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Reviews Written by
Eleanor (Oxford, England)
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Why Did You Lie?
Why Did You Lie?
by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A creepy thriller, 17 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Why Did You Lie? (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm a fan of Yrsa Sigurđardóttir's Icelandic crime novels featuring lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, and this standalone novel is just as enjoyable.

The novel's three separate strands consist of a grieving police officer, a couple who return from holiday and find their house (which they had swapped with an American couple) is not quite as it should be, and four workers stuck on a dangerous windswept rock in the Icelandic sea.

Yrsa keeps up the suspense throughout and there are plenty of genuinely creepy moments. The prose is workmanlike, but the plot and the characters meant that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.


Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future
Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future
by Svetlana Alexievich
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A polyphonic masterpiece, 24 May 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Chernobyl Prayer" is a frightening, moving, horrific, and often beautiful book. Through the monologues of her interviewees (who include doomed rescue workers, evacuees, physicists, party members, children, and those who have chosen to resettle in the Zone), Svetlana Alexievich gives voice to those whose lives are inextricably linked to the Chernobyl disaster.

I started the book knowing very little about Chernobyl and those who were affected by the explosion of the reactor. I finished it sobered and enlightened, not just about the events of 1986, but also about the Soviet Union and the mindset of those who belonged to it. Certain themes recur and are worried at by the various speakers: the shadow of the Second World War, the beauty and fecundity of the land around Chernobyl, and most of all an inability to give a shape and outline to what had happened (several speakers describe it as like something out of science fiction).

This is an essential book that I would urge everyone to read. It will stay with me for a long time.


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
by Matthew Desmond
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the other half lives, 19 April 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Between May 2008 and December 2009, sociologist Matthew Desmond moved into some of Milwaukee's poorest neighbourhoods, immersing himself in the lives of some of their residents, as they desperately try to find and remain in a safe and secure place they can call home. Desmond also spent time with their landlords and this insight is fascinating, especially in they way that they sincerely believe that they do not exploit their tenants or have a role to play in their vicious poverty.

"Evicted" focuses on the human dramas and emotional lives of its subjects and its style is reminiscent of David Simon's "Homicide", for example. This narrative is underpinned by rigorous research and analysis evinced by the 60 pages of endnotes. The result makes for a compelling read and you have to keep turning the pages, sucked into the lives of these Milwaukee residents and desperately hoping that this time things will turn out ok (they usually don't). Indeed, reading it in a nice warm house felt almost like rubbernecking.

However, although the conditions Desmond describes are extreme they are also all too common and although treating of just one city in the States, the book has universal relevance. What Desmond most powerfully shows is that when you are poor every piece of bad luck, every vicissitude, has an effect far more damaging than for those who aren't, creating a vicious circle of poverty and misery from which it is almost impossible to escape. Desmond also describes how poverty is 'a relationship..involving poor and rich people alike' and it is for this reason that "Evicted" should be required reading for everyone, especially our Eton-educated politicians.


CurtzyTM 39 All Purpose Polyester Sewing Colour Thread Reel Spools Set Needlework Embroidery
CurtzyTM 39 All Purpose Polyester Sewing Colour Thread Reel Spools Set Needlework Embroidery
Offered by Kurtzie - Fast Shipping
Price: £19.96

4.0 out of 5 stars A useful collection of threads, 18 April 2016
[I was given a free sample of this product in return for an honest review.]

This is a really useful collection of threads for when you need a particular colour for applique, binding, etc. (there are only 6 metres of thread on each spool, so I wouldn't rely on these for projects that require a large amount of one colour). The threads come in a tray with a cardboard sleeve, so they're easy to store and view. The set consists of 39 threads, including two metallic spools. Quality-wise, I think I prefer Gutermann, but these are a convenient alternative and (at the current price) a bargain.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2016 11:25 AM BST


The High Places
The High Places
by Fiona McFarlane
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection of short stories, 8 April 2016
This review is from: The High Places (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I very much enjoyed Fiona McFarlane's "The Night Guest", and this collection of short stories lives up to the promise of that excellent first novel. McFarlane imbues her stories, which are mostly set in Australia, with a shimmer of strangeness and sinister currents within the everyday settings. 'Buttony', which relates a game played by a teacher and her students, raises the tension to unbearable levels and 'Violet, Violet', set in a faded hotel, becomes something eerie and charming. I enjoyed every story in this collection and I'm looking forward to what McFarlane does next.


The Fireman
The Fireman
by Joe Hill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable dystopian thriller, 30 Mar. 2016
This review is from: The Fireman (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Joe Hill's latest book is set in the near future, a dystopia in which large portions of the world's population have dragonscale, a spore which causes those infected with it to spontaneously combust.

What follows is an enjoyable thriller full of good characters, satisfying twists, and plenty of clever touches and allusions. Hill also has a nice way with words: for example, one character's odious husband 'had the habit of hunting through his vocabulary for exactly the right term, which, somehow, inexplicably, always made it the *wrong* term' and a 1930s fire engine is described as something that would 'always look splendidly like the past's idea of the future, and the future's idea of the past'.

