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Marius Gabriel "Author" (London)

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God Help the Child
God Help the Child
Price: £9.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply touching, insightful novel which pulls along like a locomotive. Absolutely brilliant & highly recommended., 24 April 2015
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I devoured this novel, and I can't think of any reader who won't be gripped by it.

One tends to approach a book written by a Nobel-prize-winning author with exaggerated respect and hushed awe. But from the first page of this robust, lucid, dynamic novel, you forget that Toni Morrison is a towering figure in literature, women's issues and race relations. The story pulls you along like a locomotive, and that is all that matters.

I think it's safe to say that only Toni Morrison could have written "God Help The Child." Only she would have dared. It's a book which transcends and continues on from her earlier novels, especially The Bluest Eye and Beloved, those heart-breaking accounts of the abuse of blacks by whites.

"God Help The Child" is set in a time and a place where black women can achieve great things if they work hard and sacrifice. Or can they? There is no slavery -- or is there? Tragically, the same perils abound in urban, modern California, as in rural, Depression-era Ohio or Civil War Kentucky. They stem from human nature itself, from our desperate search for love, and our willingness to harm ourselves and those closest to us in order to get it.

The book has already been criticized by readers who expected "more" of Toni Morrison, but I was overwhelmed by its clarity and accessibility. To me, these are not faults, but the gifts which come with age and wisdom, and they are to be treasured. Increasing complexity and weight are not virtues. The tendency of great artists to simplify and refine their art is something that not all Western critics understand, although the Japanese do. When everything can be said in a few lines, or a few words, then perfection is approached.

I believe that "God Help The Child" says more about what it means to have a black skin in America than her earlier novels. It's not about a terrible and remote past, but about a very real present.

"God Help The Child" is a short book about big subjects, and it resonates in the mind long after the last page is turned. In classic Toni Morrison style, as the story unfolds, we find ourselves continually going back to earlier moments, understanding them more and more, and being moved more and more deeply.

For me, the most poignant moment is to be found in the second chapter: A young, beautiful, successful, yet still-naive black woman is waiting outside a prison in her Jaguar, with a sheaf of money, an airline ticket, and a gift bag of samples from her newly-launched cosmetics line. When we learn who she is waiting for, and why she has assembled these very materialistic gifts, we begin an unforgettable journey into the human heart.

This is a wonderful novel which can't fail to win a legion of new readers for a great modern writer.

Highly recommended.

Station Eleven
Station Eleven
Price: £3.59

3.0 out of 5 stars I am one of those baffled by the 5 star reviews, finding this a weak, dull production from an author capable of much more., 23 April 2015
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This review is from: Station Eleven (Kindle Edition)
I really struggled with this novel. It's usually obvious to me why a book receives rave reviews from readers and the media alike, but in this case, I am baffled. I am quite prepared to accept that it's me, and not everyone else, who is blinkered! But just to explain why I was disappointed with this book, which I'd been so eager to read:

The premise -- yet another disease-wipes-out-humanity dystopian novel -- is anything but original, although the author's take on it is unusual, in that she avoids apocalyptic scenes in favour of scrupulously-observed details. The details are meant to be telling, but somehow I found them simply irrelevant.

I do love science fiction, and original science fiction can rank among the most powerful literature -- I am thinking of novels like Michel Faber's recently-published The Book Of Strange New Things, or even Max Brooks' World War Z -- but I can't put this novel in that company. It's simply too dull, too disorganized, and too contrived.

The greatest weakness of the novel, I think, lies in the characters, who are somehow amorphous, pallid, and unconvincing. They seem to fade in and out of shape to suit the plot. Strong characters are essential to this kind of fiction, since the situations are always going to be cliched and over-familiar. One looks to the human experience to find what is original in a very familiar genre. With this novel, one keeps feeling that the author is about to say something noteworthy, but -- no, it slips away.

Describing a worldwide catastrophe in such elliptical terms is not an easy task, and Emily St. John Mandel doesn't quite pull it off. She has written better books than this one, and in general provides a much more satisfying read. I can't recommend this very highly.

Franco Manca: Artisan Pizza to Make Perfectly at Home
Franco Manca: Artisan Pizza to Make Perfectly at Home
by Giuseppe Mascoli
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of lively ideas for toppings, but dough recipes and cooking methods are oddly limited., 22 April 2015
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There are lots of great pizza recipes in this book, but it does have some odd limitations. One of them is the emphasis on only two methods of cooking the pizzas -- the favourite being using an iron skillet. The base is essentially fried in the skillet on a hot plate, taken off the heat, topped, and then finished off under the grill. The system works, but it's rather laborious. Many of us make great pizzas using pizza ovens with a built-in stone, our barbecues, or conventional ovens. There aren't any suggestions for these.

