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Denise4891 (Cheshire)
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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

9 of 13 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

3 of 3 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."


TensCare Perfect Tens
TensCare Perfect Tens
Price: £28.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My first TENS experience, 6 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is my first experience of using a TENS machine and it’s been pretty straightforward and positive.

The kit contains the TENS unit, which is about the size of an iPhone but lighter, 2 leadwires, a pack of 4 adhesive pads, 2 AA batteries and a storage pouch. The instructions are fairly easy to follow in terms of setting the unit up (even for a novice like me). There are rather a lot of different intensity settings and programmes which determine the type of sensation you feel. I have tried a few now but will have to experiment a bit more to decide which suits me best. At the moment I really like programme H (as do a few other reviewers I see), which is more of a rolling massage sensation – some of the others are a bit ‘stabby’, but not painful.

Once you have the pads attached (there are photographs in the instruction booklet to show you where to attach the pads depending on the type of pain you have), you can set the programme, intensity and time. I have mild sciatica in my legs and even though I’m not getting shooting pains at the moment, my legs still feel sore and very achy at night. After attaching the pads to the front and back of my thighs, plugging in the leads and trying a few different settings, I settled on the massage setting at a low intensity for 20 minutes and settled down to watch TV. The sensation felt strange at first but I soon got used to it and it certainly took my mind off the pain.

Afterwards you remove the sticky pads (a bit uncomfortable but not as bad as pulling off a plaster) and place them back on their plastic sheet. The booklet says the pads last 12-20 applications. Replacement pads are currently £13.98 for 3 sets of 4 on Amazon.

As well as giving advice on the different settings and programmes, the instruction booklet also gives a brief overview of what TENS is and how it works. I’m impressed after using it for the first time. My pain is mild compared to a lot of people’s but using the TENS machine has made a difference. I’ll try some of the other settings as the pain returns and report back.


Now That I've Found You
Now That I've Found You
by Ciara Geraghty
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Warm and witty novel with a heart, 4 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the first novel I’ve read by Ciara Geraghty but it won’t be the last – in fact I’ve already downloaded another one on my Kindle.

This is the story of Vinnie and Ellen, two lost souls who find each other despite the obstacles life puts in their way. Vinnie is struggling to balance his job as a taxi driver with the demands of caring for his two children who are still missing their mother who left the family home a year earlier. At first Ellen is just one of his regular fares until a traumatic incident forces them closer together.

Ellen also has a few skeletons in the closet. Throughout the book we read the letters she is writing to her husband Neil as part of her therapy following a traumatic car accident which left her with both physical and mental scars.

Sounding a bit depressing? Well it’s not. Ciara Geraghty has managed to make the book heartwarming without being schmaltzy, mainly due liberal doses of humour and Irish charm. The cast of supporting characters is colourful and charming, particularly Vinnie’s wonderful mum, his eccentric best friend Kenny and his adorable seven year old son, and they all have a great deal of affection for each other despite the verbal sparring and bickering (which is very entertaining).

I could so easily have been fooled by the cover into thinking this was just another chick-lit read but really it’s in a different league to most of that genre. The comparisons with Marian Keyes and Jojo Moyes are spot on - it’s a warm, witty novel with a heart and I loved it.


Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Price: £6.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whimsical and poignant road trip novel, 31 Jan. 2015
Novels about elderly people who set off on road trips are almost a genre in themselves at the moment - think Harold Fry, the 100 Year Old Man ... etc, and into the mix now comes Emma Hooper's debut novel in which 82 year old Etta sets off from her Saskatchewan home on a mission to finally see the sea, leaving her bewildered husband Otto at home.

The book traces Etta and Otto's history back to the days before WW2 when she was his schoolteacher, through the war years and beyond to their life in a remote rural town, on a farm next to the one owned by Otto's childhood friend and Etta's not so secret admirer Russell. On her journey Etta befriends a coyote who she calls James and in a touch of magical realism James talks back to Etta and keeps her company as her journey becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous.

It's a whimsical and quirky novel with warm and engaging characters but it also has a more poignant and serious side, particularly as the reasons for Etta's odyssey become clearer. I must give a special mention here to the animal characters (James and Oats, the guinea pig) who I thought were particularly memorable and lovingly portrayed. Along with some other reviewers I struggled at times with the flow of the narrative where one paragraph will contain two timeframes and storylines, but I guess this reflects Etta's state of mind and fits in with the ethereal, sometimes dreamlike feel of the book.


