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House of Windows
House of Windows
by Alexia Casale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A Love-Song to Cambridge, 9 Aug. 2015
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This review is from: House of Windows (Paperback)
House of Windows is a beautifully written love-song to Cambridge and its university. Its central character, Nick (15) goes up to Cambridge with outstanding academic ability but with no knowledge of how to form friendships or be part of a family. An arm round his shoulder causes him to freeze as if he doesn`t know what to do with his body. His father is only interested in Nick`s grades so that is all Nick feels he has to offer. There are dark secrets in his family upbringing which Nick refuses to share with anyone.

The author of The Bone Dragon has created a different kind of magic in this, her second novel. In her hands Cambridge becomes a place where real transformation can occur. Nick finds his own considerable family problems mirrored and to some extent healed in Tim; he finds real affection and delight in Ange; and a great friend and mentor in Professor Gosswin (the Dragon Lady !) He learns that kindness coupled with intelligence is an unbeatable combination.

House of Windows has the same beautiful lyrical descriptions of nature and of place as are found in The Bone Dragon. What is new is a perception of how even damaged lives can be made good and perfectly workable and enjoyable. The warmth and wisdom of this book will surprise and delight you. It should double the applications to Cambridge this year.


Cowgirl
Cowgirl
by Giancarlo Gemin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a delight, 12 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Cowgirl (Paperback)
Cowgirl is a really lovely heart-warming story, aimed I would expect at 8 - 12 year olds but enjoyed by this adult very much. As an ex-teacher I kept thinking how much my year 7s and 8s would have enjoyed it. It is an easy read but deals with all the big relationship issues of growing up. There is one glancing kiss but we are not in teenage territory yet. What I liked most was its inclusiveness, the way we learn to love people who are different. I agree with an earlier reviewer that Gemma`s Gran is a wonderful creation. It is a very kind book and there are no real threats from the outside world. Think Danny Champion of the World rather than the current crop of dystopias.


Seven Weeks for the Soul
Seven Weeks for the Soul
by Gerard W Hughes
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book for Lent in 2014, 7 Mar. 2014
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This is the best book for Lent I`ve ever come across. This edition is beautifully produced but is essentially the same as the more affordable "Oh God, Why ? A journey through Lent for bruised pilgrims," which was produced in 1993 for the Bible Reading Fellowship.


Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy
by Helen Fielding
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still makes me laugh out loud, 13 Oct. 2013
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Bridget Jones still makes me laugh out loud. I can`t think of any other character/ book/author who can do this to me. I don`t understand the gripings of those who loved Bridget in her 30s and who can`t relate to her now she is 51. The children, Mabel and Billy, are wonderful creations. Yes, I know she has been left well-off but she still has to deal with sick and poo like the rest of us. I love the caricatures of the pushy mothers and the people in the film business. I love her fundamental kindness and rejoice in the happy ending. I hope this finds its way into many Christmas stockings.


The Woman Upstairs
The Woman Upstairs
by Claire Messud
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What do you do with your rage ?, 13 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: The Woman Upstairs (Hardcover)
This is a fascinating book about Nora who feels she has missed out on life by being a good woman when she wanted to be a good artist. Claire Messud explores Nora`s feelings when she meets Sirena, who appears to have what Nora is hungry for: a lovely husband, a beautiful son, artistic acclaim and devastating self-assurance. The author shows how Nora is lured onto the rocks by her great need.

The book is so rich in psychological insight that I had to ration myself to a chapter at a time. It is not a quick read but it is a deeply satisfying one. It is full of questions like, "What do you do with your rage ?" Nora is hungry for more life and perhaps her very anger will energise her to achieve this.

Beautifully written. Why is Claire Messud not better known ?


Fourth Gospel
Fourth Gospel
by John Shelby Spong
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: Fourth Gospel (Hardcover)
I had not read anything by Bishop Spong before so was unprepared for the fireworks. There are so many interesting ideas in this book - for example that this Gospel was not written as history/biography but as an attempt to explain "the Jesus experience" by using fictional people and events. So there was no woman at the well and no wedding in Cana and no "I am" sayings. According to Bishop Spong, the writer of the Fourth Gospel does not believe in the Atonement theory or the Second Coming as usually understood. Spong writes so plausibly that I am almost convinced yet I can`t help noticing some fancy footwork in places.

I highly recommend this book to all with an interest in the Gospel of John. It is written for the common reader without theological training and will certainly make evangelicals sit up and take notice. It is good to have the liberal viewpoint stated so clearly. I learned a great deal from this book. However, if you are looking to prepare this Gospel for a Bible Study group, could I recommend the commentary by Jean Vanier, founder of L`Arche.


