to oblivion. He does not care much about anything anymore. He does not care about people, he does not even care about himself. He does not care about his store. Sales are dwindling. He treats people with vulgarity bordering on insolence - and Amelia, the publisher's agent who tries to sell him books, is one of those exposed to his irritable behaviour. But on a fateful night, following another fateful night where a rare book worth tons of money is stolen from his bookstore/home, he finds a baby girl left in his store with a note from the mother, telling him among many things that her name is Maya. With this sudden turn of events, Fikry's life, and his outlook on it, begins to change - and Gabrielle Zevin, along with all of her beautifully crafted characters, take us on an unforgettable journey with Fikry and Maya.

This book is about a bookseller, whose books - and Maya - change his life and that of many others. It is a literary, philosophical, love story. One that will take your breath away, and steal your heart. It is as the title says, a collection of stories from A.J. Fikry's life, and the development of his character and that of others is brilliant.

From Fikry, to Amelia, to Maya growing right before your eyes, to officer/captain/lieutenant Lambiase, and every other character that took part in this story - the character development was wonderful. The changes and growth, the unpredictability of every event. My God, when I remember the ride that Zevin took us on, I feel myself itching to grab the book again and reread the whole thing.

This is an unputdownable book. And I certainly did not put it down until the very last page.

Gabrielle Zevin, I've read your entire Chocolate series, and I loved each and every one of the books. I did not think you can impress again, but you did. You really did.

I am officially a true fan, one that will be waiting for every new book that you release.

by Jill Mansell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Ghastly, 12 May 2014
This review is from: Solo (Paperback)
Ugh! Ugh, ugh, UGH!!

I cannot begin to review this book, I just can't. I am so DONE and OVER with Jill Mansell. What is wrong with you? What kind of sad, pathetic life have you led to make you come up with such disgusting drivel?

I could not have thought her books could get any worse, but oh my God, they could. They really could. I wish there was a 0 star rating I could give this book to appease my anger and loathing for it. How can ANYONE think this was worth 5 stars?

The characters are an embarrassment to humankind. Pathetic female protagonist, who starts off as an independent, strong-willed, funny - even witty - woman, turns into a lame, sad, annoying coward who runs away from her problems SEVERAL times. An a** of a male protagonist, who is a known womanizer, sleeps around with anything that moves, filthy rich, and disgustingly self-assured and arrogant, has a one night stand with this independent woman and BAM, is suddenly head over heels for her.

Not that it stops him from continuing to be an a**.

This is a book that promotes cheating, womanizing, and is self-destructive. There was nothing funny about it, nothing humorous, I found it painful to read - and this coming from a person who actually ENJOYS chick-lit and enjoys predictable love stories. But this, THIS, is a story written to insult and humiliate. There is nothing redeeming about it. Not about Ross, not about Tessa, not about Holly and not about Max. Nothing. Holly being the typical best friend who does crazy things to attract Ross's other butt cheek Max. And fails miserably - until the last 2 pages. Ross and Tessa play cat and mouse for 400 pages until they're finally happy in the last 2 or so.

This is a typical example of leaving a good, decent man for the disgusting kind. Holly choosing Max over Adam. Mansell is basically saying, the bad guys win, the bullies win it all.

I hate this book. I hate it so much. I hate every message the book tries to convey, and I hate the writing, and I hate the characters. I hope they all burn in fiction hell.

Mansell, I've given up every ounce of hope that was left since reading To the Moon and Back - my first for you.
I am severely disappointed.

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents (All the Wrong Questions)
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents (All the Wrong Questions)
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.07

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 12 May 2014
I love Lemony Snicket. I love everything he writes, and his style of writing. Although this book is formatted differently, I found that it still had the essence of Lemony Snicket in there. 13 Suspicious Incidents is literally just that. A book about 13 incidents that Snicket resolves very quickly. It's enjoyable, and fun, and quirky.

The book reminded me a little bit of those Goosebumps books with alternative endings in the sense that to read the ending and how the mystery was solved Snicket tells you to go to (xx page) to find out what happened, allowing you to take a jab at solving it yourself before reading who the real culprit is.

It's a very quick read, and I thought it was a nice intermission from the series All the Wrong Questions. Sort of like those short Pixar films played before a Disney movie.

by Sarah Pinborough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Thriller/Mystery, 12 May 2014
This review is from: Mayhem (Paperback)
I bought this book based on all the positive reviews, but also based on the fact that it takes place in London at a time when Jack the Ripper was everyone's worst nightmare. I love stories based on Jack the Ripper, and that is why I had bought, read and loved Maureen Johnson's Name of the Star. I was hoping for the same with this novel, and I admit, I was waiting to compare it to Johnson's novel.

