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Sarah Rayner "Sarah Rayner" (Brighton)

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Plainsong (Plainsong 1)
Plainsong (Plainsong 1)
by Kent Haruf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars What a perfect novel!, 12 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Plainsong tells of six months in the lives of two sets of brothers - one old, one young - a father, an expectant mother and a teacher looking after her elderly dad, in Holt, Colorado. There are no guns or murders, no wars or mysteries - instead Plainsong is, as the title suggests, a 'plain song' - where every word is painstakingly chosen yet sounds absolutely real and right, a hymn to what makes us human.

Should you be coming to this by way of Kent Haruf’s last and highly acclaimed novel, 'Our Souls At Night', I'd urge you to read this too as it has a similar sensibility, documenting the lives of ordinary people with acuity and pared back prose. Haruf has to be one of the kindest - if not *the* kindest - author I've yet read. Nonetheless he is utterly unsentimental; there's no sugar or puff here - bad things happen to good people, as they often do.

There’s one more plus, if you’re a writer (as I am), because alongside the sheer pleasure of discovering a storyteller with an acute eye, a generous heart and a gift for language, to read such beautiful prose opens a door too, as only by reading those we admire and want to learn from can we grow and stretch ourselves. In any event, if you like your novels to touch the soul, then Plainsong will appeal to you.


Our Souls at Night
Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Soul food, 5 May 2016
This review is from: Our Souls at Night (Paperback)
I've just finished ‘Our Souls at Night’ - it's the loveliest novel, exquisitely written, so gentle and heartfelt and kind. It's a love story, and also a song to old age and wisdom, and it made me smile and smile as I read. I discovered Elizabeth Strout a few months ago and Haruf has a similar sensibility, I feel; he documents the lives of ordinary people with acuity and pared back prose. This is the fourth US gem I've read in as many months, and now I'm beginning to wonder if I've been barking up the wrong tree for decades, and am actually *whispers* more of an American literature person, but that's an aside. What I wanted to share is that this book made me happy and touched my heart and I hope other readers might find their way to it, and if so, that it makes them happy and touches their hearts too.


MONTAR Universal Car Holder iPhone 5 5S 6 6S Plus Samsung Galaxy S4 S5 S6 Edge Note 3 4  HTC Sony Xperia Z3 Z4 Z5 Compact Motorola Moto G Smartphones GPS Best Mount Cradle Windshield Dashboard
MONTAR Universal Car Holder iPhone 5 5S 6 6S Plus Samsung Galaxy S4 S5 S6 Edge Note 3 4 HTC Sony Xperia Z3 Z4 Z5 Compact Motorola Moto G Smartphones GPS Best Mount Cradle Windshield Dashboard
Offered by Go4More ( VAT Registered )
Price: £22.99

4.0 out of 5 stars This alternative is good as it fits any phone so opens wide enough ..., 5 April 2016
I've had another holder for my iPhone, but when I changed to an iPhone 6 it no longer fitted. This alternative is good as it fits any phone so opens wide enough to accommodate the iPhone 6, and it is sturdy. I like the styling too, which looks good on a black dashboard, especially as my car is red! Only one comment, which is that after a few weeks it came off, and my phone plopped onto my knee - a very small worry as I was driving at the time. This maybe because an iPhone 6 is quite heavy. But that happened much more frequently with my previous holder, so all in all I'd recommend this item.

I received this holder a discount in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


AsiaLONG Protable Neoprene Insulated Water Drink Bottle Cooler Carrier Cover Sleeve Tote Bag Pouch Holder Strap for Kid Children Women MEN Biker Travel Cycling Clambing Sport (Multi)
AsiaLONG Protable Neoprene Insulated Water Drink Bottle Cooler Carrier Cover Sleeve Tote Bag Pouch Holder Strap for Kid Children Women MEN Biker Travel Cycling Clambing Sport (Multi)
Offered by LongDirect
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Cool, if you like your water chilled, 5 April 2016
I haven't yet tried this cooler at the gym, but thus far I am pleased with it. For the price it is well made - it looks exactly like the picture - and delivery was prompt. If you run or cycle the hook means you could wear it on a rucksack, which is handy. I received this product at a discount in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


