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S. Shamma "Suad" (Abu Dhabi, UAE)

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A Little History of the World
A Little History of the World
by Ernst Gombrich
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1.0 out of 5 stars For children - probably below 10 years old, 26 July 2015
I did not enjoy this book at all. Going into it I had expected to thoroughly enjoy expanding my knowledge on the history of the world in brief little chapters. However, I quickly realized, as soon as I started, that this book just wasn't for me.

It is too simplistic - in a childish manner - and obviously written for a much younger audience. I found that to be a shame, because although you mean this to be a book aimed at children, you had this great opportunity to write a book that could somehow, someway, cater to all age groups, and instead you wrote it in a way that comes off as condescending and patronizing.

The way he keeps asking questions right in the middle of a historical account, jars you and takes you out of it.

I think Gombrich could've done a lot more with the material he had, and that the book could've been more than it turned out to be. Disappointing. Definitely don't recommend reading it unless you're below 10 years of age.

The Crane Wife
The Crane Wife
by Patrick Ness
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, 5 July 2015
This review is from: The Crane Wife (Paperback)
Patrick Ness is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I love his style, his ideas, his concepts, and mostly - his execution. He is a brilliantly skilled writer and a genius at breathing life into stories.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book, despite the strangeness of it. I did not realize it was based on a Japanese folk tale about the crane, until after I've finished reading it. So really, I was just reading this odd story, and going with the flow and liking it immensely.

So this American guy, George, who lives in England, wakes up one night and finds himself going out in the freezing cold to save a crane's life who was shot by an arrow. As the crane flies away, a strange series of events begin in George's life, starting with Kumiko, who breezes into his life seemingly out of nowhere, and brings with her fame, fortune and love.

However, Kumiko has her secrets, secrets that slowly begin to drive George mad. And as the story between them unfolds, we are given another story to consider simultaneously about a crane and a volcano, and as we near the end we begin to understand where it's all headed and what's going to happen.

This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I definitely enjoyed it.

The Seventh Miss Hatfield
The Seventh Miss Hatfield
by Anna Caltabiano
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1.0 out of 5 stars One of the worst books I've read in a long time, 5 July 2015
This book was absolutely horrendous and I cannot begin to fathom HOW anyone could have given it more than one star. If I could, I'd give it no stars. I am serious when I say it is horrendous, in every way possible. No exaggeration, I promise.

What sold this to me was the premise of the story, which sounds absolutely brilliant and exciting. A chain of immortal Miss Hatfields, traveling in time, and carefully selecting their successors when their time is up, to take over their roles and responsibilities. A story filled with time travel, immortality, mystery and romance? What's there not to love? This book had it all.

Nope. This book had nothing. The author failed miserably with the execution. There was no depth, no character development, and no storyline. A plot with more holes in it than I can count that never moves forward or goes anywhere. How could you go so wrong with such an incredible premise?

It read like someone in High School wrote it, with concepts that are highly complex delivered with such naive simplicity taking everything away from the story and its characters. It doesn't explain anything that happens, and instead focuses entirely on an extremely silly love story. I picked this up hoping for adventure and mystery and fantasy, I ended up getting what was akin to a very badly written historical romance novel.

How can an 11 year old, Cynthia, be lured into a strange neighbor's house to be pretty much abducted, drugged and transformed into an immortal adult, without her consent or knowledge, be OK? Not only that though, what drove me mad, was how QUICKLY she got over it! I would have been traumatized. Hell, I would've locked myself up for days and weeks and months, crying and sobbing and going crazy. I mean, your whole LIFE just changed, everything you ever knew is gone. You can't see or speak to your parents, you can't see or speak to any of your friends or family, your life as you knew it is done. Your name is not even Cynthia anymore, but Miss Hatfield!! And you just wake up the next day and you're ready to tackle on this new persona? Just like that? I'm supposed to believe that this 11 year old girl in an adult body has just gotten over all of that with just a few hours of restless sleep?

And then the sixth Miss Hatfield, who was responsible for - basically - ruining Cynthia's life, asks her to go back in time and sneak into a stranger's house and steal a painting for her, and Cynthia just...agrees. No resistance whatsoever. She takes on this task, with no questions asked, trusting the former Miss Hatfield's very simple explanation, and just gets on with it? How is that even possible? Where's the doubt and suspicion? How do you create an entire story without any sort of emotion grounded in reality?

But wait, it's not over yet. Oh no no no. It gets worse. Yes, indeed, it does.

Cynthia, who fails at stealing the painting is caught at the old gentleman's house and his nephew, whom Cynthia's never met in her life decides to save her by telling his uncle that she's Rebecca - the cousin that was supposed to be visiting.

