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

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The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is it?, 12 April 2015
This review is from: The Bell Jar (Paperback)
I picked up this book thinking it was about time I read this literary classic that everyone's raved about. I have actually never read a Sylvia Plath book, so this was my first. As soon as I started reading it, I made the connection that it was based on Plath's life. I thought this would make it more interesting for me, but it didn't.

Although Plath describes depression and mental illness very acutely, I could not relate to it - and that could be mainly because of my lack of experience with depression. However, I would imagine that I could at least find a connection with Esther, or feel compassion for her, but I couldn't. I've never experienced grief either, but there are certain novels that made me weep and ache because of their depiction of grief and loss. And I feel like that is what distinguishes a great writer from a good one. Sylvia Plath could not make me feel anything for this character, or even for her (knowing that Plath eventually committed suicide and this was almost an autobiography), and Literature is supposed to make you feel something. Anything.

Esther's illness aside, the actual storyline was a bit mundane and tiresome. I tried to immerse myself in it, but I couldn't. I would read on from chapter to chapter waiting for the end, because at one point, I really got bored with Esther's life. She frustrated me with her way of life, the way she walked around making judgments and her apparent loathing of Buddy when he revealed to her he's been with other women. There were certain thoughts she would outline that took me by surprise, and I was trying to understand whether this was Esther speaking or Plath, through Esther.

Perhaps the key theme of this story lies in Esther's struggle with depression and mental illness, but I found the different aspects of her life confusing and unrelatable at all. Esther's attitude towards life is drab and boring and her interactions with other characters are so unimportant that you almost think they're completely unnecessary.

I guess, given the fact that it is a classic, I went in with high expectations and found myself disappointed. I finished the book and thought, "this is it?"

The Shadow Cabinet: A Shades of London Novel
The Shadow Cabinet: A Shades of London Novel
by Maureen Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, despite the slow start!, 18 Mar. 2015
I really enjoyed reading this part of the series, a lot more than I had anticipated. The Name of the Star really set the standard for London ghost mysteries in my opinion, and maybe the idea of Jack the Ripper being involved played a huge part in it - for me, at least. I did not find The Madness Underneath to be as exciting, what with Rory's troubles at school and having to see a psychiatrist, who, granted, turned out to be a psychotic lady drugging her and Charlotte. And then that horrible ending with Stephen's death and attempting to turn him into a ghost, I thought my God, what has Maureen done?!

So, I picked up this book with very little expectations, and maybe that was the best way to go about it, because I happened to really like it. A lot more than The Madness Underneath, that's for sure. Perhaps Rory was a bit annoying in this installment, she was a bit whiny, and a little too sulky for my liking. However, it is understandable given the fact that Stephen, the guy she "loves" just died, technically, because of her. So, the first part of the book is spent looking for Stephen's ghost. Rory, Boo and Thorpe (who we see a lot more of in this book) try to find him in different places across England, with no luck. Callum eventually joins the search even though he is still angry with Rory for turning Stephen into a ghost.

Stephen's search aside, I loved the back story of Jane and Sid and Sadie and the magical cult they were all apart of. Sid and Sadie may very well be one of my favorite book villains, funny, witty, sarcastic, and just too fabulous, yet also extremely evil. Brilliant character development on Maureen's part. Seeing Jane's vulnerable side when faced with Sid and Sadie was also such a great thing to see, as her character was always conveyed with power and confidence. I was shocked at Charlotte's character development, and a little creeped out, to tell you the truth. I kind of knew something was up, but I couldn't pinpoint what it was exactly.

I also loved meeting Thorpe, quite formally and more deeply in this story. I loved getting to know his character and seeing him play a more integral part in the series. Jerome and Freddie were also a welcome addition to the group in my opinion. Jerome not so much, but still, I think he'll have a stronger part to play as he's already proved himself, and I like that very much. Obviously, I'm team Rory and Stephen, but I've always liked Jerome so I'm glad Maureen kept him to play a part in the series despite the fact that Rory broke up with him.

That whole part where Rory is in some sort of dream world trying to get Stephen was absolutely fantastic. The one scene in the restaurant or diner where Stephen is sitting there waiting for his sister to come out of the restroom gave me chills, and that's exactly the kind of thing I look for in a book! Sid and Sadie at their home, speaking to Stephen and Rory, my Gosh. Fantastic.

I can't wait for the next book to find out what happens now. There's so much we don't know about Stephen, so much that he's hiding, especially about the Shadow Cabinet. Let's see how that plays out. And the Rory, Jerome, Stephen triangle needs to be settled once and for all, so I hope Maureen doesn't drag that particular storyline for too much longer.

