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Rivercassini "Rivercassini" (London)

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Dissolution (The Shardlake Series)
Dissolution (The Shardlake Series)
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and well-written mystery, 26 April 2008
Dissolution is an intelligent, literary murder mystery set in England at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. And I loved it. Ok, so it's not fine literature - although it is well written and well researched - but it is a gripping story, with plenty of pace, twists and turns of plot and a range of well drawn and recognisable characters.


A Metropolitan Murder
A Metropolitan Murder
by Lee Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.18

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Murder on the Undgerground, 26 April 2008
This review is from: A Metropolitan Murder (Paperback)
The cover of this book proudly proclaims that "Victorian London is vividly brought to life...for an atmospheric picture of the period". This is a strange choice to promote the book because it doesn't deliver on that promise at all. The London it presents is rather flat and repetitive, with a very narrow of characters and limited setting, its only really Clare Market that comes to life, and then only for a few pages. But there are good things about this book which the publishers could have chose to focus on instead. It's a decent mystery, with a likeable and intelligent policeman, or peeler, on the trail of a dastardly murderer. The plot unfolds constantly, if perhaps a little too evenly, over the course of the novel, and the style is engaging and straightforward for the most part. Not a brilliant book, but one that I'm glad to have read. Would suit a single-sitting read.


How to Become Ridiculously Well-read in One Evening: A Collection of Literary Encapsulations
How to Become Ridiculously Well-read in One Evening: A Collection of Literary Encapsulations
by E.O. Parrott
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, seriously so, but no alternative to the real thing, 10 April 2008
This is a humourous little book, packed full of what are for the most part witty synopsis of some of the greatest works of literature (mostly English literature) ever written, but don't be fooled by the title: the synopsis are so short that you get little flavour of the novels covered. Indeed, I found that the more familiar I was with the novel forming the subject of the synopsis, the more enjoyable the book was whereas those of works I didn't know at all gave very little insight whatsoever. Sadly, then, I have to remain lamentably under-read, the book failing to fulfill it's promise of making me well-read in an evening. It seems there's no alternative but to read the books themselves. Even so, I loved reading this and spent much of the time laughing out loud. My favourite was the metered verse retelling the story of Mansfield Park in little more than a dozen lines.


The Blackest Bird: A Novel of History and Murder
The Blackest Bird: A Novel of History and Murder
by Joel Rose
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.55

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A half-hearted mystery with lots of detail, 10 April 2008
To call this a gently-paced mystery would be to over state the speed of a snail. Indeed, there are lots of good things about this book. It's nicely structured and packed full of interesting insights into literary, and criminal, life in 1840s New York. The picture of Old Hays, the venerable detective set to investigate the murder of the beautiful but poor 'segar' girl, Mary Rogers, is engaging and warm and his daughter, Olga is for the most part likeable even if her diligent interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe's writing, ostensibly for her father, is a heavy-handed device to enlighten the reader. But the prose, oh the prose, is at times tortuous, reducing the reading experience to a wade through teacle. Rose's attempts to recapture the literary style of the period result in a language which is both inconsistent and irritating. And the plot, the detection of the murder, is continually side-lined in favour of demonstrations of the author's, admittedly extensive, research. There was just enough good to keep me reading to the end but not enough to keep me from wondering why I did. I don't think I could recommend this book to anyone other than those fanatical about 19th century New York or the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who may enjoy one of the highlights of the novel - a reintepretation of his penmanship which does at least offer a new perspective.


A Crime in the Neighbourhood
A Crime in the Neighbourhood
by Suzanne Berne
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose, evocative mystery and strange enough to make it stand out from the crowd, 24 Feb 2008
This is a strange little story - little in several ways: it's short, has a narrow range of characters and, despite its disturbing themes of wasted lives and irretrivable mistakes, it manages to maintain a narrow take on their development. Marsha is nine. Her father leaves the family home after an ill-advised dalliance with his wife's sister and against the heat of a Washington summer and the backdrop of a vicious and sexually motivated murder, the reader is taken gently by the hand to watch as Marsha's pain at the loss of her father is transformed into bitter and spiteful obsessions with the murder of a ill-known local boy and with the deeply average man who moves in next door. These obsessions pervert and distort Marsha's otherwise natural progression from infant to teenager, and drive her to actions for which she will feel the responsibility for the rest of her life. She is old enough to understand what she is doing is wrong yet too immature to exercise the self-control required to save herself - and her neighbours - from compounding the local community's pain and grief triggered by the murder. Ultimately, Marsha's only redeeming feature is the guilt she subsequently feels and the motto by which she has come to live - in the end we cannot avoid pain in life, the best we can hope for is not to be the cause of pain for others. A rather sad novel of fatalism and hopelessness.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2010 1:21 PM BST


