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Lightning Rods
Lightning Rods
by Helen Dewitt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant take on corporate misogyny, 21 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Lightning Rods (Paperback)
A brilliant take on corporate misogyny. The prose is flawless, the characterisation really good. Joe's casual misogyny, his shallowness and his lack of insight into himself is really well drawn. The talented women in the book, the lawyers, the budding CEOs, who want to get to the top in a still male-dominated world know they literally have to 'get screwed' in order to do so and this is their compromise in order to succeed. De Witt slyly depicts the way in which something so outrageous as Joe's lightning rods 'product' can become normalised. And there are plenty of real world examples of stuff that is unfair, unjust, unethical and yet the norm. The ending felt a little flat but to be honest how does one end a novel like this anyway? I found myself irate so many times as I read it at the antics of Joe and his ilk. I kept having to remind myself that a woman wrote this and she wrote it for a reason. The only downside is its hard to not be slightly embarrassed at recommending it to friends as it is a bit raunchy. I suspect a book like this will become 'cult' for all the wrong reasons.


Down the Rabbit Hole
Down the Rabbit Hole
by Juan Pablo Villalobos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant little gem of a book, 25 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Paperback)
I really can't understand why this brilliant little jewel of a book hasn't had only five star reviews. Rabbit Hole is a very quick read, almost a novella rather than a novel, and the prose is lean, perfect, dry and funny. Villalobos doesn't need to plump it up or say any more than he does. The book is narrated by Tochtli, the child of a drug baron. He is a protagonist that I both pitied and disliked. This in itself is a brave artistic choice for an author to make: not to be sentimental just because it's a child. Tochtli ostensibly has everything he could want, everything that is apart from empathetic love and guidance. His father is incredibly wealthy and powerful. He is also paranoid, indulgent and a psycho. This kid has no boundaries at all. He thinks he has everything though he's too smart to be entirely fooled by that. The reader is fully aware that Tochtli is a prisoner in his gilded cage. He might want to believe he is being kept safe in the fortress that is father's house but we can see that any chance he might have to flourish is being relentlessly poisoned by his environment. The pygmy hippopotamus is a choice comic symbol. Taken out of its proper environment such a creature can only be destroyed and its inevitable demise is symbolic for what Tochtli's father will bring upon his son.


What They Say in Avenale
What They Say in Avenale
by Caroline Maldonado
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read, 25 Feb. 2015
There is a great deal to enjoy in these 24 poems and I sincerely hope that a more substantial collection by this poet is forthcoming. Maldonado has been previously quite widely published in poetry journals and online, hence this pamphlet catching my eye. In fact a couple of the poems in Avenale have been commended or won prizes previously, including one of my favourites here, ‘The Lost Library of Jesi’. The language is lean, precise, restrained, yet still sensual. Each poem is invested with a sense of stillness and space. Yet the apparent lightness of touch is deceptive, because in between the words and images, the grief, loss and struggle of human life can be glimpsed. The poems draw the reader in and have a revelatory, intimate feel to them. In my experience, (albeit as a consumer rather than a creator), poetry is often shunned because readers find it impenetrable. Maldonado doesn’t countenance this; she welcomes the reader in.


The Nine Lives of Montezuma
The Nine Lives of Montezuma
by Michael Morpurgo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant book from Michael Morpurgo, 19 Feb. 2015
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My 8 year old daughter loved this. She read it in one day because she just couldn't put it down. It deals with some tough issues and is traumatic in places - Dad drowns the farm cat's kittens etc. Morpurgo doesn't spare the punches and he doesn't patronise the kids or try and sugar-coat anything. Life is presented as it is, with all of its inherent loss and hardship. It's a lovely book and my daughter very much enjoyed it and has asked for more by the same author. It tempted her away from the TV for an entire day. Morpurgo: the world's best antidote to rainbow magic fairies.