Great read, despite the slow start!

Little Lady, Big Apple
Little Lady, Big Apple
by Hester Browne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 17 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Little Lady, Big Apple (Paperback)
To tell you the truth, this book has been sitting on my shelf for years. Literally, years. I first read The Little Lady Agency back in...2005 or 2006 I think, and I liked it well enough that I bought the sequel, but for whatever reason never got around to reading it. So I can honestly say that I don't remember much of the first book. I remember the basics of Melissa dressing up as Honey and what she does for a living of course, but not the intricacies of the plot. All I knew was that she meets an American man and they fall in love and all is good at the end.

So what was this book about and how was it going to continue that story? I had no clue, and since it's been ages that I've read the first book I went into this like it was a stand alone - which works perfectly well.

Overall, this was a very straightforward chicklit, which I found I enjoyed and read relatively quickly. I liked Melissa a lot, and liked her alter ego Honey even more. It annoyed me at times how much of a doormat she could be, and could not understand why she would allow people to walk all over her that way - starting with her family, but including Jonathan, her American boyfriend. I was very disappointed in him and how he seemed to be treating her and certain things he would say to her. But because I couldn't remember what their relationship was like in the first book, I had nothing to judge him by except for what I was reading in the sequel, and I honestly didn't like it.

He makes her fly out all the way to New York to be with him, then completely neglects her as he is consumed with work, his ex-wife, and other things. He's on the phone all the time, he brushes things off annoyingly (such as the dog), and just assumes Melissa will handle herself just fine on her own in a city she's never been in before. He pushes her to meet all his friends and acquaintances, to accompany him to certain events, and then makes continuous snide remarks about her job back home hinting at starting a new company in New York that focuses on event planning (things like baby showers and birthdays). Melissa refuses to give up her company back home and what she's built from scratch to do something that she doesn't enjoy doing, such as planning showers.

So instead of a romantic getaway in New York, we are presented with a journey of self-discovery for Melissa as she stumbles around the city, meeting people and getting herself in trouble (think tabloids, rumors, getting arrested just to name a few). Jonathan is obviously not pleased with her going-ons and has a few conversations with her about hanging out with actor and old friend of hers Godric. Melissa tries so hard to please Jonathan and to make a good impression, and it bothered me that he always seemed concerned with his image and how Melissa might affect that image.

I understand he's a hot shot big New York businessman and has a lot at stake, but I never saw Melissa doing anything that seemed inappropriate in any way. I found myself at time just as nervous as she was about leaving Allegra (her sister) and Gabi (her best friend) to deal with the business back home, and felt as protective as she did over her clients and all the hard work that's made this business successful, which explains why I was frustrated with the lack of support from her man. I expected more from him, much more.

He did redeem himself in the end, obviously. And I won't lie, it was a very sweet moment, but I think it took him a little too long to realize what a douche he was being.

A good read.

Rivers of London: 1
Rivers of London: 1
by Ben Aaronovitch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite magic story, 17 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
I really had high hopes for this book. Magic, London, ghosts, mysteries, I thought this book was going to be incredible. The fact that it was a series got me more excited that it won't end too soon. I'm very glad though that I exercised self-control and only bought the first book to start.

It's not that it wasn't good. It was! It just wasn't exciting enough for me I suppose. I wasn't keen on finding out what happens next, it didn't make me want to read on. When a strange murder takes place in London, PC Peter Grant, a probationary constable finds himself attempting to question a witness that was...well, dead. Upon realizing he was speaking to a ghost, Grant doesn't freak out and run, but continues questioning this man. His colleague and friend PC Leslie May, doesn't quite take him seriously when he tells her what happened and accuses him of not having the right attentive skills for detail to be a good cop. However, when Chief Inspector Nightingale hears about Grant's "abilities", he takes him as a wizard trainee and Grant suddenly escapes a desk job and becomes a Detective working under Nightingale.

Thus begins hours of training sessions where Grant studies and learns different spells, as well as the continuous investigations to try and find out who is committing all these murders across London with the strange face-shifting.

Throughout we meet different characters, wizards, witches, vampires, godesses, etc, but it always seemed to fall a little short for me. I appreciated the twist at the end, I don't think I saw that one coming, although maybe if I was focusing a little more I would have. All in all, a very solid read, it just doesn't make me want to read the next book, or find out what happens next. The mystery was interesting to a certain extent, but it felt like it lost its wind towards the end.

