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JudithAnn (Houten, Netherlands)

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A Pleasure and a Calling
A Pleasure and a Calling
by Phil Hogan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy protagonist makes the book so intriguing, 7 Mar 2014
Eek, that William Heming is a creepy fellow! This was actually the strong point of the book: this man just goes in and out of houses as he pleases. He’s the owner of an estate agent’s but he doesn’t seem to spend a lot of time there. Often, he has a fixation on someone or on a family. He then visits their house but also follows them around town. No, he’s not a stalker! No way.

When he gets involved with the people in one of ‘his’ houses, things turn sour. And William Heming stops at nothing. The creep.

I loved this book for the character description of William Heming and how the reader gets to know more and more unsavoury things about the man. This was done brilliantly and almost totally believable. I didn’t like the ending so much. While it was not a standard, guessable, ending, it wasn’t strong enough, not in balance with the rest of the story, I thought. That was a pity, but I would still recommend the book for the experience of getting to know William Heming.


Christmas Carol
Christmas Carol
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Chrismas Carol, 27 Nov 2013
This review is from: Christmas Carol (Kindle Edition)
This was a fun story about a woman who was so caught up in her important job, that she could barely spare a weekend with her family in Scotland. There, to her horror, she finds that all three of her exes happen to be invited to the wedding, too. She talks to each of them, and slowly defrosts into a nice woman, who isn't all that worried about the fact that they're snowed in and so she has to miss an extra day at work.

I expected this to be more like the "real" Christmas Carol, with some repetition, as in: the first night the clock struck one and..., the second night at one..., etc. But instead, it was much more subtle.

The wedding was glossed over a bit, I never got a good idea about the proceedings, as most of the story was about Carol and her trying to avoid having to talk to her exes.

I did enjoy the story, the setting, and the people. Carol wasn't really a nice person, but I did get attached to her.


The Orchard of Lost Souls
The Orchard of Lost Souls
by Nadifa Mohamed
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly good! A topic I had no interest in, still I loved the book., 14 Sep 2013
The writing is very, very good. No wonder this author is one of Granta's "Best Young Novelist 2013″. The book is written in the present tense, which makes the story very direct and the war situations very acute. There isn't a lot of actual fighting in the book. Most of the book is about three very different women's experiences during this difficult time.

The book begins very strong, and drew me in straight away, with the three women briefly meeting in a stadium where there is a national celebration. Nawsar, a woman of 50+ years old, an old woman in Somalia, goes there against her will, and helps Deqo, a little girl, when she is arrested by Filsan and her team. Thereafter, the three women go their own way, but do meet again later in the book.

The story is not a nice one. Bad things happen to the people of the small town where the three women live. But the way family, neighbours and strangers look out for each other is heart warming, and at the same time realistic. However much they like to help each other, in the end, they do anything to save their own skin, even if it's to the detriment of another person. But can you blame them?

Through the lives of three women, I learned about the war in Somalia (in the 1980s) and more general, about women in a country at war. I had no interest in the topic beforehand, but I read a most beautifully written book.


The Long Shadow
The Long Shadow
by Liza Marklund
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another enjoyable thriller from Liza Marklund, 14 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Long Shadow (Paperback)
I've read several books by Liza Marklund and this is quite a typical Marklund book, I think. So, if you enjoyed her previous books, you'll like this one too.

I loved it that a lot of the story took place in Spain. We've had enough Scandinavian settings from Marklund and her fellow Nordic crime writers. It's good to see that outside of this somewhat exotic setting for many English-speaking readers, the story still holds up.

While the story generally seemed realistic, some story lines merged together into one story, where a few too many coincidences came
together. Both unnecessary and unlikely. There were a few love interests, and these were not over-romanticised but very real-world.
The story becomes quite exciting towards the end, to the point that you can't believe Annika will be able to escape her precarious situation.

Another enjoyable thriller from Liza Marklund.


Killer Queens
Killer Queens
by Rebecca Chance
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really fun novel!, 11 Aug 2013
This review is from: Killer Queens (Paperback)
I was sceptical at first, as I'm not into kings and queens and princesses and riches and all that. But this turned out to be a fun read. Two women, one English and one American, will be marrying into royalty within the same year. Chloe is a commoner, a girl with an office job who happens to meet the heir to the British throne, Hugo, and they fall in love. Five years later, they decide to get married and prepare for the big day.

Belinda is Hugo's mother, who faked her own death and has been living in Morocco with her Middle Eastern boyfriend. She hasn't seen Hugo and her daughter Sophie for twenty years, but now with the wedding coming up, she wants to see what Hugo's fiancée is like and get to better know her children. She's also noticed something fishy about the impending wedding of Lori, an American athlete, who is to marry King Joachim of Herzoslovakia.

The book is full of intrigues, hopes and doubts, and quite a bit of sex, too. The story is set out well, and slowly leads to a conclusion that suits everyone involved. An easy, fast read, but confidently written, never over the top. I loved following the preparations (and weddings) of these would-be queens and the dead princess who comes to the rescue.


I Am Max Lamm
I Am Max Lamm
by Raphael Brous
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.89

4.0 out of 5 stars An accidental killer goes into hiding, 11 Aug 2013
This review is from: I Am Max Lamm (Paperback)
I loved the premise of this book: a young man accidentally kills a Pakistani boy which leads to race riots in London. Max Lamm, the perpetrator, goes into hiding even before he realises the extend of the consequences of the murder. We follow him over the next few days.

There are very few characters in the book. There is one other main character, Kelly, who is introduced quite late in the book, at the point where I didn't expect another main character to enter the story. Kelly was briefly present in an early chapter, but she seemed peripheral at the time. I liked Kelly's story a lot more than Max' and she made the book much more interesting for me. She was a weak woman who became strong through training, and I loved reading about her history from before she arrived in London.

