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barenakedlady (Kent, UK)

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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Puffin Classics)
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Puffin Classics)
by Jules Verne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Explore a new world with Verne, 3 Sept. 2007
Jules Verne's chosen narrator writes passionately about the natural world, and his enthusiasm is easily communicated to the reader. Heading off originally on a mission to rid the ocean of a gigantic sea monster, the narrator Aronnax and his companions discover the redoubtable Captain Nemo and his submarine the Nautilus. On the subsequent voyage, Aronnax dwells with the most pleasure on the many varieties of marine life they encounter (and indeed, his manservant functions almost entirely to classify and name the different creatures, this being the majority of his conversation). Their fascination with everything they encounter is no less than inspiring, even with Ned Land as a homesick counterpoint to their delight. Their wonder and delight, throughout their adventures, is a joy to read.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic that everyone should read, 24 Aug. 2007
This is a amazing novel. The central character, McMurphy, has been sent from prison to a mental institution - as he initially sees it, a big step up. No more working in the fields; he now has a cushy life sitting on a hospital ward. Until he realises that the straightforward rules of 'serve your time and be released' no longer apply: he is now imprisoned even further and is at the mercy of hospital government in the form of the Big Nurse.

Although Kesey's novel is intended as a metaphor for the government's control of people's lives, the reason it works so well for me is because the characterisation is equally interesting in its own right. McMurphy's tense, carefully fought and long drawn out battle with the Big Nurse shows us a lot about his character and shows his growing sense of responsibility towards the other men. The freedom he tries so hard to give them is heavily undermined when he learns that they have entered the hospital voluntarily: his own sense of self worth has become closely tied to his efforts to increase theirs. To learn that the other "prisoners" are in fact there seemingly of their own free will is shocking to McMurphy, who cannot understand them.

McMurphy is the outcast, the rebel, the top dog of his own world, who initially starts by actively embracing the hospital, and ends by loathing it yet not quite managing to leave (despite opportunities). He cannot comprehend why the other men are there voluntarily, yet his desire to help them prevents him from leaving and makes him one of them.


The Beckoning Silence
The Beckoning Silence
by Joe Simpson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When danger becomes too dangerous, 13 Aug. 2007
This review is from: The Beckoning Silence (Paperback)
Joe Simpson's first book, Touching the Void, is a gripping description of a climb that went (almost tragically) wrong. If you haven't read that first, I would recommend doing so - it provides much of the emotional set-up for The Beckoning Silence. Here Simpson describes many tragic trips of other climbers; treading an uneasy path between sensationalism and his urgent need to share the feelings inspired by being part of such a close-knit yet endangered community. Simpson does an excellent job of taking the layperson inside a world where life is fragile, hanging by the thin thread of a climbing rope on an all-too-precarious perch.

The possibility overshadows the book that Simpson spends so much time dwelling on the tragedies of others so that readers will not criticise him for trips where he has backed down. Fair enough - although there is a sense that he does not want his decisions to be harshly judged, this is unlikely from anyone who has first read Void. Simpson's courage could never now be called into question, and it is interesting to read his judgements on when danger becomes too dangerous. Essentially this is the crux of the book - whether we are reading about Simpson's own decisions or those of others which now haunt him, this is the central decision at every turn: when to face peril and when to retreat from it.


Twilight Children: Three Voices No One Heard - Until Someone Listened
Twilight Children: Three Voices No One Heard - Until Someone Listened
by Torey Hayden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and touching true story, 9 Aug. 2007
Don't be put off by the cheesy subtitles which always seem to accompany Hayden's books - she writes modestly and from the heart, sharing both the faults and the triumphs in her teaching. Best of all, she can write well: the tales of these three patients are neatly woven together and complement each other well. The ups and downs of her relationships with her patients are touching to read, and it is heartbreaking to see what some of them have been through. She captures beautifully the tone and expressions of the children - anyone who has spent time with young kids will respect the ease with which she brings them to life on the page.


