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The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep
by Raymond Chandler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure why this is such a highly acclaimed story, 1 April 2015
This review is from: The Big Sleep (Paperback)
This is a highly acclaimed book but I did not find it as such. Maybe it has become popular because it was made into a film

It is well written; Chandler’s style is that of writing very detailed descriptions and as such it is possible to visualise very clearly all the scenes and the individuals.

Somehow the story is not very gripping. The significance of the title The Big Sleep comes right at the end of the book, but it does not seem to be significant, except to the detective Philip Marlowe. The story has twists but the reasons Marlow gives for his actions, such as why he went on investigating after he had been paid off, are not convincing, although his employer eventually agrees with him.

In many ways The Big Sleep could be any other crime story; there is nothing very special about it unless you are looking at the history of crime writing and see The Big Sleep as an inspiration for later writers.

Five Days
Five Days
by Douglas Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Slow moving but interesting insight into human behaviour, 21 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Five Days (Paperback)
Somehow it seemed to be slow moving, although it is not a particularly long book. It did get more interesting as we read on.

It is basically in the words of the main character Laura. It would have been valuable to find out how two of the adult males, Dan and Richard had to say about the rationale for their behaviour.

While the story is not an extraordinary one, it does give the reader an insight into what can happen to individuals, their relationships, the basis on which they make decisions, and how individual events can have a massive impact on someone’s life.

Philomena: The true story of a mother and the son she had to give away (film tie-in edition)
Philomena: The true story of a mother and the son she had to give away (film tie-in edition)
by Martin Sixsmith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Very moving and thought-provoking, 27 Feb. 2015
In 2009 a book was published written by Martin Sixsmith and called The Lost Child of Philomena. The original title should have been kept. While the book begins with Philomena and ends with her search for her lost son. The balance of the book is very much for the story of the son. Maybe Martin Sixsmith’s background as a foreign correspondent of the BBC is responsible for that bias in the book

However, the story is very moving. The dreadful fate of unmarried mothers in Ireland is well documented, and once again there is no mention of any action taken towards the fathers of these ‘bastard’ babies. What is crucial in this book, though, is the effects of separation on the child. The fact that there could be long term, and possibly damaging consequences is well spelt out. It makes us think before we applaud celebrities who may go to a so called third world country and adopt a child. The book demonstrates how a church can have a very strong hold on a community. Although the focus here is on the Catholic Church in Ireland, the church’s relations with the people reminds us about what is happening in many other religions.

A lot of detail is given about Michael ( Anthony)’s life in the United States. The focus on AIDS is another terrifying aspect of the fate of the gay community.

Advertising of the book has included phrases such as ‘the poignant true story of a mother…’. It is difficult for the reader to ascertain if all the facts are true, as there has been many adverse reactions to martin Sixsmith’s use of information he gathered for the book from many who knew Michael (Anthony).

However, this is a very important book on many historical and current aspects of life.

The Lemon Grove
The Lemon Grove
by Helen Walsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing can be more boring., 18 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Lemon Grove (Paperback)
Nothing can be more boring.

I find it incredible that a publisher accepted this manuscript for publishing. It is a very dull book. I only tried to read it to the end because it was for a library reading group. But I had to keep on flipping over the pages and the end could not come soon enough. The style is very boring. The story could have been dramatic but we do not know from page to where the story is going. The rationale for the actions of the different characters is not very clear. Whoever gives this book a five star rating must have a very low opinion of good literature.
I am not likely to read another book by Helen Walsh.

Sarah's Key
Sarah's Key
by Tatiana De Rosnay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Very moving in parts but often unconvincing, 16 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Sarah's Key (Paperback)
The beginning of the story is very moving, with the detailed account of what happened to many Jews in France, at the hands of the French police, in the Second World War. This book will make many more people round the world aware of the events of 1942.

What is not convincing is the portrayal of a 10 year old girl, going through such trauma as a very rational thinking individual, often appearing devoid of normal emotional reactions. It was a tool for describing what was happening but it was difficult to relate to the child, as a child.

By the end of the story, the life of the 10 year old until her suicide is revealed, and this was the main purpose of the author, one assumes. However, the way in which the story becomes entwined with the life of the journalist Julia is sometimes seen to be irrelevant, and full of far too many coincidences, Developments such as these could take place in a fanciful story for young readers, but not enough to captivate the mind of an adult reader.

I finished the last chapters because I read this for a library reading group, and skipped over a few pages. That is a shame for a story within the background of such tragic events.

My Cousin Rachel (VMC)
My Cousin Rachel (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping read with lots of questions unanswered, 5 Feb. 2015
This review is from: My Cousin Rachel (VMC) (Paperback)
Daphne du Maurier is a very good writer. For me this book was a page turner. The descriptions were very clear so it was easy to visualise whatever the context.

The story of Ambrose is, even to the end, a mystery unsolved. What happens to Philip Ashley is narrated by Philip himself, but there are interventions such as by his godfather that give the reader sight of what was another angle to Philip’s real story.

