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J. Cronin "dudara" (Ireland)
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Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Soap Opera for the High Brow, 20 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
Hilary Mantel's epic novel was the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize. On its Amazon page, there are lists of quotes from critics who uniformly hail it as a "feast" and "compelling". The story is set in Tudor England with Henry VIII upon the throne, and in his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He is however, without an heir and a certain Anne Boleyn is lurking on the fringes of court.

This was a turbulent time in English history and Thomas Cromwell was a key figure in the King's Court. Mantel's tale is told from Cromwell's perspective as he rises through the ranks at court to become a chief advisor to the King, guiding him through the separation from the church in Rome. Knowing Cromwell's ultimate end makes this tale all the more fascinating. Mantel has apparently promised a sequel which will undoubtedly satisfy the need for full historical disclosure.

I must admit though that I found this book a bit of hard work. It's extremely well-written, but Mantel's use of a disjointed narrative can be oblique. Mantel does a superb job of recreating the intricacies of the Tudor court, magnificently bringing the dominant personae of the time to life on the pages. All in all though, the slow pace and dense wording make the book more of a chore than a pleasure.


Beat The Reaper
Beat The Reaper
by Josh Bazell
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Funny, 7 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Beat The Reaper (Paperback)
Beat the Reaper is described on its cover as being like "mixing a hospital drama with Godfather and Tarantino" - rather apt I think.

Peter Brown is an intern at a New York hospital - he's also a member of the Witness Protection Programme, having been a mafia hitman in a prior life. He's the guy you want around when things start to go bad, but you probably would be slightly worried if he sat next to you on the bus. When an old connection turns up in the hospital with potentially terminal stomach cancer, Peter's new life changes in a heartbeat.

Peppered with violent scenes, medical tips, expletives and fun, Beat the Reaper is a great piece of humourous, lightweight reading with a dark touch.


Ultimate Ears Super fi 4 Earphones - Gun Metal Silver
Ultimate Ears Super fi 4 Earphones - Gun Metal Silver

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good sound, 2 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I think that I must have very small ears, because I can never find a pair of in-canal headphones that fit. Unfortunately, these Ultimate Ears earphones were no exception. Even with the smallest plug selected, they kept popping out. However, I'm not going to blame the earphones for this because it's happened to me with numerous brands.

I did manage to wedge these into my ears for enough time to form a good opinion of these earphones. They deliver a very good sound (with the exception of bass notes) meaning that I could operate my mp3 player at a lower volume than with my iPod-style earphones. I was also impressed by their sleek appearance, featuring a brushed-steel luck. My partner immediately snaffled them for himself (given that they wouldn't fit me) and has been very pleased with them.

Still though, despite the good sound and nice appearance, I would question the price for these earphones.


Short Girls
Short Girls
by Bich Minh Nguyen
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A nice story but ultimately forgettable, 25 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Short Girls (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A good while back, I reviewed "Free Food for Millionaires" by Min Jin Lee, a book which explored the experiences of a first generation Korean American. I was struck by the parallels between that book and this debut novel from Bich Minh Nguyen. Granted, the former focuses on Korean immigrants and the latter on Vietnamese, but both novels are rich with the struggle of American-born children of immigrants.

This novel centres on two sisters, Van and Linh Luong. Van is the elder daughter, an immigration lawyer, serious and with a marriage in difficulty. Linny is the younger, carefree, working as a cook, and trying to end an affair with a married man. Both sisters are dealing with crises but keep their distance from the other.

At the centre of their lives is their widowed father. He has been obsessed with the short stature of Vietnamese people his whole life and uses all his inventive mind to create the Luong Arm, a device to help shorter people reach items on top shelves. In order to futher his inventions, he decides to become a naturalised citizen of the U.S. and enter a reality TV show for inventors.

It is while begrudgingly attending to their father that the two sisters realise that they are both at crossroads in their lives. Drawing on each other in way that they haven't done since childhood, they find the strength to start living new lives.

