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Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Paul Theroux
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

3.0 out of 5 stars Learnt lots of things but difficult to connect to Paul Theroux, 31 Dec 2013
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This book, Paul Theroux's first travel book, was published in 1975 and has been held up as a classic travel book ever since. This version has an introduction written in 2008 by PT where he explores the idea of travel writing and describes the principles to which he subscribes.
He has a writing style which reads like a novel. The people he meets are presented as caricatures which works well to draw a quick picture of the individuals. The problem with this is that they are all very difficult to relate to as PT seems to emphasise extreme characteristics and other elements he dislikes about people.
PT comes across as someone not really enjoying his travelling although the level of detail in the book is superb. Also the experience of travel is easy to imagine due to the clever writing.
I have found this book difficult to read but clearly lot of people do love it.


Off The Leash: The Secret Life of Dogs
Off The Leash: The Secret Life of Dogs
by Rupert Fawcett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 6.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, 31 Dec 2013
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This book is full of very funny cartoons which will particularly appeal to dog owners!!
If you love this book too, look for the Off The Leash page on Facebook as you get cartoons most days from them.


Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband
Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband
by Natalie Young
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.36

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough of anything, 31 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
From the description this book sounds fascinating although there is a fine line beyond which a dark subject may be trivialised.
It is an odd subject - Lizzie has killed her husband after 30 years of marriage, then decided she has to eat him to give her some sort of closure and allow her to move on to a new life. The world carries on around her while Lizzie plods through the monotony of gradually eating a body - joint by joint. And it does become boring for Lizzie, as well as the reader having to experience it with her.
The novel is written in a way which mirrors Lizzie's marriage - joyless, monotonous, loveless and unsatisfying. This would have worked really well but failed as it ended up making the book a bit of a chore.
What saved this book from being dreadful is the morbid curiosity about how she does it but the author could have focused more on this. It is such a unique plot and should not have been treated in such a mundane way. I didn't have a problem with the grisly nature of what she was doing, just found I wanted to know more (maybe my husband should be worried!!).
Aside from Lizzie and her dead husband there are several characters who come in and out of the plot but no one seems to add much to the story. I felt that it could have been better to cut down on the distractions and concentrate on the main character, the novel would have had more impact with more of Lizzie and being able to get into her head. I found that I never really cared about Lizzie or any of the others
Overall, I'm not sure what this novel is trying to achieve but was interested enough to try to find out. Don't think I will recommend to anyone though :-)


On Charlotte's Shoulders: A memoir of a tough Irish childhood and a mother's love
On Charlotte's Shoulders: A memoir of a tough Irish childhood and a mother's love
Price: 3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Full of poverty and deprivation (in a good way!), 29 Dec 2013
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Account of a life suffering in Ireland, it is full of misery but very well written.
You will experience a whole range of emotions while reading this book.
This is a good example of this type of book so if you like the idea of it then you will love this book, if you haven't yet dipped your toe in the "misery memoire" genre then I suggest you don't start.


The BBC National Short Story Award 2013
The BBC National Short Story Award 2013
by Sarah Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to read five completely different stories, 29 Dec 2013
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The five 2013 winners of an annual BBC short story competition are in this book. Mariella Frostrup was the chairman of the judging panel and has written an introduction, reminding us all of the value of a good short story.
Barmouth - one family's history told through their annual caravan holidays. First person narrative works well and communicates the sadness and hope. This is a big story told conservatively using clever evocative hints, with time passing almost unnoticed. There is something here for everyone to recognise.
We are watching something terrible happening - this one lost me completely. It was very ethereal and seemed to be trying to put a relationship breakdown into a post apocalyptic setting.
Mrs Fox - oddly there is a Kafka feel to this story. It is interesting to read the metamorphosis of the character but I found it difficult to relate to or enjoy (actually the same reaction I had when I read Kafka).
Prepositions - this Lionel Shriver story is the reason I bought this book, the concept of which fascinates me, and I was not disappointed. It is a letter from a New York widow whose husband died on 9/11 to a widow whose husband died in 9/11 (one letter but massive difference) talking about the effect this prepositions had on their grief process.
Notes from the house spirits - self explanatory title as the story is narrated by some sort of ghostly being attached to a house. Overtime we hear about the various people moving in and out along with changes to the structure of the home. I enjoyed this one.
Overall, I really enjoyed 3, one I was undecided about and one I didn't enjoy at all - not bad!


