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Esmeralda Hugo "londonbibliophile" (London UK)

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The Long Fall
The Long Fall
by Julia Crouch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Atrociously plotted and enormously irritating, 14 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Long Fall (Paperback)
Honestly one of the worst and most infuriating books I have ever read. And I don't say that lightly, I have read a lot of books in my time.
The distance between the concept of "suspension of disbelief" to this book is the equivalent of the distance between reality and unicorns.

The narrative switches between present and past. The narrators are the same woman - one as a back- packing student; the present version as a highly anxious wife of a successful hedge fund manager with a teenage daughter. The story interweaves past and present and a woman from her backpacking past suddenly arrives in her perfect expensive life with devastating news.

This is waaaay past wanting to "shout at the television". It is an ENORMOUSLY (and yes that is deliberately capitalised to convey strength of feeing) irritating book because the actions of the protagonist are utterly inexplicable. Why? Why? Why? is what runs through your brain as you read. Don't do that. She wouldn't have done that. Why would her husband do that without telling her? What is she thinking of? And so on. It's difficult to say more without plot spoilers but the short point is that no one in that (high pressure) situation wouldn't at least suspected the truth (there were only 3 people who knew the truth; bit of a clue!), wouldn't have alerted the police and wouldn't have told their husband (even if you accept that it could be left until the end game, then - at that point - you would have come clean).

There is a low rent twist in the tale (3/4 of which I had anticipated) but the missing 1/4 it doesn't make it worth it. It is also badly written. At one point a place name - the island of Ikaria - is written in Greek and the text says "Greek for Ikaria". Nope. That is Ikaria written IN Greek; the place name is Ikaria how can it be Greek FOR Ikaria. That frankly is the tiny needle like tip of the iceberg of the literary woefulness of this book.

The only good thing to be said for it is that it has been a long time since I read a book that provoked such a strong reaction of annoyance and irritation in me - so I guess it's a talking point.

For the bin. How it got published in this form I really, really don't know. The editor needs a stern talking to, let alone the author.


The Lie of You: I Will Have What Is Mine
The Lie of You: I Will Have What Is Mine
by Jane Lythell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stays With You After You've Finished It, 28 Dec. 2014
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Described as a "psychological thriller" this is a bit of a misnomer as there is not a huge amount of suspense and there are very few twists/turners. However, as a book it has a lot of other plus points.

One of its strengths is that it is told from the point of view of two women, alternating chapters.

Kathy is the editor of an architectural magazine who has just had a baby and back from maternity leave. Her husband Markus is a bit remote and distant (and Finnish). A new employee at the magazine is Heja who is a bit remote and distant (and Finnish). The story is the interaction of the 3 characters and Heja's apparent jealousy of Kathy, her new baby and her husband.

Strengths of the book: interesting plotting, "page turning", but it's main strength is that it makes you think about it after you have finished it - not least because of the question of why people choose to do certain things and "the evil men do" etc; also a very intellectually challenging feature of this book (MINOR SPOILER) is the extent to which people may still cause emotional disturbance after their death and whether that is deliberate or accidental. I found this very thought provoking and it was quite a carefully crafted theme throughout the novel and impacted several characters.

Weaknesses: Not the greatest writing in the world. A few characters poorly drawn. Markus, as other reviewers, have said is a shallow character. A lot of the plotting around him is weak as a result. Eg. it's not at all clear why Kathy married him even though she was pregnant; there is no "chemistry" between them. Kathy is very irritating. and it's not at all clear why Markus (who seems inordinately selfish - despite the constant refrain of him being responsible/doing the right thing it is not borne out by his actions) would have married her.

A prequel featuring Heja would be interesting. Heja is a fascinating character


THE ACCIDENT
THE ACCIDENT
by C.L. Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

3.0 out of 5 stars Great book, good writing ruined by a terribly weak ending, 24 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: THE ACCIDENT (Paperback)
I would give this three and a half stars -better than 3 but not quite 4. Great book, good writing ruined by a very weak ending.

The strengths of this book are good plotting and engaging writing. The narrator is the female protagonist who during the course of the book moves from girlfriend in her twenties to mother and housewife in her 40s - (half written in present time; half written in historic diary).

The early parts are page turning and it is also nicely driven by a "is she/isn't she" halucinating theme of the unreliable narrator. So it all piles up toward a climax but the ending is really atrocious - and made worse by the strength of the rest of the book.

It's like (this is a meat eaters analogy!) being wafted the smell of steak, being fed hot steaming triple fried chips and then after all the build up being delivered a cold soggy vegetarian quiche.

A terribe shame as the rest of the book is great. Really her editors/agents should have advised the author to re-write the ending. Promising writer. Hope her next effort is more on target.


Invisibobble Traceless Hair Ring and Bracelet, Crystal Clear Suitable for All Hair Types
Invisibobble Traceless Hair Ring and Bracelet, Crystal Clear Suitable for All Hair Types
Price: £4.38

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plus points and minus points., 27 Oct. 2014
Plus points: very very comfortable, doesn't leave a kink in long hair as advertised.

