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Lucybird (Birmingham, UK)

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Flesh and Grass
Flesh and Grass
by Libby Cone
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.74

3.0 out of 5 stars A little slow but interesting, 1 April 2012
This review is from: Flesh and Grass (Paperback)
I quite enjoyed Libby Cone's first book War on the Margins, and when she e-mailed me about reviewing her new book Flesh and Grass I was immediately interested. Generally when I read historical fiction I read fiction based around the two world wars but I thought why not get out of my comfort zone a little.

Unfortunately I didn't find Flesh and Grass as good as War on the Margins. I found it a little slower, and I didn't really feel like I ever got into it. There were elements I liked, I thought the emotions were done really well, and you could really understand how smells were attached to emotions for Cornelis. Historically it was interesting too, but I didn't really get much from it about what it was like to be in completely new place. While events which would bring strong emotions were well described the general day-to-day feelings brought on by moving to a new place were barely touched upon.

I must admit that Libby Cone does have the tendency to write like a historian rather than an author. The topics are interesting but turning them into a story adds little, and it seemed to add less here than in War on the Margins.


The Weight of Silence
The Weight of Silence
by Heather Gudenkauf
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Weight of Silence, 1 April 2012
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
The Weight of Silence is described in more than one place as a book Jodi Picoult fans will love. Well I'm a Jodi Picoult fan, but to be honest that's not something that would make me want to read a book, what's the point of reading a book that's like a book you have already read, I don't know. I can certainly see the comparison between Gundenkauf and Picoult, they have very similar writing styles and both seem to like using multiple narrators. However that's where the comparison really ends. While Pioult's books tend to have some central moral issue which gets the reader thinking there was no such issue in Weight of Silence. I suppose it is similar in the way we see different emotions and views of an event, but there is no internal debate.

I did enjoy it all the same. It was actually a little bit of a mystery as we tried to work out what had happened to Petra (we are basically told what happened to Calli, or at least to a certain point). I admit that I did expect Calli's mutism to be more of a central theme but really, while it was an interesting aspect, it didn't seem necessary. Calli's big moment could have been done so much better and given a twist in the plot, or even just taken the reader in another direction. I did also guess what I think was meant to be a twist in the story.

The story was quite moving though, but not to the level where I felt uncomfortable reading it (I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not). It was very readable, in that it was written in an easy way to read and in that I wanted to find out what happened next. I also really liked how Calli's chapters were written in the third person rather than her own voice (as the other chapters were) which suggested she couldn't tell her story.


A Week in December
A Week in December
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2.0 out of 5 stars Dissappointing, 1 April 2012
This review is from: A Week in December (Paperback)
I was surprisingly sad to finish A Week in December in that for most of the book I didn't actually enjoy it that much. It was a real disappointment as I usually really enjoy Sebastian Fawkes work. I have found that some of his novels have been slow to start before but this one was really slow to start, I didn't start to get properly into it until there were less than 100 pages left. I possibly would have even given up by my 100 page cut off mark if it wasn't for the fact that it being a Fawkes novel gave me hop that it would get good.

It took me a long time to get all the characters sorted out in my head, and even at the end I was getting Veals and errr what's his name the lawyer politician mixed up, err Lance that's it. And I'm still not sure who Roger is. It doesn't help that within the first few pages there was a great big long list of characters who would be invited to a dinner party, most of whom barely featured in the rest of the book.

In fact there were only two characters who were distinct right from the onset, the tube driver Jenni, and the Islamic student, Hassan. As far as Jenni went it still took me some time to get into her story but she felt like the most genuine of the characters, and once she met Gabriel I started enjoying her story more. Hassan's storyline was the most interesting, and I expected much more of it.

Most of the other storylines held little interest for me. I found Veals to be a horrible little man but his story only held interest for me in relation to his wife and son. I really could have done without his who financial storyline, I found it generally went over my head and was pretty boring. Plus it took up far too much of the book. I didn't like RT either, he was such a grumpy, self-satisfied, snob, I didn't really care what happened to him and cared even less what he thought. I almost thought RT was included just so Fawkes could have a dig at his critics. I did like Gabriel as a character but his story was not very distinct, he didn't really mean anything except in relation to Jenni.

