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Uncle Moley "reddit" (Colchester, UK)

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East of the Mountains
East of the Mountains
by David Guterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in ugliness, 11 Oct. 2007
This review is from: East of the Mountains (Paperback)
Now I've heard that David Gutterson is quite an accomplished writer having also read raving reviews on `Snow falling on cedars', so thought this was worth a read.

Geographically, the book's setting depicts a large vast open space of fields, mountains etc. This is placed in direct contrast to the main protagonist, Ben Givens, and his inner emotional struggles in dealing with his raging colon cancer. He chooses to suffer in silence and takes a much closed standing, not even revealing the details to his closest family members. To him, his only option is suicide. We join him on his journey to his desired conclusion of life.

I have to take the same stance that the storyline is weak. The concept is improved by the injection of reminiscent stories of his past and the introduction of a few interesting characters he meets on his journey.

Again, Guterson should be applauded for his use of vivid imagery but also for his sensitivity in covering the subject of a terminal illness. Guterson's clearly done his homework in abundance with particular reference to geography, farming/orchard tending, war, medicine etc. He's definitely a stickler for detail and this makes the book seem a bit closer to reality.

From a personal note, this book deals with how an individual copes with suffering. It makes you think about your own circumstances and what you personally would do if you were in the same situation. The message very well may be not to `bottle' things up inside and to turn to your family and friends for support. We also see the main protagonist deliver a baby late in the book - clearly a medical gift that he has nurtured over the years. Again, this teaches us to appreciate the things we do have - possessions, family, friends but also your gifts and talents in life.

This is a very personal book and compelling, emotional read. It's a very plain look at an old man's reaction to a terminal illness. The setting/descriptive prose is high quality however the storyline and characters aren't so strong and will be receptive to mixed reviews.


The Night Buffalo
The Night Buffalo
by Guillermo Arriaga
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buffalo = Stampede = `Run away'???, 26 Aug. 2007
This review is from: The Night Buffalo (Paperback)
When reading books, many readers try to associate themselves with a character. There's often an emotional connection where the reader can relate with the main protagonists - albeit sharing a same life experience, visited a particular place, or other similarities in their lives. Most readers would prefer characters to have mild-mannered, sweet or lovable traits in their personalities - so that they can be accepted and understood. Likewise, most people like a good old story that travels a journey of some kind. We're all rather partial to sentimentalities of `boy wins heart of girl' or `discovers their hidden desires and embarks on a new meaning of life etc etc' stories. We all love an uplifting tale that suits to our own circumstances. It's comfortable reading.

......however, this book is not and it seems to have the adverse effect in my eyes - I'm not sure if this is the deliberate intention by the writer. If so, he's a damn good writer. If its not, he's a truly awful writer. There is nothing gentle about this book. It's blunt, bland and has a sharp taste to it throughout. This book kicks sand in your face during a sunny afternoon. It's that type of `rough & tough', butch, masculinity book.

It should also be re-iterated that there are no chapters in this book, so it's one long portion of around 200 pages. As a result, you cannot tell your other half "I'll just finish this chapter' before going to sleep or doing a chore - they just might get very irritated with you!!

Only the writer's passion for its core subject, his seductive prose, and the book's rather rapid pace has rescued the book from the dark depths of complete vulgarity. It's been a challenge to read, grating against my personal preset comfort zones.

Therefore I'll be `impartial' and award this book with 3-stars. It depends which `food' you prefer. If you're after something offering a variety of ingredients, such as a roast dinner, this is not for you. If you are after something sweet and comforting like spotted dick and custard, again steer clear. However if you want something resembling a curry, that's a bit spicy yet tolerant enough for your stomach to cope with, leaving you rather flushed, this just might be the book for you.


The Harvest
The Harvest
by Christopher Hart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Countryside Classic, 30 July 2007
This review is from: The Harvest (Paperback)
I was on a day-trip to a local National Trust property a few miles down the road from my humble abode. Having strolled the estate grounds including a tranquil muse next a lovely large lake, I found myself in the setting of the house itself - where I found a secondhand bookshop in the basement! Well, this is where I discovered this fascinating first novel by Christopher Hart.

Christopher writes in such a simplified, natural and comfortable way, very much placing the reader into the nostalgic old lazy hot English summers in the countryside. The key comparison with the setting and that of the main protagonist is that of isolation. The village is a considerable bus journey to the main city, Salisbury. In synchronisation Lewis Pike is isolated in his own world in which no-one can fully comprehend. His very own demeanour is tainted by one of his closest allies, that of the bored housewife Mary. This is a classic example of one of life's hardest lessons - loving someone or something so much when it's snatched away quickly, leaving sorrow, resentment and often grief. Christopher expresses one extreme to the other - from the lust, sin and passion of a illicit affair to the abrupt self-removal of the temptress. Toying with the adolescent's emotions leads to so much turmoil. His anger throughout his troubled times can be seen by terminating the existence of innocent wildlife - birds, deers etc etc. His frustration is so pented up to pitch fever. The outcome is inevitable yet still shocking in its bluntness.

This novel is extremely significant to the fading bygone era of traditional rural country villages and their part in society of Britain. The book also teaches us the ever-present reactions to internal emotions such as isolation, solitude, loneliness, social-acceptance, self-esteem, rejection, frustration and much much more.

Christopher has successfully managed to deal with the delicate subject of mental-health issues and its impact on society with the right amount of sensitivity.

This is truly a most compelling, passionate, sincere, warm, insightful book worthy of five stars it has previously been awarded by other reviewers. One of the best books I've read in years.


