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sarah J (London)

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The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars modern day Dickens, 19 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Hardcover)
'The Goldfinch' is a huge book of nearly 800 pages. It is the engrossing and engaging story of Theo a damaged young man whose life alters after a random act of terrorism that leads to the death of his devoted and loving mother. During a visit to an art museum 13 year old Theo encounters a dying elderly man and in a split second an impulsive act shapes his future. After staying with a school friend and his dis-functional but wealthy family, Theo meets the mysterious Hobie the business partner of the decreased man from the art museum. Theo's life is thrown into further dis-away when he moves to Las Vegas to live with his alcohol dependent father and his chaotic partner Xandra. With no steady parenting the lonely and vulnerable Theo befriends the all too worldly Boris. Boris leads Theo on a self destructive journey towards drug abuse and self harm. Quite simply 'the goldfinch' is a breathtaking masterpiece. Theo who i feel can be viewed as an anti-hero is almost like a modern day version of Oliver Twist. The writing is pure and at times the pace is fast and exciting, the portion set in Amsterdam almost has a Quentin Tarantino quality . There is also a bittersweet love story at the core of the story that is at times heart rendering . The character of Theo is totally believable. almost a morality tale the Goldfinch really manages to explore how a flawed individual's destiny can be shaped by a string of events and encounters . My only criticism is the book is too long in places with some over written passages that seem to go no-where. We also do not see enough of Pippa who is also left traumatised by events in her childhood and lasting injuries from the bomb attack. Pippa's story is never fully explored apart from a tender evening spend with Theo close to the conclusion of the book. Was the book Worth waiting 10 years for?, i think so as it is probably one of the best novels of 2013.


The World is a Wedding
The World is a Wedding
by Wendy Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully sensitive writing, 14 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The World is a Wedding (Hardcover)
Since reading Wilford Price i have been eagerly waiting to find out what happens next to Wilfred, Flora and Grace. I was in no way disappointed in the sequel ' the world is a wedding'. Wendy Jones writes beautifully - the prose flows in a sensitive manner. She really makes the skill of writing look effortless. All the characters are well developed and completely believable every mannerism and nuance is finely captured i almost feel that they are old friends. But what i really liked was the attention to detail captured in the descriptions of everyday life in the mid 1920's. The plight of poor Grace and her escape to London is a fine example of this, as the reader experiences Grace's innermost sense of bewilderment as she tries to hide her hopeless situation from those around her - during these scenes within the novel i was kept quite literally on tenterhooks. The countryside of Wales also features in the novel and is tenderly described. 'the world is a wedding' is fundamentally a human story filled with compassion,humour and poignancy.


Perfect
Perfect
by Rachel Joyce
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an astonishingly perfect read, 25 July 2013
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This review is from: Perfect (Hardcover)
After being totally mesmerized by her debut novel I was eager to read Rachel Joyce's second novel. I was not at all disappointed. `Perfect' is a simple but cleverly crafted novel primarily about redemption and how an unforeseen sequence of events can have devastating consequences for everyone. The novel also has a bittersweet love story central to the second part of the plot that is both beautiful and poignant. The story is told by two different timelines the hot summer of 1972 and the present day during a cold winter. Often having two time frames in a novel can be a little confusing but in Rachel Joyce's skillful hands this never happens, as she is able to compellingly relate the story piece by piece. The characters are all portrayed in a realistic and sympathetic manner so are all really believable. As the story enfolds what is revealed is shocking and completely unexpected. Even after finishing the novel, many of the themes really stayed with me. I also shed a tear as the secret that links the two storylines is finally revealed


Road to Rouen
Road to Rouen
by Ben Hatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars made the tears roll down my face!, 8 July 2013
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This review is from: Road to Rouen (Paperback)
Road to Rouen by Ben Hatch had me literally in stitches. I originally brought it to read on a camping trip that I am going on next month, but once I received I had to read it. Basically it's a simple premise Ben and his family head off on a trip to France. But of course every parent will know that nothing is ever simple. The book is essentially about their adventures and mishaps along the way. The book is also well written with some lovely insightful touches (and I thought some sensible advice for the traveler). As well as being witty the book is a bold and honest account of modern family life. Much better than a conventional travel book this really speaks directly to the reader. 'The road to Rouen' is the perfect book for the summer holidays


The Humans
The Humans
by Matt Haig
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful and heartwarming, 4 July 2013
This review is from: The Humans (Hardcover)
What can I say? `The Humans' is beautifully written in a sensitive manner. There are very lovely touches throughout the book, many astutely written scenes that reach many a raw nerve. All this is done in Matt Haig's skillful prose that is in no way sentimental. There are some really humorous passages that really made me laugh out loud juxtaposition with some truly sad moments. But the balance is so subtle that several times I had to re-read parts. Even once i had finished the book it stayed with me which is a really rare thing for a novel to do. It's the way relationships are explored that to me is the real strength of the novel. Though the aliens eyes we observe human behaviour its strengths and fragility. To the ordered Alien humanity at first appears chaotic, flawed and even ugly but as he becomes closer to the Professor's Wife and son and his dog Newton he is forced to reassess his first impressions. He realizes that humanity has something more to offer. I feel that the message central to `The Humans `is an overwhelming sense of hope.
Since I finished the book I have wondered who the Alien is. I couldn't help thinking that maybe the Alien is a symbol of Professor Martin's mental status (sort of his `Black Dog'?)He is stressed and has a breakdown does his illness manifest itself as feeling `alien'? Maybe I am reading too much into it? But whatever the message this is an astonishing novel, one that everyone should read. One of my favorite reads of 2013