Nguyen has written a simple novel that somehow captures the readers' interest. The two sisters are real characters who will resonate with a lot of female readers. The author switches deftly between the present and the past to tell this tale, but maybe the characters realness is their failing, as somehow this novel fails to linger to any great degree.


The Lemur
The Lemur
by Benjamin Black
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars A weak tale, 19 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Lemur (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
John Banville is a writer of legendary proportions who has chosen to write under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black. This short novella is a deviation from his other Black novels in that it is set in New York, rather than Dublin.

Our protagnist, John Glass, is a once-famous Irish journalist, who is living a loveless marriage in New York. He is having an affair with an Irish artist, but is subservient to his wife, a glamourous New Yorker who runs the famous Mulholland Trust. Her father is Bill Mulholland, an ex-CIA operative reknowned for his honesty who later made his fortune in the electronics industry.

Bill has asked John to write his biography, telling him of his desire to keep things in the family. Struggling to rise to the challenge and rediscover his desire for writing, Glass hires Dylan Riley to help with the research. Unfortunately Riley turns up dead, leaving Glass worried and more than a little scared.

Despite an initially intriguing outline, the story is weak, uninspiring and a bit too fantastic. For a short story, it feels too long.


Sixty-One Nails (Courts of the Feyre 1)
Sixty-One Nails (Courts of the Feyre 1)
by Mike Shevdon
Edition: Paperback

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern fantasy, 17 Jan. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
One morning, while on his way to work, Londoner Niall Peterson suffers a heart attack on the underground. He comes round to find an elderly lady working to save his life. As soon as he feels better, Blackbird begins to tell him an amazing story. Niall is of Feyre blood and a creature from another dimension just tried to use his body to gain access to this world. Niall's powers are awaken and he has to adjust to a new and dangerous world.

As Niall learns about his heritage and his new view on the world, he uncovers a dangerous secret. The barrier that separates our world and the Feyre world is weakening. Racing against time, Niall and Blackbird must recreate the ancient ceremony of the Sixty-One nails and reinforce the barrier that protects humanity.

Shevdon has created an intriguing world in his first novel. It's very real, set in a London that is familiar to all of us. The author has used fascinating historical facts as the basis for his story, but takes the traditional fairy tale and turns it on its head. Not every question is answered which leaves the reader waiting for more in the next installment. A very good debut in the fantasy world.


The Bankers: How the Banks Brought Ireland to Its Knees
The Bankers: How the Banks Brought Ireland to Its Knees
by Shane Ross
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If this book doesn't make you cross, nothing will., 10 Jan. 2010
Christmas bought us a raft of books on the recent collapse of the Irish economy, one of which was "The Bankers: How the Banks Ruined the Irish Economy". The author, Shane Ross, is an independant senator for TCD, who has always questioned largesse in the Irish economy. As business editor of the Sunday Independent, he has seen it all and was the 2009 winner of the Journalist of the Year award for his investigations into the shennanigans at the state agency FAS.

In The Bankers, Shane Ross investigates the history and actions of all the various factions involved in the recent meltdown. He takes us through the story of key players such as Sean Fitzpatrick (Anglo Irish Bank) and Michael Fingleton (Irish Nationwide) who both acheived phenomenal growth at the helms of their respective institutes. The actions of the supposedly independent Financial Regulator, headed by Patrick Neary, did nothing to control the increasingly reckless lending promoted by the Irish banks.

The story gets more intriguing and gripping as Ross brings us towards the climate. The retelling of how the new Finance minister, Brian Lenihan, dealt with events is illuminating and surprisingly personal.

Ultimately, upon finishing the book, I was gripped with the dual emotions of both anger and helplessness. Anger at this shambolic mess the country was driven in, and helplessness, as a normal person, in the face of such collusion. It is all too evident from Ross' retelling that a cabal of bankers, developers, politicians and mandarins was always the most powerful force in the country, rather than the elected govenernnent, or the people.