Minus points: fairly "weak" and doesn't give strong grip (which is probably the trade off for the plus points) looping it once (ie. double layer) gives a reasonable grip but my sense is that it won't stay even that tight for long. A new one grips OK. Couple of uses and starts to feel weaker.

Also very ugly and too thick to properly cover with a twist of hair.

Basically it's comfortable but no good for a formal look or a situation where you need a firm/tight grip (eg. exercise or giving presentation where important hair won't come down).


Before We Met
Before We Met
by Lucie Whitehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves!, 1 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Before We Met (Hardcover)
Starts off with the appearance of bog standard chick lit. Hannah, our heroine, goes to pick her new husband of 8 months up at the airport and he doesn't turn up. His phone is switched off and he turns out not to be in his usual New York hotel. This causes her to start to worry he's having an affair even though she thinks she's being irrational. Without getting into spoilers, her investigations lead her to turn over all kinds of rocks with things lurking underneath.

The first part is a bit dull and you need to stick with it and then it massively picks up and becomes a bit of a page turner.
Not the greatest writing in the world, the descriptions tend to be a bit overwritten and it suffers a lot from "why are you bothering telling me that?" information and descriptions irrelevant to the plot or anyone frankly.

But overall it turns into an enjoyable page turner that's more of a dark thriller than chick lit. One half (or closer to one third) chick lit and one half (two thirds) thriller.


The Lemon Grove
The Lemon Grove
by Helen Walsh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretty pointless and unpleasant characters, 31 May 2014
This review is from: The Lemon Grove (Hardcover)
Story of a married couple on holiday in a villa when the husband's daughter (wife's step daughter) and boyfriend come to stay.
The wife appears to be attracted to the boyfriend who is 17 years old.

The only good thing to be said for this book is that is held the reader's interest because (notwithstanding the weaknesses) the plot seemed to be building up to an interesting crescendo. That never happened.

The weakness were - (i) very irritating and unlikeable characters. That isn't in itself a problem if a book has other redeeming features (eg. well written) but there were none here. (ii) poor and very repetitive writing - certain words eg. "crones" and "rinsed" seemed to appear with a higher frequency than required and was distracting (iii) a very weak ending that was almost inexplicable and (iv) a feeling at the end of the book that you had no idea what the point of it was - there was no clear message or point to it. Not that every book needs message - if for example it's great page turning read - but that wasn't this book. There were lots of plot points and behaviour choices of characters that were beyond highly implausible.

In addition (but this is personal to me) I found the attitude to women in this book appalling. Older women are constantly referred to as "crones" - a very derogatory and outdated word; there was repeated description of older women's bodies in a very nasty way. The whole thing was deeply unpleasant and surprising that it was written by a woman frankly.

It is also short and made to look longer/padded out by large type. Never a good sign.

Reading this was a waste of time; I would recommend it only if you want to be very irritated.


Victor Rat Ultra Zapper
Victor Rat Ultra Zapper

5.0 out of 5 stars Does exactly what it says on the tin, 18 Mar. 2014
I bought this to deal with suspected mice. The claim is that it will electrocute mice/rats humanely in such a way that you don't have to see/touch them. The red light on top flashes when one is "zapped" so you just pick up the zapper and tip it out. At least that is the claim.

When you turn it on the light flashes green briefly and then the green light turns off. You are advised to bait the trap and leave it in place turned off for a while to let the rodents become familiar with it. Then you turn it on. I'd left it turned on for a few days and nothing happened. I was v. sceptical that something powered with batteries would do what it claimed.

Then on the third day I discovered the red light flashing. Very apprehensive I bent over to look in the trap fearing either a half living creature flopping around or nothing at all and a false alarm. In fact, inside was a very dead mouse.

This is a very good product if you use it properly - follow the instructions about pre-baiting etc. The best bit about it is that it is totally humane (in as much as anything killing rodents can be) and that you don't have to touch or get close to the dead mouse/rat. Just tip it out.

Very good product and recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 9, 2014 1:18 PM BST


The One That Got Away
The One That Got Away
by Lucy Dawson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly good read but not as good as her first book, 6 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The One That Got Away (Paperback)
I bought this having read Lucy Dawson's first book "His Other Lover" which I really enjoyed - page turning and a bit dark.

This was a pretty good read but not as good as the first book. The story is about Molly, notionally happily married, who for no good reason sends a message to an ex boyfriend on Facebook. The ex boyfriend is a type from central casting of ex boyfriends - handsome, charming, left her for someone else, bad boy. The book is about what follows from that.

This is more "chick lit" than her first book which was closer to a psychological suspense novel with a hint of chick lit. This one is more full on chick lit with a hint of psychological suspense.

Tiptoeing round spoilers, I would say that the reason that it wasn't as good as the first book was due to plot and character implausibility at various points. The basic premise was pretty implausible (the ex boyfriend's behaviour and attitude to Molly given his basic character) as was the individual behaviour of characters. In numerous places, you wondered why if she was so happily married to her husband why she couldn't communicate with him. A big chunk of their interaction was about having a baby; I really don't see why someone in such a close relationship wouldn't be honest and discuss their fears openly with their partner. It all seemed a bit teenage, juvenile - and yes implausible.