Tension is built up and maintained right to the end. What makes this a great book is that right at the end, the reader is still left wondering what had really happened to Ambrose, and what Rachel was really like.

A lot for the reader to think about and that is the reason why the story does not leave you, even when you have come to the end.

The Blackhouse: Book One of the Lewis Trilogy
The Blackhouse: Book One of the Lewis Trilogy
by Peter May
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping but could have had better balance, 31 Jan. 2015
It is the first time I read a book by Peter May and I will be happy to read another one by him. He has done a lot of research and has managed to portray the grim reality of life on the Isle of Lewis. It is about a detective, Fin Macleod, and the story is told in such a way that the process of solving a crime gets interlinked with the story of his life. On the whole the going back and forth from the present story to the story at least eighteen years ago is handled well.

In many ways the essence of the story is summed up by a Gaelic proverb which translated into English states, Three things that come without asking: fear, love and jealousy. The story is gripping and developments cannot always be anticipated by the reader.

The book could perhaps have been shortened especially from the point of descriptions of the island. While it is very well done, and the subject is likely to be new to many readers, the story about the guga hunters reads like a very detailed description but that extent of detail is not necessary to the story. I personally found I did not want to know all the gruesome details.

Characterisation is quite good but sometimes the reader is not fully aware of the reasons for certain behaviours. For instance, why did Fin have an affair while he was living with Marsaili in Glasgow?

I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy.

One Day
One Day
by David Nicholls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not a Must, 23 Jan. 2015
This review is from: One Day (Paperback)
One Day was highly recommended but I did not find the book that interesting. The approach is innovative, in that the story is told of what happened on the same day each year between 1988 and 2007, i.e. 15 July. The story is told in such a way that despite the gap of a year, the reader is brought up to date with developments in between. Right at the end of the book, the author goes back and forth and there does not seem to be any particular valid literary reason for that.

The story is about two people and the writing is very clear and it is easy to visualise each incident.

The main weakness of the book is in the characterisation. The story focuses on two people but it is not clear why Emma was so much in love with Dexter. The latter’s portrayal is not flattering, his career, his lifestyle are not flattering to him. Dexter has loved Emma ever since he met her but the reader is not clear as to what are these very special qualities that Emma has. She does come out as a more balanced person but we do not understand and what it is about these individuals that make them so attracted to one another.

The story was not gripping and I finished it to understand why it was so highly rated. In my opinion it is not and time is better spent reading something else.

How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia
How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia
by Mohsin Hamid
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Talented but not captivating, 4 Dec. 2014
Reviews in newspapers have been full of praise for this book. Mohsin Hamid’s earlier books have been well written and thought provoking. Like many other authors, Hamid has not been able to sustain the same standard in this book. But it is possibly because of his name that reviews have been so praiseworthy.

The reader is very much reminded about Arvind Adiga’s White Tiger, and from the point of supporting Hamid’s book title, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, The White Tiger is a better book. While Hamid does look at aspects of how one can get rich, that is not his only aim. He is quite keen to show how a relationship between a man and a woman develops, wanes and then becomes strong again, and shows strong elements of getting rich but it somewhat dilutes the main thrust of the book.

The book is written in an interesting style. Each chapter takes on a particular theme and shows whether that theme is helpful to becoming rich or not. Some of the points he makes are very plausible. But he also looks at what happens when something goes wrong and you lose your wealth, or you lose your wealth because your career is based on youth, beauty or some such factor that will inevitably change. He tries to make this a self-help guide, but is not completely convincing.

In some ways the reader feels that Hamid developed the story as he was writing it, rather than having a clear idea as to what he wanted to go into the book. A shame as he is a talented writer and can be innovative in his style.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe
by Romain Puertolas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Different but disappointing, 7 Nov. 2014
The title of the book is such that you have to pick it up and read it. This is an unusual book and starts off by being very interesting. The reader wants to know what happens next and initially finds it difficult to put the book down.

Romain Puertolas has got a very interesting style, and you can feel his humour and sarcasm. For example, Marie tells Ajatashatru that a lot of his countrymen worked at the Eiffel Tower, selling Eiffel Towers, and that one of them might be one of his relatives. Ajatashatru did not understand what was meant by this, and wondered if she meant that all Indians in Paris were estate agents.
The author is also very clever in the way he gives the pronunciations of the names of characters . It is hilarious. For instance he states Ajatashatru Oghash (pronounced A –jar-of-rat-stew-oh-gosh!). Later on he gives different pronunciations. They are very funny.

However, after some time, the book loses its charm as the events are so unbelievable. Those who have read Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared would have also felt that what happened in that book was totally unbelievable. But the difference between Jonasson’s book and this one by Puertolas is that there is more depth in the former. In Jonasson’s book the author is very critical of a much wider range of institutions and systems. What makes this profound is that his approaches are based on a critical analysis of the institutions/systems that he is referring to. In The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe there are interesting insights into lives of refugees and migrants. But otherwise it is like a fairy tale of the survival and in the end the happiness of the fakir.

The book by Puertolas is good fun, if you want to have something very light and when you want to relax. But otherwise you could find it quite shallow.

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