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Swizzlestick (Boston)

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And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed
Price: 3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, heart-breaking read, 7 Jun 2013
Tragic, heartbreaking, compelling, beautifully written. Khaled Hosseini is a master story-teller who never disappoints. I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this book, following the lives of the many characters, but most of all I was touched by the poignant and unusual love story of Suleiman Wahdati.

Breath of Africa
Breath of Africa
Price: 1.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and entertaining read, 3 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Breath of Africa (Kindle Edition)
An interesting read. Having lived in Kenya for 20 years, Breath of Africa brought back so many memories, and waves of nostalgia. Many of the situations she described I lived through myself.

Africa is a harsh continent, and life can be cruel there. The author has captured this very well, and none of her characters have an easy ride. Even in a dynamic and emerging modern country, many of the people still believe in witchcraft and can and do die for no other reason than a witch doctor has told them that they will.

I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of Kenya's stunning and varied landscapes. I could see the vistas and smell the dust, and hear the clink of bits in the horses' mouths at the races. Her knowledge of the politics of the country is spot on.

The inter-racial love story is plausible, the characters believable, and I found the whole story to be realistic and satisfying. Just don't expect everybody to live happily ever after.

Cats Through History - An Illustrated A-Z
Cats Through History - An Illustrated A-Z
Price: 2.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super book for all cat lovers, 16 May 2013
This is a charming collection of anecdotes about the famous and sometimes notorious celebrities who have been owned by cats.

I've always thought of the cat as essentially appealing to females and effeminate poets. This book changed my perception of people as diverse as Lenin, Pope Benedict, Frank Zappa and Ernest Hemmingway, all of whom were or are ardent cat lovers.

The story of Thomas Hardy's heart is absolute tragi-comedy, while the tale of Mrs Chippy made me feel cross with Ernest Shackleton

With beautiful illustrations and photographs, this is a great little book to keep in your bag or beside the bed, to dip into and delve into the lives of famous cat lovers. A lovely gift too. Any aurilophile would love it.

Price: 1.02

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent and well-written thriller, 25 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Parallax (Kindle Edition)
Parallax opens in London a short while into the future, in the aftermath of a solar storm that has knocked out the electricity supply. A group of disparate people struggle to survive as best they can. The author draws a eerily plausible vision of life when shops have been ransacked, people can't access their money because the banks are closed and are reduced to trading what few worthless items they still have in order to feed themselves and keep warm.

I expected the story to be a continuation of how they survive.

But as power begins to be restored the action moves to Europe, where a contract killer accompanied by his increasingly reluctant girlfriend, is bumping off unsuspecting victims. Some of the characters from the author's previous book Sirene reappear; the action is fast paced and the writing is tight. Seemingly unrelated characters and incidents start to link together to form an intricate plot - read attentively because there are clues everywhere. The humour is subtle and delicious - watch out for rhubarb galette!

There are a few beautiful twists as the suspense mounts and the story reaches its unexpected climax. An intelligent and well-plotted thriller.

My Animals and Other Family
My Animals and Other Family
Price: 2.00

5.0 out of 5 stars She's worth it!, 13 Jan 2013
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For Clare Balding I broke my rule, and paid over 3 for a Kindle book. Because she's worth it.

What a beautifully written and readable poignant tale of a girl born into the world of wealth and glamour of horse-racing at its highest level, where the Queen and Queen Mother took breakfast in the family kitchen.

Clare writes with humour and love about the horses and family pets with whom she shared her parents' affections, and of the younger brother she dragged into her dare-devil escapades.

She recounts her considerable success as a young rider and jockey modestly, and describes how she yearned for the approval of her father who was "always busy" and not to be disturbed by his children.

When, after having starved herself to reach the right weight for a horse race, she asked him if he loved her more now that she was thin, and he replied, after careful consideration "Yes, I think I do," my heart broke for her. "Ow, ow, ow. I didn't know that love could be turned on and off like a tap."

However, she shows no hint of self-pity, just a determination to excel at everything she does, and neither does she show any bitterness towards the father who didn't seem able to give her the unconditional love she craved.

An inspirational and charming read from an inspirational and charming woman.

That Bear Ate My Pants! Adventures of a real Idiot Abroad
That Bear Ate My Pants! Adventures of a real Idiot Abroad
Price: 0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and entertaining tale, 10 Jan 2013
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The monkey-chasing episode is one of the funniest passages I've read for a long time.

When the author's thespian dreams are thwarted, and his career as an explorer ends in south-west France on a prune-picking project, he decides to volunteer at an animal rescue centre in Ecuador; as one does.

