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Reviews Written by
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England)
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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
by Mary Roach
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not as engaging as I had expected, 27 April 2015
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This book was recommended in a magazine and sounded fascinating. I find the process of death very interesting, with a body changing from being a person to a cadaver in a brief moment.
I am not squeamish at all - a statement which was proven as I read about the purification of bodies while eating my porridge one morning!
The author, Mary Roach, is American and the book was first published in the U.S. The historical and educational defences tend to be American rather than British and I was surprised that I found this to be less engaging than if it has been the other way round. I can't really explain why but I'm fairly certain that this did dull my enjoyment of the book.
One or two of the chapters found me skipping towards the end but there was always something good in the next chapter to pull me back in again.
I did enjoy the chatty style of the author which was irreverent and respectful, at the same time - much the same as those who deal with cadavers on a regular basis. I wonder if she developed this during her research or whether she was like it before?
It's also worth noting that the book was published in 2003. I'm sure there has been lots of changes in the technology since then and I felt that the book could do with an update.


Lenor Unstoppables In-Wash Scent Booster Beads Fresh 275 g (Pack of 6)
Lenor Unstoppables In-Wash Scent Booster Beads Fresh 275 g (Pack of 6)
Price: £18.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd product which I don't think there is a need for, 25 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This product turned up in a much larger box than I had expected. I should have read the description properly as it said there was 6 in the box!! So I was delighted.
The granules smell pretty much as you would expect a fabric softener to, although maybe a bit stronger. The smell is very pleasant and seems to last well, to the point that all my wardrobes and clothes cupboards small of this fragrance....
The product is presented in a funky bottle that has an easy to open lid.
So all good so far. The main question though is whether this product is worthwhile and will I buy it on a regular basis? And I think the answer is no to both.
I initially thought this was a fabric softener and was surprised that it is supposed to be used alongside your usual fabric softener to boost the fragrance added to the washing. It seems to me that if you are that bothered about the fragrance of the washing the better plan is to buy a more expensive softener.
Also, I'm not sure the product is that easy to use. The instructions are vague about quantity - you should use "a little or a lot". I used about half a capful each wash and found that to be enough but the bottle says up to 3 cups per load which seems way over the top. You are also told to "Throw into the drum at the beginning of the wash" - several times I did this (carefully I thought) and ended up with the little granules on the floor which is then difficult to pick up as they start to dissolve on hitting any water.
I'll finish using the products but will not buy in the future.


In a Dark, Dark Wood
In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ruth Ware
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Well structured plot with many layers, 23 April 2015
This review is from: In a Dark, Dark Wood (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book sounded like a quite spooky, unnerving thriller and has been surrounded by a high degree of hype. Hype never guarantees a best seller but always helps to raise awareness and, if the book is good, will lead to word getting around quickly.
The book starts in a very promising way. Nora, the narrator, is running through the woods seemingly escaping from something, she then wakes up in hospital and we don't know if the wood is a dream or a memory. The plot quickly flashes back to the planning and start of a hen weekend. Tension is there from page 1 - something terrible has happened and we're going to find out what.
Further layers of tension are added by the mystery about why Nora has been invited to the weekend at all. She knew Clare (the bride) at school but has not seen her for 10 years.
The book is set in the present day so is easy to relate to with all the technology of phones and Internet. It's comfortable imagining being in Nora's head - intrigued by the invitation but slightly scared about having to deal with the past.
Characters are all very strong with the limitations of the small number in the house creating a claustrophic atmosphere which works beautifully.
As the plot moves on it seems to be peeling back layer after layer until the core of the whole story is exposed at the end. This isn't to say that the book is completely without flaws and there are a few things that happen within the last few chapters that are unbelievable at best but I found that I was so carried away with the thrill of the ending that I forgave this.


Sun at Midnight
Sun at Midnight
by Rosie Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Predictable but enjoyable, 18 April 2015
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This review is from: Sun at Midnight (Paperback)
I went to see Rosie Thomas talking about a more recent book at a library event. She also spoke about her travels in Antarctica and "Sun At Midnight" which is the book that came out of that experience. She was so passionate about the place that this book deserves to be very good.
The setting, as promised, is amazing. The author writes wonderfully about the Antarctic and creates an atmosphere that can only be described as stunningly cold. Many times I actually felt cold while I was reading.
Disappointingly, the story is less thrilling. The characters are all unsurprising and frustrating while the plot is fairly predictable and formulaic. I can, however, see why she has a loyal following of fans and imagine that they would be delighted by this book.
Not being very challenging, it's a good, easy read which I whipped through really quickly. There is plenty of action going on and the drama really ramps up towards the end (which was also predictable but satisfying!).


The Followers
The Followers
by Rebecca Wait
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful novel about the effect of a religious cult on a group of people, 16 April 2015
This review is from: The Followers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The description of this book sounded interesting and I had enjoyed her first novel very much so this had great promise. A daughter is visiting her mother in prison, grudgingly but with a sense of duty. The use of the prison is a very clever plot device which immediately introduces speculation about what the crime was.
The book is written in two time periods - Before and After. After is Judith visiting and Before gradually tells the story of what has happened.
Early on, Nathaniel is introduced as a leader of a tightly controlled religious cult living remotely on the Yorkshire moors. He charms Stephanie (Judith's mother) and the troubles start there.
Cults are not standard fare for novels and it's impressive how plausible this situation is made to be. You can't help but wonder if the author has some sort of personal connection as the effects on those involved seem so clear without ever having to over explain.
We see the story from different view points with the focus continually shifting between characters. This gives a balanced view which is surprisingly nonjudgmental. First person narrative is not used, to the books advantage, as the reader is never given the chance to align with any one individual - this story is very much about a collective of people.
Throughout the tension builds towards an end which somehow becomes inevitable by the time it gets there but none the less powerful for this. I found myself having to put the book down several times as the end approached so that I could take in what I had read.