My only complaint is that the Englishness of the book's title character didn't quite ring true for me (he was more like an American's slightly muddled idea of an English person), but that's a minor quibble with what was an enjoyable and exciting read.


When Breath Becomes Air
When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Science, literature, and self, 19 Mar. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Paul Kalanithi was an English student before becoming a doctor and it is this combination of science and literature, enhanced by Kalanithi's own thoughtfulness and honesty, which makes for such a satisfying memoir.

The first part of "When Breath becomes Air" tells of the decisions and experiences which led to Kalanithi becoming a neurosurgeon and his ever-present urge to discover what self is and how death and self interact. The second part of the book describes the illness which would eventually kill him.

I read memoirs like this partly because I feel that their authors, being closer than most of us, must have some advance information about the inevitable and terrifying mystery of death. Of course this can't be the case (Kalanithi makes a similar, but more surprising, discovery when he realizes that his many years of watching people die, are no help when it comes to his own diagnosis), but the rewards of this book, for the living, more than compensate.


Six Four
Six Four
by Hideo Yokoyama
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.74

4.0 out of 5 stars The police, the press, and the victims, 5 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Six Four (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Six Four", first published in Japan in 2012, is a long slow police procedural centred on the kidnapping and murder of a little girl in 1989. The real meat of the novel, however, concerns press officer Mikami and his relationship with the police administration, the criminal investigations unit (where he used to be a detective), and the press. Whole sections of the novel are spent following Mikami as he rushes from department to department, wrestling information from various parties, negotiating, promising, and bargaining, whilst all the time trying to save face and maintain his integrity.

All the bureaucracy and politics creates a claustrophobic atmosphere in which the importance of what seem like small social interactions is magnified. As an English reader, the Japanese culture described with its prescribed levels of formality and emphasis on saving face felt quite alien at times, although the human griefs and weaknesses portrayed are universal.

Although slow-going and sometimes confusing (to a non-Japanese reader) I enjoyed this book and the way it immerses you in a particular set of institutions which are examined from every angle. Towards the end Yokoyama ramps up the action and the way all the plot strands come together is very satisfying.


The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives
The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives
by Helen Pearson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Measuring people, 5 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book tells the story of a handful of British cohort studies, starting in the 1940s and ending in the 21st century. Cohort studies follow thousands of people from their birth to their death, periodically collecting data on health, class, education, employment, and anything else the researchers might want to know (or think future researchers might want to know).

"The Life Project" is a history of these studies (which throughout their lifetime have struggled for funding from short-termist governments), a portrait of their determined and sometimes eccentric directors, and a survey of the discoveries that have been made from their data. By studying cohorts scientists have proved again and again the link between social class and attainment in later life, demonstrated how one's time in the womb influences one's life decades later, and shown how the 1980s was when people of all ages started getting fat.

Pearson's enthusiasm for these studies shines through on every page and this is a readable, interesting, and occasionally depressing book. It will make you consider your own life and all the factors (known and unknown) that have shaped it.


Lenovo Ideapad 300-15IBR 15.6 inch Laptop Notebook (Intel Pentium N3700, 8 GB RAM, 1Tb HDD, DVDRW, WLAN, BT, Camera, Integrated Graphics, Windows 10 Home) - Black
Lenovo Ideapad 300-15IBR 15.6 inch Laptop Notebook (Intel Pentium N3700, 8 GB RAM, 1Tb HDD, DVDRW, WLAN, BT, Camera, Integrated Graphics, Windows 10 Home) - Black
Offered by Laptop Outlet UK
Price: £249.99

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK as a basic laptop, 30 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was given this laptop to review by Amazon and I've been using it for about five weeks, mostly for the internet (including writing this review, a blog, etc.) but also for my work, using specialist editing software. The computer is easy to set up, starts up quickly, and for the most part has been doing what I want it to do. I am a bit sceptical about the 'Super Speed Wi-Fi' as it didn't seem much faster (and sometimes slower) than my old laptop, which is about seven years old, even once I'd removed a lot of the pre-installed software. You also get Windows 10 and a CD/DVD drive.

This works as a basic laptop and I will continue to use it. However, there are a number of features which, if I had to buy a laptop, would make me consider choosing something else:

* The position of the mouse and keyboard means that it isn't that comfortable to use, compared to other laptops, and after a while I could feel the effect on my hands.

* You have to press quite hard on the mouse buttons and they make a loud noise when clicked. This is very irritating and I would be reluctant to use this computer somewhere quiet like a library.

* The mouse froze when I was using this computer and it took at least half an hour (and numerous restarts) for it to start working again. Googling shows that others have had this problem, sometimes for days, and this makes me worry about having to rely on it when I'm working from home, for example.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2016 6:01 AM BST


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