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Reviews Written by
Linda Oskam "dutch-traveller" (Amsterdam Netherlands)
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Pieces from Berlin
Pieces from Berlin
by Pye Michael
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.56

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A missed chance on a very interesting theme, 22 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Pieces from Berlin (Paperback)
Lucia Muller-Rossi is a 90 year old antiques dealer in Zurich, Switzerland. She has a son, Nicholas, and a granddaughter, Helen, with whom she has a rather formal contact. This is due to the fact that the family has a secret: the antiques that Lucia is selling were not obtained honestly, but were given to her for storage by Berlin Jews. When one day one of her victims, Sarah Freeman, recognizes one of the tables in the antiques shop as her own, the family finally has to face the truth, which leads to a big domestic drama.

The facts on which this novel is built are of course fascinating: the trade in Jewish goods which "changed owner" illegally during the Nazi regime. Unfortunately, the story remains unclear for a long time and there are a number of story lines that have not been exploited properly: what is the role of Peter Clarke, why did Helen never before confront her grandmother with the truth and what happens in the end with the table that started it all? A missed chance, a pity.


Hoot
Hoot
by Carl Hiaasen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Environmental struggle for kids, 22 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Hoot (Paperback)
Roy Eberhardt has just moved from Montana to Florida. He misses the mountains and in the school bus he is bullied by the enormous and stupid Dana Matherson. Then he sees he boy running on bare feet and is fascinated by the question who this boy is. Slowly but surely he gains the trust of the boy and his stepsister Beatrice Leep. The story is about a new branch of Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House, which will be build on a site where cute and endangered miniature owls are living in holes in the ground. After numerous adventures Roy finds that life in Florida is not so bad after all.

A children's book (10-12 years) that is a smooth read. Roy may be a rather docile, politically correct boy with very understanding parents, but the story line has wit and a good pace and matters are solved with a lot of creativity rather than force.


Lost Light
Lost Light
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great one from the Master, 22 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Lost Light (Paperback)
Harry Bosch has finally done it: he has turned in his batch and retired. But even after eight months there are still a couple of unsolved murder cases that keep nagging him. He has made copies of the files and decides to work on the murder of a young woman working at a film company. When he starts digging into the case he gets more attention then he bargained for, especially from the new Anti-Terrorism Squad of the FBI. It takes all his skills and perseverance to bring this case to a good end. And what are the roles of a paralyzed ex-cop, a former DA-turned-lawyer and Harry's ex-wife? And the biggest surprise of them all is right on the last page and it makes you wonder what will happen to Harry. Another highly entertaining book by my favourite detective author.


The Story of My Baldness
The Story of My Baldness
by Marek van der Jagt
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book in one go, 22 Dec. 2006
Marek van der Jagt is in the beginning of his twenties and grows up in a completely deranged family in Vienna. His mother has failed as an opera singer but still behaves like a star and has whole contingents of lovers, his father sells life insurances and refuses to talk about any subject that is important to maintain a normal family life. One of his brothers is a conductor, the other a famous ecomomist. Only Marek (who has not yet finished his philosophy study and probably never will and who gives extra lessons to dim children) does not succeed in life. The fact that his private parts are the size of a toe (or "three quarters of a pinkie" as he tells one his lady friends) does not help his self-confidence either. But all in all he is fairly successful with the women.

A comical and smoothly written story by the alter ego of the Dutch writer Arnon Grunberg in which a whole array of strange characters passes by. Nice to read.


The Chemistry Of Death
The Chemistry Of Death
by Simon Beckett
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting but a lot of gory details, 22 Dec. 2006
This review is from: The Chemistry Of Death (Hardcover)
Doctor David Hunter works as a GP in a small village -Manham- in Norfolk. But in a "previous life" he worked as a forensic anthropologist specialized in dacaying bodies until his wife and child died in a car accident. When women start to disappear and get brutally murdered in Manham he starts to help the police. It becomes increasingly apparent that the murderer has to come from the village and slowly suspicion enters the community: a beaten up homosexual, a civil vigilance movement and a preacher who pretends to be the village conscience do not improve the atmosphere in the village. Luckily, David meets the teacher Jenny and they fall in love with each other. But then fate intervenes...

A very interesting book considering the theme (what happens to a village population when there is an unidentiefied killer in their midst), which is by the way very similar to "The church of the dead girls" by Dobyns. The only minus is that the descritions of the bodies and the accompanying signs of decay are sometimes a bit too vivid to my taste: not a book to read on an empty stomach.


The March: A Novel
The March: A Novel
by E. L. Doctorow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good historical novel, 4 Dec. 2006
This review is from: The March: A Novel (Paperback)
In Europe most people know little about the Civil War in the USA, except maybe that there was and issue about freedom for slaves and Abraham Lincoln was murdered. Even though I am a bit of a history buff, I have to admit that I also did not know much about this war. So how appropriate that I started reading this book while I was in Atlanta. The book follows a number of characters, both from the Confederate side and the Union side and from slave to general during the March that General Sherman undertook through George, South and North Carolina at the end of the Civil War. The book gives a disillusioning view of war: the dirt, the stench, the chaos, the atrocities, and the total futility of war. But also of love, comeradeship and gallantry. It is amazing how many parallels one can draw with the war in Iraq: a population of which one half is not happy with the liberation and the other half is in the end considered as a hindrance for the conquering army.

