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King of the Badgers
King of the Badgers
by Philip Hensher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly dull, 24 Dec. 2013
This review is from: King of the Badgers (Paperback)
King of the Badgers begins well, and one is led to expect a kind of social comedy, with shrewd, if acerbic, observation of different characters in a smallish seaside town. The tone then becomes grimmer with the account of a supposed abduction of a little girl. After this the novel veers between two sorts of description: of different kinds of surveillance, by CCTV or by curtain-twitchers, and of various gay sexual encounters. The latter practically take over the book, with a gay orgy of tedious length and minimal relevance to anything one had supposed the novel to be addressing. The child turns out not to have been abducted, so the mother is arrested. There is no sympathy for her character or situation, no analysis of her predicament, at all.Then it turns out that the child actually has disappeared, this time really taken by a paedophile. Meanwhile, the numerous middle-class couples, whom I was unable to distinguish from each other, continue to meet and speak, but to no evident purpose. Two people die in a perfunctory way and eventually the child is rescued. There has been no genuine characterisation throughout- a teenage girl who is fairly repulsive at the outset suddenly stops being foulmouthed and behaves in a comparatively civil way, but no explanation is given. Her boyfriend vanishes from the book, as do several other characters, and one woman comes to prominence right at the end after having been cursorily mentioned right at the beginning. People are crazy or nasty or both, and that is roughly the limit of their characters. An uninteresting couple are dismissed to riches after being a bit worried about money and of the abducted and presumably traumatised child we hear no more. What is the point of this book? The only parts written with any gusto are the gay sex scenes. It would have been more honest for Hensher to have confined himself to those and not pretended to have anything to say about any other issues. His account of the abductor's repeated rapes of China, as "made love to the little girl" is presumably supposed to convey the warped consciousness of the paedophile, but it strikes the reader as inadequate, grotesquely tasteless and ultimately unengaged with the ordeal of the child. This is a very disappointing book as Hensher can obviously write, but a novel such as this suggests that neither his sympathies nor his powers of analysis are equal to his writing talent.
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Kiss Me First
Kiss Me First
by Lottie Moggach
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Began well but ran out of steam, 20 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Kiss Me First (Hardcover)
This begins with a startling and original idea. Unfortunately the blurb and the accompanying quotations from reviews give an impression of the book that is not only very misleading but, I think, actually very irresponsible. Whatever one thinks about a person's right to commit suicide, it cannot be right to embark on schemes that aim to deceive people and to a certain extent entrap them into conniving at the act. The narrator of the story, Leila, is clearly deeply inadequate, verging on mentally unstable, having no interest in ordinary social interaction. The bipolar character, Tess, whom Leila is supposed to impersonate in her online persona, is simply not the sort of person who would maintain an almost ceaseless correspondence via social media, and given the description that we are given of her, neither is she the sort who would inspire such a degree of affection, even adoration, in men and women who appear otherwise to be quite conventional. Tess as she is depicted, is annoying, selfish and pretty unpleasant, while Leila is charmless, pathetic and peculiarly dogmatic, considering that she is supposed to be quite free from sentimentality and preconceptions and so on. There is also a problem with the novel's structure: all the interest is at the beginning, the account of Leila's preparations and online ruses becomes tiresoms and there is no denouement to speak of. It's not credible that, after all that has happened, Leila should just start having friends. The premise of "Kiss Me First" could have made a good thriller or murder plot, but instead it's just rather pretentious.


Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
by Peter Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and thorough, 14 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In this book, Peter Brown describes the development of Christian society between 4c and 6c with particular regard to the use of wealth. He traces the change in attitudes towards almsgiving, from the late classical notion of civic responsibility to Christian ideas of free giving to the poor and the ideal of temporal poverty itself. There is a huge amount of very learned research here and Brown writes with generosity towards other scholars and with the authority of his own acclaimed scholarship. Physically it is a big heavy book, but the style is light, and considering the enormous amount of sheer material it contains, this is not oppressive in tone. The subject is unusual and the historical period covered not one that will be immediately familiar (or necessarily attractive) to most readers, but I approached it in almost complete ignorance and have found it fascinating.


The Pocket Calorie Counter 2013 Edition (Portable Diet Guide)
The Pocket Calorie Counter 2013 Edition (Portable Diet Guide)
by Peter Pauper Press
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars almost entirely useless, 10 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is written for the American market, which should have been made clear on the website. The terms for food and measurements are American ones, many quite meaningless to a British reader. A good half of the book is also given over to food from particular American restaurants, which is again pointless if you're not in the US. I sent it back.