This gives a very specific type of pizza, quite crisp and with a little more oil than some people would want. Using a stone gives a very tasty, drier pizza. A lot of people struggle with pizza stones, it's true, but they are by no means impossible to use!

Another limitation is that there aren't a great number of actual dough recipes -- there are so many different ways of making pizza dough, and I was hoping for more information on this; Franco Manca only gives two dough recipes. There isn't a lot of information on (for example) wholemeal pizzas, using different types of flour, milk, eggs or other ingredients.

So it's a somewhat rigid cookery book in that sense.

On the plus side, as one would expect, there are lots of lively ideas for toppings. I got plenty of inspiration from this book.

DELIRIUM: The Rimbaud Delusion
DELIRIUM: The Rimbaud Delusion
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A romp, from start to finish!, 22 April 2015
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Barbara Scott Emmett's "Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion" is an ambitious novel in every sense. It's the product of a great deal of research and thought. It has multiple plot strands and multiple narrators, most of whom are unreliable, or at best partially-informed. It covers a considerable span of time, almost a century and a half.

To Rimbaud devotees, even the sniff of an undiscovered Rimbaud poem -- let alone a long and very fine undiscovered Rimbaud poem -- is enough to produce delirium, and this is where the novel begins and ends.

Barbara Scott Emmett writes very well, unusually well. She is able to master a number of narrative voices, from that of Rimbaud himself (insolent, spiteful, and aware of his own genius), to that of his rival Verlain's dull, bourgeoise wife; from a dry old Victorian clerk to a breathless and very modern 21st Century woman. There are also a dying academic, a Philip-Marlow-esque private eye, a 1920s Lesbian, and others.

Some of these characters are more original than others. But overall, it's an extraordinarily rich mix. The sheer number of narrative voices, however, presents the reader with something of a challenge. Jumping from one narrator to another, across time and space, is always a juggling act for an author. Some of the episodes are also repetitive. Well-written as they are, they don't always bring the story forward.

If this all sounds as though I didn't enjoy and admire the book, then I am giving the wrong impression. The book is a romp from start to finish, and the progress of the controversial manuscript, from the lily hand of Rimbaud, through two world wars, to the present era, is a masterful accomplishment. "Delirium" is an unusually good book.

It's good enough to take seriously. In doing so, I feel that this could be a truly magnificent book if it were to be shortened and tightened up. I also wish we could see more of Rimbaud himself, who makes far too brief an appearance in the novel, and who doesn't really produce the impact he should. He is, after all, the genius of the novel in all senses -- its presiding spirit and its most important character. Verlaine, too, is merely brushed in as the infatuated lover of Rimbaud, and could become a much more engaging figure than Barbara Scott Emmett allows him to be. The disappearance of both these characters early on in the novel is disappointing!

In conclusion, however, taken all in all, this is a splendid achievement, and highly recommended to literate readers.

White Cranes Dancing (The Balvaig Trilogy Book 1)
White Cranes Dancing (The Balvaig Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £2.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely delicious! A touching, tender and witty romantic novel., 19 April 2015
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What a beautifully-written book this is! Fiona Cameron's prose is as light as the bubbles in champagne. Her touch with dialogue is exceptional -- she has the knack of creating witty, believable characters who think and talk like real people, except funnier and cleverer -- as well as a romantic soul. It's a winning combination.

This is an intensely romantic, touching novel about a woman who didn't expect to fall in love with a complete stranger, and who gave everything to him. But has she made a dreadful mistake? Are things really as rosy as she dreams? Are all her friends and relations right when they chorus, "We told you so"?

I can't wait to read #2 in this delicious series. Highly recommended!


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Price: £3.46

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh, what a disappointment -- especially as this is such a gifted, funny, talented author., 18 April 2015
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This was so clever and entertaining for the first 60 or 70 pages that I couldn't wait to get back to it. However, once the opening was over, the novel settled most distressingly into plodding tedium, with no new ideas, and a lot of dreary soul-searching and moralizing which was frankly a pain to get through. It picked up a little at the end, but I was let down -- more especially since Karen Joy Fowler is a very original and amusing writer who can be vastly more entertaining than this.

Hoping for better things with her next book.

