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Puskas "Mortensen" (Warwickshire, England)

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Hummeldumm
Hummeldumm
by Tommy Jaud
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 Aug 2014
This review is from: Hummeldumm (Paperback)
Has Tommy Jaud's work been translated into English please?


Chrome Fruit Dispenser, Orange/Apple Holder
Chrome Fruit Dispenser, Orange/Apple Holder

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent customer service and lovely product., 12 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was a beautiful and well packaged fruit dispenser that looks lovely in my kitchen. Thank you so much for your super quick dispatch.


Girl in Translation
Girl in Translation
by Jean Kwok
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking and fairly harrowing, 5 Aug 2012
This review is from: Girl in Translation (Paperback)
Kimberly and her mother are sponsored out of Hong Kong by their Chinese relatives, but instead of finding the streets paved with gold, they are forced to live in a squalid apartment and work horrendous hours in a sweatshop for low wages to pay off their debt to Aunt Paula and Uncle Bob. They work as garment finishers, and are paid a pittance in piece work for each finished garment; their poverty is measured by how many skirts it would take to afford a new school bag, or pots and pans. In spite of extreme tiredness, the inability to speak good English and a lack of money to pay for heating and clothing, Kimberly manages to overcome her vindictive schoolmaster, Mr Bogart, and win a scholarship to a prestigious private school, from which, through dint of hard work and precocious intellectual talents, she eventually goes to Yale. But the path to intellectual glory and the hope of financial comfort is paved with obstacles. Kimberly's mother constantly fails to pass her naturalisation exams. Her aunt insists on full payment of debts, despite familial ties and her own wealth, and esnures they remain in the squalor of their condemned apartment. After a long day of study, Kimberly often has to work through the night to help her mother. She is also isolated from her schoolfriends through pride, shame and consciousness of a life apart from the privileged private schoolchildren.

We follow Kimberly from her elementary school right up to a hurried ending (the book's only serious flaw) twelve years after leaving school, through her fierce loyalty to her mother and friends, her clear sight into academic work being the springboard out of poverty, the horror of the near-Dickesian factory conditions that she, and many people throughout the world, had to endure, and her awakening as a young girl in love.

Although there is little humour in the book, it isn't heavy going, and the pace is fast. Without giving away the ending, we learn that despite her intellectual brilliance, Kimberly still needs womanly fulfilment, but has to make sacrifices to achieve it.

It's a very strong tale and I wholly recommend it.


I'll Take You There
I'll Take You There
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.64

2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, 27 July 2012
This review is from: I'll Take You There (Paperback)
Oates is lauded as one of the great American contemporary novelists, but I struggle to see why on this showing. Her protagonist Anellia, whose real name I don't believe we ever learn, has grown up with latent guilt because her mother had died as the result of her birth, but despite being shown the tiny details of her falling in love, I found it impossible to engage with such a sterile, bland character.

Similarly, two central events of the novel (the breakdown and disgrace of her sorority housemistress, Mrs. Agnes Thayer, and 'Anellia's' her father's disappearance) must have been skimmed over so much (by the writer and, I fear, by me) that I failed to recognise them when they happened, and it was only because of flashback technique that I ever became aware that they had!

Anellia is a misfit, an automaton. At university she is keen to join a fmale sorority, despite having Jewish blood which eventually makes her membership untenable. Brilliantly clever, but peculiar in a way that detaches her from her peers, she struggles to fit in and gain acceptance with the poor little rich girls of Kappa Gamma Pi. Life there is an uncomfortable struggle, and in a sense this is the strongest part of the book, with Anellia's obvious unease and strangeness manifesting itself wholly in one lecture scene where she makes a total fool of herself.

The largest part of the book is entitled 'The Negro-Lover', a phrase that jars uncomfortably on twenty first century ears. However, in early 'sixties USA, when the civil rights movement is about to burst into flame, Anellia's unrequited love for an older and brilliant graduate student who is black is shown as a daring challenge to the norm. Anellia's love for Vernor Mattheius is total, but totally misplaced. Where Oates could have got inside the skin (no pun intended) of the civil rights movement, she actually presents us with a really unpleasant, unfeeling character in Vernor Mattheius (whose name is almost always given in full), with his disdain for his 'white b*tch', his dismissal of her emotions, and the brutality of his lovemaking (we are spared none of the details). It is a very unsatisfactory courtship, and the lovers do not evoke any sympathy from this reader.

