Profile for Denise4891 > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Denise4891
Top Reviewer Ranking: 86
Helpful Votes: 4525

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Denise4891 (Cheshire)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
The Followers
The Followers
by Rebecca Wait
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary and compelling, 23 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Followers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We first meet 22 year old Judith when she is visiting her mother Stephanie in prison. They chat about films and Judith’s boyfriend, but it’s clear that their relationship is strained, and it soon becomes obvious why. 10 years earlier Stephanie took Judith to live with a religious cult when she fell under the spell of its charismatic leader, Nathaniel. Stephanie, a single mother, had been coasting along in dead-end jobs when Nathaniel inveigled his way into her life and persuaded her to uproot her daughter and live with him and his followers in The Ark, a settlement on a remote and windswept Yorkshire moor.

The bleak setting chimes beautifully with the stark and isolated nature of the group’s existence. Nathaniel rules the house with a rod of iron, literally putting the fear of God into his disciples and not surprisingly Judith struggles to fit in, her only friend being Moses, a lonely and vulnerable boy who has been told all his life that his birthmark is a sign from the devil. The other children, most of whom have been born into this regimented and tyrannical environment, are both bewitched by and suspicious of this wild, red-haired stranger in their midst, and as tensions in the house rise, the storyline builds towards a shocking and dramatic conclusion.

I’m not sure if The Followers is going to be marketed as a Young Adult novel; it has that feel about it but equally could be enjoyed by a wide age range (I am far from being a young adult!). I warmed to Judith’s sparky personality, both as a vulnerable 12 year old and a cynical, world-weary young woman, and my heart went out to poor Moses, always struggling to do the right thing and please everyone at the same time.

My only slight niggle with the book is that I would have liked to have learned more about how Nathaniel groomed Stephanie and persuaded her to join him in The Ark (this isn’t really gone into in any detail), and also a bit more about the backgrounds of the other followers. However, that said I found it a compelling and thought-provoking read. I haven’t read Rebecca Wait’s highly praised debut novel, The View on the Way Down, but after reading The Followers I intend to put that right soon.


Philips GC2040/20 Easy Speed Steam Iron, 270 ml, 2100 Watt - Blue
Philips GC2040/20 Easy Speed Steam Iron, 270 ml, 2100 Watt - Blue
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish budget iron, 23 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Philips GC2040/20 Easy Speed Steam Iron is a budget, no-frills iron which does a reasonably good job. The dials/buttons are easy to reach and understand and it feels lightweight and irons smoothly.

There's no little plastic jug to fill the water reservoir, and filling it direct from the tap can be a little awkward (depending on what sort of taps you have), so if you have a plastic jug from a previous iron (as I did) then it's worth hanging onto. The reservoir itself is rather small, but I guess that's balanced out in the lightness of the iron.

The iron has the standard features of a burst of steam and/or a mist of water. Given that it's a 2100 watt iron (more powerful than my previous one) I expected the steam to be a bit more powerful. It was fine for lightweight mixed fabrics but I did struggle to get the creases out of a cotton dress. It's billed as non-drip, and so far that seems to be the case. The precision tip is good for getting to hard to reach places such as shoulder points and the space between buttons.

So all in all a fairly decent budget iron, which comes with a reassuring 2 year guarantee should anything go wrong.


The Raven's Head
The Raven's Head
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Medieval murder and mayhem, 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Raven's Head (Kindle Edition)
I’ve read and enjoyed all of Karen Maitland’s novels, which are always full of medieval intrigue and magic, but I do think her latest has taken a much darker turn.

The Raven’s Head tells the story of three young people – Vincent, an apprentice librarian, Gisa who works in her uncle’s apothecary shop, and young boy called Wilky who has been taken from his family by a sinister group of monks in payment for a debt. Vincent is a rogue, but a very likeable one and the star of the book for me. Gisa, apprenticed to her uncle, an apothecary, is an honest and admirable character but it’s the portrayal of the younger boys such as Peter and Wilky (who is named Regulus by the monks as part of their plan), which is particularly poignant.

The story contains Maitland’s distinctive blend of dark arts, magic and superstition. For me it differed from her previous work by the introduction of a much darker element, namely the abuse of the young boys by the monks in their pursuit of their twisted desires. This made for some very uncomfortable reading at times but as usual Maitland’s compelling storytelling kept me turning the pages.