So 1. the uncle does not know how his niece looks like, that he believes Cynthia is Rebecca, and 2. Henley, the nephew, decides to help this stranger out for no other reason than....I don't even know. She's pretty? Love at first sight? Intrigue? Stupidity?

I would understand if he let her get away with it so he can deal with her later, and figure out what was happening and why she was at his uncle's house, but the fact is, he doesn't do any of that. He confronts her, and she refuses to tell him anything - including her real name - and he agrees. He just...AGREES. Everyone is so freaking silly in this book! He doesn't question her, he goes along with her secret identity and ends up FALLING for her and then we're just left with this cheesy, silly romance between her and Henley, which she knows is doomed from the start. And then when she DOES confess to him the reason she was at his uncle's house and how she needs that painting, but cannot tell him WHY she needs that painting, what do you think he does?

Does he get angry? Does he kick her out for being insane? Does he rat her out? Oh Lord, no. He tells her not to worry about it. He tells her he'll take care of it and get her the painting - no explanation needed. I mean, for crying out loud, put up SOME resistance will you? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous story.

Not taking into consideration all the grammar and spelling mistakes of course, or how poorly written this book is.

We never get into the history of immortality. We never get into any of the fantastic stuff that was mentioned on the back of the book. We never get an explanation about the whole time travel stuff, or the reason they're all called Miss Hatfield, or why they're immortal or why the former Miss Hatfield even wanted that painting. We never delve into that stuff. We're just presented with the silliest, most naive, romance ever.


Bel Canto
Bel Canto
by Ann Patchett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful novel with more depth than you can imagine, 5 July 2015
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
This is a book that surprised me in many ways. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did, and I did not expect it to pull me in and make me connect with these characters. Bel Canto has become a classic piece of literature that many people have heard of or know about whether they've read it or not. When I first picked it up, I thought it would take me weeks to get through, which is how long it usually takes me to get through classics. However, I found myself breezing through the pages, completely engrossed in what was happening, wondering how it was all going to end.

The novel premise is quite ordinary: a group of people at Mr. Hosokawa's birthday party, a Japanese chairman of a large company, are taken hostage by a group of South American terrorists hoping to capture the President. When they realize the President did not attend the party (because he did not want to miss his favourite soap opera on TV), they take all the guests hostages.

They realize that they have too many hostages though, so they decide to release all women and anyone they deem unimportant to their cause. The only exception to that was guest performer at the party, Opera singer, Roxanne Coss, who was invited especially to perform for her biggest fan - Mr. Hosokawa.

The dynamic between the hostages and the abductors was very odd and intriguing. Ann Patchett succeeds in revealing hidden depths to the characters, allowing you to sympathize with many of them - including the captors. You get lost in time as the story goes on and the days turn into weeks. You sometimes tend to forget that these people are being held by a group of terrorists, as you delve into their lives and backgrounds and interactions with each other. You learn more not just about the guests there, but about the young terrorists, who love to climb trees, and watch soap operas and cook and learn how to read. The young terrorists, who have never seen a television set before and are amazed by how it works.

With two main romantic relationships developing in the house, you find yourself rooting for all of them to get out safely. Deep bonds are formed between some of the captors and the guests of the house, my favourite being the one between the Vice President and the young terrorist, who he wants to adopt after they're released and retire from his current post to become a gardener. Another extremely interesting character is Gen, the translator, who seems able to communicate with everyone due to his extensive knowledge of languages. Gen finds himself caught in more than one awkward situation as he becomes the only vessel to send messages across to different people.

The operation seems to have gone terribly wrong, but there seems to be no way out for the captors, who don't want to give up so easily, but are aware of how dire their situation has become. You could tell where the story is headed and how it's going to end, but it still tugs at your heartstrings when it does and you still hope that there is somehow, someway, you can change the ending.

Bel Canto is a beautifully written novel, with great prose and style.

by Robert Crumb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, uninspiring character, 24 May 2015
This review is from: KAFKA (Paperback)
I have a confession to make...I've never read a Kafka book.

I know, it's shocking. So why am I even reading this graphic biography of the man? The main reason I picked this up is because of how beautiful it was. Robert Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz have done a fantastic job putting together a history of Kafka by giving us pages of beautifully illustrated material.

Of course I know who Franz Kafka is, and I've heard a lot about him. I know his books, I know what he's written, and I even know some of what his books talk about. However, I never realized how dark and twisted he actually was until I read this brief biography of him. His thoughts and feelings illustrated in pictures was a brilliant touch to this haunted man. I loved that we even got summaries of his famous works in the form of drawings as well.

I don't think I was drawn to Kafka very much as a person, although I did enjoy this book, but he left me feeling unmoved with him, his life and his death.

