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Reviews Written by
Roman Clodia (London)
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The Loving Husband
The Loving Husband
by Christobel Kent
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, lightly spooky and unsettling domestic noire, 30 July 2016
This review is from: The Loving Husband (Hardcover)
There are plenty of novels around built on the same premise as this one: a husband goes missing or is killed and the wife uncovers dark secrets that underpinned their marriage - but this is one of the better in that sub-category. Kent is a subtle writer and keeps the atmosphere edgy and unsettling as Fran Hall has to both keep her own secrets while fending off the suspicions of the police and uncover the secrets of her elusive husband.

The setting of a rural village in the Fens adds a slightly spooky edge to proceedings, and the characters are nicely delineated. There's rather too much domestic detail around Fran's children: we really don't need to know about every time she breastfeeds the baby or changes his nappy... and the climax feels a little rushed as revelations and twists are piled one upon each other to confusing effect. Overall, though, this is a deft and classy domestic thriller which keeps to the realistic rather than the overly fanciful. Kent's light touch means that there's enough space for the reader's own imagination to work with this book as she refrains from spelling everything out - a gripping, one-sitting, page-turner of a read.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley


Today Will Be Different
Today Will Be Different
by Maria Semple
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.57

3.0 out of 5 stars A day in the life of a kooky, middle-aged woman, 29 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's some nice observational humour here but it feels a bit tired as we experience life through the eyes of yet another kooky, neurotic, middle-aged woman who feels that somewhere she has lost herself. Semple is sharp on the mundanities of family life, motherhood and marriage, and puts her finger on the martyr syndrome that takes over her protagonist, as pointed out by her husband.

The second half of the book darkens as we find out more about Eleanor's troubled childhood and her relationship with her sister, but the two halves of the book didn't sit together seamlessly for me.

This is a bit Bridget Jones Grown Up: still neurotic, still self-obsessed, still frantically trying to be herself. I enjoyed this in parts but also lost patience with the length of the book.


The Bestseller Code
The Bestseller Code
by Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Can following a formula result in a bestseller?, 29 July 2016
This review is from: The Bestseller Code (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an interesting read as it reverse-engineers, as it were, popular bestsellers to identify their common denominators. As other reviewers have pointed out, methodologically this works with books that have already passed the bestseller test rather than predicting what might become a bestseller and those two things are not necessarily the same thing. It also deals with unashamedly 'popular' books (The Da Vinci Code, 50 Shades, Danielle Steele etc.) rather than more quality or literary fiction, perhaps because the latter can't be reduced to a formula - and this is all about identifying the lowest common denominator formula that appeals to a mass market.

Anyone who reads a lot and analyses what they read is unlikely to be hugely surprised by the conclusions here but it's still interesting to witness the digital evidence. The more positive side of the results for any readers dispirited by the reductive nature of the conclusions is the extent to which some books succeed and become bestsellers *against* the formula being identified here: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, all of which occupy different places on the spectrum of literary quality yet are huge bestsellers, don't fit the formula that is identified here - however much an author may tick formulaic boxes, there's still an elusive something that eludes computerised identification. We know this anecdotally, anyway, from the way band-wagon books which try to duplicate a runaway bestseller like the the Da Vinci Code never do as well commercially as the original.

So an interesting read overall and one which sits somewhere in the academic fields of digital humanities and cognitive reading.


Dragon Games (Rising Dragon 2) (Dragon Rising)
Dragon Games (Rising Dragon 2) (Dragon Rising)
by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Read this is you're interested in the Cultural Revolution not if you want a fast-paced thriller, 29 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The second in a trilogy following Whispering Shadows, this is another intelligent exploration of modern China both past and present. Sendker generally writes well though there's the occasional stiltedness which may come from the translation. He also has a tendency to 'tell' rather than 'show' so there's more authorial exposition here than I would choose: I prefer finding my own way in a book rather than having my hand held quite so tightly and guided by the author.

The evocation of China is done very well with a nice eye for the human impacts of politics and for the sense impacts of what may be a relatively unknown culture for many of us. Less successful is wrapping this all up in a crime/thriller plot: die-hard crime readers may well find themselves losing patience with the s-l-o-w development. I'm a bit on the fence with this one: the good bits are very good but I found myself skimming some of the pages to get there.


Rose & Co Patisserie de Bain Cranberries Hand Cream 30 ml Jar
Rose & Co Patisserie de Bain Cranberries Hand Cream 30 ml Jar
Price: £5.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A tiny pot of sweet-smelling loveliness, 29 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a nice hand cream but like the other products in this range it's all about the packaging. The pot has a lovely vintage vibe about it but do note that it's tiny at just 30 mls (just twice an average tube of eye cream). That does make this expensive for what it is in comparison to everyday creams like Nivea. All the same, if you like this cute almost nostalgic style and a sweet fragrance then this is a nice treat and the small size makes it perfect for a bedside table. Very good as a small gift, too.