Fraser's Penguins: Warning Signs from Antarctica
Fraser's Penguins: Warning Signs from Antarctica
by Fen Montaigne
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 26 Mar 2013
Frasers penguins is a fascinating account of how global warming is affecting wildlife in Antarctica particularly the plight of the Adelie penguins. During 2005 and 2006 Fen Montaigne witnessed at first hand how the Adelie breeding areas has diminished. Profound and scary Montaigne manages to tell it how it is. Quite simply a very sobering message on how our planet is changing.


Life After Life
Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.49

117 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb and inventive writing, 16 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Life After Life (Hardcover)
I have always enjoyed Kate Atkinson's writing and have read all of her novels.
In`Life after life is the story of an ordinary young girl called Ursula Todd who is born during a snow storm in 1910. But Ursula appears to be far from ordinary as she re-lives various aspects of her life time, and time again. Kate Atkinson skillfully uses the `groundhog day' device in an inventive and compelling manner to produce a powerful and sometimes moving plot.
The book is tightly plotted and really kept me enraptured. But what I really admire about her writing is the way she is able to really evoke the minute details of everyday family life between the two world wars with her usual acute attention to detail. Engaging and extraordinarily clever a remarkable read. To me Kate Atkinson's writing almost has the feel of an modern day Dickens!


Orkney
Orkney
by Amy Sackville
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply beautiful, 11 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Orkney (Hardcover)
`Orkney' by Amy Sackville is an odd story skilfully crafted and emotionally draining. It is essentially about the effects of obsession. Richard who narrates is beguiled with his much younger wife. He wants to possess her both physically and mentally. Because of the forty years age difference Richard worries that she will have a life one day separate from him. The young woman (whose name is never revealed) is an unearthly, ethereal creature with strange silvery grey flowing hair. She is fascinated by the might and power of the sea- at night she dreams of being engulfed by it (she cannot swim), during daylight she wanders the shoreline or stares out into the horizon. Newly married they are honeymooning in a small cottage. Richard is on sabbatical working on his opus a book about enchantment and folklore observing his wife she recalls to him many of the women that he is writing about `she is Protean, a Thetis , a daughter of the sea, as shape-shifting goddess who must be subdued `. Instead of working he glazes out at his wife framed by the window.
In many ways `Orkney' and the sea is also a central character. There are long beautifully rendered passages minutely observing the shifting landscape as the waves ebb and flow. The narrative when describing the changing light and colour is pure and lyrical. I can almost hear the roaring of the sea and see the changes in the skyline. I liked the way the landscape echoed the story of the couple. As his behaviour towards her becomes more and more possessive the elements change, a mighty storm erupts and the sea appears in his dreams as well. Daylight becomes shorter and nights lengthen and we sense the unsettling nature of their relationship. They spend evenings together drinking whisky and she relates ancient tales of mermaids and Selkies.
The story is only told by Richard and it did occur to me several times that Richard had lost grip on reality that what he was relating may only exist in his mind. I felt that the line between fiction and reality was blurred.
Brilliantly written `Orkney' is an excellent read to savour, clever and finely constructed by a really talented Writer.


Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins
Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins
by Gavin Francis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, 15 Jan 2013
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'empire Antarctica is a fantastic read. More than just an average travel book , the writing is Detailed and very insightful Gavin Francis relates his experience working as a Doctor at the Halley research station during a Polar year. Dr Francis is able to observe at first hand the tough life of the fascinating Emperor Penguin. We the reader feel a part of his whole adventure right from the beginning including the long sea journey to reach the Antarctic continent , along the way we learn about earlier polar explorers such as Scott, Shackleton and Byrd. At first hand we experience Gavin's courage and tenacity and marvel at the strength of all those that work in such harsh, unpredictable and unforgiving conditions
The mysterious allure of Antarctica is perfectly captured and is made accessible for all. Anyone interested in all aspects of Antarctica will really enjoy this book.


A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String
A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String
by Joanne Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sublime and touching, 13 Jan 2013
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'A cat, a hat and a piece of string' is the second collection of short stories by Joanne Harris. The collection is a mixed bag with a christmas story, some ghost stories and a couple of old faces. I particulary enjoyed 'the muse' where as the writer discovers no-one is quite what they appear to be. There are a couple of very touching stories set in an retirement home.There is a very disturbing and chilling tale about a house haunted by the past. All the stories are beautifully crafted with finely observed characters. A must read for all fans of Joanne Harris


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