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D Brookes (Sheffield, UK)

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City Palace Museum, Udaipur: Paintings of Mewar Court Life (Museums of India)
City Palace Museum, Udaipur: Paintings of Mewar Court Life (Museums of India)
by Andrew Topsfield
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars City Palace Museum, Udaipur: Paintings of Mewar Court Life, 16 Feb. 2014
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The book does as it describes: provides a visual account of court life as described through the beautiful and evocative court paintings throughout Udaipur's history.

The images are reproduced full colour, many in full-page or on double-page spread, with numerous close-ups of the more interesting bits. It's a large-size volume so I doubt this would disappoint anyone.

There are some well-informed paragraphs accompanying every picture, most of which include some interesting asides about how the people are dressed, what they're carrying, symbolism of events, historical anecdotes, quotes on the subject matter by other authors or from first-hand accounts, and where possible lists of names of the people depicted in the paintings (often even the names of the elephants!). I learned a fair bit about Rajistani culture from the book, more than expected.

A very beautiful, colourful book. I can't think of how this could be improved.

9/10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered WIngs'


MAHARAN: Story of the Rulers of Udaipur
MAHARAN: Story of the Rulers of Udaipur
by MASTERS B
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maharana: Story of the Rulers of Udaipur, 16 Feb. 2014
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A great book that covers the history of Udaipur's rulers.

I write the review on the basis that you picked this up because you're already interested. On that basis, you won't be disappointed. This knowledgable writer has produced an extremely readable book, full of anecdotes and connected pieces of history and lore. I got everything I expected and more.

This fails to score a fifth star as I would have liked to see a few images and photos from the eras being described: maybe court paintings, early photographs of the palace and maharanas, maps or blueprints of the early cities if they existed. This would have evoked the history fully and made a perfectly rounded book.

As it is, 9 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered WIngs'


Stonemouth
Stonemouth
by Iain Banks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Stonemouth, 16 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Paperback)
I was pleased to see Mr Banks return to form for what was sadly his last novel.

The cover adequately describes the content: tender, funny and exciting. Tender is probably the key thing here, with some Banks trademark nostalgia and sweet romances. He's managed to tap into one of those universal emotions that made me put the book down and look out the window a few times.

There are some tense scenes that play very well, although I don't feel that these gel 100% with the key themes of returning home and lost love, regret, missed opportunity. Frankly if he'd written the novel without, it would granted have been a slower pace but perhaps a fully accomplished novel, a real swan song. Likewise, there are a few superfluous characters and scenes that plump this out, but which a really stellar editor would have axed.

In any case, this is by far better than some of the author's blander works, particularly his last few mainstream novels. 'Stonemouth' isn't quite 'The Wasp Factory' or 'The Crow Road' but it's close, but has a degree of subtlty that means he's achieved a similar level without the use of shock tactics - an arguably much tougher choice.

Definitely recommended for Banks fans and a worthy goodbye.

7.5/10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered WIngs'


The Sense of an Ending
The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars The Sense of an Ending, 16 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Paperback)
A sweet little book, heartfelt and genuine, with a steady pace and little fat.

With just a few main characters, we get to know them with surprisingly little by way of detail. Mostly, they're described just by how they talk and react to what others are saying; we aren't bombarded with pieces of history or anecdotes that define them. We're shown, rather than told, and this means that the story zips along. Even though very little happens, the emotional content makes this book feel loaded, a fully-complete novel.

Recommended.

7.5/10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered WIngs'


An Artist of the Floating World
An Artist of the Floating World
Price: £5.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Artist of the Floating World, 19 Jan. 2014
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A beautiful little novel, perfectly understated. There's little by way of overt drama here, but Ishiguro masterfully creates a first person protagonist who provides all the necessary conflict within himself. Beyond little glimpses into the past and the character's current family life, all the struggle is internal on behalf of an artist who begins to wonder if he is a traitor to his beliefs and his country.

A rare insight into an artist, too, as most novelists haven't a clue what it's like to be such a person (amazingly, considering that novelists are supposed to be artists too).

