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E. A. Banks (Ipswich, Great Britain)
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The Outlander
The Outlander
Price: 4.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Flight of The Widow, 15 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Outlander (Kindle Edition)
I don't usually read adventure books but I have a vague recollection of catching an episode of this on the radio when it was 'book at bedtime' a couple of years ago and I was intrigued enough to read the whole book. It is a bit slow at the start but worth persevering with as overall, this is an excellent read. I did have to suspend my disbelief a couple of times (nobody ever seems to ask who this girl is or where she came from) but the story kept me interested enough to want to find out what became of 'the widow', even if some of her exploits seemed a tad unlikely. I rather liked the device of referring to the main character of this book by a title rather than her actual name and that it is necessary to get a long way into the book in order to find the details of her past and 'the murder'. The cast of supporting characters were mostly interesting, although I thought a few of them (for example 'the lunatic') were irrelevant to the story. Part of this story (the dead baby and the mountain wilderness) are still very much with me weeks after I finished reading it.


The Kingmaker's Daughter
The Kingmaker's Daughter
Price: 3.33

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent read, 13 Dec 2013
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This series of books just keeps getting better.
If you have read "The White Queen", you will already know some of Anne Neville's story told from the point of view of Elizabeth Woodville. In this book, the story is retold by Anne herself and one of the clever things about Philippa Gregory's writing is that she can tell the same story again in a slightly different way and still make it interesting. Even though you already know how it turns out, you still want to read about it. Further evidence of the standard of writing is how the reader can find themselves completely switching allegiance between the houses of York and Lancaster depending on which book you are reading. Somehow, Ms Gregory makes you care about these people.


The Red Queen
The Red Queen
Price: 2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Now, that's more like it!, 1 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Red Queen (Kindle Edition)
This is the 2nd book in Philippa Gregory's "Cousins' War" series and I liked this novel better than "The White Queen" in that I got a much better sense of place and time from this story. The title is slightly misleading in that Margaret Beaufort was never actually a Queen, however, she was a wealthy and significant woman in an era when women had little power and her only child did go on to be King and she certainly played her part in securing the throne for him.

This was a tough time to be a woman and Margaret's story is grim and yet this is still an entertaining read with plenty of light and shade. As a modern reader, it is sometimes difficult to understand the level of religious belief that Margaret has, but strangely that seems to make her a more interesting character. Her story runs almost parallel to that of Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen but the difference in perspective between the two women is what makes these novels interesting. Margaret does come across as a bit petulant for a lot of this book but then I think that if you had to spend most of your life having all your decisions made for you by other people, you probably would feel a bit hard done by.


The White Queen
The White Queen
Price: 2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too glossy, 1 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The White Queen (Kindle Edition)
Philippa Gregory is a good writer and she clearly does a great deal of historical research. However, a lot of historical information is open to interpretation and I do not always agree with Ms Gregory's interpretation. One of my issues with this particular novel is that it just did not seem gritty enough given the circumstances in which it is set and it concentrates too much on the love story and the elegant lifestyle for my liking. Also the dialogue occasionally seems more 20th century than 15th; for example, I do not believe that 'numpty' is a word that would really have been used in court circles during medieval times.

I have subsequently read a proper history book about Elizabeth Woodville and it was much more enjoyable than this fictionalised account. Having said all that, this is still a ripping good yarn and I have already moved on to other books in the "Cousins' War" series, all of which are so far, much better than this one. This was written as the first book in that series, but if you are thinking of reading all the books, I would recommend the third book "The Lady of the Rivers" as a better starting point because it deals with the life of Elizabeth's mother Jaquetta and the beginnings of the conflict that lead to Edward IV becoming King and I think that it makes more sense chronologically to start there.


My Animals and Other Family
My Animals and Other Family
Price: 3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Did not live up to the hype, 1 Dec 2013
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There is no doubting the fact that Clare Balding is a top bird; I like her as a television presenter, and she comes across as a thoroughly nice woman on her Twitter feed. I like celebrity autobiographies too and when this one was so highly praised and was such a big seller, I thought I would enjoy reading. I like animals, but I am not obsessed by them and do not currently own any. I also enjoy a day at the races once in a while, but I am certainly not a horsey person. About a quarter of the way through this book I realised that I may not be the sort of person that this book will appeal to.

I spent my early childhood in Berkshire so at least I recognised some of the places described in the book. It is well written and parts of it are very amusing (the breakfast sausage unintentionally launched in the direction of The Queen is a particularly hilarious anecdote). However, despite the warm-hearted intentions, I could not ignore the underlying sadness of Clare Balding’s childhood. She clearly has fond memories of growing up, but I'm not convinced that being brought up by dogs and horses is preferable to having attentive parents.

Initially, the device of building each chapter around recollections of a particular dog or horse seems original and endearing but by the time I was half-way through the book I found it irritating. For my personal taste, this book dealt with the first 16 years of the author's life in rather too much detail and then just as her life began to get interesting, the book finished. I would love their to have been more chapters about her experiences at university and her early career rather than the brief summary contained in the epilogue. Perhaps there will be another installment?