The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars J K Rowling back on top form, 26 July 2013
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This is so much better than The Casual Vacancy. JKR gives us two good people we can relate to, a brilliantly constructed plot and a wonderful look at the super rich in London 2010. She shows us the updated versions of the Buchanans in Gatsby, those careless people who can retreat into their vast wealth. More interestingly we see the newly rich women with their ugly expensive handbags and expensively crafted figures:
"The unbuttoned neck of her thin silk shirt revealed an expanse of butterscotch skin stretched over her bony sternum, giving an unattractively knobbly effect; yet two full, firm breasts jutted from her narrow ribcage, as though they had been borrowed for the day from a fuller-figured friend."
I loved this book and the way JKR exposes these ghastly people at the same time as showing the real decency of Strike and Robin. Rochelle is a bit close to Krystal in The Casual Vacancy but otherwise all the characters feel new. This is JKR back on superb form.


The Bone Dragon
The Bone Dragon
by Alexia Casale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should have a Bone Dragon, 6 May 2013
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This review is from: The Bone Dragon (Paperback)
Everyone should have a Bone Dragon to help them through whatever trauma they encounter in their lives. This is an astonishing book, written ostensibly for Young Adults but with the power to move older adults as well. It will speak to many who need to know they are understood and accepted.

The central character, Evie, seemingly broken by the darkness of her early world and her inability to "tell" finds healing and reclaims her own considerable power through the agency of the Dragon. It is left to the reader to decide whether this wise creature has any external existence or is a part of Evie`s brain to which she does not have conscious access.

The nature of the horrors Evie has been through are never spelled out but their consequences are. The reader is drawn to Evie and is always on her side. The writer skilfully reveals the black distress of a girl who thinks she has lost everything and will always be different from the other girls in her class. The healing which Evie eventually experiences extends to the good family who have adopted and cherished her.

The book can be read as a psychological thriller or as a morality story. It is totally original and does not follow the trend for vampires or dystopias. It is much more frightening. It shows the raw emotional power of a very angry young woman who is right to be angry with a world which has colluded in mistreating her. There is a spectacular and satisfying ending where the wild justice is done. The psychological depth of the book will intrigue adults; younger readers can revel in the fantasy of owning a Dragon.


The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pigford, 3 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
Do persevere with this book. A lot of characters are introduced very quickly at the beginning and they are all so horrible I nearly gave up. It felt like horrible people being horrible to each other in uninventive ways. Then at page 186 a really interesting chapter about Gavin and Kay and their relationship made the book come alive for me. The relationships between men and women, parents and children, are laid bare with a scalpel. J K Rowling is merciless in the same way that Dickens is in Bleak House when he makes the arraignment of society for the death of Jo, the crossing sweeper. It`s not a feel-good book but it is an intentionally challenging one.


Boneland (Weirdstone Trilogy 3)
Boneland (Weirdstone Trilogy 3)
by Alan Garner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.54

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gawaine with Aspergers, 28 Aug. 2012
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Boneland weaves together a sort of Dreamtime story and the story of Colin, now an astrophysicist, in need of psychotherapy from the seductive Meg. After one reading I`m not clear what has happened but I think the allusions to the medieval poem Gawaine and the Green Knight may hold the answer. Phrases like "token of untruth" and "governor of this gang" coupled with the behaviour of Meg and Bert(Bertilak ?) suggest that Colin is a Gawaine figure who needs to forgive himself. But for what ? He is traumatised by the disappearance of his twin sister Susan when she was only twelve and seems to think she may be among the Pleiades. I hope she is and that Colin`s four foot axe has nothing to do with it.

So much is puzzling yet the book is compelling and fascinating. It is also very funny in places, as when Meg reassures Colin his happiness is only "a transient euphoria." It plays with language - "I`m going back to Imazaz ............Imazaz a pub next door." Colin himself has an Asperger trait where he likes to tell Meg rather more than she wants to know about his favourite subjects. Gawaine`s obsession with truth and his endless knot have turned into Colin`s pedantic annoyance over the contemporary misuse of the word "icon."

Those who like a story to tie up all the threads could say the ending shows a re-integration of Colin`s split-off Selves. But where would unmothered Colin find Meg, that exuberant nurturing life-giving figure who zooms up on her motorbike clad in black leathers and helmet (after lopping holly) ? She has all the energy of the Green Knight and the same dismissive way with Colin`s excessive guilt.

By the way, the risselty rosselty song need not be a problem. It`s what the children were singing at the beginning of the Hitchcock film, "The Birds." Another song, "I plink -a-ti-plonk/I Casa-bi-onk" is currently driving me crazy, like the one Colin sings which never reaches the line "Pretty little black-eyed Susie."

On a second and third reading I`m still not sure what kind of book this is. The text seems to reconfigure itself every time I put it down. Is it a modern version of The Waste Land or a modern version of the medieval dream poem where Colin is anaesthetised in the first eight lines and then has a mystical experience ? Whatever it is, it will make you think harder than most other books.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2013 5:31 PM BST


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