Affinity
Affinity
by Sarah Waters
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtle and indefinably attractive, 8 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
Sarah Waters' 'Affinity' is unlike her other books, being much more subtle and concealing almost as much of the story as it tells. The narrative is split between the diaries of Margaret Prior and Selina Dawes, one a 'Lady Visitor' and one a prisoner at Millbank jail, and the reader is left to read between the lines of each diary to fill in the women's histories. Waters draws careful parallels and differences between the two characters; Margaret guilty of a crime but escaping prison, and Selina imprisoned but claiming innocence.

Margaret is drawn ever deeper into the life of the prison through feeling isolated from her home life. Her father is dead and her former lover now married, and she no longer has anyone to confide in. Although she is surrounded by people, she feels lonely, and visits the prison as an act of charity to the prisoners and to give herself an occupation. Selina, by contrast, claims that her 'spirit-friends' prevent loneliness in an otherwise isolated prison cell. Margaret's fascination with the enigmatic Selina grows more intense as the relationship between the two women develops, but Selina's thoughts remain hidden from us and her mystery is preserved.

The attraction of this book lies in what Waters keeps hidden; small details are continually left unexplained until the ending and provoke more interest in the characters. The book remains as enigmatic as Selina, and just as enticing.


The Vicar of Dibley Collection [DVD] [1994]
The Vicar of Dibley Collection [DVD] [1994]
Dvd ~ Dawn French
Offered by lightningdvd
Price: £69.99

45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No longer accurate, 26 May 2007
Dibley & Dawn French are as ever fantastic - however I am disappointed that it could still be marketed as 'The Complete Collection', since it doesn't include the 2006/7 Christmas specials. The box clearly states that it contains every episode - obviously this was true when it was first released, but it's not any more. Misleading marketing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2007 8:55 PM GMT


The Tenth Circle
The Tenth Circle
by Jodi Picoult
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searching for someone you used to know so well, 22 April 2006
This review is from: The Tenth Circle (Hardcover)
'The Tenth Circle' is about a father, Daniel, whose daughter is raped by her ex-boyfriend. His reactions to this are depicted in part through a 'comic' (okay, graphic novel) which is interspersed with the narrative - the comic is based on Dante's Inferno, with Virgil guiding comic-book-Daniel (Duncan) through Hell to find his daughter. Duncan is a creature who is driven by anger or protectiveness to change from human form to that of a beast - a central theme of the novel being how people can change so much. The comic represents Daniel's search for the daughter he used to know so well - suddenly she is all grown up and, in the blink of an eye, can be taken by a threat he didn't even know was there. Duncan/Daniel feels he has failed to protect her, and will do anything to reach out to his daughter.

The book features most of Picoult's usual themes - crime, family relationships, trust and love - although sadly without any of the courtroom drama she is so good at. The teenage parties are particularly well written - teenage games in all their sordid, sexy glory have come a long way since 'spin the bottle'! The relationship between Trixie and her best friend, Zephyr, is also very good; their strong friendship is an interesting contrast to how Trixie grows apart from her parents. While her parents are increasingly out of touch with her life, Trixie is growing up, and when something horrendous like rape happens, she and her parents want to be close to each other. But all of them have changed since Trixie was little, and the family coming together isn't an easy solution any more.

So was it rape or wasn't it? Jason, Trixie's ex-boyfriend, is having his golden life ruined by her accusation. While she's traumatised and in pain, his reputation is being dragged through the mud, despite the support of his peers. And without wanting to give away too much of the plot, it's easy to see how he can feel betrayed. As usual with Picoult's novels, the stories aren't straightforward or simple, and the different characters have a very different view of the same events.

While this may not be Picoult's best novel (I definitely think she should return to the courtroom scenes that made 'Keeping Faith' and 'My Sister's Keeper' so fantastic), it's nonetheless very good indeed. Empathetic characters, lots of twists and turns, and a story that will keep you guessing right up until the end.

On a final note, I recommend keeping pen and paper handy, and jotting down the letters Picoult has hidden in the comic as you read the book. It's more fun to do it as you go along!