I shouldn't have though. They cannot be more different in style of writing, genre, or plot. Whereas Maureen Johnson's story was based in modern-day London and had a young cast to drive the story and read more as a Young Adult novel, Mayhem is based in Victorian London with an adult cast driving the story and reads more as an Adult novel. It is a story that made my toes curl.

Dr. Thomas Bond is such an intense character, I enjoyed his journey and development more than I can say. At the beginning, I was a little worried. I wasn't too impressed with Pinborough's foreward explaining how although based on historical facts of Jack the Ripper and the Thames Torso Killer, she did exaggerate and tweak the story to fit her writing needs. I thought, here we go, this will be another flop. Simply based on that foreward.

However, although I did find it kind of hard getting into the story the first few chapters, I soon found myself immersed in the mystery and the strange characters. Dr. Bond reminded me of Johnny Depp's character in From Hell - which was also a movie based on Jack the Ripper. Fortunately, Dr. Bond does not face the same fate as that of Depp's character from the movie.

The way Pinborough played the characters and moved the story and slowly revealed certain moments and peeled back the mystery one layer at a time until you sit there in shock, knocks the breath right out of you. I did not see it coming - the murderer, that is. It played beautifully. The suspense getting more intense by chapter until that climatic scene with Dr. Bond at the dinner table, having finally seen the truth.

That scene made me shudder with its intensity. It made me want to curl up in bed and hide under the covers. It made me want to read more with my hands over my face as I peek through my fingers. It was absolutely beautiful.

For an author to be able to pull out such emotion out of you with her words is stupendous. I enjoyed every minute of this story. I felt anxiety, suspense, fear, sadness, hope, anger and so much more - sometimes, ALL AT ONCE.

I can't wait to read the next installment - Murder.

The Giraffe's Neck
The Giraffe's Neck
Price: £6.83

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yawn, 30 April 2014
I cannot begin to tell you what this book is about, so don't ask. Was it about a Giraffe's neck? No. Was it about a teacher who tries to adapt to modern times of creating a relationship with students in order to keep her job? I don't know, I didn't think so. Not really.

Frau Lohmark is a very annoying character. She is a disgruntled, bitter, old lady. It's all good and well if you want to be strict in school as a teacher to earn respect or fear or whatever you think it is you're earning, or because you believe that's the only way students will actually retain the information you are teaching them, but if you're actually a disgruntled, bitter, old lady outside of your career, then you're just annoying. The fact that her own daughter has no emotional attachment to her mom is no surprise to me, considering what kind of woman her mother is.

This book is heavy on evolutionary theories, things that I don't necessary believe in, but I do find interesting. So I thought I'd enjoy reading this book, but honestly, it just felt like one big boring Biology lesson that I had no interest in attending, but I was forced to. My brain felt like it was shutting down halfway through, and I was skimming through great chunks of passages because I had no interest whatsoever in what was being said. There seemed to be no story, no plot, no character development. It was all very vague and ambivalent. What development did take place was extremely infinitesimal and held no significance - to me at least.

All in all, a very boring book that you will want to put down again and again and again. I'd have given it no stars, BUT, I will admit that there were a few passages that I did find very appealing and found myself highlighting for future reference.

One such passage is the following:

"The very fact that man had to go to school said volumes about the inadequacy of his construction. Almost all other animals were ready at birth. Ready for life. A match for it. After a few hours they were already standing on their own feet. Human beings, on the other hand, remained unfinished all their lives. Deficient creatures. Runts. Physiological premature births that have reached sexual maturity. Unprepared by nature. Only ready for life right at the end. You only grew so old because you had such an infinite amount to learn." (p.174).

That, to me, was a brilliant rant. And earned the book at least a one star.

A London Country Diary: Mundane Happenings from the Secret Streets of the Capital
A London Country Diary: Mundane Happenings from the Secret Streets of the Capital
by Tim Bradford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book unknown, but full of treasures, 29 April 2014
I'm surprised at the lack of publicity for this book. It is completely nonexistent on, and on has not a review. The same goes for Goodreads and Shelfari. The reason it surprises me is because this book is actually very interesting and well-written. When you first look at it, it almost strikes you as a children's book - what with the cover and the illustrations inside. But what it really is, is a book full of hidden treasures - about London specifically yes - but also about the world. About life.