New Old-Fashioned Parenting: A Guide to Help You Find the Balance between Traditional and Modern Parenting
New Old-Fashioned Parenting: A Guide to Help You Find the Balance between Traditional and Modern Parenting
by Liat Hughes Joshi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a balanced, pragmatic book about contemporary parenting., 19 Feb. 2015
This is a really pragmatic, well-researched guide to contemporary parenting from established journalist and author Hughes Joshi. It was such a relief to come across it, especially as I encountered it after a particularly heinous play-date. It’s just downright sensible. Parenting has changed since our own childhoods and I really feel, like many other parents, that the old model with which I was raised just isn’t a good fit for my own child. For example I would never wallop my child under any circumstances whereas our parents were considerably more heavy-handed. Hughes Joshi’s advice really chimed with me. Many of my daughter’s schoolmates are only children and one child families are getting more and more common. My daughter is an only child too and I am not at all keen on the prospect of her becoming some kind of spoilt princess who has become accustomed to undivided parental attention and the lion’s share of family resources. This book is a moderate, balanced take on raising one’s child with boundaries and to show respect and empathy for others without crushing their individuality. I can’t be the only one who has been annoyed when I see other parents letting their kids get away with often atrocious behaviour that I would never countenance in my own child, up to and including turning a blind eye when kids are doing racist impressions, punching their siblings or running riot round a café. So its good to see this sort of no-nonsense but empathetic book that covers everything from poor behaviour to chores to dinner table dramas. Its also heartening that the author takes the long view: this isn’t just about maintaining family harmony, it’s about equipping your child to flourish in the wider world. And she backs up her advice with a list of references and suggested further reading. Highly recommended.


Gumiguru
Gumiguru
by Togara Muzanenhamo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuous, restrained, compassionate, 27 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Gumiguru (Paperback)
Gumiguru is Togara Muzanenhamo’s second collection. I have his first, Spirit Brides, also. It was clear from Spirit Brides that this poet had a great deal of potential. Spirit Brides is an extremely good collection but in Gumiguru, Muzanenhamo has truly come of age. His writing has become leaner, more resonant. His voice has matured and he has mastered his medium. There is a great deal of beauty and warmth within the poetry here. The depictions of landscape are utterly sumptuous. But there is also a notable restraint, most evident in Muzanenhamo’s ability to draw back and reframe human suffering within the context of a broader landscape, a wider narrative, without robbing it of any of its importance or poignancy. The poems ‘In the Music of Labour’ and ‘Evenings Come Like’ this are just two examples of this. The work here reminds me of Eavan Boland. I don’t mean this in terms of content but in its elegance, and in the keenness, clarity and breadth of the poet’s vision. I am not sufficiently well-schooled in poetry to offer an in depth critical review, but I read a lot of poetry and as a consumer of it I can spot the good stuff. I often buy poetry collections as gifts for friends and Gumiguru is already on the list for a number of them. It’s refreshing to read poetry that cuts so cleanly through the surface of things. For me, this collection has all the hallmarks of a classic.


Lords of War: Orcs Versus Dwarves
Lords of War: Orcs Versus Dwarves
Offered by Games Lore Ltd
Price: £15.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant little strategy game, 17 Dec. 2012
We encountered this game at the Dragonmeet games show in London and have been playing it a lot since. `Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves' is a card battle-game where the aim is to be the first to eliminate a set number of your opponents' cards. Each player has their own army deck of 36 cards. Each card has its own specific numerical attack and defence characteristics that determine how and where it can be deployed and how much damage it can take before being eliminated. The game mechanic is maths-based, elegantly simple and very, very easy to learn. It's the layers of strategy that take a lot longer to master. There is just about the right element of luck because you can only hold 6 cards of your army in your hand at any one time and always refresh your hand back up to six from your shuffled army deck (or by withdrawing a card from battle if it is no longer `engaged') after each go. So a player's strategy has to adapt throughout the game according to what they draw. This ensures that the game doesn't become predictable. Play is short enough to make it feel dynamic rather than laborious. Each game lasted about 30-40 minutes with 2 people. You can always shorten the game by having to knock out less enemy cards to win. Although there are currently only two armies available, it's pretty straightforward for more than 2 players to pair up and play co-operatively and this is also quite fun. Lords of War should appeal to anyone who enjoys strategy games like chess. The recommended age is 12-plus according to the manufacturers but younger kids of 7 or 8 would probably have the mental arithmetic skills to play this and, if not, it's certainly a good game for developing these skills. I suspect the main limitation on age is whether parents will approve of the level of goriness of the images. There is a certain amount of blood spatter on swords and shields etc and plenty of teeth and talons on display. However, in all honesty, I thought the images were comparable to many comics, games and TV cartoons that are routinely consumed by kids younger than 12. Gory or not, the artwork is terrific if fantasy art is your thing.

