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Reviews Written by
J. Poole "jhlondonuk" (London UK)
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The Red Book
The Red Book
Price: £3.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Yet Not Brilliant, 28 April 2012
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This review is from: The Red Book (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed the first half of this book. The characters are well-described and interesting (although a bit of a "perfect" set -- and maybe not realistic -- with one black, one Asian, one possibly-gay etc, all boxes ticked). The premise is good and very relevant in this Facebook-dominated world: the world we present (in this case via Harvard Red Book entries) versus the reality of the lives we are leading.

The women's relationships and situations feel realistic in many ways, from the experience of motherhood vs. career, the expectations of the Harvard graduates versus the reality of their lives, to the astute perceptions of American culture of the ex-pat journalist (no wonder these feel the most real, considering this character shares a lot with the author).

That said, I got bored about halfway through this book and found the situations got less real and more pat once the characters were established. A rebellious teenage girl giving her mother a parenting speech and (wait for it) grounding herself!?? Felt absurd. Of course we have to have the Repentant Banker who is now unemployed and regretful of her part in the housing crisis. And I won't give away endings but a highly unlikely and less-believable romance blooms (I read in the author's notes that her editor made her change the ending to this romantic, fantasy silliness, complete with tropical island, and it feels that way -- tacked on and unrealistic).

The worst for me was one character finding out about the infidelity of her partner with a woman whose mysterious daughter has no father ever mentioned (I assumed it was the child of the wayward husband), but this is never brought up or asked about?! An editorial oversight? Again, it did NOT feel realistic when you find out your husband had an affair, you meet a fatherless child the exact right age, and don't bother establishing whether or not this child is your child's half-sibling?! There are also annoying areas where the characters are correcting each other's French and English in the midst of conversations in a way that felt forced and unnatural, as though the author were just trying to find a place to include her own musings on how funny it is that "vagina" and "breasts" are masculine nouns in French. Not really part of the story and didn't add anything to it except the author wanting to demonstrate her (yawn) cleverness.

And of course interspersed with the four main characters' stories are Red Book entries about people you never meet or aren't really part of the story, and some of these are interesting and some of these are not.

So this book was enjoyable to me in the set-up but less in the execution, which lost its grittiness and became more "cute" than I would have liked.


Kitchen Craft Bar Craft Lever-Arm Power Arc Corkscrew
Kitchen Craft Bar Craft Lever-Arm Power Arc Corkscrew
Price: £17.94

2.0 out of 5 stars Stopped Working After One Use, 26 April 2012
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I received this and really liked it, though I then had the same problem as the other reviewer in that it stopped working (the screw mechanism wouldn't penetrate the cork) after one use. So I had to return it and will get something else. You get what you pay for, I guess!


The Expats
The Expats
Price: £4.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed But Entertaining Debut, 16 April 2012
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This review is from: The Expats (Kindle Edition)
As an expat American in Europe (for 13+ years) and a mum of 3 kids who left a fast-paced career to raise children, I found Pavone's descriptions of both situations to be spot-on. From the strained friendships with other Americans you'd never befriend back home to the politics of the school-gate, he does a great job invoking the ambivalence and stresses of moving abroad and raising children in a foreign country.

The spy-thriller elements are interesting too, though there are definitely parts that strain credulity. In particular I found the ending to be highly unlikely, but not so much so that it ruins the story. Also the end of the flashback strand of the story is apparently meant to be a big "reveal" but it is so heavily hinted at earlier that it is no surprise and doesn't add that much to the story.

As others have stated, it's hard to get a real fix on the other characters, in particular Julia is hard to picture. And the plot definitely has some clunky bits that could have been edited more smoothly. But there are some interesting twists at the end that keep it all moving.

But overall I really enjoyed reading this, partly because of the similarities to my own situation but also because it's well-written and fast-paced, despite some of the obvious plot flaws.


What You Don't Know (Bone & Cane 2)
What You Don't Know (Bone & Cane 2)

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not As Good As The First One, 15 April 2012
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Both books in this series are very enjoyable, well-written, and fast-paced. The characters are interesting and realistic.

Unfortunately, this story is much less interesting than the first Bone and Cane book. There isn't much here to make you care about the characters and their stories, and I felt it dragged in places and I didn't really care what happened next.