My main problem with the book was that there were so many characters involved that the book never really goes in depth: by using many characters the author can describe a large variety of aspects of war, but if one follows only one or a few characters (like in Kaputt from Malaparte, that I read last winter) the total disarray that is caused by war becomes much more apparent.


The Return Of The Dancing Master
The Return Of The Dancing Master
by Henning Mankell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neo-nazism in Sweden, 24 Oct. 2006
Stefan Lindman is a policeman in southern Sweden. In the same week he hears that he has tongue cancer and that his ex-colleague Herbert Molin is brutally murdered. As a way to forget his cancer he uses the sick leave between the diagnosis and the start of radiotherapy to investigate the murder of Molin, who is slaughtered and left behind with a pattern of footsteps that gives the basic tango steps. He works alongside Giuseppe Larsson, the official leader of the investigation. Together they first discover that Herbert Molin was a convinced nazi until his death and they unravel a network of neo-nazies. But the murderer of Herbert Molin comes from his past. Already quite in the beginning of the book we meet the murderer, but his exact motives remain unclear until the end of the book.

The first book that I read after the Kurt Wallander series. And even though Stefan Lindman is no Kurt Wallander, he is an interesting enough character and the theme of the book (neo-nazism in Sweden) is interesting enough to read this book in a few days. Despite this, there was something missing: the plot did not grip me like the last few Mankells that I have read.


Saturday
Saturday
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One ordinary day turning extraordinary, 24 Oct. 2006
This review is from: Saturday (Paperback)
On Saturday 15 February 2003 Henry Perowne, a middle-aged London neurosurgeon and dedicated husband and father, wakes up in the middle of the night and, while standing for the window, sees a flaming plane on its decent into Heathrow. He cannot sleep anymore and sits downstairs with his blues-guitarist son Theo to wait for the news. It turns out that the plane made a safe landing. When he finally goes to bed again he makes love to his wife, falls asleep and wakes up while outside the preparations for the protest march against the Iraqi war are ongoing. He takes his car to the squash club, but on the way there gets hit by a car with 3 young thugs in it. The leader of the three, Baxter, wants to beat him up, but when Henry mentions the signs of Huntington's disease that he has clearly seen in the guy he backs off. The rest of the day goes by relatively ordinarily: he plays squash, goes shopping, visits his demented mother and goes to a rehearsal from his son's blues band. All the while we see the world through the eyes of a reductionist neurosurgeon, explaining events from the perspective of brain functions.

But they haven't seen the last of Baxter. During a nice Saturday evening get together with his wife, children (his daughter Daisy is in for a visit from Paris to show the proofs of her first book with poems) and grumpy, alcoholic father-in-law-cum poet, Baxter and one of his friends show up again. The evening takes a number of unexpected turns, not in the least because of Baxter's mood swings which are caused by the Huntington's disease. In the end Henry shows that he is a true doctor who lives up to the oath of Hippocrates even in the most difficult of circumstances.

A great book. Henry is in a sense a very ordinary man, even though better off than most people, but he fully realizes this. I can imagine that some people may get bored or irritated by Henry's way of reasoning, but I thought it was amazing that the author (not a neurosurgeon himself) could dive so convincingly into the mind of somebody who has it all and then threatens to lose it.


Your Face Tomorrow: Dance and Dream v. 2 (Your Face Tomorrow Trilogy)
Your Face Tomorrow: Dance and Dream v. 2 (Your Face Tomorrow Trilogy)
by Javier Marias
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Life is too short for unreadable books, 24 Oct. 2006
The October 2006 book for my reading club: nearly 300 pages of a writer who is considered as a serious candidate to be a future Nobel Prize winner. But I was not impressed, it even irritated me (something that seldomly happens with books): pompous style, unclear contents, long sentences that just list events/things/persons. I thought that the problem might be in the translation, but when I tried the Spanish version it was just as awful. And since life is too short for unreadable books I stopped after 2 attempts and 67 pages (which meant that I gave it a serious try).
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2010 5:48 PM BST


The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truely magnificent book, 13 Sept. 2006
This review is from: The Kite Runner (Paperback)
Amir and Hassan grow up together in Kabul in the seventies. Amir is the son of a rich and influential man, Hassan the son of his handicapped but very appreciated servant. The boys seem inseparable, but despite everything there is always the difference in standing. And then on the day of the big kite competition in Kabul something happens that turns their friendship upside down. In the beginning of the eighties Amir and his father flee to America, where Amir marries and becomes a writer. But his past with Hassan is haunting him. Then he is called to Pakistan by the dying best friend of his late father and he finally hears the secret that changes the meaning of his past. In the end he has to go back to Kabul (which is now ruled by the Taliban) to come to terms with his past and save Hassan's son.

This is truely a magnificent book that grips you from the first page. It is awful and beautiful and contains every aspect of life: friendship, treason, love and a villain and gives wonderful descriptions of Central Asia and the Afghan culture as well.


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