Sensodyne Repair And Protect Toothpaste 75ml (Pack of 1)
Sensodyne Repair And Protect Toothpaste 75ml (Pack of 1)
Offered by Dental Direct UK
Price: £5.12

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars strangely unpleasant, 21 Aug. 2013
I have been using Sensodyne whitening toothpaste for ages with no complaints, but when Ocado stopped including it on their website I tried Repair and Protect. I found it gave me sensitive teeth, not the other way round. It tastes odd and actually makes my teeth feel hot. When I mentioned this to my dentist she recommended I stop using it. I've gone back to the ordinary Sensodyne and walk to the chemist for it.


The Three-Body Problem
The Three-Body Problem
Price: £1.79

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly entertaining, 18 July 2013
"The Three body problem" sets itself the difficult task of making an epistolary novel interesting, and succeeds only up to a point. The narrator, Vanessa, tells the story by means of letters to her twin sister Dora. Vanessa is a teacher of small children, who becomes an amateur detective. The eponymous problem is the "n-body problem", which deals with the prediction of the motion of a group of celestial objects that interact with each other gravitationally (acknowledgments to Wikipedia!) and Shaw tries to make this a sort of metaphor for the triple murder that Vanessa eventually solves. This device of using scientific or philosophical theories to illuminate or give structure to a narrative is a trick successfully pulled off by Tom Stoppard, but not always so happily by other writers, and here the relationship between celestial objects doesn't throw any extra light on the story.Vanessa's supposedly guiless and rather gushing conversation is unfortunately full of Americanisms, which compounds the unlikeliness of the whole fiction, a scenario of a single, and not wealthy, lady of the 1890s having unhampered access to university society and foreign travel and, least likely of all, the conversational respect of academic males. It's a likeable attempt at an unusual sort of detective story, but with the epistolry structure Shaw has caused herself unnecessary difficulties.


Lion of the West: a Biography of John Mchale
Lion of the West: a Biography of John Mchale
by Andrews
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of an eloquent and deeply humane Irishman, 23 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's no exaggeration to say that John McHale was a truly great man, and yet very little has been written about him. Hilary Andrews' book is valuable as an introduction to his life and work and a sympathetic account of a turbulent period in Anglo-Irish relations.


The Truth
The Truth
by Peter James
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars would award it no stars if I could, 4 Mar. 2013
This review is from: The Truth (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a rotten book. The characters are unbelievable, their motivation is entirely trivial- money and material success- and yet we are supposed to sympathise with them. The story itself is beneath contempt and many of the plot details are clearly the product of a sick imagination.


Alchemist
Alchemist
by Peter James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars complete nonsense, 14 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Alchemist (Paperback)
Where to start? Peter James' detective stories are popular now and I strongly suspect that it is only because of this that his earlier thrillers have been re-issued. The Roy Grace novels are successful because they have excitement and pace, but even so there is something pretty unwholesome about the imagination that regularly prduces such gruesome murders.The thrillers have all the torture and gore of the Roy Grace novels without any of their logic. "Alchemist" is a particularly silly example- we know about villainous pharmaceutical companies and another nailbiter about their wicked conspiracies will always do well. But this one is so ludicrous that I wonder if perhaps Peter James was just trying it on.It has the requisite revolting descriptions of black magic ceremonies,frogs, goats, sacrifices, mind control, the corporation that seems to own everyone including the police and so on. So much for the baddies. It's the good guys in this that are too ridiculous to take- dowsing, going without dairy products, visualising gold spots and carrying talismanic squares of paper about with them, covered with symbols. This, we are told, is advanced science, superior to the irrationality of religion. If this is reason, give me a superstition that teaches people to be charitable and not to tell lies, any time.


Grounds For Appeal (A Richard Pryor Mystery Book 3)
Grounds For Appeal (A Richard Pryor Mystery Book 3)
Price: £8.03

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars very disappointing, 27 Jan. 2013
The cover of this book describes it as a "mystery". The only mystery is how it managed to be published. The central plot- of the headless body in the bog- is never properly resolved, but there are other, irrelevant, plots, a woman appealing against a murder conviction, an extremely unlikely French couple of winemakers looking for a longlost son, and an old man with a heart attack. These stories have no bearing on each other. It isn't a novel at all, but a "six months in the life of a forensic pathologist in the 1950s", which might have been quite interesting if there had been any characterisation of the people involved. We have a collection of young women who, we are told, are attractive, but there is little to distinguish one from another. The whole is terribly weak. Bernard Knight obviously knew his forensic stuff, presumably in the 1950s, and a straightforward account of his experiences at that time might have been more successful. But this book is simply dull.


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