Snow Falling on Cedars
Snow Falling on Cedars
by David Guterson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classy whodunnit which stands out from the crowd, 10 Feb 2008
This review is from: Snow Falling on Cedars (Paperback)
In the overcrowded field of mystery thrillers, it's not often one comes across a book that is not only a great mystery but also a literary testament to the turmoil of humanity, but that is exacly what David Guterson has achieved with Snow Falling on Cedars. The 'action' takes place over the course of three days, in a court room presided over by an elderly judge, in an small island community being pummelled by one of the worst wintery storms in living memory. Kabuo, a third generation Japanese immigrant, is accused of the first degree murder of another island fisherman. But as the case unfurls, Guterson takes us on a tour of this island's history that reveals the tensions and turmoil of island life, and reveals the backstories of the accused, the victim and many of the witnesses and spectators. Each character is laid bare, exposed to the censure of the pen, while Guterson leaves the reader to make their own judgement. In finely crafted, laconic prose, Snow Falling on Cedars is a testament to the pointlessly of war, the duality of the nature of love and, above all, to the power to humanity to do the right thing in the end. An engaging parable, a gripping thriller, and fine book. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2011 9:50 PM BST


Broken
Broken
by Daniel Clay
Edition: Paperback

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Utterly unoriginal and derivative, 2 Feb 2008
This review is from: Broken (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are quite a lot of good things about Daniel Clay's debut novel. It's nicely written, well-paced and smoothly, if a little obviously, plotted. But the blurb on the back of the book describes it as "utterly original" and that is most certainly isn't. This has to be the one of the most derivative novels I've read in an age. Skunk, a young girl, lives with her elder brother Jed and father Archie and, the mother being absent, are cared for by a live-in helper, Juanita. Compare the set up (and even the names) to that in the genuinely utterly original To Kill a Mocking, where Scout lives with her elder brother Jem, father Atticus and, the mother being absent, a live-in maid called Calpurnia. Atticus is a lawyer. So is Archie. Atticus represents a friend of the family who is falsely accused of rape. So does Archie. In To Kill a Mocking Bird, the false accusation is made by a rough and unruly neighbour whose daughter is the alleged victim. In Broken, the false accusation is made by a rough and unruly neighbour whose daughter is the alleged victim. In both books, the false accusations led to a series of events which eventually tear the local community apart. Then there's Jed and Skunk's friend Dillon who has no parents and is only around some of time. Could this be Clay's version of orphaned Dill in To Kill a Mocking Bird, who befriends Jem and Scout when he spends his summers nearby with a great Aunt? In both books, all three children are fascinated by a neighbour who has mental problems - Boo Radley in To Kill a Mocking Bird becomes Broken Buckley in Broken.

Yes, the settings are different, and the stories pan out a little differently. But Broken is so close to To Kill a Mocking Bird that comparison is inevitable, and Broken falls a country mile short of matching Harper Lee's classic. Clay may be trying to retell Lee's story of growing up in extraordinary circumstances for the 21st century but his prose has neither the passion nor credibility to match; his novel becomes then little more than a derivative and somewhat pointless tribute. Reading Broken feels a bit like reading the fan fiction that some science fiction series have spawned. You want to enjoy them, but rarely to they match the real thing and the reader is left feeling isolated and disappointed. The best advice I can give is to read To Kill a Mocking Bird instead.