This is the sort of thing that I've always wanted to do, in fact, it is one of the things that I always STARTED doing until I got lazy halfway through and put it away for another time. Tim Bradford has been working on this for many years (which makes me feel better). It is a collection that he wrote and put together over a period of time, and it all sounds and looks like a bunch of disconnected stories, but what they really are and what they really showcase are the moments. The moments that made him stop and think, that made him stop and wonder, that made him stop and catch his breath, that made him stop and scoff, that made him stop. Period.

Moments that perhaps we all have on a daily basis, but we never stop to think "hey, I should write this down, and add a little scribbly drawing next to it!". He did, though. And he did it well. I loved the interactions he had with people, strangers or otherwise. I loved his interactions with his children, which were absolutely adorable. I loved the way he made fun of himself.

The reason I give it 4 rather than 5 stars however, was because of all the "nature" parts. Obviously, a book taking place in the countryside, a lot of nature is involved. Naturally. And Bradford had certain segments that he dedicated to a species of flowers or plants that he speaks about and describes to us. I do appreciate nature, and I do think I'm a lover of nature and flowers, but reading about them? Not so much. So I end up skimming quickly through those parts. Otherwise though, a very good read. One that - I hope - will make you stop and think the next time you're walking out and about, wherever you may live.

Heart of the Matter
Heart of the Matter
Price: £3.59

4.0 out of 5 stars This book has heart. So much of it., 21 April 2014
I honestly loved reading this book. It was different than the books I've read recently in that it had so much heart and depth. It was serious and somber, and it made you take sides and feel anger and hate and resentment, but also love, and yearning and hope.

I like the way Emily Giffin is moving from more romantic comedy type books to serious matters, the likes of Emilie Richards and Diane Chamberlain. And I like the way this book was divided into sections, giving us both sides of the story - one by Tessa, the other by Valerie. Here's the thing though:

Tessa's parts are written in first person, whereas Valerie's sections are in third person. This gave it the feeling that Tessa was actually the one telling the whole story, giving us her side of it, but also telling us Valerie's side of it. Of course, that's probably not true, unless Tessa went and asked Valerie and her husband, Nick, for minute details of the 3 months that this book spans. But what it does is make Tessa seem superior, like she's in power, she's the one in control even as she loses control of everything around her. It also sort of shows what side Giffin is on, giving Tessa a more personal touch allowing HER to tell the story, allowing us to go into her head and heart and life like we could never do with Valerie - simply with a change of pronoun. It makes you biased from the very beginning on whose side you're on - even though I did sympathize greatly with Valerie.

When I first started reading this book, I honestly did not expect it to become a book about a broken marriage and infidelity. Once things started pointing that way, I found myself chanting a mantra: "please don't cheat, please don't cheat, please don't cheat". Alas, it goes unheard, as Nick - Tessa's husband, and Valerie's child's surgeon - does indeed end up cheating on his wife. It made me mad, but mostly extremely disappointed in him.

I loved the variety of characters in the book, from Jason - Valerie's homosexual twin brother - to April, the drama queen/desperate housewife/neighbor/friend to Charlie - the 6 year old burn victim and also Valerie's son.

This story is very deep, and it's an emotional roller coaster with Tessa's paranoid suspicions, and Nick's confirmation of them and Valerie's confusion. You almost want to root for her, and have Nick leave his family to be with her and Charlie, but then you're back to Tessa and you think no, infidelity is inexcusable no matter who it is and how it happens. It is inexcusable.

I loved the foreshadowing with Tessa's mom lecturing her and advising her. And I loved Charlie's interactions with Nick, despite the situation at hand. Charlie is a kid every mom wants to have, and he sort of reminded me of Cole from The Sixth Sense, in his maturity and love for his mother.

A really good book. Not what I expected, but good nonetheless.

The Time of Our Lives
The Time of Our Lives
by Jane Costello
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Has all the elements of a chick-lit, 21 April 2014
This review is from: The Time of Our Lives (Paperback)
I'll tell you what I really liked about this story, despite my many concerns and misgivings as I read it. I loved the way that Jane Costello took me completely off-guard. Absolutely and completely, that I actually felt my eyes go wide and my breath catch.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you why, because that would be a big spoiler.

Here's the thing though, although this story happens over a span of 8 days, and yes - as is the deal with every chick-lit - the protagonist ends up falling in love at the end, and 8 days is a very short time for that to happen, but it happens regardless, I still enjoyed it. I read this relatively quickly, just like I have with every other Costello novel, and I found myself part laughing part wanting to throw the book and stomp on it with frustration FOR Imogen. The amount of disastrous moments that she goes through in an 8 day period is unrealistic - bordering on fantastical. But Costello makes it happen, and more than that, she makes it work.

