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Pen pal "Topaz" (Kent, England)
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American Rust
American Rust
by Philipp Meyer
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facets of despair and redemption, 14 Mar. 2010
This review is from: American Rust (Paperback)
This novel demonstrates the total decline of the west. Astutely pointed out by the author, America is relying less and less on its own resources, and importing more and more from China. This is resulting in massive loss of jobs in once affluent towns. This, and the total decline of the family, is resulting in the break-down of society as a whole. Philipp Meyer does a wonderful job of painting this bleak portrait, weaving into his narrative the key characters. If anybody harboured any illusions of the prison system, here it is laid out in stark reality; is anybody going to be rehabilitated in such an environment? The despair and corruption here, just a microcosm of what is happening in the wider world. Poe and Isaac are really well portrayed, each coming from an environment of dysfunction, but doing the best they can to cope in a rather hostile world. However, even in such bleak circumstances, we are given glimmers of the more noble qualities of human nature - loyalty, love and friendship. It is perhaps this stark contrast that makes the book work so well. Well worth a read.


The Given Day
The Given Day
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great period piece, 8 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Given Day (Paperback)
I feel everybody has described the plot in some detail in the other reviews. Suffice to say, that this really does evoke the period very well. It was quite shocking how poorly paid the police force was, and the fact that they had to buy their own uniforms from their meagre wages was astounding. As regards the characters, I particularly adored Luther. I always felt my interest in the story pick up when it was his tale being told. There were several interludes in the story when Babe Ruth was brought in, and I am not really sure how he fitted in to the whole epic except perhaps to highlight, even in the sporting arena, the racial tensions of the time. Well worth a read, but not a 5 star in my view.


The Little Book
The Little Book
by Selden Edwards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I would not recommend this., 19 Feb. 2010
This review is from: The Little Book (Paperback)
This book looked very promising when I read what it was about, and I was looking forward to reading it. I very rarely give up on a book, but I had to give up on this one when I was nearly half-way through. There were some awfully long descriptions in minute detail of baseball games, which I have to say bored me rigid. I would imagine you would have to be a fan to enjoy those. Perhaps one game would have been bearable, but there are quite a few of them that you have to 'read' through. None of the characters particularly interested me or even came across as very credible. Not for me.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 26, 2016 10:24 AM GMT


The Earth Hums in B Flat
The Earth Hums in B Flat
by Mari Strachan
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly dull, 19 Feb. 2010
Having read some of the reviews, I thought that I would give this book a go. It is not the worst book I have ever read, but it is not the best either. I actually found it a little monotonous and dare I say it, boring. Nothing much really happens. So, if you are looking for a period piece then the observations are well made, and the descriptions are good. However, if you are looking for a good plot or a page-turner, do not go for this book.


The Missing
The Missing
by Tim Gautreaux
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A study of loss., 14 Feb. 2010
This review is from: The Missing (Paperback)
This story wonderfully evokes life just after the First World War in the Southern States of America. We meet Sam initially when he has signed up and been posted to France to fight, but fortunately for him, when he arrives the war is over and he is sent to clean up war-torn fields. The descriptions here beautifully illustrate the futility of war, and the awful experiences of those who were unlucky enough to have been caught up in any war. In particular, Sam would be just about the last person to be sent to fight as he is a true pacifist. We learn early on that he has been bought up by his uncle after the tragic murder of his family, but even so his uncle has instilled in him the values of humanity, and the pointlessness of revenge. I would consider Sam to be a pacifist, and definitely not a coward as others would try to make out. He is a good man, and as the story unfolds of the kidnap of the little girl and all the repercussions that follow he always tries to do the right thing. This does lead to a moral dilemma, where he makes a decision that is not his to make, which leads to major ramifications. In all that happens it is the power of the people who are missing that have so much effect on those who are there.


Brooklyn
Brooklyn
by Colm Toibin
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply marvelous, 7 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Brooklyn (Hardcover)
Very slow and seductive, this book draws you in deeper and deeper until you just cannot put it down. The very simplicity of the writing is quite deceptive. When you first meet Eilis and her family it is almost like sitting and watching the most normal events unfold. Ordinary lives of ordinary people. Slowly you realise that it is everything that is left unsaid that creates the juxtaposition between the rough and the smooth as the events quietly unfold. Clearly Eilis's family are extremely controlled people who do not speak easily of their feelings and emotions. You cannot help but be caught up in Eilis's move to Brooklyn, or to admire how she remains so self-contained. You can, however, see sparks of the hidden passionate person beneath the deceptively poised veneer. For the duration of the book you step very neatly into the shoes of Eilis, and there you stay. I had to read this almost without a break to see what happened, and then when I had finished I felt sad. I could easily have continued with Eilis, but without giving anything away, it does end very neatly.