Obviously the series has a huge fan base, so I doubt my review is going to make much of a difference. I just had a different experience than most readers.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Allan Karlsson is a delightful man!, 16 Mar. 2015
Let me start out by saying that this old man must be the luckiest human being on the planet!

When I started out reading this story, I had no idea what to expect or how the events were going to play out. All I knew was that there is a 100 year old man who simply chooses to climb out the window one day and disappear into the night to avoid his 100th birthday celebration. I thought this was going to be one great, funny, yet endearing adventure about an innocent old man who wants to experience life one last time.

Nope. Nothing like that! Yes it was great and it was funny, but man oh man, Allan sure as hell isn't an innocent old man. We are talking action packed drama here. Murder, theft, abduction, gangs, mafia, and much more. As the story quickly starts out with Allan stealing a guy's suitcase hoping to find extra clothes and shoes in there for him to use on his trip, we are taken back in time - a 100 years to be exact - to when Allan was first born. Slowly, as the events of the present take place, we are given a clear, thorough account of his past, all leading up very nicely to the end.

For someone who hates politics and knows nothing about politics, Allan sure did influence political history in major ways. His travels across the world as an explosive expert has had him meet President Truman, Mao Tse Tung, Churchill, DeGaulle, Einstein and Stalin, just to name a few.

This book is hysterical, and extremely clever. For someone who has solid background knowledge of world history, this will definitely be an appealing read. I found it absolutely genius that all historical events that we know were somehow influenced by Allan Karlsson.

Definitely not what I expected going into it, but could not be more pleased with the turn of events!

Frog Music
Frog Music
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Who killed Jenny?, 12 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Frog Music (Paperback)
I bought this book based on the synopsis, which I found very intriguing. I'm always up for a good mystery thriller, even more so when it's set in 1876, San Francisco, and one that involves a very interesting bunch of characters. You have Blanche, a beloved and well-known exotic dancer who entertains men and supports her man, Arthur, a former trapeze artist and his companion, Ernest. Blanche and Arthur had a baby together, Petit, who is somewhat "deformed", and they farmed him away to be raised in the country and they only see him once a week or once every two weeks.

Blanche's entire life changes when she meets Jenny, who dresses in trousers and men's shirts - this was obviously a crime back then. Blanche is attracted to Jenny's unabashed disregard to the law. She secretly envies her liberated ideas and way of life. Jenny, who is also a frog catcher, unintentionally begins to fill Blanche's head with ideas. First and foremost, the fact that she sent her baby to be raised elsewhere. Blanche, in an impulsive moment of regret and guilt, demands the Madame she works for to have her baby back. She finds her baby living just across the street from where she worked (not in the country, after all), in absolutely disgusting conditions. However, once she's back home with her little bundle, she realizes how ill-equipped she is in looking after a baby and can't seem to get in touch with her maternal instincts. Arthur is not very pleased at having a baby in the house, and is even less pleased at the fact that Blanche stopped going to work - he does need the money she earns for his gambling.

In a series of events, Blanche finds herself escaping the clutches of Arthur and his crazy companion, and goes to hide with Jenny - leaving her baby behind once again. When Jenny gets shot one night, Blanche is now all alone in the world, trying to solve the mystery of her friend's death and trying to find her baby, whom Arthur is hiding. Blanche is convinced Arthur and Ernest are behind the murder, but that's easier said than proven.

It's definitely an interesting story, not the greatest mystery - although the conclusion was quite shocking and a little depressing as well. I didn't enjoy it very much, and that may have had to do with the writing style, and the dialogue. Also the fact that Blanche is not the easiest person in the world to like. To tell you the truth, none of the characters were likable. I was ready to give the story 3 stars, but upon finishing it, I realized that it was based on a true story. In fact, Emma Donoghue spent months researching this death that actually occurred in 1876 San Francisco, and attempting to put together the pieces in order to relate the story to us. I found that very impressive and also sad. It's always sad when you realize these horrible events actually happened to real people. Donoghue writes at the end about the real characters behind this story, and how things really ended with Blanche and her baby.

I definitely appreciated the thoroughness of her research and findings. And I also appreciate her skill in weaving a story out of news sources and disjointed facts. That, for me, definitely earns her an extra star.

One Last Thing Before I Go
One Last Thing Before I Go
by Jonathan Tropper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good read, 12 Mar. 2015
I read this book while on vacation, and it was the perfect choice for me. A book written in such a simple style that you find yourself breezing through it, despite the somewhat dark topics it discusses.

