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donald darkness (California)

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A Gate at the Stairs
A Gate at the Stairs
by Lorrie Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slight and self-indulgent, 21 Nov. 2011
This review is from: A Gate at the Stairs (Paperback)
What a boring read! The setting is drab Americana of a kind too familiar to us
from other works, the characters are pressured by the author into unusual
reactions - you can hear the writer thinking: how can I make these dullards
more attractive? This is one so-called 'talented writer' overhyped by
the media. Tiresome nonsense.


Ten Days in the Hills
Ten Days in the Hills
by Jane Smiley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A cure for insomnia, 19 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Ten Days in the Hills (Paperback)
Finally! You can dispose of all sleeping aids and night-time
insomnia with Jane Smiley's book. This book is a sleeper's paradise.
Boring chracaters - an endless array of them - just sit around and
talk tediously. Expect standard Hollywood types, the health guru, the
ageing director, the agent,the ex-wife, they're all here under one
boring roof. Somebody should have told Jane Smiley how to gag her
characters, or better still, how to develop them inside the frame of
a story. Or even better, it should never have been inflicted on any
readership in the first place....
I award it one star, since a starless review seems not to be an
option here.


Italian Shoes
Italian Shoes
by Henning Mankell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars one of the worst, 20 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Italian Shoes (Paperback)
I enjoy Mankell's books. Not the Wallander series - ice and muddy boots and
the usual layers of plot. Wearisome. I prefer his non-Wallanders but Italian shoes
is a dismal failure. Boring book. He ought to have left it in his desk.


Bay of Souls
Bay of Souls
by Robert Stone
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Fallen Star, 11 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Bay of Souls (Paperback)
Robert Stone is one of the finest American writers.
He created a couple of masterpieces -Dog Soldiers,
A Flag for Sunrise, etc. This book is disjointed,
incomprehensible, and finally makes little sense.
A terrible disappointment to a fan like me.
It reads as if he cut out the best parts and was
left to glue together the leftovers - which, alas,
results in a bafflingly silly story....


Mr Clarinet
Mr Clarinet
by Nick Stone
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Third-rate writing & atmosphere, 11 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Mr Clarinet (Hardcover)
This is probably the most sluggish 'suspense' novel I've read in
a long time, and I've read some doozies. The dialogue is poor
and explanatory rather than suggestive (Nick Stone should cut
his dialogue next time and make it sound more like people
talking), not these ventriloquist dummies in Mr Clarinet.
I wish I could find something positive to say. Stylistically
flat, cliched settings, it's a 'generic' novel and lacks
the flashes of genuine insight that take a book out of the
ordinary. One slender hope is that his hero, who is
reputed to be ongoing, will be a more interesting character,
with more of an interior life, next time round. As for Voodoo,
come on, think of something else to provide the scares.


L'elegance Du Herisson (Folio)
L'elegance Du Herisson (Folio)
by Muriel Barbery
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Mind of a Hedgehog, 5 Dec. 2010
Brilliant novel - wonderful portrait of a French concierge in a swishy Paris
building. She's shy, reticent, does the bidding of all the snobs in the
apartments - but this is only surface. Underneath, she is life and thought,
blessed by an inquisitive mind.
She is witty and philosophical, but the one thing missing from her life is love.

Enter a new tenant, a Japanese man who sees her for what she really is: an elegant
woman, ready for love, and wise. I won't betray the ending. Anyone reading this book will
be taken on some mind-provoking asides into art, music, history and the stratification of French
society.
Funny, sad, a delightful book!


In a Naked Place
In a Naked Place
by Shirley Eskapa
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite novel, 14 Jan. 2009
This review is from: In a Naked Place (Hardcover)
Shirley Eskapa's new novel is a brilliant examination of the
desperate emotional turbulence and self-denial at the heart of a woman who has turned away from the grief of her past - her own dead daughter.

As the headmistress of an expensive girls' school in London, Lily finds relief from her pain in the nature of her work. She's very efficient, well-regarded - but this is only frail scaffolding that holds her together on a daily basis. And this fragile edifice falls apart when she sees a child who bears a close resemblance to her own daughter, and suddenly the quiet order of her life, the external calm, is swept away. First by the startling appearance of this new girl, then by the erotic nature of her feelings toward the girl's father. Lily is liberated, her defences come asunder, and she's obliged to encounter the brute reality of her own child's death...In place of emptiness, Lily is offered a chance of love and salvation.

But will she seize it? Or is enough that her locked-down feelings have been freed? Shirley Eskapa is far too smart for pat endings. She handles Lily's dilemma with the care and attention of a humane surgeon.
This is a bright gem of a book.


The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
by President Barack Obama
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, but will he win?, 3 Mar. 2008
I enjoyed this refreshing book. In cynical times, surrounded by cynical politicians, Obama is a stream of fresh air. But will the Democratic Machine in America allow him the chance to win the nomination - or are Americans content to see Bush-Clinton dynasties continue for years and years? I suspect it's possible they're content with another Clinton, Shrillary. I wish otherwise. Maybe Obama is too human to be a politician in the USA. Again, I wish otherwise. Let's see 8 years of GW Bush, 8 years of his Dad, 8 years of Bluff Bill, 8 years of Hillary - followed by 8 years of Jeb Bush, followed by 8 years of, yeah, Chelsea Clinton. That's a screaming nightmare.


Lost City Radio
Lost City Radio
by Daniel Alarcón
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant novel, not to be missed, 23 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Lost City Radio (Paperback)
This is just an astonishing novel that deserves wide readership. Set in an unnamed South American country, it describes the chaotic, seemingly unending state of civil war, which few can recall starting, and few can decide if it has finally ended. The story is told through the life of Norma, who has a radio program in which she simply reads the names of the missing, the disappeared, those being sought by wives, children, parents. Norma's voice becomes the most well-known in the country. Hers is the voice of hope and restoration in a country ripped apart by boy soldiers who apparently have no sense of their purpose, other than to kill. It's a country of peasants whose isolated villages are visited by armed insurgents, and their children coerced into the rebel army. It is a novel about love and loss and the anguish of ignorance in an atmosphere of almost surreal paranoia. The terror moves in the city with its unlit streets, and darkened bars, and spies who don't really know why they are spying, or whose side they are really on - if anything can be said to be real in the madness of the country's deterioration. The terror also moves in the jungles where peasants catch snippets of news on brokendown radios or gain often unreliable information from armies passing through. It is a novel about love - the survival of love, the hopes and dreams of lovers separated by the bewildering collapse of the country. A gorgeous, honest book - moving, touching, sad. Please read this truly fine novel whose depth of insight far outshines most books publishers foist on us in these days of the slick and shallow.


City of the Dead
City of the Dead
by Herbert Lieberman
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Overlooked Classic, 18 Oct. 2007
This review is from: City of the Dead (Paperback)
Very little attention has been paid to City of the Dead, which is a great shame. It is an immensely readable novel and has its central character a coroner, a character drawn so finely and with such care the reader practically becomes this man. The book explores the coroner's life in a series of dramatic episodes, the most important of which is the kidnapping of his daughter. This novel is human, intelligent, wonderfully well-written, the work of a genuine craftsman. Amazing it has gone so unmentioned - anyone who likes the pleasures of a genuinely good book, read City of the Dead.


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