The final part of the novel deals with the uneasy near-reconciliation between Anellia and her father who is dying of cancer, but is altogether too slight to carry the feeling fully.

On this showing, I shall not be seeking out more of Ms Oates's work.


The Breaking of Eggs
The Breaking of Eggs
by Jim Powell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking ride as the wall comes down in every sense., 1 July 2012
This review is from: The Breaking of Eggs (Paperback)
Review of `The Breaking of Eggs' by Jim Powell

This is a Bildungsroman, albeit for a man on the brink of his senior years! At 61, life for loner Feliks Zhukovski has always been a political statement. He and his older brother have been sent away from Poland in 1939 by their single mother, who fears for their future, to live with an uncle and aunt in Switzerland. It is not long before both brothers leave Switzerland, one to pursue the American dream, and the other to embrace communism and all its tenets. After young manhood of political activism, Feliks has made his life's work writing a travel guide to communist Europe for Westerners, basing himself in a Paris apartment that he has never found time to call home. In these ensuing decades, he has lost touch with his mother, brother and his German lover, not always by his own actions, and has been unable to find them due to serial mischance. As communism begins to crumble around Europe, Feliks holds fast to his ideals, but ill health and age force him to make a decision which has far reaching and wonderful consequences, although his journey is not without pain and desperation. In selling his business to a progressive American publisher, Feliks is forced to question his political leanings (now `leftist' rather than `communist' after personal disillusion) in a world that is changing fast. He is able to find his long lost brother in the USA, as Eastern bloc meets phony West, horrified at the American theme park mentality. Revisiting Poland in search of his roots, he discovers what happened to his mother, albeit too late for their reunion, and is given glimpses into a horrific world, which includes his own near-breakdown. Finally he finds his lost love, Kristin, and meets the daughter, Angelika, that he never knew he had. This is the greatest shock of all, for her neo-Nazi obsession conflicts with every political idea he has ever held dear, yet their all-embracing political fanaticism is strangely akin. Feliks discovers that in order to find his own inner peace, and to reunite with his family and engage with the modern world which he is, unwillingly, part of, he has to reject past obsessions, placing the past firmly in the past, wholly embracing the present, and letting the future do what it will.

I knew the author's name from another walk of life because he had stood as a Conservative candidate in the 1987 election, and find it remarkably skilful that someone from the centre right should get so easily inside the skin of someone from the far left.

I liked Feliks, while disagreeing with his whole take on life, his self-containment, his communism, his distrust of many contemporary things. There are some interesting peripheral characters such as his landlady, Sandrine, and the dark secret of her past that is masked by the gradually-evolving fashions of her colour-coded wardrobe, all-American patriarch brother Woody and his tight-lipped American wife, Wanda, and the fierce, angry neo-Nazi daughter, Angelika, living in sub-council estate squalor with her children while her husband is in prison. The character we only see glimpsed in letters is his Polish single mother, sometime pragmatist, sometime idealist, poet, occasional good time girl, but with a heart of gold.

As Feliks questions the modern world, and the ideology that has shaped his own life and that of his hitherto unknown daughter, he retorts, `I never listened to older people in my youth, and younger people did not listen to me now. And nobody ever listens to each other and never will.' Sad, but true.

This is quite a breathtaking book and deserves wider knowledge.


The Debutante
The Debutante
by Kathleen Tessaro
Edition: Paperback

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Quite a moral tone, 1 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Debutante (Paperback)
About a year ago, Amazon recommended a few books for me, based on prior purchases. Leaving aside train manuals and children's books purchased for the rest of the family, I bought them to see whether Amazon had predicted my reading tastes accurately. I am more and more convinced, after reading this, the third of the recommended books, that they were merely trying to shift stock that wasn't selling. This borders on the chick-lit that I abhor.

