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DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide: Munich
DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide: Munich
by Elfie Ledig
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid choice for a short trip but not the best guide to Munich out there, 27 Nov 2011
Not as outstanding as other DK Top 10 guides but not a total disaster either.
There was an awful lot on day trips/the surrounding area which was good if this featured in your plans (i.e. were planning a fortnight or more's driving holiday round Bavaria) but not so much if your focus was on Munich, the city. Considering that Neuschwanstein is pretty much the *main* day trip from Munich I was surprised by how little practical information there was on how to get there/how the site and travel options worked together - the area was really spread out! A map would have been useful (although you could always rely on following the zillion other tourists!)
I suppose there is less to say generally on a city the size of Munich (than say Rome or London) so the Top 10 format just didn't work as well for me this time. In retrospect would have preferred the Lonely Planet Munich book for the trip we had. However, cannot doubt the useful size of the Munich DK Top 10.

One Day
One Day
by David Nicholls
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully told story - likely Kleenex will be needed, 22 Aug 2011
This review is from: One Day (Paperback)
Shallow me, I ignored this when it first came out. Why? The orange cover wasn't great (heard that one before...) and well, I just didn't see the reason for the hype. Fast forward a few years and I catch the movie trailer (even worse that judging a book by it's cover is surely judging a book worthy to read based on a movie trailer!). That seems quite good, I think, must read the book first. Took all of 2 days to finish (minor pause while staying with relations or I really think this would have been finished in one go) and I feel like my heart has just been put into a mangle. David Nicholls has tweaked and forced almost every emotion possible out of me and I sad that it's over.
It's a simple premise, beautifully done - never repetitive or tiresome. Although focussed on the two protagonists (although, really, it's Emma, isn't it?) there is more than enough light and shade for other characters - Ian, Philip, Alison, Sylvie etc. Which just goes to create a story with amazing textures and nuances.
The 'ending' knocked me for six and I was in floods - but then the endings just kept on coming...adding nostalgia and a bittersweet sense of destiny to the sadness I genuinely felt.
I haven't felt as moved by a book in a very long time and I will be recommending it to everyone I know (although as I feel like the last person in the world to have read it I may have to make some new Martian friends). I couldn't possibly watch the movie now - what a great accolade for a book.

Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie)
Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie)
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wish it was 5 star...but I agree with too many 1 and 2 star reviews., 5 Jun 2011
I have been looking forward to tackling my paperback copy of the latest Jackson tale. I even considered buying it in hardback (a rarity for me) but I'm glad I didn't stretch to that extravagance. I've never really understood anyone who gives Atkinson less than 3 stars - but I find myself agreeing with a lot of their comments this time. I am also beginning to feel that there is a tiny, tiny bit of a 'forumla' appearing with these Jackson books. The disparate characters and jumbled plot-lines worked well in 'Case Histories'; exceptionally well in 'One Good Turn'; very well in 'When Will' but seemed far too forced in 'Started Early'. I felt that Jackson didn't really connect with any of the characters, the plot or his Yorkshire homeland - and so I felt that I wasn't connecting with Jackson either. The story was good enough but I feel it was just not really finsihed off to the same high standard of her previous. There seemed a lot of hype around this novel and I wonder if Atkinson's heart wasnt really in it this time.
I loved Tracy and if she had been absent I'd have really struggled with 'Started Early'. However, Tilly was a side-line too far and too oblique to the rest of the action (the ending on the railway lines? Really?). In my opinion it could have done with a bit more on Linda instead (never mind Lomax et al!). Still, I read it in super quick time and feel that it does add to the Jackson stable more than it detracts. But it's a long way off being Atkinson's best.

1000 Years of Annoying the French
1000 Years of Annoying the French
by Stephen Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.79

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing overview mais pas la creme de la creme., 3 Jun 2011
Having loved the original 'A year in the merde' (I basically read it to my now-husband as I had so many 'you must listen to this' moments) and being slightly dispapointed by the follow up 'Merde Actually' I was uncertain what to expect from a non-fiction title. The premise had me won over and I certainly enjoyed the start (condensed Norman and mediaevel history distills the best bits and mercifully glosses over the dull) but it flagged half way through (just after Mary Queen of Scots) picks up again with Napoleon (some great chapters - educational and entertaining) but then I'm afraid it's a bit of a cliche filled downward spiral from there on. The WWI and WWII bits in particular I found too brief too bitty and a smidge blase. If the book had ended with Bertie living it up in Paris I'd have considered 4 stars. However I feel that the rest of the 20th century merits the full Clarke treatment (I'd love to hear his views on Sarkozy and Sarkozy's relationship with the French public) rather than a few seemingly hurried and frankly disparate passages.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2011 1:11 AM GMT

The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Literary love, but not for the faint-hearted., 21 Mar 2011
I can easily see why this is a frequent recommended A Level read - there is layer upon layer to be removed and almost the entire plot seems constructed to provoke fierce debate. Added to that it's modernist (or indeed post-modernist) leanings and you have a mighty 20th century love letter to the 100 years prior to the book's publication, and in my opinion it's also a love letter about reading in general.

