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silent_siren "silent_siren"

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Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn
Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn
by Sarah Miller
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice, 1 Jun. 2012
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I once read an article by Sarah Miller and it was such excellent writing that I was immediately hungry to read anything else she'd written. In most ways, Inside the Mind.. stands up to what I believe her to be capable of, so this is a win for me.

Inside The Mind of Gideon Rayburn works largely due to the combination of Gideon and our narrator. As our narrator makes it clear straight away that she likes Gideon, the danger is that what follows will be an attempt to convince us we should too. But Gideon stands up on his own merits, just funny enough and just ballsy enough to stop short of being saccharine. It's balanced well by the narrators sense of humour and outright disbelief at his naivety at times. There are almost two plots; Gideon's attempt to fulfil a bet made by his roommates regarding his virginity, and our own attempt to figure out the identity of the narrator. The former is flimsy but the more enjoyable as the roommates are so entertaining, and I was sometimes taken out of the story by what felt like tacked on comments about by the narrator of the, 'maybe she's me. Maybe not', variety. I found it frustrating because the premise was interesting enough without calling my attention explicitly to it. The universe also felt a little tame, and not just because I know Sarah Miller is capable of more adult fare. There isn't *really* a villain to speak of, and when the opening lines promise to tell you all the gritty details of what boys think when they're on top of girls, of all you wanted to know.. Well let's just say it doesn't deliver. Everything's a little safe. I'm the first to admit that the American 'prep' school setting is unfamiliar territory to me as an English reader though, so I found it hard to gauge what level of maturity these characters would be at in a real life, and half of this is my baggage. Nonetheless this is definitely a 'nice' universe, and I would have liked a little more to sink my teeth into.

Nitpicks aside, I still really enjoyed Inside the Mind.. and I'm off to read the sequel now, happy to devour more of Sarah Miller's work!

by Tomas Mournian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really well written, 1 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Hidden (Paperback)
Drugs, sex, bitchery and secrecy; in other words all the good things abound in this book! There is excess and there is extreme lack, distrust and compassion. Ahmed's world is so far removed from ours and yet hidden in plain sight, and you can't help but feel for him as he is thrown from one extreme to another, a young boy only just coming to know himself. It's a total contrast to every book you've ever read about existential struggles. Ahmed's problems are real, nasty, and after him. Adding to the sense of danger is the fact you're never quite sure what's real - this is very much a stream-of-consciousness novel, and what Ahmed sees you see. Sometimes he is drugged, sometimes exhausted, sometimes paranoid, so the things that play on the edge of his vision play on ours. This can be a shortcoming at times as it reflects a real stream-of-consciousness which is engaging and intimate, but also means that some things will be introduced and then dropped altogether, some not fully explored, and the lack of a real plot per se meant that the end could have played out a few different ways. Mind you this is quite prevalent in YA as it's often not until the final lines that you know which path a character will choose, but in the last few pages I really felt as if different possibilities were being thrown about to keep ME on my toes, rather than Ahmed himself feeling confused. However the writing style is vibrant and realistic, and little is cut and dry which felt right considering Ahmed's age and situation. I would love to see a sequel, which shows how much I enjoyed it. Read the first few pages and if you enjoy the voice you're hearing, this is for you. Just be aware this novel pulls no punches, and by the end you may feel as thrown around as Ahmed.

Love Is the Higher Law
Love Is the Higher Law
by David Levithan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Temporary constellation, 6 May 2012
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This review is from: Love Is the Higher Law (Paperback)
If you've read David Levithan's work before you'll be familiar with his voice, but man what a great discovery if you haven't! Lacking a bit in plot, (well, completely, really), his novel follows the fallout of 9/11 through the eyes of 3 relatively unconnected teenagers. It's a slight novel, but there's so much beautiful writing here. If anything the short length works in its favour because nothing is wasted; the prose isn't too flowery, and what's there is striking, memorable stuff with a sweet core. It poses huge questions, and never shies away from the irrevocable change this event has brought into our protagonists lives at such a crucial time. Definitely a teen novel in nature, but Levithan uses his characters to get at larger issues without losing any of their development. They're people you'd want to get to know, people who are literally at Ground Zero for an event that changed the world, just trying to deal with the enormity of it all. As you may have guessed from the title this is a story about hope just as much as grief, more about the small ways we build than the huge ways we destroy.

Great writer, wonderful story.

