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Mary Crofton (UK)

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HIV/AIDS: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
HIV/AIDS: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Alan Whiteside
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin, 13 Aug 2009
A good little book, delivers exactly what it promises and gives a good overview of the central issues surrounding HIV/AIDs and global responses to it.

Its got the numbers, the science and the human cost of the disease, and it's well written and easy to understand (even for someone like me with only GCSE biology knowledge). I'd definitely recommend it for someone doing school work on the disease or someone that just wants to improve their general knowledge and be able to discuss HIV/AIDs confidently. I'm going to order the other book by this author on this topic, and I hope it's as good as this one!

The Secret History
The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Not Plot-Driven, 14 Jun 2007
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
I had high expectations for this novel after the gushing of my flatmate when I brought it home, to say nothing of the equally praising blurb and reviews pasted all over the cover. However, I found myself deeply unsatisfied and underawed by the last page, as often happens when picking up a 'modern classic'.

The plot is predictable and completely lacking in tension and the ending is flabby and unrelated to the rest of the novel. Fair enough, the characterisation is excellent and the protagonist is certainly a complex piece of work, but unfortunately the characters are wasted in a novel that concentrates on words rather than action. Not that I was looking for a summer blockbuster but I was hoping for rather more than a book full of prententious conversations. Anything interesting that does happen is either only referred to in tiny glimpses/flashbacks or described to the protagonist by the other characters, which does tend to suck the joy out of things.

I'm going to read it again, and maybe in a few days you'll find a glowing review posted by me on amazon, retracting all of this, but for the moment I wouldn't recommend this to anyone, especially not under the guise of a thriller.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
by Marisha Pessl
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something To Savour, 14 Jun 2007
Don't pick up this book if you're looking for chick-lit or something to read on the beach and instantly forget; despite the overly eager title and dramatic blurb, this is a novel to take your time over and savour.

Yes, at the beginning the constant citations and over-the-top cleverness of the main character may get on your nerves, but if you stick with this novel you'll be rewarded with an intricate and unpredictable plot and the pleasure of characters that become more interesting and intense as the book goes on (in my opinion, much better than characters that are completely laid out at the start).

Fred and Edie
Fred and Edie
by Jill Dawson
Edition: Paperback

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars As Pretty And Vapid As It's Cover, 11 April 2006
This review is from: Fred and Edie (Paperback)
I must admit that I picked this book up because of it's gorgeous front cover, but after reading the blurb I was expecting a hard-hitting and poignant novel that would have a lot to say both about the death penalty and the suppression of women in the early 20th century. What I got instead was a shallow book: one that suffered from a lack of likeable or sympathetic characters and little to no actual plot.
If the author intended Edie to come across as a strong women led astray by love and condemned by a misogynic society, then, at least in my opinion, she failed miserably. Edie is indeed a 'silly and vain' woman- although she spends most of the novel insisting that she is full of passion and a longing for independence, her actions do not give the reader any evidence of this. She may indeed have earnt more than her husband (something which she mentions incessantly throughout her flashbacks) and know a lot about fashion, but Edie is not a strong character. She spends the entire novel moping after Freddy, not allowing herelf (and thus by extension the reader) to think about anything else, something which quickly becomes boring, and issues which could have been interesting - abortion, the death penalty, the fear that men have of women's bodies - became boring and predictable as she repeated the same opinion over and over again.
This novel suffers from it's first person perspective- perhaps the reader would feel more sympathy for the couple if we were ever given any indication that Freddy cared about Edie or the fact that she is going to be hanged for his crime. There is also little character development- Edie ends the novel as lovesick and unquestioning of Freddy as she ever was, and it is quite disturbing how she suspects that she is pregnant, but allows herself to be hanged through sheer apathy.
I found myself longing, at the end of novel, to know the true story of Edie, simply because I refused to believe that the death of such a vapid woman could ever have inspired the public outcry that it does in this novel.