The Age of Innocence (Penguin Popular Classics)
The Age of Innocence (Penguin Popular Classics)
Price: 1.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT her best work in my opinion, 24 Nov 2013
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I was a bit disappointed with this novel, which is odd given that popular opinion has it that this might be the author's best work. I would beg to differ on that point. I have read a couple of Edith Wharton's other books and really enjoyed them but this one just did not seem to be in the same league. I did not much like the character of Newland Archer, who I found weak and shallow, and as he is the main character, that inevitably made it harder to enjoy the books a whole. For a while, I hoped he might run off with Countess Olenska, who is another character I found it difficult to sympathise with, despite Wharton's best efforts. This is a novel set among the 'society' set of late 19th century New York and the characters are all a bit snobbish and vacuous, which is to be expected, there would be no story if this were not the case. Yet, while that plot device works beautifully in Wharton's book 'House of Mirth' it seems a bit tired in this particular novel. I know that people's lives were more constrained in the past than they are now but that did not diminish my frustration with this book. For me, even the character of May, who manages to be both wholesome and scheming, could not save this from being a dull and disappointing read.


David Mitchell: Back Story
David Mitchell: Back Story
Price: 4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I love David Mitchell even more now I've read this, 24 Nov 2013
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I do enjoy an autobiography and this one is right up there with some of the best that I have read. I have been an admirer of David Mitchell for a long time and am probably one of the few people on the planet who was not surprised when he married someone beautiful who appears to be every bit as witty and intelligent as he is. I like a smart funny man and David Mitchell is exactly that, as anyone who has watched his hilarious rants on TV panel shows will know.
One of the most appealing things about this book is how strongly his own voice comes across; the mildly ranty way he explains to the reader in the introduction to the book that he is the David Mitchell off the telly and not the novelist is just like listening to him speak. We take a long slow walk through David's life (and his back pain) and even though parts of his early life are not so remarkable, there is still warmth and wit in the telling of his childhood escapades. He is only a few years younger than me so recollections regarding 70s and 80s television felt very familiar as did some of his social awkwardness.
David Mitchell writes a regular column for The Observer and has written for both radio and television so the fact that his autobiography is an accomplished piece of writing should not be a surprise. I thought the book was very well written, laugh-out-loud funny in many places and the chapter devoted to his gorgeous wife is very touching indeed.


Oscar and Lucinda
Oscar and Lucinda
Price: 2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Epic and Engrossing, 24 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Oscar and Lucinda (Kindle Edition)
This is a long novel populated by characters who are not always easy to get along with but are somehow still compelling. I can see why it won awards.
The chapters covering Oscar's early life in England have a Dickensian feel to them in that there is a sadness to his childhood and some of the supporting characters are almost caricatures. Lucinda's early life is altogether more gritty and Australian and I spent the first half of the novel wondering how on earth the author could possibly engineer a meeting between these two. They do eventually meet and the story becomes even more intriguing once their paths have crossed. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot and yet they are subtle and it was only when I had finished reading it that I realised just how much distance the story of these characters had covered.
I had a suspicion that the novel would not end as I expected it to, and I was entirely correct about that. Like a lot of great novels, the ending is faintly disappointing and I did lose track of who one or two of the supporting characters were as we went along, which is a problem I have encountered before with books of this length. However, I was gripped all the way through, the ending was certainly not predictable and now that I have finished reading it, I miss it.


The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother
The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother
Price: 4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Some stories just do not need any embellishment, 30 Oct 2013
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I ordered this book after reading "The White Queen" because I felt that Philippa Gregory had embellished the history of Elizabeth Woodville a little too much in that particular novel. The 'Cousins' War' novels are good entertainment, but the real stories of Jaquetta of Luxemburg, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort are so much more interesting than any fiction.
This book consists of what are essentially three historical essays. Phililppa Gregory writes about Jaquetta, David Baldwin about Jaquetta's daughter Elizabeth, who was Queen Consort to Edward IV and Michael Jones tackles the life of Margaret Beaufort. Each writer has their own style and I rather like the fact that David Baldwin casts doubt on Philippa Gregory's version of how Elizabeth and Edward actually met. A very interesting book.


News from Gardenia
News from Gardenia
Price: 3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas, 30 Oct 2013
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This is an interesting take on what the future may hold in that it is a lot more positive than most futuristic works, although the 'grid' that runs everything seems a bit sinister and out of keeping with the "look how nice the world could be" ethos of the book. Initially, I was intrigued about how Gavin would cope with his new environment and what he would learn from it. However, the slightly breathless style of the writing rather spoiled it for me. I wanted so much to like this book but it reads like it was written by a teenager for a story writing competition and Gavin, the leading man, comes across as a rather weak and shallow person who I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with as the story unfolded. Having said all that, the cliff hanger ending may yet induce me to read the next novel in the series.


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