Life Drawing
Life Drawing
by Robin Black
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Devoured in two days, still with me ten days later, 23 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Life Drawing (Paperback)
The opening sentence of this novel: 'In the days leading up to my husband Owen's death, he visited Alison's house every afternoon' lends this tale its narrative drive. From there on in we want to know how Owen has died and what involvement Alison had. We learn quickly from Augusta (Gus), who tells this story in the first person, some of the backdrop: she and Owen are a middle-aged couple who have been together for twenty years. They live in rural seclusion, going for days without seeing anyone, each focussed on their art and writing respectively, until another painter - the beautiful and bright Alison of the opening sentence - moves next door and befriends them. So far, so obvious, you might think, but this is no ordinary tale of infidelity, nor is it a psychological thriller in the vein of much contemporary domestic noir. It's a gentler but ultimately more profound read than that; although Life Drawing is compelling and dark, Robin Black has more in common with Elizabeth Strout and Ann Tyler, say, than Gillian Flynn or A. S. A. Harrison. Her observations are astute and at times heartbreaking, and she covers much more ground than merely depicting a love triangle, exploring complex emotional terrain such as Alzheimer's and childhood bereavement with wisdom and grace.

4.5 stars


My Name is Lucy Barton
My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of novel written with restraint and compassion, 13 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: My Name is Lucy Barton (Hardcover)
Slim, quiet and deceptively simple, 'My Name is Lucy Barton' is set almost entirely at in a hospital room with only two characters who speak directly - but don't be fooled. If ever there was a novel that gave truth to the phrase 'less is more', Lucy Barton is it: it must be all of 50,000 words, yet its brevity only adds to its impact. Essentially about Lucy and her mother, it's also about family and what makes us who we are, secrets and shame and poverty and abuse, and how its possible to love and feel tender towards those who have responsibility for much of our childhood pain.

I came to Elizabeth Strout by way of the TV adaptation of Olive Kitteridge (do see it, it's gorgeous); and now it's official - I love this author! What she writes is so delicate, so empathetic, so kind. And I read this particular book straight after Kate Atkinson's 'A God in Ruins' and it only emphasised to me that other novel's shortcomings. Here Strout has managed to write a book which is also about writing, truth and fiction, yet how much more subtle this is, how much less disingenuous! If you like your novels gaudy - full of action and plot, murders and mayhem, or steeped in the glitter of description or hyperbole of heroism - 'My Name is Lucy Barton' will not appeal. This is the novel equivalent of a single pearl. Not as showy as a diamond tiara for sure, but my, how it shines with sweet and understated beauty.


A God in Ruins: Costa Novel Award Winner 2015
A God in Ruins: Costa Novel Award Winner 2015
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warning, this book (not review) contains spoilers, 15 Feb. 2016
Searching for a way into a review of this complex novel, the sentence 'hide entire review because of spoilers' caught my eye. (You know the diktat; it sits at the bottom of the box for typing reviews into on many bookish websites, including Goodreads.) That's IT! I thought, that's what irked me. But first let me say there is a huge amount to enjoy and admire in this book; it’s scope, it’s portrayal of Teddy and Sonny, the powerful sense it gives of being a pilot in WW2, the bursts of humour. It’s bold and brave, and it’s well worth reading.

It’s just that ultimately, I didn’t love it.

…and the reason was that 'A God in Ruins' is full of spoilers. Atkinson plays with narrative structure, dipping in and out of timeframes and switching perspectives from one character to another. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but she’s an omniscient narrator, and quite often she lets us in on what’s coming. Not everything, it’s fair to say, but a lot of it. The problem with this is that keeping a reader guessing is part of what usually drives a narrative – we want to know what’s going to happen – and several times throughout I found it hard to invest as much in her characters because I knew what their future held. She tells us who is going to die, and when, who is going to marry who, and so on. It’s all part of the game she plays, with us, her readers, to alert us to fact that she’s writing fiction about fiction.

Whether or not you mind this is, of course, a matter of personal taste. This very thing that doubtless makes this a book some graduates of Eng. Lit., for instance, will love, was for me, the thing that made it a 4 not 5* novel. I found it irksome, in the same way I would find it irksome when I’ve been watching a series on TV, and I’ve saved the last episode for an evening when I can really enjoy it – you know, with a glass of wine and my slippers on - and someone puts something on Facebook that gives away the ending. Judging by the howls of upset I’ve had on my own Facebook page when I’ve done similar with drama series, others feel likewise. They must do, or they wouldn’t, to state the obvious, be called ‘spoilers’.