That being said, it did make me want to pick up one of his books and start reading them, for no other reason than the fact that he was a good writer.

by Milan Kundera
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Not memorable, 24 May 2015
This review is from: Immortality (Paperback)
I was taken a little off-guard with this one, and can't really decide how I feel about it. Divided into seven parts, it starts out normally enough and then became a little strange, throwing me off and confusing me. I didn't know if it was just me, but I couldn't understand what was happening or what Kundera was trying to do. There was no specific flow to the story, it was all over the place, jumping back and forth in time and between characters. At one point, it felt like a collection of short stories instead of one comprehensive story line.

Some parts I enjoyed reading, other parts I was completely indifferent to. I liked the parts that involved Agnes and her journey in life. I loved the twists at the end where you slowly peeled back layers of her character until you discovered the shocking series of events that took place in her life. I had absolutely no interest in Laura, her sister, or Laura's relationship with Bernard Bertnard. I also had no interest in Goethe and Bettina's bizarre relationship and correspondence and her creepy obsession with him. I loved, however, the interactions between Goethe and Hemingway in the afterlife. That being said, I don't know how any of that was relevant to Agnes's story.

And then, as if all of that wasn't confusing enough, we have parts that seemed almost autobiographical as we read sections with Kundera himself having conversations with Professor Avenarius as they discuss Agnes and Laura among other things.

All in all, it was a good read, confusing in its nature, but good. Not sure I would recommend it to anyone though, I've had more enlightening experiences with some of Kundera's other novels.

Stitches: A Memoir
Stitches: A Memoir
by David Small
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great memoir, 10 May 2015
This review is from: Stitches: A Memoir (Paperback)
I was highly impressed with this book, way more than I thought I would be. When I bought it, it was on a whim. I had never heard of David Small, I don't know who he is or what he does. I was taken in by the cover, the fact that it was a memoir written in graphic novel style, and with a quick skim through it I knew I liked the artist's style and would enjoy the story.

This isn't a happy story, it's quite dark, and you can't help but think it must be fiction. This can't actually be true. This can't actually be what happened to David. But it was and it is, and this thought keeps resonating in your head as you read through his childhood and adolescence. The way he describes his family as silent, each expressing themselves silently in different ways was brilliant. When he gets to the point where his silence is not a matter of choice anymore, I thought wow. This book is a lot more than I bargained for. This is profound, and quite painful to tell you the truth.

You're sad and in pain and you want to protect this boy from his family who are hurting him, albeit unintentionally. His mom, who plays an integral part in his pain fascinated me. Her anger and her silent suffering, the big revelation at the end was shocking that I couldn't begin to imagine the impact it had on him at the time.

I loved the little snippets at the end about his family and what happened to them after the story had ended, it made it all the more real to me.

Great memoir.

Last Chance Saloon
Last Chance Saloon
Price: £5.26

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time, 10 May 2015
I cannot understand how this book is getting such rave reviews. I could barely finish it, I wanted to pull my hair out with boredom!

The characters were so silly and stupid that you just want to smack them in the head, especially Tara. Give me a break woman, how is it that you accept living with a man who dotes on his cat while spewing verbal abuses at you in the same second? Ridiculous.

And really, Marian Keyes, all the unnecessary're killing me. I was skimming through passage after passage after passage of text that meant absolutely nothing to me and added absolutely nothing to the story. I mean, this is a BIG book - 600 pages - for a story that could have been cut down to about 270-300 pages! I could not wrap my head around all the chapters that I could've literally torn right out of the book and still had a complete, full story intact.

And Lorcan...WHO THE HECK is Lorcan?! I spent more than three quarters of the book reading random chapters about this man who disgusted me to no end, only for his "purpose" to be revealed in the last few chapters of a 600 page book. REALLY?! Are you kidding me right now? He is unbelievably sickening, I cannot even begin to imagine how stupid women need to be in order to fall for this man based on looks ONLY. I mean really, nothing...NOTHING...else is redeeming about him but his looks, and even that, I find hard to believe that he's so good looking you lose sight of everything else. Shoot me now.

The only thing that kept me going at one point was the interaction and later, relationship, between Katherine and Joe. Finally, something worth reading in this book. Something sweet, and pure, with the regular ups and downs, but at least realistic and normal in this great spectacle of a book Keyes wrote.

I do not recommend this book to anyone, and I am disappointed at the amount of rave reviews it's gotten that fooled me into buying it and wasting my time.

Chasing Daisy
Chasing Daisy
by Paige Toon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Daisy needs to get a hold of herself, 10 May 2015
This review is from: Chasing Daisy (Paperback)
So I wasn't a fan of this book to tell you the truth. It wasn't horrible, but it just wasn't good. I've read my fair share of chick-lit, and this doesn't even make the top 100 for me. That being said, I enjoyed certain parts of the story and I definitely enjoyed the setting and the Formula 1 scene that was present throughout the book.

