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Clear Smith (UK)

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
by Marisha Pessl
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 27 Nov 2007
I felt I had to write a review of this book after having read so many negative ones. I found that a lot of the negative reviews were down to people expecting something very similar to 'A Secret History' and perhaps comparisons to that are unfair. However, I came to this book with few expectations and was suitably impressed. As one reviewer has already said, the only similarity with A Secret History is the campus setting, but here the characters are younger, more modern - they are still at school - they aren't that clever, they are just average kids who happen to be well off thus giving them, on the surface, some allure and sophistication.

I loved the way the book played out, thought the illustrations added something extra to it, small visuals I looked forward to as I read. The school atmosphere, the feelings expressed by Blue; the jealousies and the power struggles within, the hero worship, feeling included and then distancing herself from this 'elite' group made me remember how cliques at school work. Something about this book seemed to ring true, not the conspiracy theories and such but at least the human elements.


Prep
Prep
by Curtis Sittenfeld
Edition: Paperback

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic...., 13 Dec 2006
This review is from: Prep (Paperback)
Although set in an American boarding school, Prep captures the insular nature of any school environment with precision and a truthfulness which leaves you aching.

Lee Fiora a scholarship student at Ault, a prestigious East Coast boarding school, feels like an outsider from the beginning of her time there. The book shows you her development throughout her four years and shows her grappling with everyday problems. However, the book is not mundane in any respect, it conveys her insecurities, her need to always remain distant and somewhat detached. The questions she raises are perhaps those which any teenager might ask, what is her place in her insular society, where does she fit in and how?

What makes this book particularly interesting is the fact that Lee is narrating the incidents sometime after she has left Ault, thus she is able to relay these episodes with hindsight, and she is able to see more clearly the intensity and importance placed on them, an intensity which may seem unecessary when you step out of the school environment and see it in relation to the world at large. But it is also the intensity of these incidents which ring true, the fact that in such a small, close-knit school society, and perhaps because of the age of the students these incidents become life or death...

If you can get past the ridiculous names; Cross, Darden, Horton, Gates are but a few, then you will find a brilliantly written book that might leave you nostalgic for the innocence, naievity and purity of emotion which come from being a teenager.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 28, 2012 8:58 AM BST


Home
Home
by Manju Kapur
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Home......., 1 Oct 2006
This review is from: Home (Paperback)
A really gripping read as other reviewers have already said. The characters are beautifully drawn and believable, some especially the women can be seen to be typical of Indian middle-class women. The family's desire for suitable marriages is the main theme throughout and the frustrations and obstacles which come with this can be seen taking their toll on the younger gerneration, however perhaps not to the extent that you might expect. Brought up to see marriage as a business transaction most of the marriages have little to do with love and the characters willingly accept arranged marriages for the good of their family.

A good read, sad and funny at the same time, as well as frustrating yet compelling...


The Rice Mother
The Rice Mother
by Rani Manicka
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, 24 July 2006
This review is from: The Rice Mother (Paperback)
An enjoyable book and compelling. It is split into several parts and each part covers a different generation. The strength of this book lies within the first and second part where you learn about the rice mother's different children and their different characters. The characters are enchanting and often seem as if drawn from myths.

The weakness in this book is when we meet the grandaughter who is living an opulent life. This part seemed to jarr with the rest of the novel.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2011 8:16 PM BST


The House of Blue Mangoes
The House of Blue Mangoes
by David Davidar
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars SLOW, 24 July 2006
I found this book although had lovely descriptions did not move fast enough to hold my attention. It isn't as if I suffer from ADD but I found it difficult to concentrate on and wished something more would happen!

It was slightly frustrating and I felt I couldn't connect to the characters. Disappointing.


A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
by Marina Lewycka
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, 24 July 2006
I had absolutely no expectations from this book but once I started it I thought it was so funny. I found myself laughing out loud in places! It's light hearted and fun yet touches on some interesting and sad points, such as the relationship between the two sisters and the differences in their upbringing due to the age gap between them. It has some wonderful imagery too. Everyone I know who has read it thought it was great and I must agree...

You just can't help but love the characters despite their being frustrating at times, even Valentina who you will just love to hate!

Really easy to read and definitely worth it!