The pack is small so easily portable. The cards were of reasonably good quality. The battlemat was also of reasonable quality and should last a fair while before it falls apart. It isn't really necessary for play but is useful to start with to learn the game. We are already playing without it. To be absolutely fair I should mention a few minor quibbles: Firstly, although different army decks can be differentiated by their differently coloured borders on the front, the back of every card is identical which meant sorting them out after a game took slightly more attention. Secondly, the instruction sheet is printed so that the instructions start in the middle of one side rather than in the top left hand corner which seems rather counter-intuitive. Thirdly, the cardboard packaging won't last forever and I can foresee our cards finding their way into an alternative container before long. Of course none of these issues spoiled our enjoyment any and the fact that I could only think of such minor flaws should speak volumes about the classiness of the game itself. My final and most substantial grumble is that, though there are female warriors, they are few (five in the dwarf deck, none in the orc deck). The game at present is somewhat more male-orientated than would be ideal for this player. Of course this is largely the nature of this genre. However I gather that upcoming decks are planned to have a lot more female characters. I am definitely looking forward to the release of future decks and expansion packs which should augment gameplay further and will allow for `mix and match' mercenary armies. In summary, this is an engaging and addictive little game which thoroughly deserves its five stars. It would make a great gift for anyone who enjoys strategy games.


Haba Toys Crazy Cats - Game
Haba Toys Crazy Cats - Game

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great little game, 22 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Haba Toys Crazy Cats - Game (Toy)
Great little game. A slightly simplified cat version of Uno. (Except that in Uno you can't switch hands with another player). Good for strategy and forward planning but with the element of luck so that things don't get predictable. We bought this for our five year old daughter who loves anything cat-related. We have played it everywhere and taken it travelling with us. The tin is sturdy which makes it perfect as a travel game and the cards are smallish for little hands. The length of each round is a few minutes which is fine for our daughter's age. If you like this it's also worth checking out another card game, Rat-a-tat-cat, which has also gone down extremely well in our household.


Gamewright Rat-a-tat Cat Game
Gamewright Rat-a-tat Cat Game
Offered by Puzzle Shop
Price: £12.23

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant little game, 22 Sept. 2012
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Brilliant little game. Very easy to learn. We play this with our 5 and a half year old who is cat mad. She grasped the game quickly, though she needs some practice in keeping a straight face when she draws a good card. Each round can be short, lasting several minutes, which is perfect for younger kids. It's great for memory, observation, numeracy and strategic thinking with a good dose of luck thrown in so it doesn't get predictable. She wins as often as we do which means she doesn't get discouraged from playing. We have not tired of playing this game and have taken it overseas with us as it doesn't need much room so can be played in waiting rooms etc. The box is oversized given the size of the cards, but we happily make room for it in handbags because its such a great game. Often enough our daughter has voluntarily switched off the TV to play it. The illustrations are cute and colourful and the packaging is quite handsome so it's a good gift. I will definitely be checking out other Gamewright games. Another cat card game that we also like (but not as much as this one!) is Crazy Cats which is a cat version of Uno.


Pirate Ships (See Inside) (Usborne See Inside)
Pirate Ships (See Inside) (Usborne See Inside)
by Rob Lloyd Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.98

3.0 out of 5 stars not for the very young, 26 May 2012
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We initially bought this for a birthday present for a pirate-mad 5 year old girl, but after flipping through it decided against giving it for the same reasons as another reviewer. It is very violent in places. The illustration that decided it for me was the sailor being whipped with a cat o'nine tails complete with red gashes on his back. Yes pirates were probably all male, very rowdy and drank a lot so the book is no doubt realistic, but I feel that its probably not suitable for younger kids.


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