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Marius Gabriel "Author" (London)
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The Buried Giant
The Buried Giant
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary achievement of imagination and insight, 5 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Buried Giant (Kindle Edition)
In Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel, "The Buried Giant," we find ourselves once again in the turbulent, dim world of "The Unconsoled," rather than in the clear, hard light of "Never Let Me Go" or "The Remains of the Day."

There are many of the familiar, allegorical elements of "The Unconsoled" in "The Buried Giant" -- a shifting landscape, peopled with figures whose identity is blurred because they can't quite remember who they are, and who speak in a formal, even stilted manner to one another; nameless terrors that stalk just out of sight; hidden wounds that refuse to heal; quests of overwhelming importance which cannot be fulfilled because their details can never be fully recalled; appointments that are vital and yet elusive. It is a frustrating dreamscape that can be sunny or murky, and which leads the reader through deeper and deeper questions of selfhood and identity as we follow our troubled and wounded band of pilgrims.

Unlike "The Unconsoled," however, "The Buried Giant" is packed with action. It's more dynamic, more deeply layered, and narrated by various characters in turn. Taking place in a mediaeval Britain falling prey to monsters and civil war after the death of King Arthur, it has many of the ingredients of Celtic mythology, including ogres, dragons and brave knights. There are ingredients, too, of fairy tales, of Jungian archetypes, of "Alice Through The Looking-Glass" and of Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur." It is an astonishingly rich story, which reverberates in the imagination.

That reverberation is unsettling, just as reading "The Unconsoled" was unsettling. This is a book which deliberately disturbs and challenges The Buried Giant itself - the deeply-submerged force of the unconscious mind in all of us, which is also the root of mythology and the engine of the self.

And beyond the Arthurian action, "The Buried Giant" is a piercingly sad study of ageing and loss of self. The main characters, Axl and his ailing wife Beatrice, begin their quest because they are faced with the erasure of identity which a failing memory brings: forgetfulness which can deepen into the blank horror of senility and ultimate loss of who we are. Beatrice is terrified of facing death in a state of being unable to recognize her husband or herself, or to remember anything about the long life they have lived together. Anyone who has seen the consequences of Alzheimer's disease will understand the full pity of this.

Ishiguro is a writer with a unique gift for exploring the areas beneath or beside ordinary life, the parts of ourselves that are of overwhelming importance, and yet are buried too deep for us to grasp or perceive in the ordinary sense. How and where he retrieved all this astonishing material is a question only geniuses can answer. Does "The Buried Giant" make any more sense than "The Unconsoled" did? I think it does, and I think that this courageous novel sheds light on the earlier book, showing it to be even more profound than we understood at the time. However, the sense it makes is at a metaphysical level, and one should experience this novel as one does a dream, without expecting it to go where we would like, but opening ourselves to the lessons it brings.

With this wonderful achievement of his maturity, Kazuo Ishiguro is surely heading steadily towards the Nobel Prize for Literature.


History of the Rain: Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014
History of the Rain: Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014
Price: £10.20

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Delightful in many ways, an author with a great deal of talent who needs to focus more on structure., 26 Feb. 2015
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Absolutely enchanting at first, with the promise of greatness, this delightful book fails to coagulate into anything more solid. It conserves some charm to the end, but in the tradition of Flann O'Brien and so many other Irish writers, it's an evanescent, amorphous, soft-edged collection of anecdotes, rather than a novel. The humorous episode and the charming caricature are allowed to stand in place of a plot, nothing ever develops into anything approaching a theme. Rain it is, light and persistent, with never a hailstone or a thunderclap to vary the gentle monotony.

As a result, a novel which begins at such a brisk trot soon starts to plod wearily, and the last section is -- sad to say -- rather an ordeal to finish.

I would love to see this very gifted author produce a more ambitious and well-organized work.


The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps
The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps
Price: £5.10

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something of an oddity among Michel Faber's novels, with a wonderful heroine, but will not appeal to everyone., 26 Feb. 2015
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This book is something of an oddity in the amazing Michel Faber canon. At times reading like a Mills & Boon romance, at times like Georgette Heyer, it has high points and some rather low ones.

The main character, Sian, wounded and frightened, is beautifully-drawn, a classic Michel Faber portrayal of human vulnerability. This short book is worth reading to see how sympathetically and unsentimentally Faber handles her.

By contrast, the muscular hero, complete with handsome dog, seems to have no depth at all, striding out of a Barbara Cartland fantasy with a sheen of sweat on his pectorals. He makes a very poor foil to Sian's profound anguish.

The background of Whitby, which is somewhat confused, together with the archaeological dig, the message in a bottle, the ghosts and the "final twist," are all also somewhat stereotyped ingredients which do little to keep the reader's attention.