Good Girls Do Swallow: The Darkly Comic True Story of How One Woman Stopped Hating Her Body
Good Girls Do Swallow: The Darkly Comic True Story of How One Woman Stopped Hating Her Body
by Rachael Oakes-Ash
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A whirlwind of emotions, 9 April 2006
Rachel Oakes-Ash repeatedly emphasises in Good Girls Do Swallow that she doesn't do things by halves. Everything is taken to extremes; this book is no exception. This is no gentle introduction to the world of eating disorders - the reader is taken on a rollercoaster journey of up, down, fat, thin, binge, starve, so quickly that it's almost hard to keep track of the cycle. An exhausting book to read, let alone to live.
Oakes-Ash's opinions on society's effect on eating disorders are slipped in neatly; the book isn't over-opinionated, but she offers some very well-written views in it. This is done without disturbing or interrupting the plot, so unintrusively that it would be worth re-reading the book purely to revisit her opinions on the origins of eating disorders, society's contribution to them, & etc.
GGDS is full of dark humour, and is written from a fairly reflective perspective of someone looking back on what she's done. A subtle vein of sarcasm is present throughout the whole book, as Oakes-Ash describes and occasionally mocks her own disordered thinking and behaviour. This would possibly make the book less triggering, were it not for the fact that it just seems so fast-paced that it's easy to be caught up by it. Fast-paced not in the sense that it's a gripping story - it's not - but to read it feels restless, like your thoughts are racing. Not recommended for the emotionally fragile!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 15, 2011 5:49 PM GMT


Light On Snow
Light On Snow
by Anita Shreve
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Emotions never fully explored, 14 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Light On Snow (Paperback)
In 'Light on Snow', Shreve writes a simple story about a widower and his daughter Nicky, who come across a helpless baby abandoned in deadly cold weather. The plot deepens when the child's mother later arrives at their home, and Nicky and her father must decide between welcoming and rejecting her.
Motherless Nicky is a sweet, if slightly bland, character. Shreve writes about how Nicky is affected by the death of her mother and sister, but never seems to quite explore any emotions to their fullest extent; Nicky's revelation to her father than she is merely pretending to be okay is never dealt with in any real way, and the lingering grief which both of them feel is never addressed. Possibly the book benefits from leaving some things unsaid, but it seems to me that Shreve could push a little further in exploring her characters. The only occasion when their emotions seem truly real to me is in the narration of Nicky's mother calling an ambulance for her sister; the mother's distress and pain at knowing her baby's life is in danger is very well written. The rest of the book, although good, doesn't quite reach as far as this event does.
Despite that, this is an excellent book, and one I would read again. The story is simple and realistic, and although the emotions are understated, they are nevertheless touching.


The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget the impossible; enjoy the ride, 13 Mar. 2006
I came to this book very sceptical. Books about time travel hardly ever work; they're either too confusing or too unrealistic. This one is as implausible as any, really - but somehow, _it just doesn't matter_. 'The Time Traveller's Wife' is so good that it's much more fun to forget the impossible and just enjoy the ride.
'The Time Traveller's Wife' is the story of Henry, who has an accidental tendency to travel through time, and Claire, who loves him. Henry, however, knows two Claires: the one with him in the future, and the six year old he visits in the past. This poses a few interesting problems about inevitability and free will, in love and in life.
Personally though I think it's a good thing that Niffenegger never stops to focus too much on the potential moral and philosophical issues; she's telling a story, not preaching at us, and we are left to do the heavy thinking in our own time. The problems of time travel are matter-of-fact to Henry and Claire, and so the book is primarily about their lives - it's like reading a story with frequent flashbacks, except that every time you detour backwards, the characters literally go with you. This novel also has an excellent collection of background characters, who are interesting in their own right. Having other 'normal' people around helps to make the novel seems more realistic, in a weird way - Niffenegger sets Henry's time travelling in the middle of people with their own lives, joys and problems, and their acceptance helps the reader to be more accepting too.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Its strongest feature is that although Niffenegger had a fantastic idea, the book doesn't stand on that one idea alone - she backs it up with good writing, good characters, and detailed, layered subplots in addition to the main thread. The book would be good even if the main plot was the only good thing about it - but instead, it's rich, well-rounded, and all-in-all, a gripping read.


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