The End of Innocence
The End of Innocence
by Moni Mohsin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.70

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best..., 23 July 2006
This review is from: The End of Innocence (Hardcover)
This book is seen through the eyes of a nine year old who is spending her holiday in a sleepy Pakistani village whilst civil war is rife miles and miles away in East Pakistan.

I found myself skim reading much of this book to get to the main meat of the story, this is not something I often do therefore I think I must have found it quite tedious. Perhaps I couldn't fully appreciate the fact that so much of it was seen through the eyes of a young child therefore much of the narrative seemed innocent to the consequences of what was about to occur. Therefore I found myself predicting much of it before the narrative itself got to those conclusions.

It does however give a great snapshot into Pakistani life and culture but I didn't think it focused enough on the war which was constantly mentioned but without going into enough detail. What is most interesting is the story of the servant girl and her demise. This is gripping and haunting but it is a pity the rest of the book brings it down.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 7, 2011 11:21 PM GMT


The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan's Ancient Pleasure District
The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan's Ancient Pleasure District
by T Louise Brown
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pure diamond..., 22 July 2006
This is a documentary of an English academic's time spent in Hira Mandi (Diamond city), the brothel area of Lahore. It spans over a period of about 5 years and focuses on the different characters which Brown encounters. However, it is mainly about one family who through Brown we get to know. The family consist of a beautiful mother who is no longer young enough to be a courtesan/prostitute, and her three daughters who are barely teenagers so at the prime age to start their careers.

Set in Pakistan it shows you the sordid and unpleasant realities of life in the brothel town of an Islamic country. Yet it has a sense of optimism or practicality about it. The characters are trapped by their positions and therefore you see them desiring more yet the class and religious restritions they are bound by mean they can never move up in society.

There are moments of pure hilarity in this book (the melodramatic antics of Maha) and moments where you think 'this is so sad', and it's this balance which makes you care for the characters and want to find out more about them. You also gain a sense of Brown's own frustrations at the thinking of these Pakistani women, for example when they call one another 'whore' yet this is the very thing which they find insulting in turn, or when they pity Brown for being a single woman.

It is a documentary which absorbs you fully into the slums of Hira Mandi and at the end I found myself wondering what happens next...

A lot of novels about Pakistan are about the rich and socially elite, so to find this book which shows you a flip side to that, the slums and the poverty was particularly interesting. Perhaps it is a little more of what you might expect Pakistan to be like, yet it is about sex, cultural, religious and social limitations, therefore provides much more than what you might expect.


Predator (Scarpetta Novels)
Predator (Scarpetta Novels)
by Patricia Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confusing to say the least..., 22 July 2006
I have to agree with most of the other reviews on this and that is that Cornwell has really lost her grip on what was once a fantastic series. In honesty, the last three books (Predator, Trace and Blowfly) seem to be one massive blur as they are all quite similar and there seems to be little to differentiate between them. Is she just using the same story line over and over again and we are still buying the books? If so she is doing well, but as far as this goes for enjoyment and suspense it is lacking.

It's convuluted, confusing and more often than not, tedious. It seems a real shame because Cornwell at one time used to combine a sense of cosiness (think Scarpetta making pasta sauce) with the grotesque and frightening, to create a great balance of warmth and suspense.

And I am confused as to what has happened to the characters, Marino, once a couch potato slob is now a Harley driving, martial arts expert? And as for Lucy who seems super-human at times...perhaps it is really time for her to disappear into a world of underground crime or something. And Scarpetta, the more I read descriptions of her the more she seems like the photo of Cornwell on the back of the book!

Not worth the time and effort, which is a shame because once upon a time I loved the Scarpetta novels...


Trespassing
Trespassing
by Uzma Aslam Khan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.79

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual..., 22 July 2006
This review is from: Trespassing (Paperback)
This book is unusual and beautifully described. It is firstly about a young Pakistani woman and man who start a relationship when he returns from studying in America. Despite this seemingly standard storyline, the author creates layers of insight into the world of the Pakistani elite. Juxtaposed with this is the life of the villagers, their poverty and struggle for success. It is almost the story of two separate individuals which intertwines and overlaps. It isn't just a story about Pakistan as it surpasses merely being a representative for a nation, but is interesting and intriguing throughout.


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