The dog, as several reviewers have pointed out, is probably the star turn of the novel.

No Michel Faber novel is ever to be passed over, but this is no "Under The Skin" or "Crimson Petal." However, read it for the character of Sian, and her vision of a gentler, kinder world.


Make the Pool Your Gym: No-Impact Water Workouts for Getting Fit, Building Strength and Rehabbing from Injury
Make the Pool Your Gym: No-Impact Water Workouts for Getting Fit, Building Strength and Rehabbing from Injury
Price: £8.03

5.0 out of 5 stars If you need to exercise in water, this is a must., 25 Feb. 2015
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Excellent, comprehensive book for anyone who needs the support of water for their exercise routine.

Highly recommended.


City of Love
City of Love
Price: £6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Boisterous, melodious, celebratory wedding music from a far-flung corner of the globe. Wonderful stuff!, 25 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: City of Love (MP3 Download)
Wonderful to have a digital download for this marvelous album from Turkmenistan. Boisterous, melodious, celebratory, this is fantastic stuff. Take a listen to "Bayaty" (track #3) to get the idea.

Highly recommended.


The Bone Clocks
The Bone Clocks
Price: £2.80

3.0 out of 5 stars A great disappointment after "Cloud Atlas" and "number9dream." A fine book marred by Harry Potter episodes., 25 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Bone Clocks (Kindle Edition)
David Mitchell is a wonderful writer. His Cloud Atlas and number9dream are incomparable novels. But in "The Bone Clocks," Mitchell covers ground already very well-travelled in both of those books, and this time, the journey is far less entertaining.

I think the chief problem is that the book is overloaded with the fantastical. Mitchell's great strength as an author is the human narrative. The opening section of the novel is absolutely gripping -- as are all the sections which deal with human beings. Wherever supernatural entities burst into the story -- and they are dreadfully hackneyed stereotypes -- the book becomes trashy pulp fiction. The narrative staggers on after each of these psychotic episodes, but it never fully recovers, and gets lamer and lamer. In the end, the reader becomes alienated from both the realistic and the fantastical. Frankly, I found the last 100 pages something of an effort to finish, and I never thought I would say that about a David Mitchell novel.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if David Mitchell could travel back in time and revise this novel, writing out the ghosts, wizards and demons, and returning to form? This foray into J.K.Rowling territory is not a success.


Dark Places
Dark Places
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than "Gone Girl.", 24 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Dark Places (Kindle Edition)
A stunning thriller. Gillian Flynn has a knack for exploring the dark side in a way that is fascinating and horrific. In my opinion, this is even better than "Gone Girl," though it lacks the glitz and glamour of that book. Highly recommended.


An Electronic Italian Dictionary (Electronic Dictionaries Vol. 2) (Italian Edition)
An Electronic Italian Dictionary (Electronic Dictionaries Vol. 2) (Italian Edition)
Price: £2.32

3.0 out of 5 stars A Kindle dictionary should work seamlessly, and this has too many seams. Also a very short wordlist., 24 Feb. 2015
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I got this after being disappointed with the Collins Unabridged Collins Unabridged Italian to English (One Way) Dictionary: Complete & Unabridged (Collins Complete and Unabridged) (Italian Edition) but it was even less useful, chiefly in having a smaller word-list.

On my Kindle Paperwhite, it also often fails to give the English translation -- which is the chief point of having an Italian dictionary in the first place. Instead, it identifies the verb form (eg third-person reflexive) and then refers you to the entry where you will find the English meaning. However, there isn't a link to do that -- you would have to re-enter the verb in its first-person form. That slows down your reading greatly.

A Kindle dictionary should work seamlessly, and this has too many seams. There is obviously still some way to go before looking words up on a Kindle is quick and foolproof.

Three stars, however, since it's cheap, and works on a basic level


The Middle Kingdom Ride:  Two brothers, two motorcycles, one epic journey around China
The Middle Kingdom Ride: Two brothers, two motorcycles, one epic journey around China
Price: £7.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic tour, great book to dream on during winter evenings!, 24 Feb. 2015
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I love motorcycle touring, and this is not just a great book about a HUGE bike tour, but many other things besides -- a story of the loyal friendship of two brothers, a vision of an alternative lifestyle, a travelogue, a brilliant photo-essay about China, an escapist fantasy.

I dipped into this over several weeks, and it rewarded me with lots of happy winter dreams.

Well done to Colin and Ryan. I envy you guys!


Until I'm One with You
Until I'm One with You
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, lovely song -- try some of his albums, 24 Feb. 2015
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I got interested in Ryan Bingham because this haunting number grabbed my attention as the title music for the TV series "The Bridge," set in El Paso and Juarez.

It led me to his other albums, especially Mescalito, which is well worth a listen.


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