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Helenbookworm (London United Kingdom)

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The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.50

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book About Real People, 9 Oct 2012
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This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
I loved this book. I know it has had very mixed reviews but I could not put it down.
Set in the small town of Pagford, much of the book is about the impact on the rather claustrophobic community of the death of Barry Fairbrother local councillor and a man who has had a huge impact on those around him.
In Harry Potter the characters are either on the side of good or evil, as this book is set in the real world the characters are motivated by a huge variety of factors. The, characters in the book are mostly flawed, some of them are not at all likeable but I found most of them interesting, compelling and believable.
People have commented that the book is bleak but I did not find this to be the case, yes the book is realistic but there is wit and humour in the book too.

There is a lot in the book about the standards we judge people by and how different people have different points of view about what is wrong and right. J K Rowling juxtaposes her characters internal battles with how they appear to the outside world. The book pokes fun at the easy hypocrisy of some of the characters but is also not afraid to tackle some very serious issues.
I thought it was a clever, well written book which had lots of observations about British society and all set within a compelling story. Finally the book made me cry, in public on the tube and I have not been so sad I had finished a novel for a long time.


When God was a Rabbit
When God was a Rabbit
by Sarah Winman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, Interesting and beatifully detailed, 21 Oct 2011
This review is from: When God was a Rabbit (Paperback)
This is the story of Eleanor Maud, it starts from almost her earliest memories and follows her life for about thirty years. The story shows the key points in her life moving forward and backward in time. This is a book about Eleanor but it is mostly about her relationships with other people. Her parents, Arthur thier lodger, Ginger his friend, her lover but most importantly her friend Jenny Penny and her brother Joe.
The book has an effortless style which allows the story to flow beautifully, the attention to detail and acurate depiction of family life both functional and dysfunctional make it a joy to read. I loved the fact that every character, no matter how pivotal or minor, is drawn in such detail. It is as if Winman knows every single person that appears in the book, she has taken the time to really figure out what makes her characters tick. Some events in the book are farfetched (I don't want to spoil the plot by giving to much away) but because of the realism of the rest of the book I didn't question them as they happened, I just enjoyed the read.


East of Islington: Fiction: A Novel of Metropolitan Life
East of Islington: Fiction: A Novel of Metropolitan Life
by Sam Taylor
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really a novel., 19 Oct 2011
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I picked up this book with really anticipation having lived "East of Islington" myself for a couple of years. The problem I had with this book was that it was really a collection of very short stories. I understand that Sam Taylor writes a column in the Oldie and this book reads exactly like a serialised magazine column. Many of the stories featured the same characters but there was no real progression in the book. The stories were only loosely themed and while many were quite funny it didn't really work as a whole. When I got the the end of the last episode in the book I found myself thinking is that it, it just stopped with no conclusion and not even a change of pace to tell you it had reached then end. An interesting read but in the end mildly dissatisfying.


The Island at the End of the World
The Island at the End of the World
by Sam Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.07

3.0 out of 5 stars A Very Original Tale!, 17 Mar 2010
The plot of this novel is interesting and original and really full of promise. Without giving too much away this is the story of a father, and his three children marooned on an island after an apocalyptic flood which has wiped out the rest of society. There are twists and turns as a stranger arrives from across the sea and the father worries that he will endanger their new unspoilt world.
All this aside the excellent story is nearly completely obscured by the style of the telling. Different chapters are written from the point of view of different characters. The chapters written from the point of view of Finn the little boy are in places almost unreadable as they are written in a kind of misspelt pigeon English in an attempt to illustrate his uneducated naivety. It was difficult to get into a flow of these chapters as I spent far too much time trying to figure out what the words were meant to be, this made it hard to really immerse yourself in his world. Also as the book progressed there were lots of flash backs and it was not always clear when this was happening, often mid paragraph which made the style rather muddled.
I was really curious about how the family got to the island and their history but this was covered only briefly through discovered but incomplete journal entries. I would have loved more detail, to me it was that crux of the whole tale but Sam Taylor seemed so intent on his style of telling that the plot seems to have become a bit secondary.
I would recommend this book as it is an original story but be prepared to get frustrated with the telling in parts!


Ordinary Thunderstorms
Ordinary Thunderstorms
by William Boyd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.81

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Beginning, Ordinary Ending., 8 Oct 2009
This review is from: Ordinary Thunderstorms (Hardcover)
Ordinary Thunderstorms is a book that starts extremely well. Adam due to an unfortunate set of circumstances has his life turned upside down. Hunted by the police and a hired killer he if forced to go into hiding and draw on resources that he was unaware that he had.

In so many ways this is a wonderful book, I read the first two thirds loving both the fantastic characterisation and the truly compelling plot. There is so much of Boyd at his best from the grimy descriptions of "The Shaft" to the invention of the eccentric "Church of John." He has a knack of evoking so much with a relatively lean style.

