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Reviews Written by
D Brookes (Sheffield, UK)

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Transform your energy - Change your life!: Nichiren Buddhism 3.0
Transform your energy - Change your life!: Nichiren Buddhism 3.0
by Susanne Matsudo-Kiliani
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for anyone who is interested in learning more about ..., 19 Jun. 2016
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this book from the DaimokuPower Institute. I have been interested in Buddhism for a while now and had been looking for some accounts or evidence that there might be something tangible in the various schools of Buddhist teaching. This book deals with Nichiren Buddhism, which advocates meditation with the aid of a chant called the daimoku. I was interested in learning more about the effects of chanting on one's environment and the brain, and this book provides some evidence supporting that there may be a change in the environment when this form of meditation is practised. It also includes some fascinating background on Nichiren himself, a Japanese monk, and the legends surrounding his personal struggles and philosophical revelations.

Recommended for anyone who is interested in learning more about Nichiren Buddhism and the evidence supporting the practise of the daimoku.


How I Escaped My Certain Fate
How I Escaped My Certain Fate
by Stewart Lee
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - justwatch the DVD shows with commentary, 22 May 2016
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A vaguely interesting introduction to stand up comedy leads into a not-very-insightful commentary on the transcripts of his live show, offering no new material. Disappointing - just watch the DVD shows with commentary.


Grotesque
Grotesque
by Natsuo Kirino
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Grotesque, 22 May 2016
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This review is from: Grotesque (Paperback)
Kirino is an excellent writer. Her characters are as fully fleshed out as can be possible and her narrative flow is excellent. I couldn't wait to pick this book up again and continue reading.

Unfortunately I was ultimately disappointed. By the second half I was realising that this isn't, strictly speaking, a novel (in the traditional sense). The book is clumsily divided into huge clumps, some 100 pages long, each focusing on one character, with sparse interludes between. Although the characters meet and interact during each of these sections, and a lengthy narrative about their school years provides some cohesion, it really feels more like several short stories linked by theme but not really by story. It makes the whole book feel disjointed and unweildy, and I realised that the main narrator had little to do with the overall story, making her essentially a pointless narrator and more of a device to give the illusion of real connection between the characters' separate stories.

That said, if you approach this as 'the story of Yuriko' and 'the story of Kazue' that are bound within the same cover, you might enjoy it more and expect less from the ending. There is a significant portion told from the point of view of a suspected murderer which, although interesting, literally has nothing to say about the story or the main theme, and is only really relevant since that character shows up again later, again to little effect. Wanting to skip 100 pages of a book (and then wishing I had) means I really can't give this deep and compelling piece of fiction more than 3 stars.

I strongly preferred 'Real World' and 'Out' by the same author, which had more cohesive storylines whilst still being excellent character studies.

David Brookes
Author of 'Cycles of Udaipur'


Freedom In Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama of Tibet: Autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet
Freedom In Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama of Tibet: Autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom in Exile, 3 Jan. 2016
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Worth a read if you are interested even in just one of these:
- Tibetan Buddhism in general
- The life of the Dalai Lama
- The political situation of Tibet, before and now
- Inspiration to be compassionate in the face of almost genuine evil
- Tibetan life and culture

Well written, full of touches of almost unbelievable compassion as well as warm humour, and a great source of information and even inspiration.


Sky Burial
Sky Burial
by Xinran
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Sky Burial, 3 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: Sky Burial (Paperback)
A very interesting narrative, apparently true, of a Chinese woman's search for her husband in Tibet following the 'liberation'. Has some good insights into the average Chinese person's knowledge/opinion of Tibet during that period, and also is of interest if you would like to know how Tibetan nomads lived. It's a romance story of a sort, and as bittersweet and neat as if it were wholly fictional. The writer had to fill in many blanks, but I would have liked to understood more about the protagonist's motivations, as her reasons for doing certain things are vague or too deeply hidden. In this sense, the characters were not satisfying and the plot therefore unsatisfying too, but overall the mood of the book and the 'visual' feast of its setting make this short book well worth a read.

