Profile for emma who reads a lot > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by emma who reads...
Top Reviewer Ranking: 205
Helpful Votes: 5024

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
emma who reads a lot (London)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Daisy Miller and An International Episode (Oxford World's Classics)
Daisy Miller and An International Episode (Oxford World's Classics)
by Henry James
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.21

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The long-winded one aces this short novel, 4 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Henry James may be famously long-winded most of the time, but Daisy Miller, here just a 66-page novella, packs a massive punch and shows his equal mastery of the short form.

Daisy Miller is a young woman brought to Europe by her mother, who quickly shows herself to be incompetent at observing European social standards, though she is so innocent that is hard to judge any of this too harshly. James excels at posing the questions about Daisy, her brother and mother, without ever answering them, leaving the reader both perplexed and delighted by his portrayal of turn of the century society rules and mores.

Randolph Miller, Daisy's brother, is another one of HJ's amazing child characters, and is a lesson to anyone who thinks you need to have kids, or even be in a relationship, or be straight, to write well about children. He is totally entertaining. In fact there are many moments of comedy, with Daisy's hopelessly unchaperoning mother, too. There's a young Italian who speaks English better than anyone was expecting, and it turns out he has 'practised the idiom upon a great number of American heiresses'...

But in all in all the story has a darker heart than this light description might suggest, and I thoroughly recommend it. Adrian Poole's excellent introduction makes it clear we should think of HJ's preoccupation with the question of what value Europe should have in the eyes of Americans... Fascinating, entertaining, and finishable in an hour or two on the sofa: 10/10


Portrait of the Writer: Literary Lives in Focus
Portrait of the Writer: Literary Lives in Focus
by Goffredo Fofi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.97

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spectacular, unusual choice of photographs, though definitely a picture book!, 4 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This rather beautifully-produced Thames & Hudson book aims to show 250 of the world's greatest writers, each in a single image with a brief biography on the facing page. It has been translated from the Italian, and certainly displays a definition of 'world writers' which is continental in outlook, and far broader than I imagine a British publishing house might attempt if doing the project from scratch. There are some really famous pictures in the book - the lovely image of Garcia Marquez which graces the cover, William Faulkner with his dogs, Zadie Smith draped over the sofa looking unbelievably glamorous, the only pic of Pynchon we have, swiped from his college yearbook...

But there are also many I'd never seen before, and many authors I'd never seen a photo of before (despite having read many of their books - Joseph Roth for instance, a round fat interesting face...). And a few authors I'd never even heard of before - especially from China; Osvaldo Soriano from Argentina; Kateb Yacine, originally Algeria, died in France. It's a good kick to turn attention outwards and chase down a few of these illustrious writers in translation.

I thought the biographies were actually very useful and well-written, highlighting major works of each author and giving a good short intro. And whilst it is a fundamentally rather highbrow exercise, it nonetheless DOEs include Nick Hornby.


Bark
Bark
by Lorrie Moore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.40

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the criticism: some (at least) of this book is A1 extraordinary, 20 Mar 2014
This review is from: Bark (Hardcover)
Lorrie Moore has come in for some fire on this new book, and at least one other Amazon reviewer has pointed out the weight of expectation that attended this one: the length of time since she last published a collection could partly explain some people's disappointment.

And certainly, the first couple of stories (taking up 60ish pages) were ALSO in the bright orange Collected Stories, so that's slightly frustrating Value For Money-wise.

Also, the earlier stories in the book - like 'Wings', about a late thirties / early forties couple in a failing rock band, still not giving up hope of fame, or at least fortune - are verging on depressing.

But if you LOVE Lorrie Moore please BUY this book and READ IT ALL THE WAY TO THE END. The two last stories - one about a couple who've known each other since school, who've always had a thing for each other, and who meet up in Paris - and the other about honestly one of the craziest, best weddings in the whole of fiction - MUST NOT BE MISSED. One made me spit out my tea laughing, the other made me cry.

Sorry to put on Key Caps but seriously, this is actually important. Please buy the book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 22, 2014 10:13 AM BST


Andrew's Brain
Andrew's Brain
by E. L. Doctorow
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING and beautiful, 17 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Andrew's Brain (Paperback)
Andrew is talking to a therapist. He's talking because his life has been a series of alarming, even horrifying accidents, in which somehow Andrew always seems to be implicated. The novel begins with him on a snowy night, trying to confide care of his young baby to his ex-wife; the book winds through his whole life and all its tragedies.

What elevates this interesting concept to great art, though, is Doctorow's execution - which is just superb. The clarity of the thought in this book is extraordinary; at the same time, we are drawn into 'Andrew's Brain' about as well as you could possibly hope for in a novel - you feel completely involved in the character, in the novel's action, and then also observing it, with a coolness that matches Andrew's own inability to respond emotionally to his life's events.