I am no fan of literary tricks and guises, which usually serve no purpose beyond puffing up an author's ego. But John Fowles' author as god-like narrator had me frankly spell-bound. I was as intersted in Charles and Sarah as I was fascinated by what my hopes/fears for them revealed about me. For a book set in the 19th century it also said an awful lot about the 20th.

The story is simple, yet complex. Both twisted and yet absolutley clear.

Perhaps for the first time 'real' 19th century characters have existed, as opposed to, e.g. Dicken's charcatatures. The motivations of at least one (Sarah) have a plausability and naturalness to them, and yet still the author provides no real answer as to whether she is a torrid Eve or a maligned proto-type feminist revolutionary. But just as it seems so 'natural' along come the interventions of the narrator-author constantly to remind you 'this is a fiction'. How can we care so much about people who don't - who never have, or will - exist? And I think there lies the true beauty of the book - I read, therefore I am (to borrow a phrase!)

However, in my opinion you have to have some kind of feeling for, or even passing familarity with, all things Victoriana in order to: (1) keep going - diversions into Darwinism and 19th century politics (sexual/religious/philosophical) won't appeal to everyone; and (2) to get much out of the story - the contemporaneous references to art and society, if they are missed, would greatly affect, in my view, what one gets out of the novel.

Not an 'easy' read, but well worth pursuing.

The Christmas Cookie Club
The Christmas Cookie Club
by Ann Pearlman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The cover had more sparkle than the inside..., 18 Feb 2011
Like some other reviewers I was hoping for a warm, festive, not-to-demanding but a cut above regular 'chick-lit' read. Boy was I wrong about this book!
The beginning is truly depressing and, although it improves a bit in the middle, the end isn't exactly joyous.
I also found the message at the end really twee and irritating. Spolier alert....
So...Taylor loses her home, her husband and her job...but life is great because she has friends she sees at most, in some cases, once a year. What complete and utter tosh! Sorry, I just didn't buy into the 'friendships' in this book. There were too many women and the only real connection between most of them seemed to be through Marnie. If it hadn't been for the end I may, may, have considered 3 stars...but after Taylor's story I was tempted to give it 1.
It could have done with losing half the characters and developing the remainder into more than a half-baked cookie dough. Also, did anyone else find Marnie pretty unsympathetic as a charcater, as well as fairly racist in her views about her daughter's boyfriend? Sadly, all in all none of the ingredients added up to an attractive holiday read.

Case Histories: (Jackson Brodie)
Case Histories: (Jackson Brodie)
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitch pefect Atkinson is hard to beat., 28 Nov 2010
There isn't much I can add to the reviews already written.
I read 'One Good Turn' followed by 'When Will There Be Good News' and only then read 'Case Histories'.
I was worried I may not enjoy 'Case Histories' as a result, but apart from seeing Julia in a different light (and knowing what happens later on) I needn't have worried.
The characterisation is spot on, the tragi-comic tone is pitch pefect and I can think of no better chronicler of our times that Kate Atkinson.
I have to say that Sylvia is the creepiest Kate Atkinson character I've read to date.
My favourite bit - Jacskon's one line about Shirley's eye direction. Boy did that throw me! Atkinson changes the direction of the plot with one line - brilliant!
My least favourite bit...the end!

The Tenth Gift
The Tenth Gift
by Jane Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.03

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed - I wanted to love this book but it's dull as ditchwater.., 26 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Tenth Gift (Paperback)
Like a previous reviewer I really wanted to like this book. In fact I wanted to love it.
The premise sounded just my sort of thing (exotic, mystery, bit of romance, good story) but it was let down on so many levels. I don't want to be negative, but apart from the premise there is actually very little to recommend this book.
The primative dual narrative fails to engage (well, it failed to engage me) and it became quite a formulaic plod through time and space. PLEASE, I entreat you, to see dual narrative well done - have a look at Jennifer Donnelly's 'Revolution'.
I simply could not fathom or like any of the characters in the Tenth Gift. Never mind Julia's duplicity with her best friend's husband, what about the Rais?? He's hardly my idea of a romantic hero...selling your mother into slavery! Mr Darcy and Mr Rochester have nothing to fear in the Rais.
The character I had most time for was Robert - but I don't think this was Jane Johnson's intention. The ending ('involving' Robert) was truly cringeworthy. Had 'made for TV' mini-series (circa 1989) written all over it.
Sadly, like another novel I finished recently, the idea was excellent but it deserved a more capable storyteller's hands.
Sorry. I really, really wish that I felt it deserved 5*...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2011 12:32 PM BST

