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Lucybird (Birmingham, UK)

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City of Women
City of Women
Price: £4.35

4.0 out of 5 stars City of Women, 30 April 2013
This review is from: City of Women (Kindle Edition)
It was an interesting subject. I think we should really admire Germans who harboured Jews during Hitler's reign. It would be so easy just to ignore what was going on around you and stay safe (or at least relatively safe).

I quite liked how Sigrid battled with wanting to be a `good German' and not being able to ignore what was going on around her. It showed that she wasn't some sort of saint, but that this was the way she reacted to the situation. In that sense it makes the idea rather hopeful, that anyone could do something amazing for a fellow human-being, given the right circumstances.

In many ways she was just trying to get through the days, waiting for the war to end. And I can imagine it was that way for a lot of people.

The story was very sad, but also hopeful. I really felt for Sigrid, even if I didn't always like her. Again it just showed that she was human.

The Rest is Silence
The Rest is Silence
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars The Rest is Silence, 28 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Rest is Silence wasn't really what I expected. I expected the discovery of suicide to be an important plot point which sustained throughout the story. In fact it was more of a spark that starts a fire. It was referred back to, but it wasn't as much of a key point as I had anticipated, and actually the story may have worked without it (although it would have suffered somewhat if it was taken out).

The story switched through different voices. Tommy, the young boy, Alma, his stepmother, and Jaun his Father. The time also jumped around a little, especially in Alma's chapters. This was most obvious at the beginning of the story, and it made things a little confusing, and it did make it harder to get into the book.

There were, in effect 3 (or maybe 4) stories running through the novel, one for each character, but another where all the stories interlinked. It was interesting to see the different sides of a story, and the ways the stories deviated showed the fractures in the family.

I enjoyed Alma's story best, and I think I liked her best too. There was something quite strong about her, but she almost wanted too much control over her life, she didn't ever seem to just let things happen. Possibly I shouldn't have liked her, but there was something very easy to like about her. I think part of it was that Juan was shown as having quite a hard exterior, and although we saw his softer side he never seemed to understand that sometimes you have to show you're soft side and at others it's better to remain strong. We saw the contrast between the ways he and Alma interacted with people, and Alma came off better.

Tommy's story should have been the most interesting, but his voice didn't really work for me. Sometimes it felt like a child's voice, but most of the time it was a bit too adult, without and common sense.

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé (Chocolat 3)
Peaches for Monsieur le Curé (Chocolat 3)
by Joanne Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice to go back, 28 April 2013
Chocolat is one of my favourite books so when I heard about a third book in the series was to be released (the second is The Lollipop Shoes) I was rather excited. However it was sitting on my shelf for quite a while before I actually got around to reading it, there were challenge books to read, and review books. Despite wanting to read it it's priority was a little low. I finally decided to finish reading it rather than reading a book for the wishlist challenge last month.

One problem which I have with the Chocolat series as a whole is how spaced out each instalment has been. I first read Chocolat when I was about 16, I read it a couple of times before I read The Lollipop Shoes but still managed to forget a few elements which made links more difficult. I remember more or less nothing from The Lollipop Shoes now, so it made references to things that had happened then rather difficult to understand.

Luckily I was able to enjoy Peaches for Monsieur le Curé as a novel in itself, and the links with Chocolat were rather strong which made it easier to make those links. It did take me a long time to read, not because I wasn't enjoying it however, or because it was difficult, but rather because I kept getting too drawn into the books I was reading on kindle (I read Life After Life at the same time for one thing) and because I tend to get less time to read my paperbacks than my kindle books.

I think maybe something that happened in The Lollipop Shoes may have been important in that Vianne grew. Last time we visited Lansquenet the priest (Francis Reynaud) was seen as a stubborn, backwards, and unaccepting man. In this we can sympathise with him more, maybe he is a little conceited, and maybe his views are a little black and white, but he is generally well meaning. Poor Francis is rather out of popularity and everything he thought he was doing for Lansquenet seems to have gone wrong, until it seems everyone has turned on him.

It is quite a testament to Harris' writing that she can write about the same person, and even at times the same situation but completely change the reader's outlook. You can certainly interpret Francis' actions in Chocolat as being well intentioned, but, probably because Vianne doesn't see it that way, you don't. Whereas in Peaches for Monsieur le Curé she sees Francis in a different light, and so do we.

Something I tend to like about Harris' writing is her skill in setting an atmosphere. The descriptions of chocolate in Chocolat make you want to visit that shop, and in Peaches for Monsieur the atmosphere of the Muslim area of the village is so well built that you can almost imagine yourself there.

As with Chocolat Peaches for Monsieur le Curé seems quite pondering but has a great climax, which doesn't come as a complete shock dur to the elements peppered throughout the rest of the book. However what the climax is does come as somewhat of a shock.

The Show (Northwest Passage Book 3)
The Show (Northwest Passage Book 3)
Price: £3.06

3.0 out of 5 stars Needed more research, but enjoyable story, 28 April 2013
The Show is the third book in the Northwest Passage series. It continues where the first book in the series, The Mine, left off. I have not read the second book in the series, The Journey, but it follows a different storyline so it isn't needed (in fact I'm not really sure why Heldt put a random non-joining story in the middle). You could probably even read The Show as an independent story, but I would recommend reading The Mine first.