Andrew becomes a way, also, of analysing some of the events of recent years, so that there is even a historical and political element to the text. And by the end you are left with a whole series of unresolved but fascinating questions. Who is Andrew, really? Who is he really talking to? What is the significance of Andrew's relationship with his college roommate? (I don't want to make spoilers.) And most of all, what really happened?

You could read this book in an evening: I did. But you won't forget it fast.


The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition
The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition
by Hugh Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 25.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best Christmas present EVER, 6 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Okay, I'm giving away my own vintage here, but I remember my dad getting this as a Christmas present when it was first published... I was completely fascinated by it, as even back then it was a beautiful book, all golden and Christmassy, full of gorgeous maps, graphics and wonderful mysterious words like 'Pauillac' I'd only ever seen on wine bottles.

For me, turning the pages of this new, completely revised seventh edition (this book has sold MILLIONS of copies) is like stepping back in time, it's really magical. The maps are still entrancing, and the detailed information totally gripping. I think both Johnson and Robinson are incredibly entertaining writers and so even in this 'encyclopedic' context, that shows through.

The new stuff is discrete, I would say: of course, we begin with France, but we end with a brief spread on Chinese wines! yikes. The photography is beautiful, too, and I love the images of the labels. But of course the most important thing is the maps. The detail is just so great: another reviewer had quibbles with the topography but I could look at the maps all day. I'm not totally sure if I'm even taking anything in, I'm just enraptured.

I would have thought this is a blue-chip Christmas present to take to hosts you don't know very well, to parents of new boy/girlfriends etc. A beautifully designed, heavy, well-printed, well-bound object, with TWO silky bookmarks. Merry Christmas!


What is English?: And Why Should We Care?
What is English?: And Why Should We Care?
by Tim William Machan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars may not have answered the questions on the cover, but very thought-provoking, 6 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are plenty of books on the market about modern global English, so why should you get this one? If you are looking for easy answers and generalisations, this is not your book. Tim William Machan is an academic who has worked on medieval English and I think Icelandic, so it was never going to be Bill Bryson.

HOWEVER, I loved how well he depicts the past and current state of English. In the first chapter, for example, he explains the way in which English acts as a 'gatekeeper language' for many schools, universities and jobs in a way I'd never really considered. He quotes from adverts and websites which made me think he must be a very entertaining lecturer.

And when he goes back in time, to consider English in the South Seas, thinking about eighteenth century missionaries trying to teach the 'natives' the English tongue, I found his discussion of the issues involved, from a modern perspective, really enlightening and entertaining. Additionally, I found the sections compelling when Machan was informed by his own research - when he discussed grammar changes in the Middle Ages (not something I'd normally describe as 'gripping').

it is not a straightforward history - the chapters are thematic, and so it won't satisfy anyone looking for an overall guide. It is also not a 'popular' book, as it considers the topics from an academic standpoint and with a rigour and vocabulary which might put off some readers.

And in fact, I'm not even sure that at the end, I felt he'd answered the questions 'What is English" OR why I should care. But i came away with so many interesting thoughts and insights that I feel it was entirely worth reading. I can see that many readers will be frustrated by the author's lack of answers or conclusions, but I very much enjoyed the ride.


Roman Empire: Power and People
Roman Empire: Power and People
by Dirk Booms
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.56

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good catalogue though uneven in tone!, 6 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the catalogue of the British Museum's touring exhibition, Roman Empire: Power and People, that will be moving around Britain for the next two years at least. The exhibition is a treat, including some works that are rarely on display in London - there's one object in particular, an Egyptian Horus dressed up in Roman military costume, which I just absolutely love but which I've never seen in the British Museum itself.

The catalogue is therefore of great interest; but I must say I found it hard going at first, with lots of subordinate clauses and bits I'd love to have taken an editor's pencil to. Yet with the change of subject matter from chapter 1 to 2, chapter 2 about coins, I suddenly realised it had become much easier going... When I began to look more closely, I started to suspect that each chapter has been written by whoever was thought to be 'most expert', so that whoever did the coins chapter was just much more clear and easier to read!

Having made this caveat, I would say that it is a lovely little catalogue, well-priced, and full of interesting information and details, as well as an over-arching argument about how cultural influence in the Empire did not just flow in one direction, from top down. Roman rulers adopted local customs and art forms, reinforcing their power with an appeal to the local, producing a new, fused culture. Oil flasks with African heads on, found in Kent; Roman Celtic jewelry; realistic mummy portraits combining Roman painting with Egyptian embalming...