Daisy is not bad for a female protagonist, although her immediate obsession with Will (one of the race drivers) was very annoying. The fact that he already has a girlfriend (childhood sweetheart, no less) makes it even more annoying. Luis, another race driver, can't seem to get along with Daisy. They keep butting heads and he seems to get on her nerves for no reason. However, you can tell right away that there's some sort of chemistry there between them. She seems able to talk to Luis and open up to him a lot more than she does around Will for one. With Will she's all flustered and shy and awkward and just plain silly. However, Will begins to lavish all his attention on her, and I find it revolting given the fact that he's unavailable.

So this whole part of the story was just weird, and I waited for the part when she finds out that Will is actually a jerk who sleeps around and she's not special at all. Except...that never happens. I admit I was surprised by the turn of events the story took when Will crashes and SPOILER ALERT dies. Did not see that coming. So Daisy is now grieving and mourning a man she barely knew who she insists she was in love with and he in turn was in love with her. Except she can't publicize her grief because no one was aware of their secret relationship.

Suffice it to say, she goes a little mental. She takes it out on poor Luis, who in turn has a nervous breakdown. And flees the country.

This part made me hate Daisy a little bit. Only because she would NOT stop crying and whining. Months pass, and she is still going through this mental phase where she seems to have built Will up in her head to be this thing that he really wasn't.

Wasn't a great book, but it wasn't too bad of a distraction either. It sure did make me miss the F1 races, and now I'm looking forward to November when I can get back to that scene in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Kiss of Deception (Remnant Chronicles)
The Kiss of Deception (Remnant Chronicles)
by Mary E. Pearson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.27

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant start to the series!, 10 May 2015
This was an absolutely fantastic read! After being bullied into buying it, and then reading it, by my sister (thank you!), I found myself unable to stop. I easily breezed through the 500 pages and hated myself for it later because I wanted it to last longer.

Lia is such a great protagonist. Strong, independent, clever and has a good head on her shoulders. She knows what she wants and she goes after it. She decidedly flees her arranged marriage in defiance, escaping from the unknown prince she was to marry, her family and her entire kingdom. She leaves hoping for a new life somewhere else, with her lady's maid, confidante and best friend Pauline, not taking into consideration the consequences of her actions.

The prince, curiosity piqued, chases after her. While at the same time, an assassin is sent to kill the princess. The princess being a First Daughter is known to have certain gifts, Lia however, believes she has none and therefore should not be subjected to being treated as one.

Developing a new identity for herself in a small village/town, she begins working in a tavern with Pauline and her aunt. There she meets two men, Rafe and Kaden, who she assumes are traveling together. We, the readers, know that one of them is the prince and one of them is the assassin, but we don't know which is which. We get different narrations from The Prince, The Assassin, Rafe, Kaden and Lia.

Now, I just want to take this moment to say I CALLED IT! From the get go, I called it. I knew who's who and kept my fingers crossed hoping I was right! I will admit to being a little thrown off at times, but I stuck to my gut and I was right.

I loved the development of the characters, how we start off seeing one side and end up seeing whole new sides to them. The twists and turns and surprises. The way the relationships evolved between Lia and everyone else was brilliant. Seeing her change and grow and open up to her surroundings was refreshing. I knew that her little "holiday" at the village must come to an end, but I had hoped it would last much longer because I was enjoying her interactions with Rafe and Kaden and their little love triangle.

Spoilers ahead:

All good things must come to an end though, and ultimately, once she is faced with her brother who is now a broken, crazed man due to his pregnant wife's death, we finally hit a climax. Lia decides it is time to go home and face her responsibilities, but before she could we find out who is who and she is taken by the assassin who is now torn between his loyalty to his people and his feelings towards her. From there onwards, a lot more is happening in terms of action. The story suddenly takes a swift turn into something darker and a lot more serious. Lia's journey amongst her abductors is eye-opening to her and to us, the readers. Her strength is showcased and I couldn't help but respect her for the way she handled everything. The one part where she witnesses her brother's death and refuses to leave until she buried him and all his men was the most heart-wrenching thing I have ever read. The description of her hands, her fingers, her fingernails as she dug each grave. Her resilience, her strength, her grief, was unbearable for me. I could feel my throat close up with the urge to sob uncontrollably at her loss and her helplessness. While the men who abducted her (assassin included) stood there watching her dig the graves...that even they couldn't stand watching her pain anymore. What an amazing, wonderful scene. Mary E. Pearson won me over then and there with her writing and her skill and her ability to make you feel with every part of your being.

A great book, I cannot wait to read the next installment.

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