Isle Of Skye Scented Candle In Glass- Choose From 15 Scents - 45 Hrs Burn Time MIMIMUM. 100% renewable Soya wax and only the finest quality oils . In White Gift Box. (lemongrass)
Isle Of Skye Scented Candle In Glass- Choose From 15 Scents - 45 Hrs Burn Time MIMIMUM. 100% renewable Soya wax and only the finest quality oils . In White Gift Box. (lemongrass)
Offered by Casa Candles
Price: £16.94

2.0 out of 5 stars The wax does not appear to be suitable for a candle, poor quality wick, and virtually no scent., 15 April 2015
This was a very bad experience. Used the Lemongrass candle twice. The wax only melted in a small pool around the flame. The wick itself burned up and got very short, and consequently the wick drowned. Patiently adjusted it, removing melted wax to leave a quarter-inch wick, but the same thing happened. This wax does not seem suitable for candles at all, and the wick is poor quality. The scent, too, was negligible. All around, a failure -- no light, no scent, and in the end, no candle.

At £16, this is was a lot cheaper than the Diptyque and other scented candles we love, but considering that it is useless, it is £16 thrown away. At £50 or more, Diptyque candles are horrendously expensive, but they do last for weeks, and their scent is so strong that they often perfume a room without even being lit. I guess you get what you pay for.

Not recommended.

The Harder They Come
The Harder They Come
Price: £11.39

5.0 out of 5 stars A dark, violent, absolutely un-put-downable novel about madness and moral decay. A must-read., 7 April 2015
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This is a magnificently dark, powerful novel about the underside of twenty-first-century California, with its crazies, its criminals and its relentlessly decaying social and environmental fabric.

It focuses on three characters: Sten Stenson, a Vietnam vet who has just retired after a successful career as a high school principal, but who has never left the war behind; his violently psychotic son, Adam; and Sarah Hovarty Jennings, whose craziness is of a recognizably Californian, neo-hippie, anti-establishment variety. One form or another of madness runs through all three of these characters, madness engendered by America, and so American in its form, as to be almost indistinguishable from the fragmented pattern of everyday life.

Adam (who calls himself Colter) is the real masterpiece of the novel. Frighteningly like the characters who pop up periodically on Fox News, he is at once trivial, pathetic, and dangerous. His struggles against his authoritarian father, against his own madness, and against his warped vision of an unfair universe, shape much of the plot of this astounding tour-de-force.

This is not a humourless novel, but the humour in it is so black as to be painful. Set against richly verdant backdrops of woods and jungles, it exudes a miasma of decay and fear. One is reminded of Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness," the darker novels of Elmore Leonard, and the pulsing horrors of Hunter S. Thompson's Gonzo fiction. And that is good company.

I found it gripping, fascinating and un-put-downable, and I recommend it highly.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
Price: £8.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful ambient music with a strong Middle Eastern flavour. Lovely & haunting., 31 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Kite Runner (MP3 Download)
What an absolutely beautiful CD this is. I have to confess that I haven't seen the movie, but browsing for something different to listen to while I write, I came across this OST, listened to the samples, and bought it on the spot. I like movie scores because they're atmospheric, and often they're where the most exciting things are happening in more serious modern music.

This is what you might call an eclectic collection of tracks, with some original folk songs, some Afghan pop songs, and a number of orchestral arrangements that are very haunting. Every track is a winner.

Makes beautiful background music with a strong Middle Eastern flavour.

Foxnovo® FP10 10400mAh Lithium Polymer Ultra-thin Aluminum Alloy Dual-Port Backup External Battery Chargers Power Bank Charger for iPhone 6, 5S 5, 4S 4, iPod, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad 4 3 2, Samsung Galaxy S5 S4 Note 4 Note 3 Tab 2, Sony, HTC, Blackberry and Most USB Devices (Silver)
Foxnovo® FP10 10400mAh Lithium Polymer Ultra-thin Aluminum Alloy Dual-Port Backup External Battery Chargers Power Bank Charger for iPhone 6, 5S 5, 4S 4, iPod, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad 4 3 2, Samsung Galaxy S5 S4 Note 4 Note 3 Tab 2, Sony, HTC, Blackberry and Most USB Devices (Silver)
Offered by FoxnovoStore
Price: £49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sleek, high quality, powerful, and ultra-efficient. Charge your mobile phone away from the grid., 31 Mar. 2015
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Wow -- this little gizmo knocked my socks off. Mobile phone battery life is a perennial problem in our family, especially on holidays, with everyone competing for the chargers and available plugs. This sleek little number will store up juice and charge a phone away from the grid.

It's beautifully-made, very neat and hi-tech-looking, and not nearly as large or heavy as I had expected. It weighs around the same as a large mobile phone. It manages to charge even my extra-huge, oversize Anker extended battery for my Galaxy 5.

The 4 LED lights are a useful indicator of charge, and it comes with a quality suede-look pouch to store it and its multi-purpose connections, which look like they cater for most mobiles, including iPhones.

For the price, this is a winner.

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