For me, that wonderful Horus is the exemplary object in that argument, and I'm not surprised it's in the show (in fact I first saw it in a show in New York about ancient multicultural societies). The re-casting of the Roman empire as a simmering hotbed of conflicting nationalities, ethnicities and religions is of course, one for our own time, but I for one find the arguments (and material evidence) very convincing, and I would LOVE to see that Horus, in Roman battle dress, on display in the British Museum. Perhaps I have just missed him when he's been out, but I feel that the London galleries deserve a multicultural Roman Empire too! Let's hope this catalogue convinces a lot of people of the arguments and that one day he takes his place.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2014 5:09 PM BST


Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus: Modern Photography Explained
Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus: Modern Photography Explained
by Jackie Higgins
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A completely focused and enlightening account of the fuzzy world of contemporary photographs, 6 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was expecting this book to be a rather narrative account, a sort of essay on modern art photography, perhaps even tackling the question of whether it has to be in focus!

Consequently I was quite surprised to open it and find that it's rather more 'modern' in its approach, taking 100 photographs, with one image per paired-page-spread, and analysing it, with several little box-outs within each spread to explain the photographer and their work.

So, does it work? I think the answer is a huge YES. Jackie Higgins has done a superb job, first of all, of picking and organising the artists she's considering. Sections range from one on portraits (ranging from Gillian Wearing to Martin to Parr to Andy Warhol) through to still lives (Thomas Demand, Ori Gersht) and landscapes (Gursky, Tacita Dean). I am picking out more famous names, but one of the book's strengths is that Higgins clearly has a superb command of modern photography (defined very broadly, for her choices go all the way back to Cartier-Bresson), and is able to marshall artist I'd never heard of, from all over the world, born as recently as the seventies, as well as these more obvious famous choices.

It is in no sense a complete guide - for example, the Bechers aren't even in it! NOT EVEN in the index! Instead, the book is a thematic consideration of the preoccupations of modern art photography and in particular is very good on technique and practicalities. Yet she is also very good at providing just enough biography, even within the short format, to illuminate our reading of the artist's work.

I really loved it, and think it would be a great gift for anyone who likes art photography as it's a rather beautiful little book, too.


Expo 58
Expo 58
by Jonathan Coe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.49

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sense of humour failure: but mine, or Coe's?, 29 Nov 2013
This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really did not enjoy this book. I really wanted to like it, having read some enjoyable interviews with Jonathan Coe as he set out to promote it, and I was quite fascinated by the idea of this international exposition and the late fifties setting over which the author has clearly taken some considerable care.

However for me, the whole thing just clunked and heaved like a car whose clutch is on the brink of collapse. I found the main character bizarre and the supporting characters fairly flaky too. i don't really want to go on about it too much as I almost feel guilty for not having enjoyed it; I can see that Coe is a charming, intelligent writer much-admired by other readers I get on with! Who is in the wrong?

It's not even as if I don't like comic fiction (on which he wrote a very interesting non-fiction piece in the Guardian around publication date!). I worship at the altar of PG Wodehouse, love a bit of English humour writing and I just read Christmas at High Rising: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) which made snot come out my nose i laughed so much. I just didn't like this. Sigh.


Two Girls, One on Each Knee: The Puzzling, Playful World of the Crossword
Two Girls, One on Each Knee: The Puzzling, Playful World of the Crossword
by Alan Connor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eton wall game comes by sailor for excellent result (4,4), 11 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
How can you not love a book that brings together Stephen Sondheim, Georges Perec and the Two Ronnies?

Though I'm not particularly good at cryptic crosswords - knowing enough to adore Araucaria but generally have to look a few clues up online, and I'll never join the 'done in twenty minutes' or even an hour, club - I loved it. That's because the book's strength is all the stuff it has in it which isn't totally about crosswords - a discussion of what being a bit too keen on crosswords might signify in film script shorthand (cue a lovely essay on Brief Encounter); a totally brill first chapter on the evolution of PG Wodehouse's relationship with crosswords, both fictional and in reality; a very entertaining dip into the murky scientific waters around claims that doing the crossword will stave off dementia.

Alan Connor's book is a great Christmassy sort of gift book, but it's also really beautifully written and constructed - he seems to me to have taken the same care over it as a good setter would over a set of clues. His sentences are lovely, his sense of humour very entertaining, and at the same time he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of funny crossword trivia (good sketches off the telly involving crosswords, people who've asked for crosswords on Desert Island Discs, etc etc).

There's also a lot more detail about setters, structures, what happens when things are misclued, and stuff like that probably of interest only to keen crossword solvers; in fact the only possible criticism I could make of the book is one touched on by the other reviewer - who is meant to buy the book - beginners, or experts? But I think on the whole the book is SO enjoyable that any fairly intelligent person would really love it.

(I was also glad of a chapter that finally explained the totally bonkers 'Listener' Crossword to me, and regalvanised my resolve about never actually trying to do one. Though I'm not sure it should have been quite so early in the book. The Listener actually came BEFORE the chapter on basic clue solving, which I thought could be interpreted as just plain cruel...)


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20