Igenix IG3020 4 Slice Toaster in White with Six Position Variable Control, 1300 Watt
Igenix IG3020 4 Slice Toaster in White with Six Position Variable Control, 1300 Watt
Price: £18.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A 4 slice toaster that actually takes 4 slices, 20 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a basic, reasonably priced toaster. The main bonus is that you can actually fit 4 slices of bread in it - a first for me compared with '4 slice' toasters I've had in the past. Four slices of Hovis granary bread (which perhaps doesn't have the largest slices) fit inside easily on their long sides and toasted evenly (on setting 4). The slots are wide enough for crumpets too, which my previous toaster couldn't accommodate.

The toaster looks modern and has a 'rounded' style, which makes it bulkier than my previous one. The slots are 24.5 cm long. The dials are easy to use and understand. You can toast bread from frozen and reheat toast (I haven't needed to try either of these functions yet). The crumb tray slides out easily and the lead is reasonably long - which it needs to be as it comes out of the end of the toaster where the dials are (which obviously needs to be facing you), which could make it difficult to accommodate on your worktop.

All in all a decent toaster for the price.


Igenix IG3118 Steam Iron in Green and White with Stainless Steel Soleplate, 1800 Watt
Igenix IG3118 Steam Iron in Green and White with Stainless Steel Soleplate, 1800 Watt
Price: £17.98

4.0 out of 5 stars A good basic steam iron, 15 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My current steam iron is a Russell Hobbs which I've never been very happy with. It's heavy, the cord has got all twisted and bent and it leaves wet patches over everything, no matter what setting I have it on.

I was immediately impressed with this Igenix iron because it's so lightweight and irons very smoothly. On the down-side the settings were a little bit fiddly to see/operate and it wasn't immediately clear to me which way to turn the dial for the highest setting, but once I'd worked it out it was fine. It ironed a cotton-mix jumper really well with only a small burst of steam needed. For peace of mind it comes with a thermal safety cut-out feature (which I've not had to test yet) and a 2 year guarantee which you register online.

Igenix isn't a brand I've heard of before but I'm impressed so far.


Reasons to Stay Alive
Reasons to Stay Alive
by Matt Haig
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Staying Alive, 8 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Reasons to Stay Alive (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You’d expect a book about depression to be, well a bit of a downer, but Matt Haig has managed to turn one of the darkest periods of his life into a positive, live-affirming journey, without ever playing down or demeaning the devastating effects this illness can have on sufferers and their families.
Matt suffered his first breakdown in his early 20s whilst living a party lifestyle on Ibiza in the late 1990s, but the signs of his tendency towards anxiety and introspection had been there for many years. In this short but powerful book he chronicles the effects this debilitating condition had on his life and the strategies he employed to survive it. As he himself states, it’s hard to categorise the book as a self-help tome, a memoir, or whatever, and each person’s experience of depression and mental illness will be unique so what works for one may not work for another. However, I’m sure that most people, whether they’re directly affected by depression or not, will be able to take some inspiration from Matt’s moving and very readable account.


The Lovers of Amherst
The Lovers of Amherst
by William Nicholson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Austin and Mabel's story, 14 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Lovers of Amherst (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I’ve never read any of William Nicholson’s books before but I understand they feature recurring characters from a group of inter-linked families. The main protagonist of this one is Alice Dickinson, who has featured in two previous novels. Alice is now writing a screenplay about Austin Dickinson – no relation to Alice but brother of the poet Emily - and the affair he had with Mabel Todd, the much younger wife of a colleague who later became Emily’s editor. Alice travels to Amherst, Massachusetts, in order to carry out her research “where it all happened”, and embark on an ill-fated affair of her own

What drew me to the book was the promise of finding out more about the life of the elusive and ethereal Emily Dickinson. Unfortunately Emily is very much a behind-the-scenes character, hiding behind doors to spy on her brother and his lover and communicating with the outside world through her poetry. I was aware that she was famously a recluse, but I did hope that in this book she would emerge from the shadows and we would find out more about her character.

However, this book is very much about Austin and Mabel, and in the present day Alice and her lover Nick. I didn’t warm to any of these characters at first as they all seemed rather shallow and self-absorbed, although Mabel and to some extent Nick do become more interesting towards the end of the book.

Teasingly in his author’s note, Nicholson mentions a few facts about what happened to the Dickinson and Todd families in the years after Emily’s death, and if it was up to me I would have preferred to have read more about this and less about Alice’s love life. I guess in the end this wasn’t the story I was hoping it would be, which is not really the author’s fault. Fans of Nicholson’s work will probably enjoy catching up with familiar characters from his earlier novels, but historical fiction fans like me may feel that the ‘Emily angle’ has been overplayed.


