Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Fitbit
Profile for Charliecat > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Charliecat
Top Reviewer Ranking: 19,530
Helpful Votes: 1382

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-17
pixel
Burial Rites
Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive debut., 3 July 2013
This review is from: Burial Rites (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Burial rites, Hannah Kent's debut novel, is a beautiful and eerie novel. It left me thoughtful and heavy hearted.

Set in the dark wilderness of rural Iceland in the 1820s it reexamines the life and death of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland. Agnes Magnusdottir was convicted, along with Fridrik Sigurdson and Sigridur Gudmundsdottir of the murder of two men. Fridrik and Agnes were executed on January 12th 1830. Sigridur Gudmundsdottir's sentence was reduced to life inprisonment.

As Agnes awaits her execution a local official, District Officer Jon Jonsson, and his family have been assigned to be her jailers while she waits for her sentence to be carried out. The family Jon, Margret, Steina and Lauga, are understandably unhappy about this arrangement, which has been foisted upon them by the District Commissioner Blondal.

Assistant Reverend Thorvadur Jonsson, Toti, has been requested by Agnes to attend her. He is unsure why and as nervous of Agnes as the Jonsson family are.

However as the family and Toti and the reader come to know Agnes slowly throughout the novel they become aware that everything they hear is not always true and there is always another side to the story.

Hannah Kent has written an incredibly impressive debut novel. The writing is simple and evocative of the dark, sparse landscape of Iceland. The piercing cold, the howling wind and the heavy snow are all captured perfectly as are the summer days in the wide grassy fields in the north of the country.

The characters are all well drawn and I found myself warming to all of them as the novel progressed, especially to Agnes and Margret. I didn't want the novel to end and I think it's one that will stay with me for some time to come.


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
by Anton Disclafani
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful, 3 July 2013
I have to be honest and say that I didn't like this at all. Imagine reading a pony club book with added sex. It combines a coming of age story with a school story, albeit set in a riding school.
It's Florida in the 1920s (although you wouldn't know it, it feels more like the 1970s). Thea has been banished from home for some misdemeanour with a boy. The reader doesn't learn the full story until later in the novel. She is sent to the Yonahlossee Riding school for Girls, deep in the blue ridge mountains, a boarding school for girls, with added horses.
As we progress through the novel the reader begins to learn why Thea has been sent away from home but since she loves riding it doesn't seem a punishment for her to be sent there.
Thea is a difficult character to like. She's monumentally self-obsessed and sex obsessed which makes her difficult to warm to. There is an odd detached quality to the narration which might be called dream-like except Thea is too cold a narrator for that.
Thea bonds with some of the girls at the camp and some of these girls are quite interesting but we never really get to know them so they pass in and out again without much incident.
The reader discovers most about Thea's family, the secrets and the lies hidden beneath the genteel Southern exterior. Except her family are also fairly unlikeable. Perhaps her twin Sam being the only tolerable one amongst them.
The Yonahlossee Riding School for Girls had the feel of a Virginia Andrew's novel, with the detached writing, the strange family and inappropriate sexual relationships. To be honest I found it a bit tacky.


The Quietness
The Quietness
by Alison Rattle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Quietness, 12 Jun. 2013
This review is from: The Quietness (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really enjoy reading a good young adult historical novel and Alison Rattle's debut novel, The Quietness, was a good read. It follows the story of two young girls in 1870's London.

Queenie, who is desperate to escape the slums and Ellen who is a privileged but lonely young girl. Their destinies become fatally entwined when they become involved with a pair of notorious baby-farmers. So-called Victorian baby-farmers took on unwanted children for a small fee. They were supposed to care for them as their own children but as you will see, in The Quietness, this very rarely happened.

Rattle is excellent at portraying the filth and squalor of Victorian London juxtaposed with and finery and richness of Ellen's life. She tackles some really difficult subjects, most of the time with finesse, but occasionally too lightly so sometimes some of the more difficult, or the most difficult issues, are skated over a little thinly.

On the whole I enjoyed The Quietness. It's fast paced and gripping and tackles some fascinating subjects.


Sword and Scimitar
Sword and Scimitar
by Simon Scarrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.18

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 10 May 2013
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Paperback)
Simon Scarrow is best known for the 'Eagle' novels set in the Roman legions. In Sword and Scimitar Scarrow abandons the Roman world and takes the reader to the siege of Malta in 1565 and the brutal war between Islam and Christianity which raged for centuries.