When I first got the e-mail about a sequel to The Mine I was interested to see what happened with Grace and Joel next, and to see how Grace settled into modern life. However when I read the synopsis I was a little less sure. It seemed that Heldt was trying, unnecessarily to stretch the sci-fi element by making Grace time travel again. In a sense this was true, and I think I would have preferred a book which showed how Grace got used to the new millennium. Having said that there was a certain element of this too the story, and once I got into the story after she had time travelled it didn't really matter to me whether it was too much of a stretch or not.

When reading The Mine I had preferred Grace to Joel and it was nice to have a story which was more from her perspective. Also because I already knew Grace from reading The Mine I cared a bit more about her. Her emotions once she lost Joel again were quite well built, and I could imagine myself acting in a similar way, however I think she got over the loss and moved on a little too quickly. It was again a sense of Heldt pushing a story in a direction which didn't seem quite natural. Whilst I did enjoy the plot in terms of a story in it's own right, I didn't really like it as it related to The Mine.

There was one this in particular that bugged me about this book. It was only a little moment, not even an important one, but it really bugged me. Especially as it's partly billed as a historical novel. In the book two girls move from England to America. They talk about how happy they are to move to the US because it's so much more liberated than England. As a Briton that grated at me, but I was ready to overlook it. But then they started talking about how women could vote here, but not in England. Which made me think, wait a sec...didn't votes for women exist in the UK before the US? Which yes they did, in fact at the time that the book is based women couldn't vote in most of America.

Friends Like These
Friends Like These
by Danny Wallace
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More thoughtful that other books of this type, 28 April 2013
This review is from: Friends Like These (Paperback)
I nicked borrowed this book off the boyfriend the other week when nothing on my kindle was inspiring me and I just fancied an easy read. I actually got it for him for Christmas because he loves the film Yes Man- I wasn't sure if he had read the book the film is based on so I went for another Danny Wallace instead. When he read it he said I should too.

Well I did say after reading Charlotte Street that I wanted to try some of Wallace's non-fiction, and who am I to deny an offer of a book?

I'm sure everyone knows the sort of friends Danny is trying to find. Those friends who you somehow lost, never really intending to, but still it happens. So I think Danny's feelings about his friends are easy to relate to (not that most of us have the time or money to find and visit all our friends from primary school).

In a way I liked this more than other similar types of books (i.e. comedian goes on an adventure to find people, or things e.g. Googlewhack, Around Ireland with a fridge, Dave Gorman Vs. The Rest of the World), because it was more real. It was sort of inspirational. Not in the sense of I would go around the world to find people I knew in school, but in the sense of wanting to try and reconnect with lost friends.

But it had what those types of books have too. It was funny, and a bit stupid, and a little unbelievable and over the top.

Still Alice
Still Alice
by Lisa Genova
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Still Alice, 28 April 2013
This review is from: Still Alice (Paperback)
In terms of books about Alzheimer's I found it rather emotive and there were moments I just felt so, not despairing exactly, but almost pityful for Alice. At times it was just gut-wrenching.

I liked Alice a lot, even as she forgot more and more, and I think that's part of what made it so emotive. However I did not like John. He didn't seem supportive at all, and I found him rather selfish.

There were a couple of little things which annoyed me. First Alice was a psychology professor but still didn't recognise her symptoms as being Alzheimer's, however I was able to forgive this. Even if you know something it's easy to pretend it isn't happening, or to attribute it to something else. The second thing was that one of her daughters had noticed something but said nothing. I can see it being awkward to talk to her Mum about it, but I would have thought that she might at least have brought her thoughts up with someone else in the family.

The Snow Child
The Snow Child
Price: £3.66

3.0 out of 5 stars The Snow Child, 21 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Snow Child (Kindle Edition)
There was a lot of buzz about this book when it first came out. It was one of the Waterstone's 11, and everybody seemed to be reading it. It was on my wishlist for a long time but I didn't buy it until it was on offer as part of the 12 Days of Kindle.

I had a bit of an up and down relationship with this book. It started very slowly and early on I did consider giving up (I need to work out a rule for when I can give up on a kindle book). I was interested in Mabel particularly which is part of what made me continue. Having no children was so hard on her that she was prepared to move to a rather inhospitable part of the world just to escape the pain.

In a way I sympathised with Mabel but sometimes I just wanted to tell her to stop being so stupid. Her thoughts and decisions were so emotion based that she didn't seem to even realise where they might lead her, and when they were just absurd.

Once the child entered the story I started to enjoy it however. I think part of it as knowing how much Mabel wanted it, and despite my annoyance with Mabel I did want her to be happy.

The imagery of Alaska was rather good too. I liked the contrasts between the harshness and the beauty of the environment.

The end for me was rather abrupt. I think it could have ended better earlier or needed to be extended a little more for a more satisfying conclusion.

