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Ms. V. Hoyle (York, UK)
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Mason Cash Original Cane Water Lettered Bowl, 200mm
Mason Cash Original Cane Water Lettered Bowl, 200mm
Offered by Bargain Warehouse
Price: £9.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for large dogs, 23 Jun 2014
Having always had small-medium sized dogs we recently rescued a 7month old Labrador puppy. The plastic and metal water bowls we used in the past were far too light-weight and small for her. This is the perfect solution. It's high quality, huge, solid and very deep, so she can happily slurp away for a minute or more without tipping it up or getting to the bottom. This does mean it is quite heavy empty and very heavy when full - I need to hold it with both hands when I'm filling it - but you could probably get around this by filling it from a jug. It's proved robust too as we have had in it and out of the house on the patio and lawn, in use by all our visiting family dogs. I'm hoping it will last for years.


Place mat for food bowls, natural rubber, 45 × 25 cm, dark grey
Place mat for food bowls, natural rubber, 45 × 25 cm, dark grey
Offered by Pet Connection
Price: £7.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seemed flimsy but actually perfect, 23 Jun 2014
This is exactly the dog bowl mat I've been looking for. When I first took it out of the packet I was a bit disappointed as it seemed really thin and flimsy, but it fits our large Mason Cash dog bowls perfectly. Once it's on the floor it doesn't move about, unlike every other dog bowl mat I've ever had, and it had a lip around the edge that ensures the bowls don't move around once they are on it either. I also appreciate the fact that it doesn't have a large footprint, and takes up no more space than the bowls would do on their own. May seem a bit pricey but I think it will last us years.


The Colour of Milk
The Colour of Milk
by Nell Leyshon
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Antithesis of Rural Nostalgia, 28 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Colour of Milk (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This taut tense novella is the story of sharp-tongued, sharp-minded Mary, told in her own carefully chosen words. She is fourteen years old, barely literate and the youngest of four sisters. She works alongside them on her family farm, for a mother and father whose lives are nothing but toil. There is an oddness about her, difficult to place: perhaps it is her hair 'the colour of milk' or her spiny sense of humour or her inability to lie or just the humanity she has maintained in spite of the pummelling life (and her father) has already given her. It is now 1831, she tells us, and she has promised to write down her story, about how her father sent her to serve the vicar and his sickly wife in the village over the hill, and how she was taught to read and write there.

The tale Mary narrates is entirely usual, almost casual and loose in its lineaments. It is traumatic, cruel, even violent. But since we know from the offset that we're not reading a bed-of-roses romance novel, this isn't so suprising. The ending is a trope of historical fiction storytelling that looms large from the first paragraph. The true quality is in Leyshon's play with character and voice. Mary is a novice writer. The limited register of her language, the narrowness of her vocabulary and her unsophisticated grammar and syntax set Leyshon a huge challenge. She succeeds in building a highly complex narrator in Mary, showing her sharp intelligence and the subtlities of her interactions with others despite the fact that she can only express herself in words of one or two syllables. This narrowness, the restrictions placed on Mary's words, are a powerful indication of the narrowness of her restricted life. You can feel the bigness of Mary - her wit, her charm, her passion - straining against the smallness of her world (geographically, intellectually, emotionally) and the smallness of the fictional space she is allowed.

Mary reminded me a little of the character of Pru from Mary Webb's 1930s classic, Precious Bane (VMC), reimagined for the 21st century. But whereas Pru finally emerges from the despair of her family's curse and hard beginnings, coming finally to a perfect happiness with her hero, there can be no happy ending for Mary. Happy endings is not the fashion for historical fiction at the moment, not because of a revelry in tragic grief (as in Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Wordsworth Classics), another obvious parallel) but because of a determination for hard realism. You could never accuse Leyshon of sugar-coating 1830s rural life or the opportunities available to young women. The Colour of Milk is the antithesis of nostalgia.


The Cutting Season
The Cutting Season
by Attica Locke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.64

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Field Slave #1, 2 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Attica Locke's debut novel Black Water Rising when it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize a few years back. That book rode high on its southern bayou atmospherics, and the pluckiness of its protagonist: low-rent down-at-heel criminal lawyer Jay Porter. It tightly wove the history of the Black Power movement and the machinations of the 1980s oil industry into a procedural murder story. It was all very elegantly done, by a writer who cut her teeth in the film and TV industry, screenwriting for HBO, Fox, Paramount and Warner Bros. What struck me at the time was how neatly the novel was executed; the kind of book that doesn't have any frayed edges, nothing to worry at or unravel.

The Cutting Season, Locke's second novel, plays out in harmony with her first. This time the setting is a Louisiana plantation where single mother Caren Gray lives and works with her 9 year old daughter Morgan. Like Jay Porter in Black Water Rising, Caren has a legal background, having spent two years at law school in Baton Rouge, although she never qualified to practise. She dropped out because of financial difficulty, took on the management of a hotel, had a baby with her boyfriend. Nine years and a failed relationship later, she finds herself the manager of Belle Vie, the historic plantation where she grew up, now a tourist attraction and a venue for corporate entertainment and weddings. The estate has been preserved in a pre-Civil War stasis, with the Big House and slave quarters unaltered; the only changes are the intrusion of a gift shop, a ticket gate and a theatre venue in which local actors play out The Olden Days of Belle Vie twice a day.