His protagonist Sir Thomas Barrett was banished from Malta many years before over an event which still troubles him but now that the Christian defenders of Malta need all the help they can muster he is once again called into service.

I've never read a Simon Scarrow novel before but I am aware that he generally writes historical military type novels so I had some idea what to expect. Sadly, by all accounts, I don't think I started with his best novel.

I found the story lacked depth and the characters were flimsy and badly drawn, almost interchangeable. I found Sir Thomas insufferably sanctimonious and difficult to warm to. His romance with Maria is too predictable and far-fetched to be believable.

Overall I found the setting interesting because it was something I know very little about. Although I would have liked more depth and historical background about the siege it was nevertheless the most interesting part of the novel.
But I was disappointed with the characterisation and the plot, both of which I found insubstantial and one dimensional.


She Rises
She Rises
by Kate Worsley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars She Rises., 1 May 2013
This review is from: She Rises (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I finished reading She Rises a couple of days ago and I'm still not sure what I think about it. It's a book I was really looking forward to reading because I usually love a good sea story and this looked very promising.

However I found it a bit hit and miss. The novel is split into two narrative strands. Louise is a dairymaid from Essex. She is offered a job as a lady's maid to, Rebecca Handley, a wealthy captain's daughter in the busy town of Harwich. It gives her a chance to search for her brother Luke who disappeared many years ago.

The other narrator is Luke, who was press-ganged on the streets of Harwich. Life on ship is desperately hard and brutal and he has to learn to survive alongside his rough and dangerous shipmates, whilst yearning for the woman he has left behind.

The chapters are quite short so we move between the narrators fairly often which begins to become confusing the further you read. I enjoyed Louise's story and her gradual and continuing absorption with Rebecca Handley but I found Luke's story a bit dull. I didn't feel the adventure and excitement that I normally get from a sea story which was disappointing.

Towards the end the stories become increasingly entangled and I ended up completely confused and having looked over it several times since I'm still not sure what happened.

Overall She Rises was not as good s I thought it would be. Kate Worsley was mentored by Sarah Waters but She Rises didn't enthral me the way Water's novels do.


Queen's Gambit
Queen's Gambit
by Elizabeth Fremantle
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Queen's Gambit, 17 April 2013
This review is from: Queen's Gambit (Hardcover)
Katherine Parr was Henry VIII’s sixth wife. She was a twice-widowed, learned, and intelligent woman interested in the new faith and religious reform, the exact opposite of Henry’s fifth wife the young and reckless Catherine Howard. Katherine Parr nursed Henry in his final years and he seemed to value her for these skills however all of these attributes didn’t mean that she was safe from the machinations of the poisonous Tudor court. Her avowed interest in Protestant teachings and religious learning nearly proved her downfall and she came very close to going the same way as two of her predecessors.
In Queen’s Gambit, Elizabeth Fremantle explores Katherine’s marriage to Henry VIII and her love for Thomas Seymour. Considering that Katherine was such an intelligent woman her love for someone as foolish as Seymour has always remained a bit of puzzle to me but I suppose you cannot help who you fall in love with. Fremantle does well with the characterisation of Seymour, showing his true imprudent and dangerous nature.
I wasn’t as impressed with the characterisation of Katherine or Henry VIII. Henry is not hideous enough. His hugeness, his suppurating leg, beady eyes and unpredictable rages are not emphasised enough. Similarly Katherine’s learning and her religiosity is not highlighted and she seems a bit too modern. Katherine was a highly influential queen. The only other one of Henry’s queens (Katherine of Aragon being the other) to serve as regent when he was abroad, the first queen to publish a work in her own name, “Prayers or Meditations” and later “The Lamentations of a Sinner”. She was influential in getting Mary and Elizabeth reinstated into the line of succession. However I didn’t get this from this novel which is a real shame.
Throughout the novel Katherine’s story is contrasted with her maidservant’s story. Dot Fownten is lowly born but like Katherine she comes close to destruction. Dot’s story seems to be included as a relief to Katherine’s but I didn’t find her story as interesting and cutting to it seemed to reduce the tension which should have been building around the main story especially as Anne Askew is arrested and the threat sweeps very close to Katherine.
Fremantle does draw some aspects of the Tudor court very well – the gossip amongst the ladies (although their tongues do seem a bit loose at times), the clamouring for favours from the Queen and the hustle and bustle of court life are all well described.
For me Queen’s Gambit was a reasonable read, better than some other historical fiction I’ve read, but it was missing a few essential things and there were a few jarring modernisms but if you like historical fiction from the likes of Philippa Gregory and others then you will probably enjoy this one.