Silver, an ex-band member with a one hit wonder, is old, divorced, and a terrible father to his teenage daughter Casey. His wife is about to get married, and his daughter just informed him that she's pregnant. Silver, a great drummer, now resorts to entertaining at weddings and bar mitzvahs. His daughter's declaration brings out a paternal instinct that's been lying dormant for many years, and also a whole load of guilt and regret at his neglect. However, soon after, he has a stroke and is informed that he will die if he does not perform a certain surgery that could save him. Silver, in his great wisdom, refuses to have the surgery and chooses to die instead, giving himself this opportunity to make up for his mistakes. Well, ATTEMPT to make up for his mistakes. All he seems capable of is making more mistakes. His relationship with his daughter is bumpy at best. One minute they're getting along, the next minute he's disappointing her once again. His relationship with his ex-wife also has its ups and downs. Even his parents come into the picture to try and talk some sense into him, and I loved the relationship between him and his father. Then there's the relationship between him and his two old friends who live with him in the same compound.

It was such a fun read seeing Silver's journey, but it was also quite painful. The best part is the fact that he could not keep his thoughts to himself any longer due to his condition. He is constantly getting himself in trouble by not being able to stop himself from saying things he shouldn't be saying out loud.

I appreciated the ending most, the fact that you're not entirely sure what happened in the end. Jonathan Tropper chooses to keep it open ended, allowing us to choose how we would like it go. I definitely know how I'd imagine it all went down, but then again, I'm a sucker for happy endings.

A great pool-side read.

Reforming a Rake: Reforming A Rake (With This Ring)
Reforming a Rake: Reforming A Rake (With This Ring)
Price: £3.92

3.0 out of 5 stars Meh. But not so meh., 11 Mar. 2015
So given the fact that I had just read Julia Quinn's The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy and enjoyed it, I thought I'd give another historical romance that's been sitting on my shelves for years (literally, YEARS) a chance. I was obviously in the mood, so I needed to ride this wave until it's over - who knows the next time I'll be in this kind of mood again.

It was uncomfortable reading this book given the very old-fashioned, provocative cover. My husband wouldn't stop making fun of me, calling it pornography. At which point I usually smack him or throw something at him.

That being said, it was an OK read. Not great, not good. It's written a long time ago, it's very apparent from the cover and the style of writing how old this book really is. Must be one of Suzanne Enoch's first books. So the style is a bit off, the humor is not there, the romance is a little more aggressive than I prefer. The male protagonist, Lucien Balfour, hires this shamed governess, Alexandra, simply to bed her. She accepts the position because it pays really well, and because she can't seem to find any other house who would hire her - given her past and her reputation. All things you'll get to eventually in the book. I won't get into them myself, as they aren't that important.

Suffice it to say, Alexandra is hired to tame his cousin Rose, who cannot be seen in public at the moment given her lack of social etiquette. Rose's mother, who is also Lucien's aunt, has other plans in mind - which I admit, surprised me a little as she does not come off as that sinister until the very end.

Surprise, surprise, after a whole lot of drama, we find out that Alexandra is actually a Lady and is niece to some Duke who disowned her mother for marrying beneath their status. So of course, in the end, everything works out for the couple. Oh, did I mention that Lucien is reformed and ends up falling head over heels for the governess he tries so hard to seduce? Yep. He does.

I know I'm being overly sarcastic here, I don't mean to. I am giving this 3 stars because it did entertain while I was in the mood. However, I hated how stubbornly annoying and frustrating Alexandra got in the end. With all the sacrifices Lucien made on her behalf, she was being a little obstinate and a little too proud in my opinion. He had to resort to kidnapping her for God's sake, which made things a little ridiculous, but again given the premise of the story, not terrible.

All in all, it was OK. I am glad I finally got to read this and take it off my to-read list.

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy: Number 4 in series (Smythe-Smith Quartet)
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy: Number 4 in series (Smythe-Smith Quartet)
by Julia Quinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's been a while since I've enjoyed one of those, 11 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I cannot believe how long it's been since I've thoroughly enjoyed a historical romance! I can't even remember the last time I read one. I have surely surpassed these romances, although I sometimes reminisce about the wonderful times I spent reading them - Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Julie Garwood being just a few of my favorite authors - but I just can't seem to be able to immerse myself in the storyline or the characters anymore. The Smythe-Smith series has not been one of my favorites by Julia Quinn, nothing beats the Bridgertons in my opinion, however this installment is certainly my favorite of the series. I loved the interactions between Iris and Sir Richard, despite the fact that we know from the get go that he has this big secret he's hiding and we know exactly what he's up to when he begins courting Iris.