In some ways A Week in December felt more like a social commentary than a novel. Fawkes talked about finance, and bankers. `Reality' television. Books. The internet. The culture of blame. The rich/poor divide. Teenagers. Parents. Religion. Race. And immigration. Maybe he could have written a good non-fiction book on Britain or London today but I really don't think it made a good novel.


Half Blood Blues
Half Blood Blues
by Esi Edugyan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average, 1 April 2012
This review is from: Half Blood Blues (Paperback)
Can't say that Half Blood Blues was really what I expected. I expected it to primarily be about the second world war and what it was like to be a black person living in a Nazi occupied country. The book of course did have an element of this in, and the setting of the war was important for the story, but really it was a book about a group of friends, and about music. At first I found the voice of Sid (the narrator) really annoying but as I got used to it, and started getting into the story, it ceased to be a factor that really mattered to me. I did come to enjoy the book, mainly because I wanted to know what Sid did, but once I knew I was still interested in continuing to read.

I can't say I really connected with the characters. I wanted everything to turn out right for Sid but only because I felt sorry for him.

I found the ending was a little abrupt too, especially as they rest of the novel looked to that pont, I just felt it could be expanded upon.

Would I recommend it? Yes I suppose so but I don't think it's really award winning material, just a decent read.


The Terrible Privacy Of Maxwell Sim
The Terrible Privacy Of Maxwell Sim
by Jonathan Coe
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

3.0 out of 5 stars The Terrible Privacy of Mawell Sim, 1 April 2012
I really want to talk about the end of this book but I think maybe the end is not the best place to start!

Overall The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim made me think of Mark Haddon's `A Spot of Bother`. The character of Max was very similar to George, or at least their situation was. However while I found A Spot of Bother a little disturbing, and found it difficult to see through to the jokes, I found that a lot of The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim was funny, even what could have been depressing bits were delivered well, they didn't seem too gloomy. [ The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim has no such disturbing scenes (although apparently the scene in A Spot of Bother is meant to be funny.)

There were a fair few twists and turns as well that were good. One though seemed really unneccessary and I don't really get why it was included. I'm not going to spell it out which bit because I think if you've read it you'll know, and spoilers are tempting to read!

The only really problem I'm say with this book is that it can be quite mundane at times. You just feel like you're reading the life of any old person really, but maybe that is the point. Max is meant to be someone who could easily be you.

So the end. That was one twist and half. I'm still trying to get my head around it two days later. In some ways I kind of get why it was there, something to do with Jonathon Coe talking about himself, or maybe just writers in general. It just seems a bit out of place.

Certainly not the best Coe I've ever read, but still worth the read.


December
December
by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough answers, 1 April 2012
This review is from: December (Paperback)
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I just didn't feel compeled to read it for some reason. I'm not sure why, it sounded interesting enough.

In the end it reminded me quite a bit of Jodi Picoult books, a similar style. In a way this was good because well I like Jodi Picoult books, but at the same time it made it seem unoriginal. All the same I enjoyed it, in particular I liked Isabelle, and the psychologist in me was really interested in why she wasn't speaking.


That Day In September
That Day In September
by Artie Van Why
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.96

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blew me away, 1 April 2012
This review is from: That Day In September (Paperback)
I feel that words cannot really describe my thoughts on this book, it completely blew me away. I will try my best to put my thoughts into words, just don't expect too much!

At first I was a little unsure about reading a book based on September the 11th, not because I had no interest in the subject but because there was a part of my that thought it didn't seem right to make money out of a tragedy such as that day, but once I started `getting to know' Artie I didn't feel that way any more. It felt more like he was helping people to understand while relieving his own pain. I can imagine that writing about what happened that day must have been difficult for him.

In terms of read-a-bility for such a difficult matter That Day in September was surprisingly easy to read. The book was short (less than 100 pages) and the language was simple, so I managed to read the whole thing in less than an hour while waiting for the boyfriend in a coffee shop. However the simplicity didn't take anything away from the subject matter (at least in terms of emotional impact), if anything it let events speak for themselves. I liked that Van Why left things unsaid, sometimes words cannot match an emotion or an image, who can really describe what we all saw (whether in person or through the television) that day?