Gossip
Gossip
by Beth Gutcheon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks sparkle., 17 April 2013
This review is from: Gossip (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Gossip

I really thought I was going to like this novel. I read and loved Mary McCarthy's The Group and Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything, which this novel is compared to. I also read and enjoyed Beth Gutcheon's Still Missing so I was fully expecting to like Gossip but, for some reason, I didn't.

Loviah French owns and runs a boutique dress shop in Manhattan where she makes clothes for the rich and famous of the city including her boarding school friends, Dinah and Avis.

Gossip is a slow burning novel which tells the story of Lovie's friendships through marriage, children, divorce, adultery, and career choices. Dinah and Avis are not great friends but what binds them and later on their children is Lovie. Lovie takes the reader through endless cocktail parties, dinners out and weekends away in the fashionable New York world.

Although I liked Lovie's gentle narrative voice and some of the characters, Dinah for example and Avis's daughter Grace, were interesting there seemed to be something missing. I felt no emotional attachment to the characters so I didn't really care what happened to them and I hate to say it but it was all just a bit boring. It lacks the sparkle, energy and the humour if The Group and The Best of Everything. In the end I was disappointed with Gossip.


Harvest
Harvest
by Jim Crace
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Harvest, 15 April 2013
This review is from: Harvest (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Harvest

Jim Crace is on one of our greatest writers and also one of our most overlooked. His writing is stunning and you cannot help but be drawn into the stories he writes.

Harvest, his latest novel, is set over the course of seven days in an unidentified village in an unidentified time period although going by the turn of events it seems to be 16th century England or thereabouts.

The novel is narrated by Walter Thirsk, an 'incomer', despite having lived there a number of years. With a mixture of affection and melancholy he narrates the decline of an ancient way of life. A way of life many now would view as idyllic.

However Harvest is not simply a lament for days gone by it is also a reminder of the dark side of humanity and the struggle that such a life entailed.

Enclosure threatens the village and at the same time a group of strangers arrive and throw the villagers into turmoil. Events soon escalate out of the control as 'progress' and ancient superstitions collide with devastating results for the village.


The Orchardist
The Orchardist
by Amanda Coplin
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful first novel., 27 Mar. 2013
This review is from: The Orchardist (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I loved this novel. Every minute of it was a pleasure. Set in Northwest America at the turn of the century it has a slow, deliberate pace reflecting Talmadge's measured pace of life in the orchard.

Talmadge lives alone on a remote orchard. His life is laid-back and unhurried moving with the seasons he tends his apples and apricots with love and care. Talmadge's life is one of routine and serenity broken only by the visit, once a year, from the native horse wranglers who move through the countryside with large groups of horses to sell at auction.

After Talmadge's father died in a mining accident his mother set off on a trek through Oregon to Washington state, with him and his sister, Elspeth. They settled in a shack and began the orchard. After the loss of both his mother and his sister (in mysterious circumstances)Talmadge tended the orchard alone sometimes seeing his friend Caroline Middey, a herbalist and midwife from the local town or Clee, a native horse wrangler.

That is until his peace is disturbed by two pregnant, almost feral, young girls who appear from nowhere and turn his life upside down. His natural kindness and gentleness mean that he cannot abandon these girls and he must open his heart and his life to the outside world for the first time. The effect is haunting, poetic and unforgettable. The Orchardist is a beautiful novel and amazingly accomplished for a first novel.


Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen
Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen
by Bee Wilson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kitchen history., 27 Mar. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Consider the Fork is a fascinating book. How many times have you thought about the wooden spoon in your kitchen? Or for that matter the colander, or the grater? All those everyday kitchen utensils and their long history is what Bee Wilson has dedicated this book to as well as the way we cook with these utensils.

Bee Wilson is an excellent writer and she always chooses interesting foodie topics, her last book, Swindled was a thoroughly engaging look at the adulteration of food through the ages. With Consider the Fork she has turned her attention to the fork and various other kitchen equipment and their origins and at the same time she has looked at humans and food through the ages.

Some parts of this book are excellent, really informative and interesting with little known facts and titbits of information for the reader but some parts did seem to drag a little bit. As she moved into discussing modern kitchen implements, such as the food processor, I found my mind wandering which is really the only reason I haven't given it more stars.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-17