Brief, bittersweet, insightful and intelligent. I much, much preferred this over the weak "Never Let Me Go".

8 / 10

David Brookes
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"


The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
by Milan Kundera
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 16 Jan. 2014
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This is the second of Milan Kundera's books I've read. I'm starting to think that I've read all he has to offer.

This is not a bad book, but to call it a novel is a stretch. It's really a self-indulgent essay with fiction-y anecdotes strewn throughout. The whole thing in terms of its structure and its themes is very self conscious, so that you feel like you're being talked at rather than experiencing a story.

Having said that, the story elements are quite interesting and amusing. It's not, as one reviewer seemed to imply, meant to be a funny book on the whole. It's more political and social commentary than anything, disjointed, at times dry, but mercifully short and succinct.

A nice little distraction with a few things to say, but I felt hard done by again by picking out a Kundera "novel" in which the author's voice is overpowering and story is thin on the ground. I'm not sure if it's deliberate irony that Kundera makes a point about people only being interesting in their own thoughts, stories and perspectives when having a conversation - this is exactly what he does here, at the expense of fiction and the reader's patience.

It's not terrible. But it's not a novel or, in 2013, particularly insightful or daring.

5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"


Haunted
Haunted
by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Haunted", 5 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Haunted (Paperback)
I first read the story "Guts" at university, when my writing lecturer gave it to us to read for homework. Next class, when he asked us how we all found it, he was grinning like a jackal. He wanted to know how many of us fainted whilst reading it.

According to the afterword, 70+ people fainted as Chuck Palahniuk read that story in public spaces around the world. I believe him.

Most of the stories in this collection are a little revolting, or just sad or upsetting. All of them are very well written and fascinating in a grim way.

"Haunted" is presented as a novel filled with short stories and poems. The poems are largely redundant, and frankly not very good, but only take up a couple of pages each. As I said, the stories are fantastic. The novel element, being the thing that holds it all together, isn't too interesting and is really just a framing device.

I probably would have enjoyed this more if I'd just read the stories, and not the "novel" part. In the back of the book there's an index of stories with page numbers.

As it is, this is a great collection weakened by a "clever" concept, so I can't really give it more than 7/10, based purely on the strength of the individual stories.

7 / 10

David Brookes
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"


The Fourth Hand
The Fourth Hand
by John Irving
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Fourth Hand", 25 Dec. 2013
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Paperback)
I'm surprised that this only has 3 stars on Amazon. It's a very insightful, beautifully written, funny and touching novel.

The characters are extremely well drawn, even ones who only appear in a couple of scenes.

Some of the set pieces are so well put together that even by the first chapter I was putting the book down, revolted at how talented Irving is.

If only all authors were as insightful and clever.

A very good read, full of laughs and poignant moments.

9 / 10

David Brookes
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2014 8:45 PM GMT


Outer Dark
Outer Dark
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Outer Dark, 18 May 2013
This review is from: Outer Dark (Paperback)
I'd love to rave about this book by Cormac McCarthy but unfortunately it doesn't have a lot going for it.

As a series of vignettes set at the turn of the century this is evocative, if bleak. As a novel there's only the loosest of stories to hold it all together, and although this is resolved satisfactorily by the end I was left feeling like the middle was largely meaningless. It's also gruelingly repetitive, with characters constantly asking each other where they're headed and why, or for a sup of water, or if there's any work hereabouts.

Despite this it's a fairly fast, well-written piece of fiction though and if you're a genuine McCarthy fan, you'll probably be glad you read this.

Not bad.

6.5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


Lolita (Penguin Classics)
Lolita (Penguin Classics)
by Craig Raine
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Lolita, 18 May 2013
This book didn't disappoint. Nabokov writes through his protagonist who has a flowery, poetical prose. In any other novel this would be overwritten but in this case defines our character.

Anyone hoping for some real insight into the psychology of a paeodophile is looking in the wrong place; Nabokov himself said that he wasn't out with any agenda, barely sympathizes with his character and writes only to get a story out, not to make a point.

What we do have here is a twisted love story, beautifully constructed if a little flabby in the middle, with a killer ending.

Definitely recommended.

8 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


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