Cathedral of the Sea
Cathedral of the Sea
by Ildefonso Falcones
Edition: Hardcover

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and bad, but not good enough, 20 Jan 2008
This review is from: Cathedral of the Sea (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

There are lots of good things about Cathedral of the Sea: It's engaging, but not engrossing, readable and atmospheric, creating a sense of medieval Spain, and Barcelona in particular, with the first few chapters, a sense which is sustained to final page. But there are lots of bad things about this book too which, for me, detracted so much from the reading experience as to undermine the whole.

The narrative is plot driven, relating the life story of Arnau, son of a runaway serf made good, but the detailed descriptions of battles in particular and the lecture-like accounts of Spanish histories which pepper the novel are so turgid that the plot falls flat at times. Most of the characters are so under-developed that at times it is hard to understand their motivations or emotions, and Arnau, the central character, who is likeable enough, seems to suffer from having things done to him rather than having any sense of taking control, or responsibility, for his own life: strange in one who's professed desires include freedom and justice. While the author is at pains to display his intimate knowledge of medieval Barcelona, he seems to know very little of ways in which the renaissance, the reformation or industrialisation have changed the human psyche. Thus, we seem to have a series of characters who, with the exception of Arnau, seem more like 21st century inhabiting a time past, rather than being part of the fabric of their context.

And yet, and yet, the relationship which Arnau forges with the Cathedral of the Sea - the church of Santa Maria de lar Mer, the building of which takes place during his lifetime, is fascinating - and even more so is the range of emotions he feels towards the Virgin of Sea who becomes his mother, his guide, his strength and his inspiration. And this is the real meat of the novel - delectable and nourishing. Shame there wasn't quite enough of it to mask the taste of the turgid narrative.


The Poison That Fascinates
The Poison That Fascinates
by Jennifer Clement
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.61

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moody, atmospheric and troubling, 16 Jan 2008
Permeated with strangeness and an oblique sense of otherness, Jennifer Clement's The Poison that Fascinates is an engaging and thought-provoking read. Emily, who through a process of de-personification becomes Emilia, is a fourth generation immigrant to Mexico who lives with her doting but flawed father and splits her time between her studies and helping out at the local orphanage which her family founded many years ago.

In this aromatic novel, full of the smells of people, of coffee, of coriander and melons, of grapes and rain and roses and skin, Clement recreates a Mexico City which the imagination can swell and wallow in; and this is the Mexico City which the somewhat unworldly Emily inhabits, that is until the arrival of the enigmatic and increasingly creepy Santi, son of her father's long-lost and long-dead brother, whose obsessive love sullies and then destroys Emily's contentment and morality. The developing relationship between Santi and Emily is mirrored by that of young, oriental looking cousins at the orphanage, whose loss of both sets of parents caused such trauma that their personalities begin to merge; and yet, over time, the balance of proprietitorial doubt shifts from `the Japanese' orphans to Santi and Emily.

Clement's lyrically luscious prose encapsulates scenes of real tenderness - the brief pen portrait of Emily's father desperate to love her enough to make up for the absence of her mother comes stands out - and of real, if understated, terror.

A highly structured, tight novel, sections of the narrative are interspersed with `facts' about notorious murderers the relevance of which emerges only slowly, and only by keeping many elements in mind and making connections between fictional facts and factual fictions, does the denouement become inevitable.

There are weaknesses: the time frame for the narrative is undefined, making it hard to assess the credibility of developments, and there are sections which seem to fulfil no purpose other than to allow Clement the opportunity to display her obvious passion for writing beautiful words, but these are small flaws and do little to detract from what is overall and engaging, troubling, mystical read.


Pride And Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen
Pride And Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen
by Arielle Eckstut
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Close to being truely dreadful, 13 Jan 2008
I'm sorry to say that this book was, like so many books which build on Austen's masterpieces, a real disappointment. It's not that it's particularly bad; indeed the premise is intriguing and the first couple of episodes mildly amusing. But the writing, the dialogue in particular, is so out of keeping with Austen precise and careful style, that it is incredible; and so repetitive that it soon becomes predictable, then boring, ultimately pointless. The core idea would have been better worked into an article for the Sunday papers or a literary journal - there's not enough originality to sustain a full length novel, even one as short as this is. So sad.


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