Yes, they get annoying and almost unreal, but they still make you gasp and chortle.

What did annoy me is her obsession with her ex, Roberto. I could not understand how five years later she can't seem to get over her ex who seemingly left her once she got pregnant, because he made it clear that he never wanted to have kids. Or so we are made to believe for a good portion of the book.

Also, her phone. Oh my God her phone. If I was her friends, Nicola and Meredith, I would've gotten seriously angry with her. She would not put the phone down, it was ringing nonstop the whole trip, and it went from one disaster to the other until it reached a catastrophic end. I could not relate or understand with how someone who is supposedly on a holiday could not turn off her work phone and have someone else take charge for EIGHT DAYS. But, again, I am told that it DOES happen, and I'm just lucky to work in a corporation that does not act that way when I go on leave - especially since, like Imogen, I also work in PR and Communications.

I did like her relationship with Harry, although, I was a little wary about his character development. He went from being this strong, confident man, to kind of a self-conscious, weaker version of himself. I don't think I liked that very much, but there you have it.

All in all, a good fun read. And even though I thought it was very quick (i.e. 8 day period), and there were several annoying factors, I did appreciate the twist of events that I can't really talk about without spoiling the story, and for that I give it a 4-star. Otherwise, it would have gotten a 3-star rating at most.

The Tin Men
The Tin Men
by Michael Frayn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could not enjoy this, 21 April 2014
This review is from: The Tin Men (Paperback)
I had read Michael Frayn's The Trick of It and absolutely enjoyed his style of writing and satiric humor. I thought - looking at this book's reviews and synopsis - that I would love this one for sure. Unfortunately, I did not and I could not. No matter how much I tried to find humor in the dialogue and writing, no matter how much I tried to expand my mind to take in all the great complex satire, I just couldn't enjoy reading this book.

It started out well enough with the conversation at the production company or whatever it was, having me laugh out loud. However, when the plot and story moved to the university setting and we were introduced to the professors and immersed in the politics involved, it slowly lost it for me.

All it conveyed was a bunch of weird, nonsense characters, who are self-involved and arrogant. Characters, who are portrayed as very smart, but also quite dumb. Reading the synopsis, I really thought it would have to do with computers and robots and machines taking over as they prepare for the Queen's visit. Rather it was a idea after idea after idea of HOW the computers and machines would take over, and what would they take over (i.e. writing articles, writing books and pornography to name a few). It was honestly, quite ridiculous. It got boring towards the end. It got repetitive, and I hate to say it, but I did not find it very clever either.

Maybe it is outdated, or maybe it's just not for me. Whatever the case, I could not enjoy this book at all, unlike The Trick of It.

by Freya North
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Warm and Fuzzy, 21 April 2014
This review is from: Chances (Paperback)
I'm surprised this book isn't getting the positive reviews that I believe it deserves. I've read so many more unrealistic and cheesy and dramatic novels that weren't even that well-written that got better reviews, which explains why I gave this one a 5-star rating. It was refreshing compared to the drivel I've read lately - mostly by the likes of Jill Mansell, who has been disappointing me a lot with the last few books I've read for her.

Freya North on the other hand, was able to take a story that is very relevant to each and every person, that is very realistic, and spun it into this wonderfully romantic tale of second chances and true love. I related to it because I've been through it, the heartbreak, the break up, the process of obsessing over your ex and then slowly getting over him/her, and I think every one has been through an experience similar to the ones in the book.

Vita is a character who exists in every female, and even though people might have thought she was irritating because of her obsession with her ex Tim, I think it was realistic and exactly how it should have been like. I loved how she met Oliver, coming off as this crazy lady asking him to chop off a tree, and I love their interactions and how he approached her. Once their romance was underway, it was written in a way that gave you butterflies, and that's always a nice feeling when reading a chick-lit.

The character development is also a journey in and of itself. The way Vita slowly stops obsessing with her past, how she realizes she's finally over Tim, because of Oliver. How she stops keeping an eye out for him, or noticing when he's around, or when she gets a text message how her first thought is Oliver rather than Tim...those are all things I relate to as you move on and discover new feelings for a person.

I will say, it did get a little dramatic at the end with her obsession over Oliver's dead wife, despite the fact that he was ready to move on. But that didn't last for very long, and so did not bother me.

Overall, a well-written romantic novel that showcases true love and the ability to give love a second chance and find it again.

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