Sacred Hearts
Sacred Hearts
by Sarah Dunant
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 7 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Sacred Hearts (Paperback)
It is absolutely terrible to think of all the poor girls who were given over to the convent against their wishes all those years ago. This book depicts the absolute despair felt by a 16 year old being forced against her will into something so severe. It was so interesting though, to see how many did learn to live and adapt right till their dying day. There was no choice. They were allowed, it appears, to not take their vows after a year if they felt that they were not well-suited, but few did as it would bring disgrace upon the family who clearly wanted that particular daughter there, and of course, the convent would not be eager to let them go because they wanted to keep the dowry. Zuana who is asked to help the novice Serafina to adapt to convent life is a really interesting character. She is highly intelligent and talented, and has taken after her father in mixing herbs and potions to help the sick. Her father's sudden death meant that there were no other real prospects than to enter the convent. She is deeply affected by the anguish and despair of Serafina, and starts to question more and more the ways of the convent and the subjugation of young women against their will. What I found so well portrayed was that there were the religious zealots who took everything to the letter, and the general religious fervour which after certain circumstances escalated things to an almost hysterical fever pitch. Yet through it all the person who behaved in the most charitable, humane, gentle and decent way was the one woman, Zuana, who starts to question so much around her, but captures all that religion should be if only those real values were being adhered to. To say too much more would be to ruin a wonderful read. This was an amazing book and is highly recommended. I shall be looking out for all her other books, of which there are quite a few.


The Gravedigger's Daughter
The Gravedigger's Daughter
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, 3 Feb. 2010
This novel is very much about identity. We start with Rebecca as a young mother, and we quickly realise that all is not totally well in her marriage. The book then goes back to Rebecca's childhood. It is here we quickly form a pychological profile of Rebecca and the events that have shaped her and led her to the circumstances in which she finds herself at the start of the book. She is an extremely damaged person, but when we view her childhood, her parents were also deeply damaged and humiliated, and this has completely warped their ability to nurture their children. Events have been so appalling for them that it has overshadowed everything in their life in America, and they view the world with a deep mistrust and suspicion. Rebecca tries to reinvent herself, but the price she ultimately pays is very high. On one level she succeeds very well, but on another she has to suppress so much. It is a moving novel and Joyce Carol Oates is very good at getting to the heart of what makes a person tick.


Cutting For Stone
Cutting For Stone
by Abraham Verghese
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuts deep in every way., 21 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Paperback)
I have never been to Ethiopia, but such was the writing I felt that I was there. Verghese makes the characters in his book come completely alive, and you begin to really care about them. It is the tale of twins, born in unusual circumstances, not least because their mother is a nun. Their subsequent childhood, in which they are raised within a very loving family by Hema and Ghosh, not their natural parents, sets the scene for all that is to come. Marion falls in love with a childhood friend, as good as a sister, but is ultimately betrayed by the two people he least expected. The betrayal has deep ramifications that ring out through the rest of time. This is an extremely moving novel, and I was not surprised to learn that the author is himself a surgeon, as he gives some fairly detailed accounts of various operations that take place. Needless to say, all the key characters in this book are surgeons or become surgeons. The skilled writing made me feel very involved in these medical procedures, and it was a genuinely fascinating journey into an area I have never read about in any detail. All I can say, is this book was an incredibly moving one, well-written and stays with you long after you have turned the last page.


The Way Home
The Way Home
by George Pelecanos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Really good!, 9 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Way Home (Paperback)
I have never read this author before, but I was really impressed and will now be seeking out more of his books. The relationship between Chris and his parents is so well depicted, and I am sure many parents will be able to identify with lots of the problems arising in this story. Chris is a troubled teenager, we don't really know why, is it the games his father used to play with him when he was little or is it just that way. He comes from a stable background with loving parents, but somehow he falls into the wrong ways, and while most of his friends end up in college etc, Chris finds himself in a juvenile detention centre. Interestingly enough it is the friends he makes there that he ends up knowing and being with on his release, and his father takes Chris and some of his friends on in his carpet laying business. Some don't last, but some do. George Pelecanos is excellent at interpreting the way teenagers speak, think, behave. It definitely makes you ponder how juvenile centres are run. It also highlights the difficulties many face when they are released. Chris is fortunate in that he comes from a supportive family background. A really good book.


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