Max' story is full of politics, sex, and a bad tennis career. I especially found his thoughts on politics and his own history as a tennis player almost like an onslaught on my brain. There were so many images, ideas, situations, that it became rather too much to be interesting, at points.

Max, in his runaway confused state, is rather naive in thinking that he can solve his problems via Kelly. I wasn't convinced that he really thought this was a good plan. Still, I must have somehow got attached to Max, as towards the end I was really hoping for a good outcome.

The idea that an accidental attack leads to race riots was very good, and Max' hiding story was also interesting. Kelly's story was the best for me. The book contains a lot of good points, but overall, I wasn't quite as gripped by it as I had hoped.


Perfect
Perfect
by Rachel Joyce
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.74

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the author of Harold Fry a different but good novel, 12 July 2013
This review is from: Perfect (Hardcover)
Byron is 11 years old in 1972 when something terrible happens: his mother makes a mistake without realising. Should he tell her? It's better for her not to know, but really, they should investigate the consequences of her mistake. Byron worries about this for a long time.

The mistake evolves to some rather strange developments, totally against what Byron's father would want, if he heard of it. He's not at home very often, but he is in control of what happens in the household and Byron's mother has to report to him every night (by phone). Eventually, everything changes for the family. If only Byron hadn't known about the 2 seconds that were added to time. His friend James helps him to sort out the mess in his own precocious pre-teenage way.

The story of Byron is alternated with the story of 55-year old Jim in the current time. He's got OCD and is in a bad state. He just about keeps on to his very simple job while he's obviously very intelligent. He looks back on the summer in which Byron's mother made her mistake and suspects his condition is related to the events that happened at the time.

I found the transition from an 11 year old boy in 1972 to a 55 year old man in the current time a bit difficult. They didn't seem to have anything in common (except for the summer of 1972) and the stories developed almost independently of each other. But of course, in the end they do come together in an unexpected way.

There was a lot to love about the book, too: the strict regime of Byron's father, the schemes of James to help Byron's mother's situation (through Byron), Jim's situation as a middle-aged man and his possible love affair.

It's very different from Harold Fry but another very good book.


Someone Else's Wedding
Someone Else's Wedding
by Tamar Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.80

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good women's fiction!, 12 July 2013
This review is from: Someone Else's Wedding (Hardcover)
This is a good women's contemporary story with some unexpected serious undercurrents. Fran, the main character, tells the story in first person. She has a husband that she's not close to any more, and a daughter with a married lover and another daughter who can't stand her boyfriend any longer (he's at the wedding, too).

Hour-by-hour, from Saturday morning until Sunday evening, Fran tell us what happens. No, she doesn't get (much) sleep. She's obsessed with Jamie, the groom, and he with her. His family, who have noticed this, are trying to keep them apart.

Much of the story of Fran is also the story of her daughters. When they all come to realise this, it becomes much easier for all of them to understand each other and to accept the decisions they make.

I have been to a few English weddings, and this seemed all very familiar. There is the wedding ceremony, the shoes that aren't suitable for a full day's wear, the person everyone wants to avoid, the heavy intake of alcohol. This book brought me back to the weddings that I've attended (including my own).

The "suspense" of Fran's past wore a little thin at times, and I did guess some of the story in advance. But that didn't matter much. This was a fun, mostly believable read, that will be recognisable for many people.


The Thief
The Thief
by Fuminori Nakamura
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, 29 May 2013
This review is from: The Thief (Paperback)
This is a very well-written story about a pick-pocket. I loved reading about his methods to steals people's wallets and how he got into the profession. I didn't like it when he got involved with a gangster-type. It was not of his own volition and quite easy to see how this might happen. Still, what happened after that, was more interesting than I had expected.

The thief is clever and creative with his skills. Except for picking pockets, he seems quite an honest person, ready to help out others in need when he can. So, I quite liked him as a main character.

The story itself is sometimes confusing (I wasn't always sure what was happening now and in the past) but it stays interesting until the (bitter) ending.

What it lacked (a little) in plot, it more than made up by writing style and the topic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this short book.


A Trick I Learned from Dead Men
A Trick I Learned from Dead Men
Price: £3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky fun story, 29 May 2013
I loved this book! It's written rather quirkily and I really felt I got to know Lee, the main character, rather well. He's a 25 year old man who takes pride in his job as an assistant in a funeral home. All is very well organised and he keeps carefully to the rules. How different life is at home, where both his step-father and his deaf brother do very little at all, and Lee takes it upon him to keep some kind of normality going.

Lee doesn't always finish his sentences. Sometimes it's just obvious what he means, so why bother? So he says "Derek wouldn't ask that in a million." (of course meaning, "a million years"). The book is full of these unfinished sentences. Instead of being irritating, it's fun and it somehow makes Lee into a more tangible character.

Lee has a stiff-upper-lip attitude: whatever goes wrong, you don't break down, you just keep going. He's in love (or at least, like) with the delivery woman from the florist's, Lorelle. At one point she tries to get him to take her out for dinner, in a very subtle way. I thought he didn't understand, but later on, it becomes clear he just doesn't have the money (yet- he's saving up!).

Poor Lee is stuck in difficult circumstances with nothing going for him but at least a job that he loves. Sometimes Lee describes some of his work in the funeral home in too much detail to be comfortable (for the reader), but it shows how he has adapted to the routines of the funeral home.

There isn't a lot of plot development in the story, but that is not necessary - Lee's way of narrating the story almost is enough by itself to enjoy this lovely short novel.


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