The Dying Hours (Tom Thorne Novels)
The Dying Hours (Tom Thorne Novels)
by Mark Billingham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read which sticks to a well established formula, 13 April 2015
I've read a few of the Tom Thorne crime novels (there are nearly a dozen to choose from) and this one keeps up the same high quality. There is nothing unexpected, however, as Mark Billingham follows a well established formula. Here, Tom Thorne has been moved back into uniform following a case where he didn't stick to protocol and he is unhappy, looking for more than the daily grind of cases on the beat.
The story starts with the death of an elderly couple and Tom thinks it is murder, rather than the suicide that others suspect, so decided to take it on himself to investigate. As the reader, we have already been introduced to a character who appears to be the killer - a great start to the novel and plenty to tempt a reader in further.
Obviously there is the current case to work through but I also had to work out the recent back story of Tom Thorne, having not read the previous book. His history is referred to regularly and enough hints are dropped so that everything can be pieced together. - I'm not sure how this would be if you were up to date with the books but it worked for me.
The plot evolved very naturally although I was never completely convinced about his lack of involvement of CID but understand that it had to be done this way for the book to work at all. I also wasn't sure about the ending as it was all a bit too dramatic and I thought there might have been more subtle ways of finishing. That said, I really enjoyed the read and the book was swallowed up very quickly.


The House of Hidden Mothers
The House of Hidden Mothers
by Meera Syal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Empathetic exploration of the effect of Indian culture on families in England, 10 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've not read either of this author's previous two novels but admire her as an actor. She seems an intelligent and interesting person so there was the potential for this to be a very good book.
The book starts with a woman, Shyama, visiting a Harley Street fertility clinic, where she is desperately looking for some good news, and the theme of fertility and having children continues throughout the story. The subject matter of the novel marks it as fiction written primarily for women but this book is much more intelligently written than a lot of other books going for the same market. There is plenty of humour (admittedly fairly dark) and lots of opportunity to empathise with the characters.
Quickly a link is introduced to India which is used well to explore developing cultures, particularly the effect across the various generations that moving from one country to another can have.
Meera Syal is following an understandable path in that she is writing about what she knows culturally. In this book there are three generations in the family, the eldest having moved from India to England in order to seek a better life. They have ties to India which are changing as time moves on. We see all the usual tensions within families amongst the generations but here everything is made much more complicated by pressures from India being never far away from anyone's mind.
The plot moves along in chronological order, flipping between India and England to begin with.
It's not a classic which will stay with me for ever but I will recommend to a few friends.


The Price of Salt
The Price of Salt
by Patricia Highsmith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Full of imagery and I think it deserved more time than I was prepared to give it, 30 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Price of Salt (Paperback)
I chose this when it was recommended as a classic groundbreaking book and I'm sure it was at the time it was first published.
Read it today though and this book has lost its shock value. It is full of the sort of imagery that I remember from school and I felt that this book would be better studied at depth rather than a normal reading experience that I gave it. Had I engaged with the characters and felt a connection then I would have been happy to get more involved but I didn't.


Lie of the Land
Lie of the Land
by Michael F. Russell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Struggled to get engaged with the character but interesting idea, 30 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Lie of the Land (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not a big fan of post apocalyptic novels but have read a couple of good ones recently so thought I would give this a go.
The book is set in the "near future" where the surveillance of society has gone too far and civilisation has collapsed into itself. We follow the story of Carl, a journalist, who is trapped in a small community on the Scottish coast. We know straight away that there has been a catatrophy but it seems to take forever before there is even a small amount of explanation and Carl's feeling are expanded.
The plot is very subtle and well written but is at odds with the massive recent events. I wanted more drama and more explanation. It is interesting how the village copes with the specifics of survival but not enough detail to make the book gripping.
Maybe I'll stick with my instinct next time and avoid this type of book.


Hausfrau
Hausfrau
by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intricately written, wonderful account of inner turmoil, 30 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Hausfrau (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Anna is an expat living in Zurich with her Swiss husband and three young children. She is having an affair with a man that she met at her language course. The book tracks her life over three months during which she shows her deep unhappiness and her inner turmoils come out to effect the rest of her life. Bruno, Anna's husband, has insisted that she see a psychotherapist to "fix herself" so the book uses their sessions and conversations interspersed throughout Anna's day-to-day life in order to reflect and give insight into Anna's mind.
The language used throughout this book is very compelling. It is precise and brittle which seems appropriate for Anna. We never get any first person narrative but are given brief snippets into her head, seemingly against her will.
Language is a huge part of the book. The book is written in English but there are continual references to Swiss-German and German which feel very natural and show part of the conflict in Anna's head. The struggle that she has with language gives some idea about the struggle she is having with her marriage. Specific words are also used frequently during the therapist sessions to define Anna herself (when does an obsession become a compulsion? is there a cross over between love and lust? What's the difference between a reason and an excuse?). I found out at the end in the author's profile that, whilst this is a first novel, she is an accomplished poet which explains the beautiful words and sentence structure.
Also worth applauding is the ending. I an often bored by the endings of books that I have loved but I thought this was great - very brave to do this and it works superbly.


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