Tatiana and Alexander
Tatiana and Alexander
by Paullina Simons
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sequel That Really Lives Up To It's Predecessor, 10 April 2006
This review is from: Tatiana and Alexander (Paperback)
Here, in 'Tatiana & Alexander' Paullina Simons finally achieves what she attempted with the first novel 'The Bronze Horseman' and creates a love story that is both deceptively simple and yet an epic.
I would not advise reading this before the first book as it deals with much of the same plot in a more detailed fashion, and you will not get the full effect of the layered narratives if you read them out of order. On the other hand, if you have already read the first book there is no point in you reading this review- you will already be a devotee of both Simons' gorgeous dialogue, narrative and imagery.
One thing that impressed me about this novel was its elaboration on the violent undercurrents of the first novel: here Alexander's 'addiction' to violence and need to protect his wife is fully explored and worked through, not simply pushed under the carpet as with most romance novels. The appearance of a character assumed to have died in the first novel (not wanting to give too much away here) is also a brave move by the author and sets the novel up for a completely emotionally satisfying climax.
One small gripe I have is that the novel is called 'Tatiana & Alexander' here in the UK, and 'The Bridge to Holy Cross' in other countries- the latter title is infinitely preferable in my opinion because it expresses the epic nature of this work and does not merely reduce it to a romance novel. However, this is a tiny problem and probably only annoys me, although obviously it has not spoilt my enjoyment of the novel.

The Bronze Horseman
The Bronze Horseman
by Paullina Simons
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just A Romance, 10 April 2006
This review is from: The Bronze Horseman (Paperback)
I picked this book up from my local library expecting another run-of-the-mill romance novel- lots of posturing, fainting and possibly some orphans thrown in somewhere. What I got was completely different. The beauty of the novel lies in Simons' gorgeous and heavily layered prose- the city of Leningrad is described in such detail that by the end of the novel I was left longing to visit this historical city. The book touches on some impressively heavy issues- dialogues between Alexander and Tatiana on the meaning of religion, personal identity and communism- particularly touching is his attempt to explain the concept of 'privacy' to his lover when no such word exists in the Russian language.
Simons' manages to insert some history in the novel also; although it never reaches the depths of the dreaded 'historical novel'.
What sets this novel apart from other romances is the strength of the relationship between Alexander and Tatiana- unlike most romance novels they don't spend the entire time double-guessing and testing the other's affection for them. The author does a good job in creating sympathy for all the characters, not just the protagonists but also those that surround them and Tatiana's emotionally damaged family. This is possibly the only romance I have ever read which allowed the reader to empathise with the third member of the love triangle (Tatiana's sister, Dasha)and the 'villains' may not be likeable but they are understandable.
I have heard other readers complaining that the couple are typical 'Mary-Sues' but despite their overwhelmingly good natures they are significantly flawed enough to make for interesting reading. Much of the second half of the novel deals with the undercurrents of violence in their all-consuming relationship, contrasted poignantly with their attempts to build a lasting home for themselves in Lazerevo.
One warning though- the ending of the novel is heart-wrenching, to say the least, and although a sequel has now been released when I first finished this novel I had to hide it, simply to stop myself crying!

Angel - Season 4 [DVD]
Angel - Season 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Boreanaz
Offered by claires_media_store
Price: 29.99

11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Strongest Season of The Show, 10 April 2006
This review is from: Angel - Season 4 [DVD] (DVD)
Personally, Season Four of 'Angel' is one of my favourite seasons of this series- I feel that it was the only season ever to live up to the grandeur of it's parent program 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'. The problem that most fans have with this season is that Cordelia is suddenly and alarmingly OOC and has a disturbing relationship with Connor- they seem to have missed the point that Cordelia is meant to be OOC- she's been taken over by a malevolant being for God's sake! Likewise, the producers and script-writers intended her relationship with Connor to be disturbing, as evidenced by the reactions of the other characters.
Compared with other seasons of 'Angel', I personally feel that this is the first season with a proper 'Big Bad' as the two first seasons had very disappointing climaxes. The rapid succession of villains can get confusing, and its hard to see The Beast as really threatening, but his apparent indestructablity does add a bit of tension to the show, as did Glory's role in BtVS. It is a nice 'spine-tingling' moment when Cordelia's part in the villainy is revealed, even for 'spoiled' fans like myself.
Season Four is also notable for a number of really strong episodes and some cracking character development: the relationship between Wesley and Lilah being one example and the characterisation of Wesley being tremendous overall. The season does suffer from the loss of Cordelia as a sympathetic character- Fred is simply too nice to really carry the burden of being the only female protagonist, although she does get some good moments towards the end of the season. My favourite episode has to be 'Spin The Bottle', which was both written and directed by Joss Whedon and is a welcome spot of comic relief amongst all the tension and gloom. Some other individual episodes are lifted by guest appearances from Alyson Hannigan and Eliza Dushku (real fans will enjoy looking for signs of the romance between Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denishof, who were engaged at the time).
Overall this season gets four stars, as it was a good attempt at the kind of epic action and plot that 'Angel' had lacked from the first season.

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