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Allhug (Newcatle upon Tyne)

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The Other Side of Truth
The Other Side of Truth
by Beverley Naidoo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, 30 Jan 2011
This is the first Young Adult book I've read since being a child myself and I admit that I'd forgotten just how powerful those stories can be.

This was a very well written tale of oppression told from the point of view of a 12 year old girl. I found it to be an authentic voice and that, along with the engaging plot made this an easy read. The messages of tolerance were the most powerful images for me - it's good to step into someone else's shoes sometimes to get a broader view of the world and I can see that the target audience for this book will have their minds opened.

I would have liked to have known more about life in Nigeria, the daily rhythms as well as the political situation, but I liked how the author drew parallels between bullying in british schools and political repression in opressed countries. As our schools become more and more multi-cultural the younger generation is going to put us to shame in terms of their empathy and understanding of the wider world around us.

This was, for me, a very enjoyable book with a solid purpose.


The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Read, 30 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Princess Bride (Paperback)
What a fun read. Believe it or not I'm one of the few people that hadn't seen the film before reading the book. For that reason the film quite disappointed me - I love the sharp wit and tongue in cheek telling of the written story and the characterisation is understandably much more intricate within the written work. There is also a sub-text of satire on the modern capitalist driven world and in particular the publishing and film industry in the written work that is completely missing from the film. Although many of the lines within the film are lifted exactly from the text the omissions and cuts are detrimental to the overall feel and tone, and it was precicely this feel and tone that was one of the main drivers behind me rating the book a terific four star read. - The book is very entertaining. The film, unless you saw it before you read the book and love it for nostalgic reasons should probably be avoided - just my opinion!. But the book is hilarious and well worth spending a weekend reading!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2012 10:14 PM GMT


The Winter Ghosts
The Winter Ghosts
by Kate Mosse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric, 30 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Winter Ghosts (Paperback)
This was an atmospheric tale based in historical detail and with a great evocation of setting but you do have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy it. I think the author has tried to mitigate this by having the reader engage with the title character's mental health and physical health problems so that those of us who find ghost tales a little hard to believe could enter into the spirit of the book.

This isn't a genre I would usually choose but I had been given the recommendation to read it becasue I loved Wilkie Collins The Woman in White. It was an easy read with enough suspense and momentum to keep you interested. The true history links and reading notes in the back of my copy were also interesting.


Flapper
Flapper
by Joshua Zeitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.92

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating time period - women's history well told., 30 Jan 2011
This review is from: Flapper (Paperback)
For me Zeitz has managed to strike the right balance between academic history and journalistic style making this a very entertaining read with just the right amount of substance.

The main 'characters' - The Fitzgeralds, Lois Long, Clara Bow etc - were brought to life again and act as a focus to tell the story of a new 'modern' generation. I was disappointed however that the story did not play out as I had imagined it to. These were not pioneers of feminism but very confused women.

The hedonism and frivolity the fashions, the morals and the extreme behaviours were largely limited to a small section of 'monied' women. These women were financed by men - fathers, husbands and boyfriends (who traded meals and fancy clothes for company and perhaps more). The advertising men, the film makers, the marketing departments, the authors and journalists defined 'the flapper' not the women themselves who got hooked onto an illusion of freedom that turned out to be disappointing.

Patriarchal control was still alive and strong - most of these women married in the conventional way or struggled dishearteningly towards sad ends. I can see why the suffragettes found the flapper vapid and detrimental to their cause - true equality was not 'real' for the flapper. The fun had a high price.

I was sad while reading this book but it was overall a very engaging way to learn about this part of women's history and how it has developed and fuelled modern consumerism ever since. Interesting characters and interesting times.


Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics)
Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting insights into the British Raj, 3 Aug 2010
Only 30 or so pages into this book I was overwhelmed by the depiction of racism in the British Raj...I'm now pondering whether I find it shocking because of my modern perspective OR whether it would have always been this shocking even when Orwell wrote it? - There is a line about Ellis being "...one of those Englishmen - common unfortunately - who should never be allowed to set foot in the East" (the bottom of page 21 in my Penguin Modern Classics edition) - That piques my interest in the British Raj - essentially there seems to have been a definite group or school of Racist thought among the colonising classes on the one hand and on the reverse...what? - those who were 'open-minded about'?, those who were 'actively in support of'? or those who were condescendingly 'in tune with' the local population??? - What is on the other side of Racism here? and if they thought they were being noble, do we now find that a little patronising? - Interesting stuff - Orwell has depicted attitudes that are rather further beyond my reach at present than I would have assumed.

I generally find Orwell's writing style a little difficult - but I was determined to persevere with this one as his subject matter is very interesting. Not only in the depiction of race but also in the depiction of women - I'm tempted to say that Elizabeth is simply anchored in her time period and would be fairly typical. She has, as an unmarried woman, a responsibility to protect her social standing so her attitudes are fairly understandable when viewed in terms of the society she inhabits - it's about following the 'rules' that lead to 'belonging' and 'community'. - You have to keep reminding yourself that it is Flory who is out-of-step here - even if to modern eyes we agree more with his views today than Elizabeth's he really is putting her in a difficult position for those times.

After a slow start due to getting used to Orwells writing I actually very much enjoyed this book. The descriptions of the jungle, the colonial station, the heat, the bazaar etc are all very evocative.