I’m knocking off another half star because I thought some of the characters were clichéd. That surprised me, given Atkinson’s reputation, but Viola seemed an identikit of Kate from The Archers (a long running BBC radio soap, for any US readers out there) and I just knew Dominic was going to drop acid and Do Something Stupid because that’s what hippy types do.

In her Author’s Note at the end of the book Atkinson explains what the novel is about (which was a bit presumptuous, I thought – I’d rather work it out myself) and she says ‘you can only be mulishly fictive if you genuinely care about what you are writing’ and that interested me, as sometimes I failed to get the sense that she did genuinely care. It entertained me, yes, but I didn’t feel moved to tears or so caught up I was unable to put the book down.

Finally, an admission: this is the first Kate Atkinson I’ve read. My friend gave it to me for my birthday, and was horrified when I said I was going to read it and I’d not read 'Life after Life'. I don’t think I’d like that particularly, but might I like her other novels, if they’re less about form and more about emotion? I’m interested what other readers might recommend if that’s the case.

3.5 stars
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 5, 2016 9:58 PM BST


Redemption Song
Redemption Song
Price: £1.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was hooked from the off on this romance, 28 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Redemption Song (Kindle Edition)
Whilst ‘Redemption Song’ shares the same easy-going, unaffected writing style as her last novel, Laura Wilkinson’s latest offering feels quite different from her breakthrough, ‘Public Battles, Private Wars’. Whereas ‘Public Battles…’ was set against the backdrop of the 1984-5 miners’ strike, ‘Redemption Song’ is set in contemporary North Wales and is less political and more personal in its focus. When Saffron and Joe meet in a small seaside town, they are attracted to one another yet filled with trepidation. Both have secrets, both are scared: will they be able to be honest with themselves and with each other? Engaging and lively, empathetic and addictive, I was hooked from the off on this romance, which will appeal to young and older readers alike including fans of Paige Toon, Sarah Morgan, Dorothy Koomson and Diane Chamberlain.


Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading and that's what matters in the end, 3 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Recommended to me by a wise GP friend of mine and an empathetic therapist, 'Being mortal' is well worth reading no matter what your age and life circumstance, but especially, I would suggest, if you're dealing with elderly parents or relatives, or are in the latter stages of life yourself.

The first half of the book focuses perhaps more than I would have wished on different forms of residential care for the elderly; not that this wasn't interesting, but it is very US focused and detailed. I also felt that it was a big omission not to talk much about mental health and the elderly; fading memory, anxiety and anger, for instance, are very common in those who are ageing yet were barely mentioned. This emotional minefield can make relationships with spouses, offspring and carers much more fraught when trying to negotiate how and where to best to live as we age.

These reservations aside, the second half of the book saw Gawande hit his stride. Here I felt he abandoned his more measured perspective, (borne, probably, from being a scientist and medic) and stepped into breach. Drawing upon his own experiences with his father – with an honestly and courage I found very moving - as well as the experiences of other patients and people he knows or has known, he writes with passion and clarity about the final stages of life, decisions need to be taken, and how to each individual might find a way through.

Both useful and insightful, it's for this second half of the book I would roundly recommend it. Several times it moved me to tears, and even more frequently made me think how what was being described relates to my own loved ones.

I'm sure it will prove useful in dealing with my own elderly parents, and others would find likewise. Who knows? I may even find it useful when it comes to my own end of life, though I may well be depending on others to ask those all important questions when I get to that point.


La Isla Women's One Piece Light Padded Swimsuit Swimwear Beachwear with Skirt Black 16
La Isla Women's One Piece Light Padded Swimsuit Swimwear Beachwear with Skirt Black 16
Offered by La Isla
Price: £36.00

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very short in the body (and given a body is pretty much all there is to a swimsuit, that's a fail, then)., 27 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Following the glowing reviews, I asked for this swimsuit for Christmas, in a size 16, which even post Christmas dinner, I usually am. My issue is not the quality of the suit, which is probably good - it certainly feels robust. However I didn't get as far as testing it out in the water, as it's very short in the body. I'm 5'5" so not especially tall, and it pulled my groin up to my shoulders and was not comfortable. It may be fine if you're 5'3" or less, but as that is a little shorter than the majority of UK women, I wouldn't recommend it if you're much taller than that.


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