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Jane @The Owl Pen (Warwickshire)

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Absolute Friends
Absolute Friends
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Run of the mill, 2 Jun. 2017
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Kindle Edition)
Yes, it's Okay, and serves as a time-filler if you're waiting for something special to turn up, but it's pretty 'bog-standard' Le Carré. I generally don't find his later spy novels as good as the early Smiley ones, and this was no exception.


Noonday
Noonday
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A leap in time, 2 Jun. 2017
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This review is from: Noonday (Kindle Edition)
This is the final novel in Pat Barker's trilogy about a group of artists' lives and work during and between the two World Wars. I enjoyed the change of time setting to England, particularly London, during the Blitz. However Pat Barker's forte is really the First World War, and I didn't find her depiction of this period as convincing as the earlier one (cf. Sarah Waters' 'The Night Watch'). It was interesting to learn about the later lives of the main characters (Elinor, Paul & Kit), and to gain a deeper understanding of their good and bad points, and in this respect it was worth having a third part to their story. .


The Essex Serpent: The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year
The Essex Serpent: The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year
Price: £2.88

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A personal view, 2 Jun. 2017
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In the light of the glowing reviews and best seller status, I was disappointed in this historical novel. It is a book group choice, otherwise I probably wouldn't have chosen it, because I've read enough other novels about the Victorians' debate about religion versus science/ Darwinism. The setting of the Essex marshes was well written, but I found the style 'clunky' in places. I realise that this is a very personal view, and many will probably disagree, but this is why I've only awarded it 3 stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2017 3:30 PM BST


Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 262)
Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 262)
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, but a good read, 2 Jun. 2017
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This is the first Elizabeth Taylor book I've read, I saw the film with Joan Plowright some years ago. The style and subject matter reminded me of Anita Brookner Barbara Pym and, in her sharp and sometimes cruel observations of character, Jane Austen. Getting on in years myself, I found the subject of loneliness in old age quite depressing, but nevertheless appreciated the writing and characterisation and would recommend it as 'a good read'.


The Hokey Pokey Man
The Hokey Pokey Man
by Anita Arcari
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Romantic but interesting, 23 Jan. 2017
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This review is from: The Hokey Pokey Man (Paperback)
When I started this, I thought It would be unreadable, as the style was too romantic and clichéd for my taste. However I persevered beyond the first 40 pages or so, and gradually got drawn into the characters and their stories. I enjoyed the parts set in London and Swansea more than those in Italy, which to me felt particularly clichéd. Most of the book covers the period from 1894 to the first world War, and the last 50 years or so are covered quite sketchily, apart form the blitzing of Swansea, which is very vivid. I'm glad I read it because the subject of Italian immigration to Britain was made very interesting, but the style let it down.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2017 11:42 AM GMT


Stoner: A Novel (Vintage Classics)
Stoner: A Novel (Vintage Classics)
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A re-discovered classic, 13 April 2014
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I have read this for my book group, and look forward to hearing others' views on it, especially as some of them are university lecturers thenselves. In some ways it is sad and in places unremittingly bleak, but i did not feel at the emd that Stoner's life had been a complete failure. He was an honest and principled man, who was a good and sometimes an inspiring teacher. Not everyone is remembered after their death, but if they've achieved some good things in their life, does it matter?

I particularly enjoyed the parts about his teaching, and his love affair, less about his marriage, which is where his weakness shows up, as he was unable to stand up to his wife, and protect his daughter - she is the truly tragic character in the novel.

I think this probably is a classic, which deserves its revival. I am very sparing with 5 stars, but feel it really desrves 4.


The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia
The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia
by Peter Hopkirk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

3.0 out of 5 stars Another world, 22 Nov. 2013
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This is a long book, and takes some perseverance to get to the end. Having some knowledge already of the historical background of the subject helped, but it was easy to get bogged down by all the young adventurers, both British and Russian, caught up in this 'Great Game' for imperial expansion in the wild lands between India and Russia in the 19th century. I did find it interesting and learnt a lot, but was frustrated by the poor quality of the maps.


A Perfectly Good Man
A Perfectly Good Man
Price: £5.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, or just very good?, 22 Nov. 2013
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Another very good read from Patrick Gale. He certainly keeps the reader on his/her toes, with the odd time-structure - I found myself repeatedly trying to work out when a particular episode was happening, in relaton to the other events and characters. I've also read 'Notes from an Exhibition', which I preferred, but that's shouldn't put you off reading this. I'm mean with awarding 5 stars, and this ceratinly deserves the 4 which I've given it.


The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery
The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery
Price: £5.49

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So What...?, 19 July 2013
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First of all, despite only giving this book 3 stars, I must admit that I found it a compelling read, and it's helped me through this week's heatwave! It is this month's book group choice, and I was interested that it is about the Manners family/Dukes of Rutland and Belvoir Castle and Haddon Hall. Haddon is one of the most beautiful medieval manor houses in the country, I've visited it several times, but still have to get to Belvoir, and nearby Bottesford church, where there is a magnificent collection of early monuments to the Manners family.

However despite this personal bias, in the end I was disappointed by the book. Catherine Bailey poses 3 questions, based on the gaps she finds in the Rutland family archives - what did the 9th Duke want to hide by removing papers and letters covering 3 periods , 1894, 1909 & 1915? Only the first and 3rd questions were answered - the 1909 gap remains more or less a mystery. As other reviewers have already commented, by structuring the account like a dectective story, with herself as the detective, the author is repetitive, and much of the last half about the 1915 secret includes a lot of irrelevant detail, which would have benefitted from strict editing.

I've used the tile 'So What...?'for this review, because just by looking at the photographs, one can correctly guess 2 of the answers. Any researcher worth his/her salt should surely have been interested to look over the castle on first arrival, and therefore seen the chapel and the sculptured memorial to Haddon (although donated by the 9th Duke to the Tate, it is stll there, and there's a copy in the chapel at Haddon Hall.) The date of John's marriage to Kakoo should also have alerted her to a possible connection with the 1915 gap. Instead she says that she thought their marriage had "nothing to do with the war" - OH...

In conclusion, although we are given yet another picture of the priviledged, hypocritical and sometimes cruel lives of the British aristocracy, I think the Secret Rooms makes rather a mountain out of a molehill.


Pistache
Pistache
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From radio to page, 6 July 2013
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This review is from: Pistache (Hardcover)
I've enjoyed most of Sebastian Faulks' novels (4-5*), and I love the radio quiz programme 'The Write Stuff', and always relish his parody pieces. However somehow, for me, they didn't have quite the same impact on the page. I think I missed Sebastain's voice and clever impersonations, and they are so brief to read. It's good to pick up and dip into, but that's all really. Sorry..I debated whether this should have 4 stars, and may do for some, but not for me.


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