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B. Ukiah (London, England)
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What Was Lost
What Was Lost
by Catherine O'Flynn
Edition: Paperback

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, 3 Jan. 2008
This review is from: What Was Lost (Paperback)
What Was Lost is the story of the disappearance of Kate Meaney, a most appealing ten year old who spends her free time learning to be a detective. The story starts in the early 1980s as she spends much of her out of school time at Green Oaks shopping centre in Birmingham. Here she watches and makes notes on suspicious looking people and events.

As the story progresses, Green Oaks itself becomes the glue of the novel as most of the action takes place here. The Shopping Centre seems to have a life of its own and the author succeeds in giving a real flavour of the place through some of the people who work there and are tied up in Kate Meaney's story whether in the early 80s or 20 years later.

I found the story gripping and warm and wanted to hear more about the people involved. I would thoroughly recommend this book.


Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough
Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough
by Duncan Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Moving and Honest Assessment of Clough, 3 Jan. 2008
Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were one of the most successful management teams of modern football. To take Derby to the top of the old first division was remarkable, but to reprise the feat with Nottingham Forest and top it by winning the European Cup (twice) was nothing short of astounding.

Clough's management style was dictatorial but highly effective and this book reveals the sometimes insecure person behind the bluster and brilliance. It is not simply a homage to Clough, but tells us also about his dark side, including his reliance on alcohol which ultimately robbed him of his judgement.

Duncan Hamilton, who wrote the book, had a close relationship with Clough over 20 years and this friendship shines through. This makes the book warm as well as authoritative.

'Provided You Don't Kiss me' deservedly won the William Hill Sports Book Prize of 2007 and is a great read for any sports fan.


Spies
Spies
by Michael Frayn
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A grower - increasingly enthralling and compelling, 31 May 2002
This review is from: Spies (Hardcover)
I really liked this book. Much better than the prize winning 'Headlong' as it was utterly believable to the end. The story is of Stephen Wheatley, a boy growing up in a provincial cul de sac through the Second World War. What starts as a typical childish spying game becomes increasingly complicated as the children witness things they cannot understand.

For me, though, the beauty of the book is not so much the story (which in itself is extremely well plotted, paced and developed), but more the characterisation. Stephen, his friend Keith, and Keith's parents are utterly believable in their strengths and shortcomings. The ambiguities and uncertainties of childhood are painfully realised, as are the uncertain relationships between the children and the adults. Overall, this is a novel that will live long in my mind.
One (minor) quibble is that the final revelations are unnecessary and detract somewhat from the finale. Apart from that - highly recommended !


A Painted House
A Painted House
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of time and money., 2 April 2002
This review is from: A Painted House (Paperback)
The latest John Grisham paperback - A Painted House - is terrible. Law thrillers are Mr Grisham's strength, and he should stick to them. This one reads like a (bad) kids book with not much plot, cut-out characters, and no feeling.
Luke Chandler's family are cotton farmers in a town reliant on migrant workers in the picking season. These bring trouble and cause problems for all involved. Big deal.
Luke is only seven years old, and it is his story that is told. This adds interest, but ultimately fails to disguise the novel's shortcomings. I strongly advise you not to bother with this book.


And Then You Die (Aurelio Zen)
And Then You Die (Aurelio Zen)
by Michael Dibdin
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing resurrection for Zen, 22 Mar. 2002
It's great to learn that Zen hasn't been killed, but this resurrection is well below the excellent standard that we've come to expect.
Here Zen spends time hiding away at an Italian resort, prior to his appearing in Court in the US. It appears he is not absolutely safe, but the book doesn't have much of a plot and is very light. As another reviewer has noted, this is more of a coda or appendix to Blood Rain than anything else.


The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World
The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World
by Deborah Cadbury
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting Flesh on the Bones, 22 Mar. 2002
The Dinosaur Hunters tells the story of the pioneers of dinosaur discovery in England. These were a mixed bunch indeed, and this is what I found truly fascinating. That Mary Anning, a woman on the poverty line, could play as big a part as Gideon Mantell and establisment figure Richard Owen is extraordinary.
We take the dinosaurs for granted these days, and it is easy to forget that nobody had much of a clue what they would have looked like or what size they were after finding the first few bones. The book brings this discovery to life and puts the flesh on the bones, so to speak.
It's a great human and scientific story - and this juxtaposition is what makes the book gripping.


The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World
The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World
by Deborah Cadbury
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting Flesh on the Bones, 22 Mar. 2002
The Dinosaur Hunters tells the story of the pioneers of dinosaur discovery in England. These were a mixed bunch indeed, and this is what I found truly fascinating. That Mary Anning, a woman on the poverty line, could play as big a part as Gideon Mantell and establisment figure Richard Owen is extraordinary.
We take the dinosaurs for granted these days, and it is easy to forget that nobody had much of a clue what they would have looked like or what size they were after finding the first few bones. The book brings this discovery to life and puts the flesh on the bones, so to speak.
It's a great human and scientific story - and this juxtaposition is what makes the book gripping.


A Spy's Life
A Spy's Life
by Henry Porter
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An above-average thriller, 18 Mar. 2002
This review is from: A Spy's Life (Hardcover)
Robert Harland - an ex spy - is flung from a crashing plane, and so begins a tale of intrigue and espionage, culminating in the search for a war criminal. However, what distinguishes this book from more generic spy thrillers is that the characters never become caricatures and that the plot also takes in a personal quest to discover the past.
As Harland unravels war crimes, so he also begins to unravel the consequences of a past love and the two gradually come together as the book progresses.
The book most reminded me of Le Carre, in that the plot becomes complex and murky, while remaining thoroughly gripping. The plotting and characters are good, although the story - let's face it - is more than a little unlikely.


Selkirk's Island
Selkirk's Island
by Diana Souhami
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Robinson Crusoe - not such a hero after all, 4 Mar. 2002
This review is from: Selkirk's Island (Hardcover)
It appears from this informative and entertaining book that the real life Robinson Crusoe was far from the attractive character of fiction. In fact, he was a pretty nasty fellow, given to violence, bigamy and bestiality.
Although titled 'Selkirk's Island', the bulk of the book concens life at sea, which it portrays as truly terrible. Crews were generally made up of misfits willing to endure terrrible hardship for the promise of Spanish gold. Scurvy, hunger, illness and death were the more likely rewards.
I found the evocation of life at sea more compelling than the one chapter devoted to Selkirk's time on the island. Overall though, the book is a good balance, offering a vivid insight into the life of a seaman as much as into Selkirk himself.


Sunday Morning At The Centre Of The World (A Vintage Original)
Sunday Morning At The Centre Of The World (A Vintage Original)
by Louis de Bernieres
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing self indulgence, 20 Feb. 2002
Let's be honest: if this had been written by anyone else, it wouldn't have been published. This type of thing (see also 'Labels' and 'Red Dog') is not what made de Bernieres rich and famous and the sooner he stops writing them the better.
I can understand de Bernieres taking his chance to indulge himself and try other styles and forms, but it really doesn't become him. And unless he returns to writing his stupendously good fictions, he is in danger of alienating a large part of his hard won readership. People are going to get tired of buying short stories about cat food, independent dogs, or unlikely people in Earlsfield.
Maybe I'm being harsh. After all, Sunday Morning was written to be heard rather than read, and maybe it sounds great on the radio. But in that case, it shouldn't be marketed to an unsuspecting readership.
Overall, it was barely okay, and I won't throw my copy away, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it. I also feel let down and wish de Bernieres would write another real novel that I could truly enjoy.


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