And a big problem in this book is that the two characters that anchor the two stories barely intersect and have no emotional interaction whatsoever. Their only physical interaction is a couple of perfunctory conversations. So the interpersonal drama of the former-lovers-who-still-have-feelings-for-each-other is completely absent from this book. So there really isn't much emotional content. In this book, it feels like two completely different stories that have a bit of intersection at the end, and the two main characters seem like they have nothing to do with each other.

That said, the political situations seem realistic (though again not very interesting -- some people moving on and off committees...zzzzz) and the struggles of a former drug dealer trying to make it straight also seem realistic.

All in all, this book disappointed me somewhat, but I still enjoyed reading it.


Breaking and Entering: A Novel
Breaking and Entering: A Novel
Price: £10.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, Bleak Perspective On America's Conservative MidWest, 20 Mar. 2012
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This is a great story with excellent characters and pace. I highly enjoyed it and couldn't wait to keep reading.

However it does present an incredibly depressing glimpse into the US's ultra-conservative areas where racism, violence, and hatred appear to be pervasive. But that negative view in no way impeded the story and the author doesn't allow her politics (and her obvious point of view) to become preachy or overly sanctimonious.


A Theory of Small Earthquakes
A Theory of Small Earthquakes
by Meredith Maran
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, Realistic Story of Modern Family in Bay Area, 18 Mar. 2012
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Great story, highly original, characters with depth and realism, and a fun glimpse into the Bay Area over the last 20 years. There is so much about this book to enjoy...the excellent writing (avoiding cliche and coincidence), the fast-paced story, the historical context...I could go on and on, but just read it.


Still Life with Husband
Still Life with Husband
by Lauren Fox
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Annoying Protagonist But Well-Written, 3 Mar. 2012
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The main character in this novel is immature, irritating, spoiled, and behaves and talks like a bratty teenager most of the time. She does not grow or change through her increasingly-unlikely circumstances (for someone desperately fighting her husband's pressure to have a baby she seems never to mention or use birth control and then is surprised to have a pregnancy scare). And the ending of this book is unsatisfying in the extreme, the protagonist being tossed around via different circumstances and things that happen TO her, but she never makes a decision or takes any kind of action...and then the book just ends, totally unresolved.

So as much as this book and character are unappealing, I must grudgingly admit how well-written it is (besides the fish poetry and puns). The author avoids chick-lit language and cliche and presents the story in a (usually) pacey, interesting way (a few passages drag like right at the height of the conflict at the end, why on earth do we need to interrupt the action to hear the story of the woman working at the shoe store who had a teen pregnancy?). Her descriptions of the female friendships and sisterhood feel real, even if the protagonist's relationship with her husband is more like a cartoon.

So I would try another book by this author because I feel she has talent, even if I found this particular book unsatisfying.


The Best American Mystery Stories 2011
The Best American Mystery Stories 2011
Price: £6.47

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fine Short Stories, But Hardly "Mysteries", 23 Feb. 2012
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I couldn't get through this book. Unfortunately, I was expecting actual mysteries or at least plots with some kind of event that needs to be resolved. These were just short stories, yes some somewhat "dark," but completely lacking in any kind of suspense or mystery. Some were just brief character studies. I made it halfway through before becoming bored and giving up. I wanted more plot from my stories.


Soft Touch Mechanical Scale
Soft Touch Mechanical Scale

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Numbers Too Small For Me To Read, 17 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Soft Touch Mechanical Scale
This is a perfectly nice-looking and compact little scale, and the platform is comfortable, but the problem is that the numbers are so tiny, even with the magnification window provided, that I have to bend down to read the result (and I am fairly young with nearly perfect vision so it's not due to any impairment of mine). When I bend over to read the result, the needle jiggles and I don't feel I am getting an accurate result.

I bought this because I was fed up with digital scales and their delay (having to tap it, then wait for the 0 to display before stepping on), but this mechanical scale is too small and fiddly and I may have to go back to a digital one, or at least a mechanical one with a bigger display.


Hanson HX5000 Glass Electronic Bathroom Scale
Hanson HX5000 Glass Electronic Bathroom Scale
Price: £13.88

3.0 out of 5 stars Died after 1 year, 19 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Once the batteries died, it wouldn't work with new batteries. So I had to replace it, but what do you want for that price?

Also I just find it annoying to turn on, you have to "tap" it quite hard then wait for it to activate before you can step on. It's common to all digital scales, but I find it annoying.


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