I'm torn about the attitudes depicted. How much of it is observation? how much artistic licence? how much personal demons being exorcised? - I feel like it's a rather negative but probably more-true-than-not portrayal of life in the British Raj at that time. - It's rather depressing! - I don't like to think that Britain was made 'Great' THAT way. - But how much can we blame those involved? - it would be wrong to judge what happened back then by today's standards for all the unpalatable-ness in today's harsh light.

After half-way through this book had me hooked...and I loved the 'purple passages'.


The Monday Night Cooking School
The Monday Night Cooking School
by Erica Bauermeister
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars No Depth, 25 July 2010
I didn't do enough research before beginning this book. I had heard the buzz around a book entitled 'School of Essential Ingredients' and the cover gave me to believe that this may be a really intelligent sensuous and poetic novel about food and relationships - I expected real depth. (...I know, I know - never judge a book by its cover! lesson learnt - I found a copy of the same book but under the title 'The Monday Night Cooking School' and the decidedly 'chick lit' cover should have been my first warning that this book was not going to be what I expected!).

I'm disappointed. I think the idea of a collection of short stories melding into a 'whole' would have been better than to write this as a novel. As it is, I don't think that the characters were rounded out or given any depth. Their thoughts and feelings didn't resonate or draw me in and each story within the novel was for me 'unfinished' or 'rushed', they weren't connected very expertly and nothing was revisited or tied up properly.

I enjoyed the idea of food as a mirror of emotion and a healing force and some of the descriptions surrounding this aspect of the novel were delightful. But overall, this book was not what it ought to have been.


Not The End Of The World
Not The End Of The World
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beguiling, 4 July 2010
I really enjoyed the intelligent but kooky nature of this book. It's a 5 star read for me.

I don't think I understood enough of the references to ancient Greek/Roman mythology so I'm off to do some research and reading. I also must read more of Atkinson's work as I thought her writing style was really engaging. - It speaks volumes that I scored this book 5/5 when I dislike dystopian or 'magical/fantasy' fiction in general. I think Atkinson approached her themes in a way that was entirely different from anything else I've read - she has a style all of her own, which makes her unique and interesting.

I was inclined to look for a 'purpose' to these stories - possibly a political or moral message. As a result, I feel it's quite important to read these stories in order and to continue to the end. The final chapter kind of made sense of it all for me, the idea of recapturing our oral tradition that was mentioned a few pages from the end hits the nail on the head as far as the purpose of this book is concerned. I think the references to pop culture, juxtaposed as they are against a backdrop of ancient greco-roman mythology are a comment on modern pre-occupations and that perhaps we are steaming our way to our own destruction in a valueless society. Pop culture is somehow vapid when aligned so expertly by Atkinson with the deeper religious and mystical significance of the ancient world. Capitalism as a whole is undermined here but it's done ever-so-subtly and in a way that doesn't appear dogmatic.

I really liked this thought provoking set of tales and I think the short story genre was a perfect medium. It is rare to find a really great short story writer - so many of the short stories you read come across as simply pre-cursers to longer novels or appear as 'practice' on the part of the writer. I fell in love with well written short stories when I first read Katherine Mansfield & I feel that Atkinson is on a par with Mansfield as far as the impact of her writing is concerned (although the content/plot/genre structure is rather different). - The rules governing short stories are so little understood and so I feel Atkinson is very rare.

I'm beguiled, mesmerised and very impressed.


Jane Eyre (Oxford World's Classics)
Jane Eyre (Oxford World's Classics)
by Charlotte Brontė
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars real depth of emotion, 10 Jun 2010
Its hard to say anything about this novel that hasn't already been said 100 times before. You can see by my star rating that I LOVE it (...I'd give it more stars if I could) and I can only trot out the same reasons as others before me: The Divine Mr Rochester, the passion, the power of sticking to your principles etc etc.

Bronte's poetic prose conveys a real depth of emotion in her reader so that we really FEEL everything the heroine feels and that is a tremendous skill in any writer. The wild landscapes, the use of nature to denote thought and feeling and the subversivness of a novel that debates with established biblical doctrine makes Jane Eyre very special indeed.

I think I must have read this 10 times already and know I will go back to it every few years for a re-read. I can't think of any other novel that has that kind of power over its readers.

Anyone who hasn't read it needs to go out and get a copy without delay.


Ode to Love: 100 Great Poems of Love and Lust: Homage to Eros
Ode to Love: 100 Great Poems of Love and Lust: Homage to Eros
by Dannie Abse
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 10 Jun 2010
This is an absolutely wonderful book of love poetry arranged by time period, the best of each generation collected in one fabulous little volume. I always take it on long trips. Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful and soul satisfying.


Poems to Last a Lifetime
Poems to Last a Lifetime
by Daisy Goodwin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 10 Jun 2010
This is an absolute essential. A wonderful collection of poems to see you through every trial and tribulation of life and to strengthen all those happy moments. Daisy Goodwin's comments are touching and illuminating - she advocates poetry as self-help and it's the only self-help book you'll ever need. If you're feeling it then you can be sure a poet has got there first and even if you can't articulate your own feelings there's a poem in here that will articulate it for you.

This is the one book I'd risk my life to save from a fire. I love it!


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