The Ice Twins
The Ice Twins
by S. K. Tremayne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.00

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and eerie psychological thriller, 14 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Ice Twins (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Angus and Sarah Moorcroft are still consumed by grief and guilt following the death of one of their twin daughters a year earlier, when Angus inherits a remote Hebridean island complete with lighthouse. Angus has lost his job after he assaulted his boss whilst overcome with grief, so the couple decide to cut their losses, leave London and head for a new life in the Scottish highlands with their surviving daughter, 7 year old Kirstie.

Life in a derelict cottage on a desolate, windswept island is hard and the cracks in the couple's marriage soon start to widen, especially as Kirstie's behaviour becomes increasingly strange and sinister. It is soon apparent that she is a very troubled child, and Angus and Sarah's lives are thrown into turmoil when Kirstie claims that she's really her dead sister Lydia.

Understandably, given the location and subject matter, there's a melancholy, brooding tone throughout the book. The storm-tossed, remote island setting adds to the supernatural atmosphere and the mounting sense of terror, and the pace increases as the storyline evolves towards a frenetic and tempestuous ending. SK Tremayne (the pseudonym of an established author, apparently) has created an unsettling and compelling psychological thriller with a wonderfully creepy atmosphere - I don't think I'll be able to listen to the Postman Pat theme tune again without shivering!


A Place Called Winter
A Place Called Winter
by Patrick Gale
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very moving novel from one of my favourite authors, 11 Feb. 2015
This review is from: A Place Called Winter (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This must be the fifth or sixth Patrick Gale book I’ve read and I’ve really enjoyed them all. As far as I know this book is a bit of a departure in terms of both period and location, and I understand the story is based on an excerpt from his own family history.

When the book opens, Harry Cane is incarcerated in a Canadian mental asylum, undergoing various torture techniques to ‘cure’ him of his affliction.
He is then transferred to a much more lenient institution where a young doctor is carrying out research into those deemed to be ‘deviants’ by early 20th century society. There are excerpts from Harry’s time in this establishment throughout the book.

We also meet Harry as a shy, stammering young man in Edwardian London, living a decent but rather idle life cushioned by his father’s fortune. He enters a somewhat platonic marriage and becomes a father, but his true feelings are unleashed when he falls in love with another man. However, his secret is discovered and Harry is given an ultimatum by his wife’s family. Under threat of disgrace and a sentence of hard labour, he finds himself en route to Canada to make a new life as a settler on a remote Saskatchewan prairie. He befriends his neighbours, a brother and sister who both go on to play important roles in his future, but as the threat of war reaches this remote outpost of the Empire, Harry’s life takes another dark turn.

The contrasting settings of uptight Edwardian London and the harsh Canadian wilderness are beautifully observed and as usual with Gale’s writing I became effortlessly engrossed in the storyline and really came to care about the characters and what happened to them. The ending is extremely moving and I was really sorry to put the book down. Patrick Gale is now firmly established as one of my favourite authors.


A Reunion of Ghosts
A Reunion of Ghosts
by Judith Claire Mitchell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sins of the Fathers, 8 Feb. 2015
This review is from: A Reunion of Ghosts (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"How do three sisters write a single suicide note that is also intended to be a memoir of sorts?"

This is the story of three Jewish sisters who live together in a New York apartment at the end of the 20th century. Lady, Vee and Delph Alter have been close all their lives, and when Vee's cancer returns with a terminal prognosis, a pact is made that all three will end their lives on the last day of the century. The sisters believe their family is cursed and the sins of the previous generations will be revisited on their descendants (you only have to look at the number of suicides in the family to see how they came to this conclusion). Their joint suicide note becomes a retrospective of the history of the Alter family, stretching back to late 19th century and early 20th century Europe when their great-grandfather, a German chemist who rubbed shoulders with Albert Einstein, became famous for an invention which would have a devastating effect on the lives of millions.

The book is narrated by the three sisters together in the first and third person plural. This took a bit of getting used to but I soon got into the swing of it. The writing is sharp and witty, despite the rather dark subject matter (the scene between Lady and the hardware store owner is hilarious). Each sister's personality is distinctive and sympathetically portrayed I grew to really like them.

I loved the book. Judith Claire Mitchell has skilfully blended fiction with historical fact (the story of Great-grandfather Lenz is based on a real German chemist) and produced a novel full of warmth and gallows humour. As the sisters themselves insist:

"Don't call our lives a melodrama. Don't bring up the term soap opera. Don't tell us how hard it is to believe that so many terrible things can befall a single family in such a short time. They can. They did. Shut up."


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20