The central premise is that two damaged characters (one via bereavement, one from being a mistress) are brought together to produce an inventory on a grand country house, and become embroiled in the story of the Mitford-clone sisters who once inhabited it. The 'debutante' of the title is the younger of the two sisters who disappeared and has never been found. Her story is told in a series of flashback letters which the 'mistress' character (called 'Katie' or 'Cate' depending on I know not what) finds in a shoebox in a locked room of the house. The little fronds of plot which spring from this stem do not really develop into anything satisfying. They don't really seem to interweave, and tend to run in parallel. Most of the denouement can be seen from scores of pages' distance.

There is quite a high moral tone to this book. The bereaved character, Jack, had lost his wife in a car crash when she was driving in relation to an assignation with a secret lover. Cate is made to feel wretched for having been the mistress of a married man.

What I found really fascinating was the premise from which this novel had been written, detailed in the author's afterword. This is what saved this book from a solitary star rating. It concerns the locking away of several of the late Queen Mother's relatives who were found to have profound learning disablities. I knew of this slightly, and it has made me want to learn more, especially as she teasingly tells us that one of these ladies is still alive. Now THAT would make a stunning novel!


American Pastoral
American Pastoral
by Philip Roth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars American nightmare, 19 Mar 2012
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This review is from: American Pastoral (Paperback)
I draw the inevitable comparison with 'Rabbit, Run', which I liked better. 'American Pastoral' is a meandering tome that doesn't seem to resolve itself. Several of its stories are left to dangle unfinished. Its interesting premise, and where it works very well, is that the generation of Jews who ran away to America to build better, middle-class lives for themselves through dint of hard work and ambition, has spawned a generation uncomfortable with the bourgeois lives their parents and grandparents fought so hard to attain, and in the end they run from them. Thus with all-American hero, Seymour 'Swede' Levov, heir to his father's glove empire, married to a former beauty queen, whose stammering daughter rebels and commits a treacherous act against the person and the state. From there, hers is a downward spiral or mental breakdown, religious sect brainwashing, affairs and ill health, which embroils her immediate family. The whole is introduced by a novelist who attends a school reunion, forcing the reader to question the whole idea of 'the one most likely to....', and however this pans out, it might not be everything it seems on the surface.


The House at Midnight
The House at Midnight
by Lucie Whitehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Typical first novel really!, 30 Jan 2012
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This review is from: The House at Midnight (Paperback)
'Write about what you know' is the advice given to all budding authors. It is clear that the young(ish) author followed it, but it was a shame that in doing so her lack of life experience shone out. The characters were a bit vacuous and one-dimensional in a bright young thing sort of way. The novel itself lacked the intensity of a similarly-themed work by, say, Donna Tarrt or Naomi Alderman, but in itself it was an absorbing (eventually) work, if a little rushed at the end.

The reason it only got two stars and not three was the amount of smoking done on every page. Now I admit my twenties are a long way behind me, but I have stepchildren who are still in theirs, and I am convinced that none of their post-university chums light up quite as much as this bunch of characters. Even the asthmatic heroine puffs away like a steam fair at every opportunity.


A Vision of Loveliness
A Vision of Loveliness
by Louise Levene
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure why it was recommended, 10 Dec 2011
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This review is from: A Vision of Loveliness (Paperback)
Amazon recommended this for me, but I'm not sure why. Nonetheless, I needed to read it to see whether they got it right. They nearly did.

I have a horror of chick lit, and feared this might be of that genre. Thankfully it was not. The period details made it, and fascinated me because I was born around the time when this novel is set. The vacuous world of the two girls is well drawn, as is the ferocious contrast between that and Jane(y)'s life before the world of glamour. The transition is transparent, though, and the ending rushed.

Altogether, OK but not masterful.


Ross Dobson's Wholefood Kitchen
Ross Dobson's Wholefood Kitchen
by Ross Dobson
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Super thank you., 27 Oct 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Lovely thank you. I wish I didn't have to write more than twenty words because all I want to say was that it was a smooth transaction. That's all.


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