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A. Craig "Amanda Craig" (London United Kingdom)
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Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me: My Journey Through Depression
Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me: My Journey Through Depression
by Rachel Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars keep that black dog on a lead, 13 May 2014
Rachel Kelly's account of her 19 year depression, and how poetry, love, cognitive behaviour therapy and pills help her survive is beautifully written and sobering. Like Andrew Solomon, whose own book The Noonday Demon, should be read in tandem with this it shows how even the most blessed and loved can be suddenly undone by mental collapse. Kelly's physical agony as she re-lives a near plane-crash over and over, paralysing her with fear, is one of the surprises of this book about mental torment. She describes her own way out with painful honesty, but clearly remains fragile.

Depression is a common affliction yet remains stigmatised, especially among the successful. It is a genuine illness, and as crippling as a broken leg or cancer. Black Rainbows is another step forward into bringing it into the light of day.


The Slave
The Slave
by Andrew Sanger
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent thriller about compassion, community, sex-trafficking and friendship, 1 May 2014
This review is from: The Slave (Paperback)
The Slave will not disappoint fans of Sanger's debut, The J-word. Set in the same patch of North London, with characters drawn from both Jewish and Gentile communities it focusses on three characters: kindly middle-aged Bernard, deeply involved in fighting local council corruption and indifference, young Neil, a driver for a posh department store, and Liliana, a trafficked girl from Romania.

When Neil, kicked out of his wife's house into a new area, becomes a neighbour of Bernard's it sets in motion an unsettling chain of events. Neil is a drifter, intelligent but unfocused, whose sexual needs drive him to a local brothel. Here, his natural friendliness and interest in foreign languages lead him to try and talk to the drugged, terrified Liliana, who slips a note into his pocket telling him she is a slave, and the men who keep her are dangerous. How Neil and Bernard then plan a rescue keeps the reader turning the pages, but the thoughtfulness and sensitivity to London in its microcosmic worlds is beautifully described. Highly recommended.


The Fortune Hunter
The Fortune Hunter
by Daisy Goodwin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sheer pleasure, 30 April 2014
This review is from: The Fortune Hunter (Hardcover)
Daisy Goodwin's second novel is about the love triangle between Sisi, the famous Austrian Empress whose hair reaches down to her ankles, the handsome but impoverished "Bay" Middleton and Charlotte Baird, a plain but intelligent heiress. All were real people, brought vividly to life by Goodwin's strong imagination and crisp prose.

Sisi is unhappy, lonely, beautiful, intelligent and a supreme rider. When she comes to England, she demands Middleton as her "pilot", and before long he, ten years her junior is her lover. What else is he to do - unless he marries for money? Charlotte seems more interested in photography than matrimony, and yet the two of them fall in love. It's a situation worthy of Trollope, whose influence is felt not only in the sympathetic portraits but in the hunting scenes which convey a thrill of the chase so vividly that it's hard to believe the author hasn't hunted herself.

This is the kind of historical romance which is as rare as it is pleasurable. The reader is assumed to be intelligent, and the author wears her considerable knowledge lightly, recreating a lost world with a story which has echoes of our own. Sisi was the Princess Diana of her day, and Middleton was a distant ancestor of Kate Middleton. Highly recommended.


The Winter Garden
The Winter Garden
by Jane Thynne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even better sequel in a terrific Nazi spy series, 3 April 2014
This review is from: The Winter Garden (Hardcover)
The Winter Garden is the sequel to Thynne's Black Roses, set in 1930s Berlin. The Half German (and secretly half Jewish) actress Clara is still working undercover for British intelligence, and becomes embroiled in a murder committed at a Nazi Bride School, where women are trained to be perfect wives for senior Nazis. Intelligent, gutsy, charming and attractive, Clara has become friendly with Magda Goebbels, and spies on senior Nazis and their sympathisers including the two Fascist symapthisers in the Moseley family, Unity and Diana, and the former King of England and Mrs Simpson.

The writing is crisp, clear and vivid, with the increasingly sinister charm of Berlin's architecture and parks beautifully described with wholly convincing detail and assurance. Clara's own psychological struggles as she immerses herself in a plot, and a passionate new love affair are intertwined with her work on a new film in which she is charged with obtaining vital information about the German air force. Her American journalist friend provides a sparky contrast, and Clara's relationship with the son of her other dead friend, a boy swept up in the Hitler Youth, is increasingly troubling.

Intelligent, well-written and well-plotted novels for this era by and about women are strangely hard to find, and Thynne is breaking new ground here. I thought this book as good as the other excellent literary thriller by a woman published this year, Miranda Carter's The Strangler Vine, and it would have been good to see it on the Women's Prize longlist.


How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much
How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much
by Samantha Ellis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting book, 10 Jan 2014
This is such a brilliant idea - a young woman's autobiography via heroines of literary and popular fiction - that I almost hoped it would be bad. It isn't. It's beautifully written, very funny and full of the kind of insight you only get from honesty and intelligence. Ellis's account of growing up in England as part of an Iraqi-Jewish family add another dimension to a book thousands of women readers will love, as she learns from obvious heroines like Elizabeth Bennett to less obvious ones like The Dolls (as in Valley of). I'd like to give this to all my women friends - and my daughter.