by Jennifer Donnelly
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long live the Revolution!, 27 Oct 2010
This review is from: Revolution (Hardcover)
I adored 'A Gathering Light' so came to Jennifer Donnelly's latest offering with sky-high expectations and fears - what if, eek, whisper it quiety, 'Revolution' wasn't as good?
However, it is also the ONLY fiction book I have bought in the week of release in hardback - I was that desperate to get my hands on it. Was it as good as 'A Gathering Light'? That sounds a bit too much like asking a mum who their favourite child is...
I very, very much enjoyed 'Revolution' but I have to agree with a pevious reviewer, in that Andi was a hard protagonist to get to know and like - unlike Mattie in 'A Gathering Light' whom I felt an instant affinity with...
But it would be a big mistake to compare the two novels. Each offers something different. Whereas 'A Gathering Light' was more domestic and 'coming-of-age', 'Revolution' feels both more epic and yet strangely personal. I have not seen grief, and the aftermath of death, dealt with by many authors - and this was a sensitive account which I feel never once patronised the reader.
Some may not like the historical aspect, but I love historical fiction so this was perfect for me. I loved hearing of Alexandrine, as much as Andi. I enjoyed the way that I had a real image of Alexandrine in a way that I didn't feel I had of Grace Brown in 'A Gathering Light'.
The section titled 'Purgaotory' may not appeal to everyone but, reading the Diana Gabaldon 'Outlander' series, that too was right up my street. I actually think that Jennifer Donnelly couldn't have written a more perect book for me.

Thinking objectively (as one must):

Best Bits
The writing, and the evocation of all the characters - especially Andi's own revolution...
The seamless and subtle weaving of past and present (the sparrow, the man at the market, to name a few)
The very slight 'supernatural' edge - acheived without delving into too much sci-fi or Twilight-esque 'depths'
The journey undertaken by both Alexandrine and Andi - and what a universal message that is!

Less-good bits
It was a teensy tiny bit slow to get started, not helped by the fact that...
I found the Brooklyn set annoying and unsymapthetic (although Vijay and his 'Vietmom' provided light relief) and I would have rather just skipped them BUT, they did provide a counter-point to where Andi ends up.
Some of the music lingo just confused me - I'm not hugely musical - and some references just completley went over my head and I ended up 'Wiki-ing' loads. Which could be a tad distracting from the actual novel itself...although, it has also been educational!

Having said all that it's still a 5* read in my eyes and certainly one of my top 10 reads this year - is it number one though? Well, there are still two months to go of 2010...but it's looking like a toss up between this or 'A Gathering Light'...not bad Jennifer Donnelly. Just don't leave me 6 years waiting for the follow-up!

The De Lacy Inheritance
The De Lacy Inheritance
by Elizabeth Ashworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, it didn't live up to expectations..., 18 Oct 2010
Oh dear. Where to start? I love anything with a whiff of historical drama/romance and was looking forward to 'discovering' a new author...however it looks like Elizabeth Ashworth is more of a historical fact-teller than story-teller.
Very little romance, very litte drama. What there is, is squandered - why on earth was more of Richard's time in the Middle East not recounted? Richard is DULL, really, really dull, two dimenional and a leper when we meet him but the Middle East makes him seem exciting, heroic and noble...and we see him that way for all of about 9 pages. When my husband read the back he said that it sounded like a story about a leper (not my usual fare). I have to say that he's right. It's marketed for Phillipa Gregory/Elizabeth Chadwick fans but this is a grave error - it's just this author's indulghent imaginings of a 'what-if' variant to a piece of local history. Had this been handled by one of the above authors they could have probably got away with it. But in the capably factual hands of a local historian it is an opportunity squandered.
Plus the 'villains' weren't that bad - what was with Roger suddenly becoming a pussy cat at the end - bearing in mind all we'd been lead to believe I imagined him staking Richard to ensure his succession...but, no. And then Richard looks lovingly on both his siblings at the end...windering how alike they are...err, what? Johanna didn't seem cruel, nasty and sadistic (as Roger was portrayed).
I hope that this has gotten the fiction itch out of this author and that if any more attempts are made that: (1) some proper character background is given; (2) there is less about leprosy - or if we have to have leprosy at least make it more interesting!; (3) more rounded characterisation - and less of a sudden chnage, along the line of: oh that nasty man, well he was alright really...
On the POSITIVE side of things - if you are interested in Lancastrian history (as in geographical NOT dynastic - a specialist topic perhaps) this could well be a diverting read. But it's really nothing special and I doubt you'd recommend it to your friends (unless you want them to buy you books on other 12th century hermits in rural locations).
Comment Comments (18) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2010 8:16 AM GMT

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