7/10
David Brookes


Across Many Mountains: The Extraordinary Story of Three Generations of Women in Tibet
Across Many Mountains: The Extraordinary Story of Three Generations of Women in Tibet
by Yangzom Brauen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.13

3.0 out of 5 stars Across Many Mountains, 3 Jan. 2016
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For me, the novel was more interesting in its "Tibetanness", i.e. the first of the three generations, and somewhat less so with the second generation. By the time we meet the third, represented by the author, the narrative was too far removed from the reason why I would have read the book and more concerned with the author's own life, even as it failed to relate to Tibet at all. In that sense, it's a touch egotistical and not of interest. If you are interested in Tibet, I would recommend "Sky Burial" and "Freedom in Exile". The latter is also good for a summary of the political situation then and now.


Finch
Finch
by Jeff VanderMeer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting sci-fi - no errors in my ebook version unlike other reviewers', 3 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: Finch (Paperback)
I'm a fan of the author's early works, which are rich, complex and very original. Finch is set in a great fictional world, which has drastically changed since the preceding novels and really interesting ways. The characters are also fascinating and deep. I can't say that I was totally convinced by the first person narrator - the punchy, noirish voice feels forced and is distracting. Amazing, the writer/editors don't seem to have spotted that Finch's dialogue is inconsistent with his narrative voice - why doesn't he also speak punchy and noirish? Nevertheless, the story feels very alive. The protagonist's relationship with one of the female characters was especially evocative for me. This would make an absolutely stonking film and I hope Hollywood discovers VanderMeer and produces this rather than the inexplicably more popular Annihilation books. Unlike other reviewers, my e-copy of this book didn't have many errors that I noticed - they must have revisited the text to scrub these out (purchased in late 2015).

Overall, a great read slightly marred, in my opinion, by the unnecessary Chandler-esque writing style and a slightly bloated plot with one too many noir tropes. As a piece of sci-fi, it's fascinating and well worth a read.

7/10
David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings' and 'The Gun of Our Maker'


The Message
The Message
Price: £3.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book by this young author., 11 Oct. 2015
This review is from: The Message (Kindle Edition)
Surprisingly complex and adult themes are dealt with in this beautiful short story. This metafictional, dreamlike tale moves swiftly and has a satisfying ending. Very much recommended for younger readers.


A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Moveable Feast, 28 Aug. 2015
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This isn't a novel, so if you're after any kind of arcing narrative or story resolution you're in the wrong place. What we do have is a masterful piece of Hemingway's writing at his pared-down best, evoking Paris and a certain period in his life with great clarity. I found it hard to put down and wish it was twice as long. Some of the standalone chapters at the end, in particular, are quite moving, although this really is a snapshot rather than a narrative with any real structure or 'ending'.

As a writer it was particularly interesting as it gave some insight into his process and habits whilst writing (or not writing).

8 / 10
David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'
and 'The Gun of Our Maker'


Solo: A James Bond Novel
Solo: A James Bond Novel
by William Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Solo, 21 Aug. 2015
Boyd does a great job at writing in an accessible but literary style, and for mimicking Fleming's writing style too a degree. The quality of the writing is decent, with some great scene-setting and characterisation.

I was impressed that Boyd delves a little into Bond's past. According to the intro, Fleming's timeline places this story in the 1960s and shows that Bond fought in WWII, which is quite a fascinating detail about the character that is explored a little in the opening chapters. I wished by the end that Boyd had continued to examine this part of Bond's character.

Where the novel loses points is on the overall story, which is adequate, but there isn't enough happening to justify the word count and the second half felt like a slog. The plot is appropriately twisty but sadly not very interesting, although it ticks all the Bond boxes: sexy girls with funny names, gadgets, globetrotting, physically deformed villain, political intrigue, etc.. In this sense it's same-old, but probably what you were expecting from a Bond novel. Something is sadly missing though and I wished the book was a little more compact.

I much preferred 'Devil May Care', but haven't yet read 'Carte Blanche' or the latest from Anthony Horowitz (!?).

Worth a dabble if you're a big fan of either Bond or Boyd, but a generally average read.

6.5/10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'
and 'The Gun of Our Maker'


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