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Life After Life
Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars What would you do if you could go back in time and change something? No, really?, 13 Aug 2014
This review is from: Life After Life (Paperback)
What would you do if you could go back in time and change something?

It's a thesis which has fascinated writers and artists from HG Wells to the 2013 film "About Time". Science fiction is full of it: from Asimov's time-travelling over-controlling perfectionists in "The End of Eternity" to the short story which posed the question: should you stop someone who wants to go back and prevent Jesus Christ from being crucified?

Kate Atkinson is a fine writer who has tackled the issue in a refreshing way. Her likeable protagonist, Ursula, keeps dying and being reborn and left with a sense that, as if fated, she somehow has to act to control her destiny. The writing is neat and readable - "Life after Life" is an entertaining and enjoyable read.

So why only three stars? First, like "About Time", the book takes a premise of almost boundless possibilities and comes up with a rather underwhelming dramatic twist. In the movie, the hero goes back to fix his relationship. You long for him to do something more dramatic. In "Life after Life", Ursula decides to kill Adolf Hitler before he can cause too much trouble (this is not a spoiler - it happens in the first chapter of the book). I'm afraid I longed for something more original.

Good: fresh, bright, readable. Less good: left me feeling unsatisfied at the end. On page 144 of my edition even Kate Atkinson seems to run out of inspiration. "Darkness, and so on." I felt the same way.

Freak Brothers Omnibus, The: Every Freak Brothers Story Rolled into One Bumper Package
Freak Brothers Omnibus, The: Every Freak Brothers Story Rolled into One Bumper Package
by Gilbert Shelton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars 100% Freaky, 20 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Good value despite the hefty price-tag, this mighty omnibus really does contain every FFFB story you've ever come across, and tons of others, many in scintillating colour. As with many favourite cartoon heroes, there is a sense here of the authors hitting a plateau then gradually declining in originality and verve from about half-way through; but this may reflect the constant impact of illicit drugs (on the authors - Ed). Fat Freddy's Cat, in particular, is, sadly, seen increasingly rarely as the book wears on. But I greatly enjoyed the series of special editions on the glorious excesses and corrupt practices of Ripoff Press Inc. Perfect.

Buy; put in the loo or by your bedside; and enjoy; and enjoy; and enjoy.

The Rosie Project: Don Tillman 1
The Rosie Project: Don Tillman 1
by Graeme Simsion
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, addictive, hilarious and thought-provoking, 20 April 2014
What if all men were like Don, the off-the-scale endearing hero of "The Rosie Project", with his total inability to empathise, his obsession with keeping his own life under control, and his deep-seated anxieties about any kind of interaction with women? What? They are all like that? As the damaged-in-her-own-way heroine Rosie says: "You're no different from every other man I've ever met in objectifying women - just more honest about it."

This is a delicious slow-burner of a book, as we meet Don, Rosie and a strong supporting cast in the opening quarter, then plunge into Don and Rosie's fabulously ill-starred romance through a series of outstanding set-pieces including the jacket incident; the cocktail evening; the dance evening (with the terrific Panamanian, Bianca Rivera); and Don and Rosie's trip to New York. It's a headlong, fun-filled and exuberant rush. Strongly recommended.

The only down-side, for some, might be that the final 10% of the book is a lot more conventional than the rest of the story - definitely a touch of the Hollywoods. But this doesn't detract from a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read.

by A. D. Miller
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, gentle read with philosophical asides, 5 Dec 2011
This review is from: Snowdrops (Hardcover)
"Snowdrops" is a morality tale set in modern (-ish) Russia.

There are three elements: the story, the Moscow detail and the philosophical asides. The story is OK: the protagonist, a British lawyer, seems strangely ingenuous as he becomes involved with two Russian women about whom he knows literally nothing. Meanwhile he is doing two deals, one at work and one in his spare time, in which he assumes responsibilities again while knowing almost nothing about what he's doing. Not surprisingly it doesn't end well; and the various outcomes are, perhaps, a bit of an anticlimax. The Moscow detail is excellent although you sense the author has been encouraged to play to stereotypes (beautiful Russian women, freezing weather, the Gorky Park-type "snowdrops" of the title) while knowing that the truth is more prosaic and more complex. But for me it's the philosophical asides that make this book: all kinds of wry observations on life, from the protagonist's relationship to his mother to all our predilections for hoping things will turn out OK if we go with the flow.

Summary: not really a thriller; but a medium-paced, elegantly written tale of where we all can go wrong.

Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi, Graphite
Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi, Graphite

35 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars INITIAL DISAPPOINTMENT... WARMED UP LATER, 12 Nov 2011
I enjoyed immensely my K2 Kindle and loaded plenty of books onto it until it unfortunately had a screen malfunction. After researching the new models I bought myself this keyboardless version. It feels and looks good...

My first disappointment was that the new model had no Whispernet. Having inherited the old Kindle from a friend, my understanding was that this managed to log onto wifi networks without a password, and this always worked well for me eg on holiday. I loved it. I was therefore dismayed when the new model didn't do this. After much chat with commentators (see below) I reckon probably the old K2 actually had a sim-card and was picking up the data from 3G without my knowledge (tho' I could have sworn it only ever did this within range of a wifi zone...). So my disappointment that the new model didn't do this was unfounded; and I've amended this review (from * to ***). ("Here at 100wordreviewer, we listen...")