Ross is clearly passionate about the events that have unfurled in the country, and while this is apparent in his writing, he also tells the facts as they are. Read The Bankers, and be prepared to get angry.


The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House
by Kate Summerscale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Victorian Insight, 10 Jan. 2010
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House is the story of a true murder mystery, which formed the basis of inspiration for many of the great detective stories of the late 19th century. It has all the elements of the great whodunnit: intrigue, secret relationships and a small cast of characters.

In 1860, the Kent family, resident at Road Hill House, consisted of Mr. Kent, his second wife Mrs. Kent (formerly a governess to the family), his chilren from his first marriage and a group of younger children from his second marriage. As may be expected, there were typical lines of separation and favouritism between the two groups of children.

One morning the governess awoke to find Saville, one of the younger children, missing from his bed in the nursery. Thinking that he was in bed with his mother, she returned to sleep. It wasn't until the household fully awoke that they realised Saville was no longer in the house. Police were called and neighbours assisted in searching the grounds. Unfortunately, the body of young Saville was found in an outdoor toilet.

The local police were faced with a conundrum, the house had been locked securely from the inside, which meant that the murderer was most likely a member of the household. The pressure from the public and media on the Kent household challenged the strong Victorian feelings about the home (everyman's home is his castle), and the assignment of a police detective to this case furthered added to the interest.

Summerscale has compiled and researched a wealth of knowledge for this book, but I felt a lack of cohesion throughout. Despite the meticulous detail, and the fascinating insights into the mentality of the era, the story never really pulls together. Instead it remains cut and dried. It offers a fascinating view of the Victorian era, as well as the evolution of the crime novel and the modern police detective. Recommended for fans of the era.


Evermore: 1 (The Immortals)
Evermore: 1 (The Immortals)
by Alyson Noel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Sexy teen drama, 5 Dec. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Evermore is one of a stream of young adult fantasy novels that are hitting the market at the moment. The flavour of Evermore is not vampires or werewolves, but instead Immortals.

Ever is an orphan, sole survivor of a car crash that killed her parents, sister and family dog. She is wracked with guilt following the collision and she is now living with her aunt. The difficulty of adapting to a new school and life is compounded by the fact that she acquired psychic abilities as a result of the crash. She spends her time in baggy jeans, baggy hoodies with iPod buds in her ears in an attempt to negate the pyschic noise that washes over her.

Her life gets even more complicated when Damen, an incredibly hot young man, enrols at her school and shows an interest in Ever. When she's with him, silence falls around her, and she is drawn deeply into him.

Alyson Noel weaves an interesting, intriguing and romantic first section to this story. It is sexy and alluring, but falls apart somewhat in the later section. Ever's dilly-dallying is a bit annoying and things never feel quite resolved enough to be truly satisfying. Despite all this, Evermore is going to be successful - Noel can really conjure up teenager romance. This will surely be a series to watch.


Triumff: Her Majesty's Hero
Triumff: Her Majesty's Hero
by Dan Abnett
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to Swash and Buckle!, 29 Nov. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's 2010, and Elizabeth XXX sits upon the throne of the Unity, the English and Spanish empire that rules the world. This is a wholly different England to the modern version, instead it is regressive and Magick is used in place of modern technology.

Sir Rupert Triumff is a swashbuckling explorer who has just returned from a voyage of exploration. He's a playboy, a drunk, an expert swordsman and mariner, and above all else, devoted to his queen. It quickly becomes apparent that a treacherous and devious plot is afoot, and Triumff is stuck bang square in the middle. Cue the rollicking adventures.

With this novel, Abnett has staked himself firmly as a successor to Pratchett. It is, in turns, adventurous, creative and inventive, and above all else, hilariously funny. Abnett holds a degree in English from Oxford and this is apparent in the quality of the writing. He's managed to fit in a lot of modern puns and jokes, merging them seamlessy with the Elizabethan London. The villains are bad, the heroes are good (if sometimes a little morally dubious) and it's a great read. I'm genuinely looking forward to picking up the next installment of Triuff, Her Majesty's Hero.


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