I did find myself wanting to e-mail Van Why as soon as I had read the book. Wanting to write about what I had read and urge you all to read it. What a shame I was nowhere near a computer!


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped, 1 April 2012
o start off I found Dave Eggers style quite funny, the chapter with his mother dying was actually strangelly amusing (and yes I know that sounds strange) it was just the particular little aspects of the situation that he decided to highlight, they seemed so trivial and somehow to be thinking about those kind of things when your mother is dying was rather amusing.

After a while though I found less and less to amuse or entertain me. At first I thought it was quite self-centred (I guess, that's not really the right word). I know that writing about yourself is quite a self-centred act in a way but it felt kind of arrogant, like he thought he was always right. At first I found that aspect kind of funny in itself, I thought it was, I don't know, sarcastic or something, but after a while it just became annoying, I wanted him to think he wasn't doing something the best possible way just once. I must admit by the end of tje book I just didn't like him, although there were still the occasional scenes which made me chuckle a little.


The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Understanding Lisbeth Salander and Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy
The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Understanding Lisbeth Salander and Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy
Price: 5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit up and down, 1 April 2012
Please note I have a degree in psychology so I was reading this book with that perspective.

There are quite a lot of books like this around but I've never read one before, mainly because I thought they might be a bit to simplistic. The whole idea behind these types of books I did always like. For someone who has little knowledge of psychology it can be a good way of getting across information in a way that's fun to read and easy to understand. Because psychological concepts and ideas can be related to characters whom the reader is already familiar with it makes it easy to put these ideas into a context.
Sometimes I found this was actually carried off really well. The writing was generally at a level which was easy to read and understand and quite a broad array of topics were covered. I found that the social psychology sections were particularaly well written, especially the sections on goths and nerds.
It seemed however that the further I got into the book the less it seemed to interest me. Possibly it was just a bit too long, but I did find later articles repeated on what some of the earlier articles had said. I also found that a few of the chapters didn't really link that well to Lisabeth, I mean can we really call her a superhero? The further I got through the book as well the more chapters I found that read closer to articles you would expect to find psychological journals, it was almost as if articles already written had been adapted for the book. I could still understand them but found them rather dry to read.
There was also one particular article which went overboard with making itself simple in that it seemed to forget certain principles. It used wikipedia as a genuine research tool, something I wouldn't have even been allowed to do when studying for my a-levels, it's really not a reliable enough source. Also the writer wasn't critical of the research they used in the article which had at least one rather obvious hole.
For someone with little or no understanding of psychology this may be a good place to start but I would recommend reading it broken up with another book, oh and wait until you have read all the books!


The Piano Teacher
The Piano Teacher
by Janice Y. K. Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Piano Teacher, 1 April 2012
This review is from: The Piano Teacher (Paperback)
I did quite like this book but I was only ever interested in one side of the story at a time. Initially I quite liked Claire's story and seeing how she approached the culture in Hong-Kong as a British woman. From the way some of the other British living in Hong-Kong were described I thought that bit could have gone quite wrong, with Claire just being a bit of a socialite and not seeing the `real' Hong-Kong. In some ways I did feel like there was a very British feel to the novel, it was almost as if the bits of Hong-Kong culture were added in order to remind the reader that The Piano Teacher wasn't actually set in the U.K. However in other cases it was interesting to read about how Hong-Kong nationals had actually joined their own culture with the British culture.

In the early points I didn't like Trudy and Will's story at all. I wasn't interested in the life of a socialite at all, and to be honest I really didn't like Trudy, mainly she annoyed me. As the story progressed I started preferring this story to Claire's however. I am a frequent reader of stories set in war time, and as war approached I found the book much more interesting, especially as I had known next to nothing about Hong-Kong during the second world war. I still didn't like Trudy though.

To be honest I think I just would have preferred this book if it was a book about Hong-Kong during war time, and I think there was enough material to make that possible.


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