Iris, used to being ignored and invisible, is taken aback by the sudden interest and attention this gentleman is giving her. Iris is no fool, she understands that there's something he's not telling her, but she also enjoys his company and appreciates his wit and charm. Richard also finds himself pleasantly surprised by this wonderfully charming lady. He is smitten by her quick responses and sense of humor, and finds he is enjoying her company way more than expected.

However, this does not change the fact that he needs to be married before the month is over, and so finds himself in conflict with himself about how to go about doing it. His plan is to compromise Iris, in order to push things forward, however having got to know her, he can't bring himself to do that. He attempts proposing like a gentleman, but Iris asks for more time to get to know him and think about it - something he does not have - so back to Plan A.

Hence, Iris finds herself being escorted across the country to his home to start a new life and meet his family - comprising of two sisters and an aunt. Richard is wary the whole time they are together, and Iris is starting to get more suspicious but also hurt. She thinks he is not attracted to her, and is torn by the feelings she has for him.

Upon reaching his home, his sisters are nowhere to be found - they have decided to give them some alone time, a "honeymoon", while they stayed at their aunt's for a couple of weeks. In this time, Richard decides he will make Iris fall in love with him, so when she knows his terrible secret, it wouldn't be as bad.

Or would it?

I was honestly shocked by the secret. I kind of saw it coming, but I didn't quite understand what he had in mind to do. When he explained it to Iris, I wanted to slap him. I could not believe he was serious. It also seemed a little...out there. I expected something much worse, but was sort of put down when it turned out to be what it was, and his solution for it is simply bizarre.

That being said, I loved Iris and Richard together. I loved what they had, their interactions, their chemistry, their conversations. It's been a while since I've felt this way about two characters in a romance. It may not be Quinn's best, it may not even be in her top 10, but I guess I was simply in the right mood to read this book. And sometimes, that's all you need to really enjoy reading a book.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
by Rachel Joyce
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rachel Joyce does not disappoint!, 8 Mar. 2015
I cannot express enough how much I love Rachel Joyce. With only three books to her name, she has already proven to be a master story-teller, one with a unique sense of knowing when to stop and when to push forward.

When I read that this would be about Queenie, the same Queenie from Harold Fry's story, I admit I was a little skeptical. Just a little though. I have read a story about an old man who walked the length of Britain in the hopes of preventing his old acquaintance/friend from dying, and I was surprised at how much I loved it. I recently read a story about another very old man (hundred years old to be exact) who jumped out of the window to go on one of his last adventures, and again, I was surprised at how much I loved it. With Queenie, we aren't just talking about an old woman, but one who is dying too. I didn't know how much I'd love her story, and if I wanted to. I was getting used to old people taking me on adventures, and Queenie seemed headed towards a more depressing angle, which I wasn't in the mood of, if I were being honest.

Oh, but I was wrong.

Queenie, who was dying of terminal cancer is staying at a hospice and she receives news that Harold is walking to see her and that she should hold on a little longer and wait for him. Queenie had sent word to Harold to simply say goodbye in the hopes of tying up loose ends, but she certainly didn't expect that reaction. Her cancer had eaten away at her slowly, so that she found herself incapable of taking care of herself, she could barely eat or move her mouth or even swallow. She could barely use her hands, and has lost most of her motor functions. At the suggestion of one of the newly arrived nuns at the hospital, she convinces her to spend this time writing to Harold everything she needs to get off her chest so she can finally be at peace.

From then on, we end up living two different lives right alongside Queenie. One that took place many years ago when Queenie had just joined the brewery where she met Harold (her colleague at the time), and one that takes place at present at the hospice as we get to understand how her past has impacted her present and we meet and fall in love with the residents staying at the hospice with her. Ultimately, this is a story that works in parallel with Harold Fry's story, only it is told in first person from Queenie's perspective.

As we go on this heart breaking journey with her, we understand her a little more. But we also understand Harold and his wife so much more than we did when we were taken on his journey. It is very apparently painful for Queenie to rehash all these past events, but with the helpful urging of the nun, she accomplishes just that.

It surprised me how much Queenie was actually involved in Harold's life, and at times, I wanted to get in there and have a Good Will Hunting moment with her telling her "it's not your fault Queenie. It's not your fault."

The ending though. Holy s**t. That ending was unreal. No, I did not see it coming. How could I? Who could have seen that coming? It came out of nowhere and took my breath away. Having read Queenie's story in its entirety, and ending with that? My God Joyce. You did it again.

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