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Cassell Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend
Cassell Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend
by Andy Orchard
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful reference work, 6 Mar. 2010
This is undoubtedly the best reference tool I've read on Norse mythology. Gods both famous and obscure, sagas and eddas, descriptions of runes - everything is contained here. Orchard's text contains a lot of facts that aren't easily found elsewhere, even on more familiar subjects. Great stuff!


The Six Wives Of Henry VIII
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII
by Alison Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invigorates a familiar story, 6 Mar. 2010
This is a great book that really brings history alive. Weir's strength is capturing the personalities of historical figures and The Six Wives of Henry VIII is no exception as the personalities of Henry's queens are each detailed and distinct. They became real people to me and I found that I really liked Catherine Parr who had before interested me least of all the wives.

Weir presents a wealth of historical details but she also tells a great story and this makes Six Wives more of a page-turner than many history books. It doesn't matter that the subject is so familiar and every reader knows what's going to happen. This is history that appeals to the emotions and I cried at the death of Anne Boleyn, even though she is certainly not portrayed in a entirely flattering light. This is good read which I think would particularly appeal to readers who usually prefer novels to non fiction as Weir presents her histories as character-driven narrative.


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (International Writers)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (International Writers)
by Patrick Suskind
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a stinker, 2 Mar. 2010
In Suskind's favour, the descriptions of smells in this novel are truly amazing and this seems to be largely what its reputation is built on. But unfortunately for the novel the rest of it appears lifeless in comparison and there is very little else to admire.

Perhaps the centre of the problem is that the main character is a serial killer with no personality who is never real enough to be frightening. His victims are usually innocent young women and to compound matters I think we're supposed to empathise with him because he's come from an underprivileged background. Oscar Wilde said that "there is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book" and although I would usually agree with him I think that this case is an exception. This is not just a bleak book, it's a heartless one.


The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Low brow, 2 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Kite Runner (Paperback)
I found The Kite Runner pretty disappointing. It's been presented as a literary novel with the Daily Telegraph describing it as "a devastating, masterful and painfully honest story" and "a novel of great hidden intricacy and wisdom". But I didn't find it to be any of these things.

For me, The Kite Runner was merely the equivalent of one of those bland daytime TV movies. Everything that happened was signposted well ahead and Hosseini didn't shy away from telling his readers what they should feel. It's a cynical and manipulative written novel with cliched characters and plot turns that rarely surprised or impressed me.

It wasn't one for me, but many people clearly do like this kind of thing. Don't buy it if you prefer something a little more complex.


Orlando: A Biography (Penguin Modern Classics)
Orlando: A Biography (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Virginia Woolf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gender bender, 2 Mar. 2010
Orlando is a beautifully written work of art which is amazingly post-modern for a novel written in 1928. The only Woolf novel that I had previously read was Mrs Dalloway which I just didn't take to, but I thought that Orlando was fantastic. This early example of magic realism follows its eponymous hero(ine) through four centuries as (s)he changes from man to woman and experiences the zeitgeist of each new era. Orlando is not only a feminist book but is also a discourse on the trials and tribulations of being an artist. Witty and engaging throughout it is a very original classic.


Atonement
Atonement
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection, 2 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Atonement (Paperback)
This is a beautiful, beautiful novel. McEwan's writing is elegant and evocative and he proves himself the master of different styles as he moves from the domestic suspense of that famous hot summer in Part 1 to the horrors of the Second World War in Part 2. The ending is stunning and although it surprised me it was perfectly appropriate and brought together the strands of many important themes in the book. This is an emotional novel too and, yes, I cried over what is one of the great literary love stories.

Atonement is an absolute masterpiece. This is a great work of literature and will be remembered for many years to come.


The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics)
The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics)
by Margaret Atwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too simplistic, 1 Mar. 2010
The Handmaid's Tale is a novel that I didn't enjoy as much as thought I would. Despite its infamy and strong storyline, it didn't move me in the way that I expected.

I found that sadly The Handmaid's Tale didn't have too much to offer beyond its central premise. The novel doesn't have anything revolutionary or original to say about totalitarianism and its treatment of its themes is fairly simplistic. Neither is it a particularly feminist novel, despite its subject matter, as it deals with problems affecting society as a whole. Added to this, its characters are fairly bland and passive, except for feisty Ofglen who might have made a more interesting central character than Offred.

Like Nineteen Eighty-Four this is probably a book which it's better to read as a teenager and I think I would have liked it more then. It wasn't a bad book but certainly not a great one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2012 6:46 PM GMT


Birdsong (Vintage War)
Birdsong (Vintage War)
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seriously flawed work of genius, 1 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Birdsong (Vintage War) (Paperback)
Birdsong should be one of my favourite novels. It's for the most part an extremely powerful narrative about the futility of war and Faulkes brings the trenches to life through his dramatic descriptions. So why only four stars?

If Birdsong were only trimmed down to just the First World War sections it would be a fine book indeed. The 1910 sections are tacky, the 1970s sections tedious; had I known I would have read only the war sections and it would have been a better and more coherent novel. But my main problem is the depiction of the female characters who are almost all ciphers or sex objects. There seems to be some kind of Freudian fantasy about having sex with women from the same family running through this novel which I found more than a little awkward. The female characters behave out of character for women of their time and their clothes tend to fall off at a glance from the hero. Added to this the plot is often terribly predictable, even among the First World War scenes, and some of the characters are clearly destined for the chop from the moment they arrive on the page.

But among this, there is absolute brilliance. The First World War ending is one of my favourite scenes in literature. It's just a pity Faulkes has to follow it up with a modern day ending.

I hate so much about Birdsong, but what's right about it is done so well I can't give it less than four stars. Whether you read it should depend on how well you can tolerate these kind of flaws. If I could read it again from scratch I would read only the World War I sections and would be left thinking it was one of my favourite books ever. Sadly it isn't.


Half of a Yellow Sun
Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Moving tale of war and peace, 1 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Half of a Yellow Sun (Paperback)
Half of a Yellow Sun is an elegant yet harrowing book, a story about the destructive powers of war. Thematically it's similar to Captain Corelli or Birdsong, as like these other novels it plots the deterioration of an idyllic world under a war that the central characters neither asked for nor can control.

The novel is powerful and moving, driven by Adichie's superbly drawn characters. But its main achievement is the subject matter. Too often when we see TV news reports of wartorn famine-stricken African nations, the people are dehumanised into passive objects of pity. Adichie, through her story of love and adversity, gives the starving and downtrodden back their dignity. A remarkable novel.


Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England
Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England
by Alison Weir
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting enough, 28 Feb. 2010
Isabella, like most of Alison Weir's work, has a wealth of wonderful detail about the world which her subjects inhabited and succeeds in really bringing the period alive. However, this one didn't move me in the same way that some of her other books have and dragged a bit in places.

I suspect this was largely down to my own personal preferences rather than a change in the quality of Weir's writing. I simply found Isabella a less interesting personality than some of Weir's other queens such as Margaret of Anjou and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Despite her story and the 'she-wolf of France' tag I found her fairly passive and easily manipulated by those around her. I also found the idea that Edward II escaped murder a little implausible, despite Weir's persuasive arguments.


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