Dettol Antibacterial Surface Cleanser Spray 750 ml (Pack of 3)
Dettol Antibacterial Surface Cleanser Spray 750 ml (Pack of 3)
Price: £8.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Great product from a trusted brand, 31 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've used Dettol cleansers before as it's a name I trust in terms of antibacterial cleansing and disinfecting. This product is marketed as a cleanser and as such is best used for disinfecting surfaces rather than getting rid of ground in dirt and stains. It doesn't contain bleach and is billed as odourless, though I did detect a faint smell which was clean and fresh, rather than smelling of fake pine or lemon like some cleaning products.

The fact that it claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses including E.coli, Salmonella, MRSA, rotavirus (whatever that is) and flu virus(H1N1) is a bonus - I'm using it to spray door handles and wipe down keyboards in work at the moment as I'm surrounded by coughing and sneezing colleagues!


At the Water's Edge
At the Water's Edge
by Sara Gruen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Monsters Galore, 25 Jan. 2015
This review is from: At the Water's Edge (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I absolutely loved Sara Gruen’s best known novel Water for Elephants but was very disappointed and a bit baffled by the next one (The Ape House), so I was a little apprehensive when I approached her new book. However, I’m pleased to report I really enjoyed it.

Our narrator and protagonist Maddie is a spoilt young woman from a rich (albeit scandal-hit) old Philadelphia family and she, her husband Ellis and his best friend Hank seem to spend their lives drifting from party to party and frittering away their parents’ money. After one particularly debauched (by the standards of the time) New Year’s Eve, Ellis’ parents threaten to reduce their allowance further and in a fit of pique Ellis decides that he’ll take Maddie and Hank off to the Scottish Highlands in search of the Lock Ness Monster, a search his father was also involved in a few years earlier. It’s 1945 but Ellis isn’t going to let the small matter of a war raging in the Atlantic stand in his way. Once in Scotland they encounter suspicious and superstitious locals and the cracks in Ellis and Maddie’s marriage begin to widen as her husband and his friend spend increasing amounts of time going off in search of their quarry.

Despite the remote highland location, the war is never far away thanks to terrifying air raids on nearby factories, nightly BBC radio broadcasts giving updates on the fighting and the dreaded telegrams received all too frequently by families in the village. This all adds to the vivid sense of time and place, and the characterisation is strong and believable (with the possible exception of Ellis who was a bit too Pantomime Villain for me at times). Throw in a brooding, damaged hero and some colourful local eccentrics I can really see this book being made into an entertaining Hollywood-meets-Ealing-comedy sort of movie.


Alice and the Fly
Alice and the Fly
by James Rice
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It’s Them, I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple., 24 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Alice and the Fly (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Greg Hall is a teenage boy with a crush on one of the girls at school. He rides a bus every night with no other purpose than to just be near her. He’s good at English and loves classic movies. Oh, and he’s terrified of Them (spiders).

It’s clear early on in the book that Greg is not a ‘normal’ teenage boy (if there is such a thing). He’s a loner who is bullied by his fellow pupils because of his lisp and the medication he takes for his mental illness. When he develops an obsession with Alice who comes from a troubled home he sees himself as her saviour, and we know it’s not going to end well. Indeed, Greg’s version of events is interspersed with extracts from police interviews with his family and people who knew him and it becomes increasingly obvious that Greg is in a lot of trouble.

It’s quite a harrowing read at times, but also heartbreakingly poignant. James Rice has created an endearing and loveable character in Greg and it’s impossible not to sympathise with his plight. However he doesn’t gloss over the difficulties that living with mental health problems can bring, especially when (as in Greg’s case) his family are too wrapped up in their own lives to take proper notice of him - and when they do notice him it’s usually with a sense of embarrassment and pity. When he’s in the supermarket with his mother and she sees someone she’s trying to impress, she begs him to “try and be normal.” Sadly Greg didn’t know if he could promise something he’d failed to do his whole life.

I’m not sure if this books falls into the Young Adult category but I hope it gains a wide readership, as the difficulties Greg faces will strike a chord with many people on different levels. There have been some excellent novels in recent years about vulnerable young people – The Shock of the Fall and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time to name but two - and in my opinion Alice and the Fly deserves to be listed alongside them.


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