But the most ridiculous plot point is when one individual breaches a professional confidence. This was just stupid. Anyone in that position would never do that as they would lose their livelihood and be struck off.

Ultimately, if you were thinking of buying it I wouldn't seek to dissuade you - it's a fairly good read. But if you've never read any Lucy Dawson, His Other Lover is much better.

(I also agree with the view expressed by someone else here that Lucy Dawson's publishers need to really work on the titles of the books. Both of them are unoriginal, too chick litty and don't accurately reflect what the book is about.

This is not about "the one that got away" - either from Molly's perspective or the ex-bf's.)


The Mistress Contract (Oberon Modern Plays)
The Mistress Contract (Oberon Modern Plays)
by Abi Morgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant adaptation that is thought provoking re: relationships and marriage, 20 Feb. 2014
I saw this play at the Royal Court and the full text was in the programme. So although I read it cover to cover, I also had the benefit of seeing it performed - so this review is (even with the best will in the world) probably subconsciously influenced by seeing it.

This is an adaptation of a supposedly true story recorded in a book called The Mistress Contract by She and He. It has adult content (fairly graphic discussion of sexual acts) and is unsuitable for children.

It is the story of an unnamed man and woman (He and She in the text) who knew each other when younger, parted ways and each went on to marry and have children. Years later (probably in their 40s/50s - he is stated to be 52 if I recall correctly) they start an affair. She (saying its making her miserable) suggests a contract in which she agrees she'll provide "mistress services" being companionship when he's in town and all sexual services in return for him providing her with accommodation and expenses (buying her a house basically). She decides they should record their conversations to chart "this experiment".

The beginning of the play is a bit dull and full of sexual discussion and you fear that the whole thing will be like this. But stick with it and it emerges into a very poignant expose of this relationship and relationships in general. The impression given is that she suggested the contract because she was in love with him and knew he was just using her for sex so thought this would be a way to get something out of it to cope. By the end of it, a very different picture emerges.

The play charts their enduring relationship over the years. It raises all sorts of interesting questions about the difference between male and female attitudes to sex and intimacy, marriage and relationships. Once it gets going, it is charming, amusing and well written and actually very moving.

I have not read the book this is based on, but after seeing and reading the play, contemplated buying the book and read the reviews on amazon - both .co.uk and .com. All I can say having read those reviews which are very negative, is that this adaptation must be a far superior product.

Worth reading to make you think about relationships. Even better, go and see it at the Royal Court on until March 2014 I think.


States of Decay: Urbex New York & Americas Forgotten North East
States of Decay: Urbex New York & Americas Forgotten North East
by Daniel Barter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.56

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really stunning photographs but sadly zero information about them, 6 July 2013
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This is a beautiful book with striking and stirring photographs of mostly institutional buildings (asylums, schools, factories) that have been abandoned. If I were rating it on the photographs alone, I'd give it 5 stars.However, as a book, it's badly let down by the lack of information and text.

There are only four pages of short text on four subjects: Introduction , Urban Exploration, Why We Do It, The Experience. Each of these is literally a single page.Given there is such limited text, it is a shame that even this is uninformative and badly written. It reads as if it were written by a pretentious 15 year old with a thesaurus. For example, from The Experience:

"As soon as we crossed the threshold, the atmosphere changed. The heightened sensory awareness afforded to us by the thrill of gaining entry enabled us to fully appreciate the powerful aromas that encompassed us."

If like me you are interested in this book because the images stir in you a curiosity about the history of these buildings, then you will be disappointed.

Each image is only captioned with the type of building and the broad location - Asylum, New Jersey; Coal Breaker, Pennsylvania. It doesn't tell you exactly where they are or even the actual name of the spooky house on the hill school, the creepy sanatorium or the faded theatre. There is zero information about the age of the buildings, their history or why they were abandoned. Even something as simple as the date, or rough date, they fell into disuse is omitted. It is literally just the building type and location; it's a real shame because I would imagine for some of these buildings, the images could have sparked a restoration campaign - if anyone knew where they were. A reader wanting to view the buildings, even from the exterior, has no idea where they are.

Separately, it is clear that in some images the photographers have added to what they found to create their image. An asylum corridor is scattered with brightly coloured (obviously new)play balls; an open filing cabinet drawer in an asylum covered in dust and rust has two clean spools of thread on the top. This leads the reader/viewer to question how many of the other images are truly genuine or tampered with. The same filing cabinet appears to have a plant growing out of it - was that how they found it? or added in like the thread spools? Because there is no text or explanations, we'll never know.

It's worth looking at the images; but frankly you could do that in the library in half an hour. A lost opportunity; it leaves the reader with a feeling of deflation as if being promised a trip to Disneyland but in fact getting a picture (albeit a very nice picture) of Mickey Mouse.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2014 2:48 PM GMT


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