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin Popular Classics)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin Popular Classics)
by James Joyce
Edition: Paperback

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of 'darkness' comes illumination, 24 Jun. 2007
I also really struggled with this book. It's very static. The subject and content overall is very limited and thus the reader's imagination is not stretched.

Certainly no page-turner, this book took me weeks on end of bite-sized sittings. Strangely, nothing enthused me about the book - however, like other reviewers, I was attracted to the emotional grasp and wonderful choice/usage of language/words in this challenging piece of work. Very much a work of art, full of bland narrative hiding behind some beautiful strokes of genius.

The autobiographical work draws attention to a young man growing up in Ireland - highlighting his struggles with his peers, Catholicism and worldly desires that lie within. This is a truly reflective book of a great artist as a boy, adolescent and man. It is very personal and expressive. A clear metamorphosis can be seen from childhood through to adulthood - almost from a caterpillar developing into a butterfly with the freedom of flight.

The last pages of this book spoke to me in a very personal and upfront way - that within the 'darkness' of everday life, an individual should have a free, clear and expressive mind to make his or her ambitions in life and not be governed by others.

Hit-and-miss, not everyone's cup of camomile.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2012 8:41 PM BST


The Painter of Signs (Penguin Classics)
The Painter of Signs (Penguin Classics)
by R. K. Narayan
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Touching Classic, 20 May 2007
One of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. A lovely, simple story of a man's quest for love. Raman is portrayed in a certain way that dubs down his personality. He is personified as a meekest of men, a humble 'painter of signs'. And yet what lies beneath is a very passionate man - with a strong desire to produce the highest quality in his artwork but also to capture the heart of an independent, driven woman.

The story focuses on Raman's ongoing relationship with his elderly aunt and his blossoming friendship with Daisy. Indeed the story deals with a number of issues regarding family culture at its time - and the sacrifices pressed on the main characters.

The book presents a wonderful development of a humble man's life. The end of the story is touching. If one message is clear in this lovely book its that you should be very careful what you wish for in life.

The book warrants 5 stars on all fronts - story, prose, discourses, setting and the final outcome.

I would without a doubt recommend this book to anyone who prefers a frank and honest read. If you want to be read a humble yet humourous little story, this is it.


Cold Skin
Cold Skin
by Albert Sánchez Piñol
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smooth, Slick Debut, 18 May 2007
This review is from: Cold Skin (Paperback)
After reading the wonderful 'Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, I was rather keen to read another book of Spanish origin. Although this book was first published in Catalan in 2002, it has recently been published in the UK.

Albert Sanchez Pinol reminds me of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. There is something attractive about the book and its delivery. Although the storyline of a researcher taking up a job on a remote island where not much happens isn't really the most inspiring concept for a book, the added dimension of roaming sea-creatures and the independence of a stubborn predecessor makes things a little more tense. Albert Sanchez Pinol places the reader into the shoes of the main character, sharing his fears, emotions and jubilations.

There is some great emotion between the three main characters. The island's climate and remoteness really adds atmosphere to this creative book.

Overall, this strange but imaginative book is well crafted and deserves recognition that it truly deserves.

With his second book soon due for publication, Albert Sanchez Pinol is a Spanish author to make note of during 2007-2008.


Wild Thorns (Emerging voices: international fiction series)
Wild Thorns (Emerging voices: international fiction series)
by Sahar Khalifeh
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorny book that will prick your conscience, 9 May 2007
Continuing my mission to read international works, I was drawn to this book at my local library. With the constant conflicts in the Gaza Strip / West Bank grabbing media attention, I thought it would be beneficial to read about the issues faced by the local people.

Although I struggled with this book as it darted from one scene to the other, it certainly raised displayed real emotion and turmoil of the situation. This book clearly reflects the passion and loyalty Arabs hold to things they hold dear. After all, life is about survival.

This is not a cuddly-wuddly, feel good read. This is a prickly and uncomfortable book - full of pented-up emotion that tackles awkward family, employment and relationship scenarios. It is recommended for a thought-provoking read.


Heaven's Edge
Heaven's Edge
by Romesh Gunesekera
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my idea of heaven...., 2 May 2007
This review is from: Heaven's Edge (Paperback)
I've been rather keen to read one of Romesh's books for a while and recently picked up this novel from my local library.

Unfortunately I was HUGELY disappointed with this book. The storyline and characters are very weak and watered down. The book's journey is rather predictable and too simple in its structure. In certain places, I felt quite nauseous at the sex scenes and their narrative. I feel that the writer has cheekly drafted in the character of Eldon as a mouthpiece for his pacifist views. The only character to rescue the book was the rather camp Jaz.

It would be very unfair of me to critise the writer as this is the only piece of work I have currently read by him. However I may rashly assume that it is not one of his better works.

One to avoid, I'm afraid.


Embers
Embers
by Sandor Marai
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5-Star Masterpiece, 17 April 2007
This review is from: Embers (Paperback)
Saw this book in my local library - sat on an end of a shelf looking rather tired. I read the back sleeve about the author and felt compelled to take the book home.

The book is short and in places rather hard-going but the narrative/dialogue soon takes speed and before long you are gripped by the conservation of the two old gents.

I found this book very emotional and philosophical reflecting on life's journey. The plot is based around a simple relationship that is shadowed with deceit.

A beautifully written book and a momento for the bookcase. Worthy of 5-stars.


Tarantula
Tarantula
by Thierry Jonquet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark yet enlightening, 3 April 2007
This review is from: Tarantula (Paperback)
A short, direct thriller of a book. Simple narrative with a steady flow. Plotline very straightforward.

Very clever and superbly written although rather short. I guess good things come in small packages.

Highly recommended if you prefer a short, snappy read that's a little on the 'dark' side.

I will certainly keep an eye for more work by this promising author.


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