As for the parallels with the fairy story. It was nice in a way but it was also part of what made me annoyed at Mabel.

The Specimen
The Specimen
by Martha Lea
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't live up to expectations, 21 Mar. 2013
This review is from: The Specimen (Hardcover)
I cannot remember the last time it took me this long to get through a book. It's taken me a while to write this review too, mainly because my overriding reaction was `YAY I managed to finish!'

I had fairly good hopes for The Specimen, a bit of a mystery, a bit sciencey, a bit romantic, maybe a little feminist. Sadly I was disappointed. It did have all the elements I expected but not to a satisfying level. To try and order my thoughts I'm going to go through each expectation at a time then add anything I haven't covered.

Mystery, well, I never really wondered who killed Edward. It was basically old from the beginning as if Gwen was guilty. I wondered why she might have done it, and I think I eventually got an answer, which was, to be honest a bit of a cop out of an answer considering other things which had gone on and could have been built to a motive. I had expected Gwen to be married to Edward at the time as well which took away a large chunk of the drama for me.

The science was probably the best in terms of detail, but it was also the bit I was anticipating the least. I thought the Darwinism issue would be interesting to read about, but there was less of a debate as a general feeling that everyone wanted to prove Darwin right, and even that was brief. I dud however like how involved Gwen was in her biologist role and how interested she was in the creatures.

At first there was a fair bit of romance in the way Edward and Gwen interacted but this seemed to very suddenly just disappear for no reason, and I was waiting for a moment that showed they loved one another. There was a sort of intensity to the times when the `love' was there which made me unsure of how genuine it really was, and how but Gwen and Edward really knew each other.

Actually the only thing I really did like was that Gwen was quite a feminist. She wasn't to be able to explore the world in the same way that a male scientist would, and she- most of the time- expected to be listened to the same as a man would be. I respected her for that although I didn't exactly like her the whole time. She was certainly an improvement over Edward, even before they went away I started to loose any reasoning as why she liked him, and it just got worse.

There was a certain element to the book which was hard to follow. The time kept switching and I was often confused as to how the events fitted together. Plus there were a few sections which didn't seem to fit in with everything at all.

Life After Life
Life After Life
Price: £5.68

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, 18 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Life After Life (Kindle Edition)
I really did not want this book to end, it was, just, wow, there's no words! I'm sad that it ended when it did. I have that sort of melancholy feeling you get from finishing a book that's really special. I can't remember the last time I felt that, maybe as far back as The Elegance of the Hedgehog (and that was back in 2010)? In some way it's greater because the story didn't have to end there. The nature of the story means it never really had to end, although I suppose if it didn't end Atkinson would still be writing it and I wouldn't have got to read it at all!

How can I describe this book? It's a sort of epic Groundhog Day. It's strange how everything seems sort of inevitable, even though Ursula has lived it before, has knowledge from that former life, even though you know she should fix it you're scared that the same thing will just happen again, and again, and again. You're shouting at her. You know what's going to happen and there's a sadness, and a dread, somehow you don't think she'll fix it.

I think that shows something of Atkinson's writing talent, and ability to get you into a story, that your emotions trump your logic, every, single, time.

I loved Ursula, when everything changed, however she decided to live that life, she was still, undeniably Ursula, and that's probably a hard thing to achieve. I enjoyed the whole family dynamic too, and that was something which barely changed.

A lot of the story focused around the second world war, which is a period of time I like to read fiction about. It was interesting though because Ursula's different lives meant you could see the war from different angles, and with a sort of hindsight which was built into the novel, rather than from the reader living in a different time.

I've never read any Atkinson before, she's known for crime stories, which aren't generally my thing, but I may read more of her now.

Irv's Odyssey: Seeking the Way Home Book Three (Irv's Odyssey Trilogy 3)
Irv's Odyssey: Seeking the Way Home Book Three (Irv's Odyssey Trilogy 3)
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Irv's Odyssey 3, 26 Feb. 2013
This book was somewhat different from the first two and initially I wasn't really sure about that. It started off with a much stronger spiritual element than the previous two (which had a spiritual element, but where it wasn't the main bulk of the story). At this point I doubted somewhat if I would enjoy this book. Then Irv met Marianne and it suddenly switched over, rather than Irv's spiritual life being the focus it became his, not personal life, exactly but his life in reality I suppose. When it was mainly spiritual there was still and element of day-to-day life, and when the focus was on his personal life there was still an element of spirituality but there was never really an equal balance.

Marianne didn't like elements of Irv's spiritual life and he agreed to give those elements up. When reading I found this a little contradictory to the plot of a spiritual journey. It was almost as if he had been trying to discover himself then just given up on the whole idea. However after thinking about it I think that actually his giving up elements of his spirituality was a part of finding it. His spirituality had been part of what had led him to where he was, and once he got there he needed to think about how to balance his spiritual and personal lives.

One thing about this book was that Marianne's habit of not finishing her sentences really grated on me, especially when I wasn't yet used to it. I did like her as a character but I really thought at one point that I might have to give up just because of it.

I do think this is probably my favourite of the series, but it was the hardest to read.

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