Revenge - Season 1 [DVD]
Revenge - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Emily Van Camp
Price: 12.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant series, 28 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Revenge - Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
This series was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed.
The third series is just about to start on tv and so I bought this series catch up for my daughter to see if she likes it. She was a big Gossip Girl fan and this seems like a slightly more grown-up version of that.


The Reluctant Cannibals
The Reluctant Cannibals
by Ian Flitcroft
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to my appetite but there is a strong appeal, 28 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The story is about a group of "gastronomic scientists" at Oxford who meet up once a term to eat amazing food that they and their guests have developed. One member finds out he is going to die soon and so aims to have his own human meat on the menu after his death.
Revelling in the intelligent writing is a pleasure with this book. The words and phrases are beautiful and deserve to be savoured.
It is clear from the start that the author is a huge food lover who is indulging his passion in writing this book. Whilst there is a lot of good here the enthusiasm for the food is too strong and overpowers the plot. It's a shame as the story is a great idea.
I would recommend this for real foodie people who should read slowly and digest gradually. Anyone looking for a well developed plot and realistic characters should avoid.


Instructions for a Heatwave
Instructions for a Heatwave
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and oppressive, 26 Dec 2013
Everyone reading this book will be enthralled by the descriptions of the 1976 heatwave and, in particular, it's effects of the characters in this story. Setting the tale at this time allows the author to use the heat to create an oppressive feel, making everything seem slow and deliberate. The heatwave is key throughout and seems to influence every action and thought.
Seeing the family from the perspective of the various family members creates a realistic profile. They are all very different and well drawn characters.
Cleverly the past is brought in using flashbacks and, gradually, the family's suppressed secrets and conflicts are revealed to the reader.
Period detail is used very subtly showing an admirable level of restraint from the author. It would have been very easy to overdo the clothes, food and other 1970s cultural references but the detail is much more intelligent than that.
The pace of the plot is consistently steady. There seems to be tension in every relationship which allows them all to establish themselves into the story but does tend to distract from the main story (where has he gone?) and trying to wrap up all the problems at the end seemed an impossible task!
Coincidently I've just seen "Philomena", the film about.an Irish catholic woman trying to trace her son who was sold by the catholic nuns - this and the story in this book made me think about the dreadful guilt, suppression and blind devotion encouraged by the Catholic Church, all very sad.
In summary, fabulous elements but the plot had a bit too much in it!


Kenwood HM220 3-Speed Hand Mixer
Kenwood HM220 3-Speed Hand Mixer
Price: 14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great value gadget, 21 Dec 2013
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My old mixer broke after many years so I decided to replace it with this one.
My main concern was that it is so cheap and it doesn't feel like it is great quality but does the job very well.
I only use a mixer occasionally so this is perfect for me, I would suggest that if you use one regularly then spend more money.
For me though this is great.


Alex
Alex
by Pierre Lemaitre
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Twists and turns like a twisty turny thing, 21 Dec 2013
This review is from: Alex (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a crime thriller of great quality. Characters, plot and quality of writing are all superb.
It did take me a while to get used to a detective called Camille being a man and the French place names were mostly unfamiliar but that did not cause any problems. Camille is an interesting character, he has the usual difficult backstory of any detective in a crime thriller and is also physically distinctive so he stands out from the crowd!
The plot gets going from the first few pages. Alex is kidnapped and Camille is appointed, reluctantly, to find her. The chapters switch between action revolving around these two characters, with Alex's experiences being particularly vicious (even for a crime thriller).
As the book settles there is always the urge with a crime thriller to predict how the plot is going to progress..... Well, good luck with that here as there are twists throughout, some more shocking than others. Everytime the story seems to lull you into a familiar place then it takes you straight to somewhere more uncomfortable.
Throughout the writing is intelligent and engaging. I read another French translated crime thriller recently and the translation was bad, here it is never even a thought which is how it should be.
Anyone who enjoys crime thrillers will love this.


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