Despite this praise, I did think that it petered out at the end. The first part of the book is written in much more depth than the last third. It feels as though Boyd ran out of steam or indeed hurried the end, maybe his deadline was looming In the end it is all slightly unsatisfying.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2009 2:21 PM BST


Ordinary Thunderstorms
Ordinary Thunderstorms
by William Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Beginning, Ordinary Ending., 6 Oct 2009
This review is from: Ordinary Thunderstorms (Paperback)
Ordinary Thunderstorms is a book that starts extremely well. Adam due to an unfortunate set of circumstances has his life turned upside down. Hunted by the police and a hired killer he if forced to go into hiding and draw on resources that he was unaware he had.

In so many ways this is a wonderful book, I read the first two thirds loving both the fantastic characterisation and the truly compelling plot. There is so much of Boyd at his best from the grimy descriptions of "The Shaft" to the invention of the eccentric "Church of John." He has a knack of evoking so much with a relatively lean style.

Despite this praise, I did think that it petered out at the end. The first part of the book is written in much more depth than the last third. It feels as though Boyd ran out of steam or indeed hurried the end, maybe his deadline was looming In the end it is all slightly unsatisfying.


Liars and Saints
Liars and Saints
by Maile Meloy
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lean and fresh novel., 7 Feb 2009
This review is from: Liars and Saints (Paperback)
I picked this book up just because I liked the look of it with no real expectations and I am so glad that I did. It follows the ups and down of an American family from the Second World War onwards through four generations. Despite covering a 50 year period it is a slim novel. The writing is lean, fresh and not overly wordy but says exactly what it needs to. You feel like you really get to know all of the numerous members of the family, who are beautifully written. You see what makes them tick and how they really feel about each other. It tackles many issues including faith, struggles for life direction and fundamentally how untruths affect a family. I thought it was a fantastic read, a real gem


A Quiet Belief In Angels
A Quiet Belief In Angels
by R.J. Ellory
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So Close to being a great book, 17 Jan 2009
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Parts of this book are absolutely amazing and poetic. In places it is even reminiscent of Steinbeck. Despite this I did struggle to get through it. The story was good but in parts the verbose nature of the writing really bogged the plot down; sometimes I just wanted him to get on with it. There was lots of repetition, to reinforce the themes of the book and this grated a bit after a while.
The main character Joseph Vaughn developed beautifully but many of the other characters, especially the women, were one dimensional and lifeless. The whole thing was a bit patchy; I think that Ellory struggled to live up to the best bits of the book.


In the Country of Men
In the Country of Men
by Hisham Matar
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea shame about the writing., 22 May 2008
This review is from: In the Country of Men (Paperback)
This book looks at life in Libya in the late 70's through the eyes of a child Suleiman. His father is involved in the pro democracy movement a dangerous pastime in any police state. The secret police become interested in his father's activities and life becomes very dangerous for the family. The novel examines how Suleiman and his mother cope.

I was quite excited by the premise of the book and was looking forward to the tale unfolding. The beginning of the book is quite well written and almost lyrical in places but this style seems to tail off as the novel progresses. In parts the author's powers of description seem to leave him completely and the style becomes clunky and unwieldy. Suleiman's mother is depressed and self medicates with alcohol, there is talk of her forced marriage to Suleiman's father. These themes are all hinted at but disappointingly, not really developed

The hero of the book Suleiman is struggling to become a man in very difficult circumstances but he is almost entirely unlikeable. At one stage he fails to help a drowning beggar choosing instead to push the struggling man further underwater with his foot. This incident and some of the others in the book are designed to show his confusion and hurt but they are so extreme that they make it almost impossible to empathies with him.

The book ends with him leaving to attend school in Egypt and his effective exile, this part of the book definitely left me wanting more, I did not feel that at the end of the book we really found out who he grew up to be.

Generally and excellent idea for a book by a writer who can clearly write but you get the feeling he got bored part of the way through and the rest of the book is not written with the care of the opening. A real shame.


Blind Faith
Blind Faith
by Ben Elton
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 2 April 2008
This review is from: Blind Faith (Paperback)
Ben Elton is a writer who seems to swing from writing absolute rubbish Chart Throb) and some really well thought out stuff (First Casualty) and this is certainly one of his better efforts.
The post flood world that he has created for his hero Trafford to inhabit is both far fetched but yet unnervingly familiar. Privacy is illegal, everyone shares everything, people are constantly watched big brother style in their own homes and group hugs are compulsory. Reality is everything and fiction is banned as heretical. All these laws are made by a kind of post apocalyptic multi faith church who just wants to control the people. In this world children die in their thousand, half don't make it to the age of five.
Trafford feels alone in this world craving privacy and wishing his life wasn't constantly on show, then when is child Caitlin Happymeal is born he is approached by a vaccinator. Here his questioning of the world around him starts and an amazing chain of events is started.

The style of the writing is simple and quick to read and while it will never go down as a great piece of literature the book does get its message across and it is thought provoking. I would urge anyone to give it a go!


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