My second disappointment was that I can't get the new K4 to log onto my home wifi system. Every time I try to log on, the Kindle makes my whole wireless system crash, so I'm without wifi for ten minutes for my computer, phone etc until I've managed to set it up again.

I've since managed to connect with a lead to my desktop Apple and have loaded plenty of books that way. Given the nice build, size and feel of the new model I'm now a pretty happy customer, except for the connectivity issue.

If anyone has any idea why attempts to log on makes my wifi system crash I'd welcome advice on that too. One commentator has suggested I need to update the software on my router (an 18 month-old AirTies 4450); but this is at the limits of my technical ability; I'm reluctant to risk messing up the router; and it seems odd that all other wireless devices work fine. Others suggest the K4 unit I have may be a dud. Ideas welcome!
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2011 5:53 PM GMT

Ice Hunt
Ice Hunt
by James Rollins
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Daft, fun, romp through Arctic wastes veers off course, 12 May 2011
This review is from: Ice Hunt (Paperback)
The first third of this roller-coaster thriller is immense fun: likeable good guys, thrilling chase sequences, astonishing surprises. From then on, although the pace is maintained the book loses readability. This is partly because the degree of absurdity of the plot, and the repeated escapes of the heroes from death, come to feel contrived. If they can escape all that, why should we worry about them? And it's partly because the action is so intense throughout that the repeated climaxes come to seem dreary rather than exciting. Most thrillers have some pauses for reflection built in: Ice Hunt is a thrill-a-minute throughout. That makes it hard to digest.

Pro: expertly-constructed, exciting thriller full of climaxes. Con: loses tension through excessive improbability. Russian-US politics a bit off-beam, too.

How to be an Alien: A Handbook for Beginners and Advanced Pupils
How to be an Alien: A Handbook for Beginners and Advanced Pupils
by George Mikes
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A "must" for understanding the English, 30 Dec 2010
George Mikes' little book about the English is as funny and relevant today as it was when it was published back in 1946. The writing and humour are both exquisite, and his contrasts between the supposed behaviour of "continental" and English types are razor-sharp. Read it, enjoy it, and laugh out loud.

For: an exquisite humorous gem. Against: too short.

Gone Tomorrow: (Jack Reacher 13)
Gone Tomorrow: (Jack Reacher 13)
by Lee Child
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best Lee Child in the past five years, 30 Dec 2010
I've read all Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels. Cruelty, surprises and an assault on an impregnable stronghold filled with bad guys are key elements of the best of them. "Gone Tomorrow" has all of these, together with a contemporary story-line (terrorism, Afghanistan); a gritty urban setting (New York); some truly wicked and threatening bad guys (when they say the DVD is loaded and ready, you cringe); and, best of all, a return of Reacher's occasional wry humour, desperately missing in other recent forays (eg 61 Hours and Bad Luck and Trouble). The opening 20% of the book is a compelling read, as is the final 40%. The bit in-between, as often with Lee Child's thrillers, is a bit dull and Reacher spends a lot of time going around in circles and drawing some pretty odd conclusions about what's going on. But that doesn't detract from a pretty excellent read, and the climax is suitably explosive.

For: great fun. Against: rather aimless middle section.

The Outcast
The Outcast
by Sadie Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is, indeed, a riveting read, 26 April 2010
This review is from: The Outcast (Paperback)
Having recently read "Black Swan Green" about a boy growing up in the '80s, I approached this further period account of a coming of agein the '50s with some trepidation. But this, by contrast with David Mitchell's disappointing story, is a gem: a powerful, credible central character, plenty of darkness, tragedy, love and, possibly, redemption. I rarely have time to read books quickly but powered through this in 48 hours - exquisite. Some of the writing, eg describing the protagonist's gentle relationship with his eventual love interest, is breathtaking. By the time you've identified with the anguished hero, some of the acts he performs will leave you squirming with discomfort; and the sense of impending doom which permeates the middle part of the book is reminiscent of Lionel Shriver's "We need to talk about Kevin". The only down side is that some of the period detail of stiff-upper-lipped Middle England feels a bit stereotypical, as does the troublesome "femme fatale", Tamsin. But these are minor details to set against plus-points of this wonderful, readable tale.

Black Swan Green
Black Swan Green
by David Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, retro tale by the prose master, 29 Mar 2010
This review is from: Black Swan Green (Paperback)
David Mitchell can create awesome prose and breathtaking fantasy. In Black Swan Green I waited eagerly for either to kick in. It wasn't until I was 100 pages into the book that I realised that this gentle, retro tale about story about a boy growing up in 1980s middle England is just that: a boy grows up.

This is OK so far as it goes. But I found both the story and the telling of it bafflingly clunky by Mitchell's standards. Almost every character is a stereotype, from awkward stuttering narrator Jason to louche temptress Dawn Madden to his eventual love interest, whose interest in him is never explained. The parents' marital and financial problems seem routine. The constant references to the era, from the Falklands to Sinclair ZX Spectrums to TDK C60s to Head and Shoulders to Slush Puppies seem forced. Various characters appear - cousin Hugo, Madame Crommelynck, some rather worthy gypsies - and disappear again. The school bullies are all from central casting. When the plot is resolved by Jason changing his character, I felt as though we'd landed in a children's book - or Hollywood.

It may be that this is all autobiographical, in which case the story makes excellent sense. Otherwise, it all feels a rather pointless exercise compared with the thought-provoking elegance of Mitchell's earlier works.

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