Bourjois Volume Reveal Waterproof Mascara
Bourjois Volume Reveal Waterproof Mascara
Offered by Faith Cosmetics
Price: £10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A standard mascara made special by the mirrored packaging, 29 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a nice mascara, nothing special but what makes it worth the money is the excellent mirror on the tube which makes application so easy - really, it's a puzzle why no-one thought of this before.

The mascara itself is a thinnish texture so goes on smoothly with no clumping but also no noticeable volumising effect. It lasts, though, and gives natural dark definition with no smudging and comes off with eye make-up remover.

Best for the short-sighted and anyone who likes to apply make-up on the go.


Rose & Co Patisserie de Bain Raspberry and Apple Crumble Gift Set - 3-Piece
Rose & Co Patisserie de Bain Raspberry and Apple Crumble Gift Set - 3-Piece
Price: £10.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Choose these if you fantasize about bathing in cake..., 29 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Like the other bath melts in this range these are beautifully designed and packaged with a vintage, nostalgic vibe. They are tiny, though, and the fragrance is subtle rather than full-blown making these expensive at over three pounds a bath. The foodie scents of apple and raspberry aren't as nice to me as the florals in this range but my young nieces love them. A little bit of style over substance but these make a lovely small gift especially for anyone who likes sweet treats and dreams of bathing in cake!


The Lost Tudor Princess: A Life of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox
The Lost Tudor Princess: A Life of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox
by Alison Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An exhaustive political biography of Margaret Lennox, 28 July 2016
An exhaustive re-telling of the life of Margaret Douglas: daughter of Margaret Tudor, niece of Henry VIII, mother of Darnley, mother-in-law to Mary Queen of Scots - so not really 'lost' at all as the title proclaims. It's good to have a focus on this formidable Tudor woman but Weir doesn't really get under her skin at all so that this becomes a political biography rather than a personal one. And if you're familiar with the intricacies of this period especially the machinations around royal successors for Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth I, as well as the story of Mary Queen of Scots whose second marriage was to Margaret Douglas' son, Darnley, then there won't be much that is new here.

Weir is usually a fairly biased historian who is on the side of her biographical subjects: here she has to try very hard to vindicate Margaret Douglas who wasn't a naturally 'nice' woman, she was far too power-hungry for that, and that leaves what feels like a big vacuum in the narrative as Weir doesn't manage to conjure up a personal sense of Douglas.

As usual, Weir is uncritical of her sources and is happy to blithely categorise them as 'hostile' and therefore wrong when it suits her. My biggest caveat is her readings of the poems of the Devonshire Manuscript as unmediated outpourings of sincere and authentic emotion giving us direct access to Douglas' heart: that kind of sense of subjective identity simply didn't exist in the sixteenth century, and poetry is a form of public rhetoric, especially verses in a courtly miscellany like the Devonshire MS.

For all that, this is useful for anyone wanting access to the main sources on Douglas or for general readers looking for a slightly oblique take on the familiar Tudor/Stuart story. There's a feeling that Weir's material sometimes gets away from her and isn't marshalled as tidily as it could be. This isn't as gripping as some of Weir's other historical biographies and repeats some of the material from Weir's own book on the death of Darnley. If you're interested in Margaret Douglas, you might want to have a look at Bingham's Darnley: A life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort Of Mary Queen of Scots which seems to be out of print but which gives a vivid picture of Margaret Douglas before moving on to Darnley.


The Dead House: Fiona Griffiths Crime Thriller (Book 5) (Fiona Griffiths Crime Thriller Series)
The Dead House: Fiona Griffiths Crime Thriller (Book 5) (Fiona Griffiths Crime Thriller Series)
by Harry Bingham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, intriguing and satisfying, 28 July 2016
What a long way Bingham has come from the first in this series which I found a little shaky. This book is imbued with a confidence in the writing that gives voice to Fiona's strange and intriguing personality. At the same time, the plot takes a welcome step away from the ubiquitous psychopathic serial killer and works in far more realistic territory. The melding of modern crime with medieval religious sensibility maintains a kind of modern gothic feel that fits with Fiona's own sometimes troubled mental state but keeps it all credible.

The background, too, is very well done from the rural Welsh setting to Fiona's new colleague and partner in crime (and I'd love to see more of Burnett in later books - a brilliant foil to Fiona). I don't want to say anything more about the plot which is covered in the publisher's blurb but trust me, this is a very satisfying mystery that develops in an unexpected direction. Recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.


The Moment She Left
The Moment She Left
by Susan Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

3.0 out of 5 stars More soap opera than crime, 28 July 2016
This review is from: The Moment She Left (Hardcover)
This is far more cosy than I expected, more soap-opera than crime. Lewis has created some interesting characters (though the names Andee and Rowzee irritated me constantly) and clearly enjoys their company: good if you enjoy domestic reads with just a smudge of crime to keep the plot flowing.

ARC from Netgalley


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