His exploits there are recounted with humour and great affection for the animals he cares for, even if they don't always show their gratitude as he might hope.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, despite a few sad passages. Nothing too distressing for people like myself who don't like reading about animal suffering.

I enjoyed his writing style, and was not offended by the language. If you are put off by obscenities, then you might not enjoy this. But if you are interested in wildlife and the human efforts to protect it, and enjoy a good laugh, then this is a book for you.

The Imperfectionists
The Imperfectionists
by Tom Rachman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable, 10 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Imperfectionists (Paperback)
The story centres around the lives of a group of expatriates working for a slowly-failing international English-language newspaper based in Rome.

Each chapter relates an event in the personal lives of the people employed on the newspaper. Some are tragic, and some I found hysterically funny, particularly the frightful fate of naf Winston Cheung, the would-be Cairo stringer competing for the job with one of the most obnoxious fictional characters ever created, Rich Snyder.

Corrections Editor Herman Cohen is the stereotypical grammar and spelling nazi, with his "Bible" of grammatical correctness, now too large to exist in a printed version as the text would cover the size of metropolitan Liechtenstein. I was rather confused by Herman and his friend Jimmy. Both Jewish, they shared a mutual love of fried pork kidneys.

Reader Ornella has some kind of mental disorder that compels her to read every word of every newspaper. As it takes several days to complete a single edition, she's now decades behind, and in the 1990s is still reading newspapers from the 1970s.

Abbey Pinnola, the Chief Financial Officer, finds herself seated on a long-haul flight next to a man she has just sacked from the paper. Their relationship develops in a most unexpected direction.

I enjoyed the humour and found the characters believable. My only disappointment is that I'd have liked to have followed their lives just a little longer, as some of them rather fell off a cliff.

The Cocktail Waitress (Hard Case Crime)
The Cocktail Waitress (Hard Case Crime)
by James M. Cain
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked his other books better, 10 Jan 2013
As a huge fan of James Cain - Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice are two of my favourite books - I enjoyed The Cocktail Waitress, but not quite as much as I wanted to.

There's something about Joan that I couldn't like. She's had a tough time; her drunken husband has been killed and one particularly diligent police officer is convinced that she is responsible. She's penniless and friendless, and she's trying to get her child back from her sister-in-law. She takes a job earning money the only way she can, working as a cocktail waitress. Her cynical, older workmate Liz hints that there are ways of subsidising her wages by granting favours to customers, and although Jean has no lack of suitors she retains her sense of morality.

An elderly wealthy man falls in love with her and offers her the chance of a life of luxury and the means of getting back her child, but Jean cannot love him. Attracted to a younger man, she is torn between what to do for the best. Her choice leads to tragedy, and the book ends with a cruel sting in the tail - not entirely unpredictable to anybody who was around in the 1960s.

For all that Joan is deserving of sympathy and admiration, even Cain's writing does not compensate for the fact that I could not warm to any of the characters.

Fifty Sheds of Grey (Fifty Sheds 1)
Fifty Sheds of Grey (Fifty Sheds 1)
Price: 0.20

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It raised a few smiles, 10 Jan 2013
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While I didn't find it screamingly funny, the double-entendres did make me smile, and for 20p. I have no complaints. Nice photos of sheds.

The Matchmaker Of Perigord
The Matchmaker Of Perigord
Price: 4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and laugh-out-loud funny., 10 Jan 2013
When his clientele reach the age where they no longer have sufficient hair to worry about, barber Guillaume Ladoucette recognises that he needs to find a new source of income. With a population of 33, he somewhat optimistically sets himself up as a matchmaker in the village that is so ugly not even the British will live there.

When he opens his new business, "the sun was firing with such ferocity the pigeons had gone mad. Unable to remember how to fly, they tottered after Madame Ladoucette in a feathery grey shadow."

Among the 33 inhabitants are Mr Moreau, who sits all day long at the village fountain watching over ants and protecting them from careless feet or wheels; the infernal chicken Violette who wanders at will around Guillaume's house pecking his butter and using his underclothes for her toilet; dentist Yves Lévèque with his long pale instruments of torture; Sandrine Fournier, the assistant ambulant fishmonger, and many more eccentric and endearing characters whose lives are entangled in this charming story. Anybody who has lived for any length of time in a tiny French village will be familiar with the petty resentments and century-old feuds that persist even though their origins have long been forgotten.

The writing style is skillfully quirky, packed with exquisite detail and very, very funny. I found myself smiling constantly and often laughing aloud while reading this tale of life and love in ugly Amour-sur-Belle. It's pure, delicious escapism.

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