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Reviews Written by
Jeff Markham (Walton-on-Thames, UK)

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A Tale for the Time Being
A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.89

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully original, uplifting novel!, 9 Sept. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ruth Ozeki's novel is refreshingly original and a joy to read. Featuring one of the most engaging and interesting central characters in recent fiction, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of troubled Japanese high school girl Nao, and her relationship with her 104 year old Buddhist nun great great grandma. The story is related through Nao's diary, which is found washed up on the shores of a remote British Colombian island off Canada, where it slowly influences and changes the lives of a couple living an isolated existence.

Ozeki's prose is beautifully written and Nao's frequent digressions into the nuances of Japanese teen culture, the cruelties of Japanese high school, and her relationship with her parents, are often very funny, revealing and touching. This terrific novel has been nominated for the Booker Prize, and although I haven't read all the other contenders, I will be very surprised if they offer such an uplifting, purely enjoyable read that says a lot about the current state of the world in a subtle way. It's eco-conscious, humanist message is never overstated but deftly woven into the fabric of Nao's life and story. Highly recommended.


Zyliss Herb Tool Cutter - White
Zyliss Herb Tool Cutter - White

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very sharp herb cutter, 14 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a useful kitchen tool, easy to use and very clean design. Just be careful when washing it that you avoid contact with the very sharp blades.


Cole & Mason Precision Grind Richmond Electronic Salt and Pepper Mill Gift Set - Brushed Steel/Silver, 21.5 cm
Cole & Mason Precision Grind Richmond Electronic Salt and Pepper Mill Gift Set - Brushed Steel/Silver, 21.5 cm
Offered by Harts Of Stur
Price: £32.02

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and easy to use, 22 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a great product that looks really stylish on the dining table. Although it requires a lot of batteries to operate this is not an issue as of course you will only use it for a few seconds each time. It grinds salt crystals and peppercorns very efficiently and looks great.


The Aspern Papers and Other Stories n/e (Oxford World's Classics)
The Aspern Papers and Other Stories n/e (Oxford World's Classics)
by Henry James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing, compelling stories, 28 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This collection of four stories is dominated by the title story. The Aspern Papers is also the longest and is more of a novella than a short story. The writing here is simply beautiful, with matchless prose supported by a compelling story.

A critic besotted with the enigmatic life and poetry of the late Jeffrey Aspern charms his way into the decaying old 57 room Venetian mansion now occupied by the dead poet's former lover, an old, calculating and difficult to fathom woman who lives an isolated existence with her equally mysterious niece. His motive? His firm belief that priceless manuscripts and papers which would give the world an insight into the great man's life are hidden under the watchful gaze of the old woman. Much of the story concerns the critic's elaborate and costly attempts to find out the truth and his increasing fascination with the niece.

All the stories explore the figure of the artist and how we can ever know what lies behind the public image. Anticipating our celebrity culture by many decades, these brilliantly written stories are the perfect introduction to James.


Honour
Honour
by Elif Shafak
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing, tragic tale, extremely well told, 31 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Honour (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Elif Shafak's novel is a finely detailed, complex story of a Kurdish-Turkish family across generations that illustrates the cultural, familial and historical ties that bind and how these issues affect immigrants in a different culture. Initially at least, the complex time structure, that cuts between a Kurdish village, Istanbul and London across more than three decades, takes a bit getting used to, as does becoming familiar with the various family members, the story told from varying points of view. But gradually, key characters and themes emerge to reveal a rich tapestry of woven connections, with children and parents at the heart of a novel that turns on the harshness of the concept of honour and how even small transgressions can create tensions and ultimate tragedy.


AnySharp Plus Knife & Scissor Sharpener, Grey
AnySharp Plus Knife & Scissor Sharpener, Grey
Offered by rhinocables

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharpens all knives quickly & easily, 13 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a sturdy and reliable product that needs very little effort to effectively sharpen any knife. Place it on a flat surface and the suction clip holds it in place very well. Good product which you can store vertically by using the suction clip to secure it.


The Empty Family: Stories
The Empty Family: Stories
by Colm Tóibín
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Family relationships beautifully described, 21 Jun. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Colim Toibin has a way of describing the emptiness surrounding the main characters. Simple stories but emotionally haunting. Charaters are beautifully described and in unusual situations. Very easy to read.


All That I Am
All That I Am
by Anna Funder
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary true story, beautifully told, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: All That I Am (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Anna Funder's follow up to the highly regarded Stasiland is a novel based on real events. It follows the separate but closely linked stories of elderley Ruth in the present day and anti-Nazi activist Ernst Toller in the 1950s, both relating their pre Second World War experiences as refugees in London, on the run from the reach of the Fuhrer's grasp.

But at the heart of Ruth and Toller's compelling stories is the woman they both love, admire and respect - the brave, passionate and committed Dora Fabian. Dora is by far the book's most fascinating character, her extraordinary bravery and energy inspiring all around her as she seeks to organise opposition from London,t to Hitler's rise and make the rest of Europe aware of the coming danger. There is a suspenseful trajectory to the story that ends in perhaps predictable tragedy. Anna Funder's excellent book also has a great supporting cast of characters that flit in and out of Dora and Ruth's lives. Very well written, this book is highly recommended.


The Devotion Of Suspect X
The Devotion Of Suspect X
by Keigo Higashino
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and intriguing, 12 Sept. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This fascinating and cleverly thought out thriller was a smash hit in Japan and lead to a cult movie, which I hope will also get a release over here as the compelling and interesting characters will certainly work brilliantly onscreen.

A cerebral thriller that's not a whodunnit, more a 'howdunnit' (we know who has killed the brutal ex-husband of the single mum who inspires the devotion of title very early on), it retains a power to involve and intrigue the reader by a careful, insistent building of evidence and character development. The one aspect I would quibble with is the much vaunted 'surprise', twist ending. Personally I did see it coming but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of a terrific read that is refreshing for its very 'Japaneseness' - the excellently evoked Tokyo locations and characters.


Room
Room
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and gripping - a great read, 4 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Room (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There was a lot of pre-release hype surrounding this novel, evoking as it does the recent well known cases of monstrous imprisonment suffered by innocents. However, the novel itself is a virtually un-put-downable and compelling piece of writing.

Although choosing to tell the story entirely from young Jack's point of view has it's occasional problems (for a 5 year old some of Jack's observations seem just a little too wise or philosophical) it nevertheless allows the author to create a distance between the horror of the situation and her narrator. It also creates a unique world of oddball observations and comments on the absurdities of modern life, as Jack has only ever known the life of 'Room' and therefore as readers we find his descriptions of his daily routine and his belief that everything on tv is 'real' both amusing and touching.

Perhaps this fascinating novel loses something about half way through when the confined world of the room is suddenly opened out after a really superb piece of writing (to give away too much here would spoil the story for other readers) lurches the narrative forward in a different direction, but generally this is a novel that triumphantly lives up to the hype.


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