Caren is hyper aware of the queasy irony of overseeing this chocolate-box presentation of Louisiana's darkly complex history. She can trace her own ancestry back to Jason, a field slave at Belle Vie, and can even pick out which of the huts he and his family lived in. She once discovered a drunken bridal couple fumbling to open a condom on the dirt floor of his living quarters. It is a moral swamp she has to navigate each and every day as she tours the plantation grounds, ensuring that the authentic look and feel of the place is complete, quietly exhorting forgiveness as she rolls through the quarters in her branded golf buggy.

One of her grounds tours leads to a grim discovery: the body of a Latino woman barely buried in the ditch that seperates Belle Vie from the sugar cane fields farmed by the Groveland Corporation, a national sugar conglomerate. She is an illegal; young, itinerant, working to get back to her family. The backwater police rock up and very quickly settle on a suspect. Donovan Isaacs, FIELD SLAVE #1 from The Olden Days of Belle Vie fits their profile, by virtue of being a young black male with a string of priors. But Caren knows something about their assumptions is very wrong. She discovers her daughter's school shirt stuffed in the back of a drawer, the cuff stained with the blood of the dead woman. Morgan refuses to say how it got there or what she saw, swearing that she never left the house on the night of the murder. Stranded out in the middle of nowhere, alone on the plantation, Caren starts to worry that the more pertinent question is not what Morgan saw, but who saw Morgan.

Questions of ownership and belonging thread throughout the book. The young murdered woman has no claims on the land she's buried in, except insofar as she works it; she hasn't been there long enough to put down any roots. The trailer park where she lived is an entirely transient space. She belongs elsewhere. The Clancy family, who own Belle Vie and the surrounding acreage in a legal sense, lack the spiritual ownership claimed by Caren's mother and ancestors - they don't have that 'bare hands' belonging. The kind of belonging that comes from actual contact with the land. They rarely set foot on the place, and when they do it leads to nothing but trouble.

Poor Caren is caught in the middle, neither fish nor fowl. Her years in Baton Rouge and her almost-law career have disengaged her from the place, and she has never worked with her hands or the fruits of labour. She has tried to resist the allure of the plantation, suspiscious of the idea that because she was born and brought up at Belle Vie she belongs there. She understands that the distinction between belonging in a place and belonging to a place, being owned by it rather than owning it, is fuzzy. She isn't and never will be the owner of Belle Vie, and the Clancys' are quick to remind her of her place when she oversteps her remit. The dynamic of power between the Grays and the Clanchys is fraught with history. Caren is representative of a torn generation, carrying their parent's old sense of racial, national, local, gender identity into a new future. She wants to be free of her feelings of obligation, longing, duty, but she can't quite leave them behind. Until the murder, that is.

Locke uses murder as a narrative tool of interruption, a pattern breaker. The same thing happened in Black Water Rising and it works, thematically at least. Still, something is missing from the whole equation. Would you know what I meant if I said that this book runs on rails? It thunders along, with all the right signals and stops, as though we're on an established route to somewhere. There is never a danger that we are going to jump the rails, that we are going to veer off. Narrative consistency, a narrow register of expression, a clearly demarcated thematic range, these are all qualities of Attica Locke's work. I admire those things to a point, but there are times when the novel starts to feel too thoroughly tamed to its purpose. A house cat rather than a wild cat.


The Flying Troutmans
The Flying Troutmans
by Miriam Toews
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Crossing over borders, 30 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Flying Troutmans (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You can't help but smile while reading this compulsive novel, even the terribly depressing parts. There isn't a great deal of plot here. Our narrator Hattie Troutman is 28, recently single and living in Paris when she receives a call for help from her 11-year-old niece Thebes. Hattie's sister, Min, has been committed to a mental hospital and Thebes and her older brother Logan need someone to look after them, their father having disappeared to North Dakota years before. Hattie returns begrudgingly to her native Manitoba where she finds caring for her niece and nephew an overwhelming responsibility. Thebes talks non-stop, has purple matted hair, bathes infrequently, and is obsessed with crafts. On the other hand, Logan hardly talks, drives without a license, drinks, smokes up, and obsesses with basketball. Meanwhile, Min, now in the psychiatric ward, asks Hattie to help her die. At her wits end, Hattie makes a choice and tells a lie. She claims that Min asked her to find their father. What ensues is a road trip like no other.

Most of the story is Hattie's wonderfully droll descriptions of her attempts to connect with the children and their eccentric antics during the trip. At its heart, this is Hattie's coming of age story, heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time. It's my first Miriam Toews but not my last.


Sightlines
Sightlines
by Kathleen Jamie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly good, 20 Sep 2012
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
This collection of essays takes you from a whaling museum in Norway, to the bird infested islands of the Outer Hebrides, to the icy clarity of the fjords. It's an extraordinary journey, even if all Kathleen Jamie did was describe it to you. Jamie does more than describe these environments, she digs under the skin of the place to something spiritual and profound in them. The prose is lovely, sharp and clean, and Jamie's voice is very distinctive.