The Lost Gods (Sleeping Army 2)
The Lost Gods (Sleeping Army 2)
by Francesca Simon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.69

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious satire on celebrity culture, 21 Oct 2013
The sequel to The Sleeping Army, The Lost Gods is even better than its predecessor. Freya is back home in a London just like ours - except that the prevailing religion is Wodenism, which changes all kinds of things from school to religious worship. She wants to be an ordinary schoolgirl, but then Woden, Thor and Freyja turn up on her doorstep. The Frost Giants have awakened and are already creating havoc with the weather here on Midgard. They behave as oafishly as ever, expecting everyone to tremble and obey, and ruining Freya's parents# home...only nobody worships them any more. How can they regain their powers? Why, by winning a version of The X Factor! It should be a simple matter for the Goddess of Love and Beauty, Woden and Thor, shouldn't it? Especially once a PR supremo has got involved.

The jokes are plentiful, but adults will relish reading this as much as children. Freyja's vanity (she's told she needs to lose some weight) is an especially pointed topic, and when she makes the fuller figure fashionable Simon is on top form. I enjoyed seeing our heroine's boring, stuffy mother become a teenager again. The illustrations are good, but the cover a bit too brash in my view.


Grimbold's Other World
Grimbold's Other World
by Nicholas Stuart Gray
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neglected classic, 3 Oct 2013
This review is from: Grimbold's Other World (Paperback)
Nicholas Stuart Gray is inexplicably overlooked by the search for lost children's classics, and this is one of his best. (Try to get hold of the edition illustrated by Charles Grey). It tells of the adventures of Muffler, a foundling boy who is part goatherd, part poet, given the gift of travelling between the ordinary world and that of magic by Grimbold, a magnificent bad-tempered cat. Most of the chapters are short stories (and in fact Muffler has one other adventure recounted on Mainly by Moonlight, a wonderful collection of short stories) in which magical things happen. A dragon blunders into our world, and the farm hob is blow away; a dog goes missing, and a lost Prince is sought. Humour, bad verse and some beautiful prose get mixed up to produce a book with a very unusual atmosphere. Gray was one of the few children's writers who really creates a feeling of magic as something mysterious, slightly dangerous and attractive. Faber republished this in the early 1980s but it should be reissued for new generations.


Sacrilege (Giordano Bruno 3)
Sacrilege (Giordano Bruno 3)
by S. J. Parris
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.51

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Goes from strength to strength as rival to CJ Sansom, 11 Sep 2013
SACRILEGE follows the further adventures of Parris's Italian Renaissance hero Giordano Bruno in ELizabethan England, and it's a corker. The author is well into her stride now, and the story grips from the opening, when our hero realises he's being followed by a possible assassin, only to discover the he is a she - and Sophia the woman he loved in HERESY. Accused of murdering the husband she was forcibly married off too in Canterbury, she begs him to clear her name and save her from execution. Walsingham, one of Bruno's employers, asks him to investigate matters there in the wake of the assassination of the Protestant Prince William of Orange.

As in Sansom's Shardlake series, what makes these novels stand out is both the cleverness of the plotting and the central characters being closer to us in sensibility and intelligence than the norm for their age. Bruno, an ex-monk, is consumed by intellectual curiosity and doesn't believe in God (a heresy). Sophia is a proto-feminist, trapped by the narrowness of the role allotted to women despite her learning. Does she return Bruno's love or that of the Huguenot man who sheltered her? Canterbury Cathedral itself plays a role in the murders that ensue on its grounds, but as Bruno grows in credibility as a spy and intellectual so the foreknowledge of his dreadful fate underscores his courage with pathos. An excellent and absorbing read.


The Child's Elephant
The Child's Elephant
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.85

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best children's novel of 2013, 21 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Child's Elephant (Hardcover)
This is without doubt the best children's novel of 2013. The story of how an African herd-boy finds and nurtures a baby elephant (whose mother has been slaughtered by the same poachers who murdered his father), learns to communicate with her and lets her go when adult is moving, funny and vividly described - but then it turns into a rip-roaring adventure. Bat's ability to talk to elephant leads him to being kidnapped, along with his best friend, as a child soldier. How the elephant rescues them in turn, and how their goodness of heart and courage are rewarded is told in timeless, classic prose which can be enjoyed at any age. No reader who loves animals, Africa or adventure stories should miss it.


Running for the Hills: A Family Story
Running for the Hills: A Family Story
by Horatio Clare
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, heart-breaking memoir, 18 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like some other reviewers here, I bought Horatio Clare's memoir after reading some of his writing in newspapers/radio and finding it unusually well-written. I'm so glad I did, because Running For the Hills is an exceptional piece of work.

It recounts the author's harsh but idyllic childhood in the Black Mountains, where his parents, and then just his mother Jenny, farmed. Clare evokes the remoteness and beauty of "really faraway Wales" in prose which never tips over into lushness or affectation. He makes you see and feel the fungus on trees, the birds, the damp, the heroism, the neighbours and the sheep. It really is like a cross between Dylan Thomas and Ted Hughes ion its strong sens of the "particular magic" of a place, but woven into it is also a child's eye view of his parents' disintegrating marriage and a moving account of his mother's formidable courage. It would make a very good film, not least because it's in some ways a British Jean de Florette in parts.


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