I hadn't read the first volume of Jamie's nature essays, Findings, before this but I have since and some of her poetry too. Highly recommended.


Absolution
Absolution
by Patrick Flanery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quarry Awaiting a Hunter, 23 Mar 2012
This review is from: Absolution (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sam Leroux is a man with no fixed abode, an English professor without tenure; born and raised in South Africa, but lately resident in the US. The opening chapter of Absolution finds him back in Cape Town in the presence of his literary idol, the great South African novelist Clare Wald. Wald has agreed to let him write her authorised biography and, because he studies her work and for other reasons too, Sam is eager to fulfill the commission. But she is ungracious and he is nervous. As they talk , Sam narrating to us the discomfort of their encounter, they circle around each others secrets. Neither trusts the other. It is an unexpectedly negative dynamic between a great writer and her most avid reader. In a later self-narrated chapter Clare muses that she is 'his hostage... He is like a beast that feigns vulnerability to put its prey at ease.'

As the novel unfolds it emerges that Sam and Clare are more closely connected than the average author and reader. Clare's daughter Laura, who was involved in the militant anti-apartheid movement and who may or may not be dead, was a significant figure in Sam's childhood. His own parents were killed while plotting a bomb attack on a police station, and Laura saved him from a terrifying and chaotic childhood with his abusive Uncle Bernard. Both he and Clare are desperate to learn what happened to Laura. Both have their speculations: one of the other narrative threads is a long letter that Clare writes to Laura's ghost, fictionalising what happened to her before she disappeared; another is Sam's boyish perspective on the last days he spent with her in the late 1980s. Their stories converge and diverge and converge again in the interlinked strands.

Flanery's debut is very good indeed, deserving of its place on the Waterstones 11 and the hype around it. All its emotional impact is camoflauged by structural and formal, even chilly prose. It is a literary puzzlebox of a book: spot the symbolism, follow through the thematic thread, watch out for mirroring and parallels, count the number of inter-textual references, guess the theoretical approach. Flanery plays with his four voices - from first person, to the third person, to a rather sticky and disconcerting second person - and pace. It goes without saying that none of his narrators can be trusted. Sometimes it's as though he sat down and planned out what students could say about his book in English seminars. No doubt one day they will say it all.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 11, 2012 7:54 AM BST


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inoffensive Charm, 26 Feb 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have a low whimsy tolerance, and I must admit that the title of this book made me feel slightly nauseous. The synopsis didn't reassure me: set on Guernsey in 1946 and told entirely through the letters of a rather unusual reading club, it is the story of a group of islanders who have lived through the recent German occupation. The Channel Islands in wartime has inspired several novels and TV documentaries in the last few years, and as with any well-trod territory, it has become heavy with cliches. They're all here too: the obligatory romance between an islander and an enemy soldier; starving internees; animal cruelty. I found myself mentally ticking boxes as I read.

The overall impression is of a novel hitting the right buttons; the kind of novel that makes an excellent subject for an A Level essay. It is straightforward and transparent about its thematic content. I'm sure the film will have lots of swelling orchestral crescendos to reinforce the 'meaningful' bits. The writing is often charming but a little flat. There is a uniformity of voice between the letter writers that doesn't reflect their differences of character, and the intimacy of their revelations doesn't quite ring true. Would someone really reveal they are homosexual to an absolute stranger? But I enjoyed the nods throughout to the power of reading to transform lives, even the lives of those who are unlikely readers. So, while not for me, I can't deny the book has that special something: readability.


Netherland
Netherland
by Joseph O'Neill
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars A Dutchman in New York, 26 Feb 2012
This review is from: Netherland (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a strange and unexpected novel. It's about cricket, but it's not about cricket. It's about friendship between people who are not really friends. It's about being homesickness but having no home. Wealthy Dutch financier Hans has been left in New York by his English wife with only his love of cricket for solace. It leads him to connect with an unlikely group of Caribbean and south Asian immigrants who increasingly who live on the margins of the city. Chief among these is dodgy, irrepressible businessman Chuck who has made it his life's ambition to build a cricket stadium in the Big Apple. It's bizarrely like that hokey Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams crossed with a literary blockbuster by Ian McEwan. The writing is polished, occasionally lovely, but the premise is too carefully contrived to lift off the ground. Like many novels purporting to capture New York 'post-9/11' Netherland is very self-conscious, too symbolic and not psychological enough. Overall a disappointment, but a successful kind of disappointment.


Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second Time Around, 18 Sep 2009
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It shouldn't be possible for this book to be better the second time around. I mean, how can you get better than that first perfect reading? But, yes, it was better: richer, deeper, more moving, even funnier than I remembered. Mantel writes with such assurance about the squalid and glorious political turns of Cromwell's life, from the shocking opening sequence in which he is beaten by his father to the height of his power as the strong arm of Henry VIII. I know that some readers have been put off by the 2nd person narration, but I think it captures perfectly the uncertain vagueries of historical narrative. If you can't always tell who is speaking or who is acting, well that is how it should be; historians don't always know for certain either. Sequel now please!


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