My Spiritual Autobiography
My Spiritual Autobiography
by Dalai Lama
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Look elsewhere, 24 Mar. 2012
In the Dalai Lama's Art of Happiness we don't learn a huge amount about the man himself, other than his general outlook; good-natured, cheerful and generous, you start to believe he's on to something! Unfortunately, while Spiritual Autobiography further strengthens that belief, it does little to illuminate anything about said spiritual practice. The title's a misnomer, because while it would be impossible to talk about a man who has, 'His Holiness', as his title without touching on his spirituality, this really doesn't give us much insight into the subject. It's a series of talks and writings recounting the different periods of his life, and by the end I was certainly warmed by the immense compassion he has for others in spite of some of the awful events he recounts. His dedication to his fellow Tibetans is humbling, but while he condemns their treatment he doesn't condemn those who perpetrated it. And it's this spiritual strength I'd like to learn more about, but instead of satisfying my hunger this book only made me more hungry! It's not a bad read, but my enthusiasm did wane once I realised I was on the wrong train so to speak, and I wouldn't be surprised if much of this information is available elsewhere, and probably cheaper.

by Heather Cocks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Spoiled Standalone, 26 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Spoiled (Hardcover)
The guidelines for reviews on Amazon say you should communicate what you would have wanted to know before purchasing, and I wish I'd known this book was written towards a sequel. It feels truncated as a standalone, especially the abrupt ending, and it's far more weighted toward setting things up than paying them off. With that in mind, the review proper:

Spoiled is extremely funny. It tells the story of Molly and Brooke; Molly, an average American teenager who has just discovered her father is movie star Brick Berlin, goes to live with him and her new sister, Brooke Berlin, who's not exactly thrilled about it. The humour is typical of writers The Fug Girls. Their fashion blog Go Fug Yourself is consistently hilarious and just the right side of scathing, and the book definitely gains an extra dimension if you regularly read their blog, (which you probably do since you're looking at this book, and probably should if you don't). The POV is split between the two protagonists, (as often happens in YA), although the book skews towards Molly in the second half. Both characters feel recognisably teenaged but also refreshingly direct, staying true to life in a larger than life setting, and it's nice to see young female characters act like real humans rather than standard rom-com morons.

The supporting characters make for a fun read, although I still came away feeling I knew little about Molly; at times she's neurotic and tempestuous, and at others she takes everything in stride. It's the only real nitpick in an otherwise solid story and I'll be interested to see if it's ironed out in the sequel or if it's just something that jarred with me personally.

If it sounds like I'm down on Spoiled it's all context; There's an undercurrent of sweetness I wasn't expecting, especially in steals-the-show Brick, and I'll read the follow-on because I enjoyed spending time in this universe, (both the characters and the Fug Girls style). The paperback of Spoiled is out in May so I'd wait for that as it's a slight story for £18, but if you're reading this from the future, buy the paperback in the knowledge it's book 1, and you can't go wrong.

13 Words
13 Words
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Obscure, 26 Feb. 2012
This review is from: 13 Words (Hardcover)
It reads like a picture book you might find in the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events universe - perhaps the first book Klaus read, and a precursor to his sad life! As with all Lemony Snicket work there is light with the dark, and a sense of unforced sophistication that's unusual for childrens entertainment. Of course if you're viewing this you're probably familiar with Snicket's style; I bought it on the strength of the author alone and to clarify it creates a narrative from 13 keywords, (in and of themselves too amusing to give away.) Each page is a huge illustration with no more than 30 words per page relaying the story, and it takes maybe 5 minutes to read cover to cover. A running theme in Unfortunate Events is adults explaining words to children when they already know the meaning; that's unlikely to be the case here as they get pretty obscure. Definitely a learning aid and probably not worth the purchase if you don't have kids. I probably wouldn't have bought this if I knew exactly what it was, but I'll be happy to gift it to friends with children, and it was an amusing diversion that still rates highly even if it lacks staying power.

Rubber Ost
Rubber Ost
Price: £9.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Like Father Like Son, 12 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Rubber Ost (Audio CD)
Do you judge a soundtrack in relation to the film, or on it's own merits? Rubber is a strange and disparate film, and its soundtrack follows suit. Hardly integral to the story in the way that say, Daft Punk's Tron Legacy score was, (similar to Rubber a score by an established electro/dance act), but that's largely due to Rubber's lack of story. Instead the soundtrack added to and enhanced that peculiar mood necessary to the film. Electronic in nature but interspersed with frequent flutes and other unexpected flavours, it's certainly not your usual fare. It's hard to judge objectively, whether by its own merits or the films, simply because it's the kind of thing you have to be in the mood for. When you're in that mood it's strangely comforting and melodically disturbing, when you're not in that mood and a song from this soundtrack crops up on your iPod you're liable to skip it. So it's a 3 out of 5 at an average, because sometimes you'll really like it and sometimes it will hack you off.

If something is right for a specific mood then in my mind that isn't a negative - you could even say it's better to have a piece of music or a film be true to one emotion than suitable but not especially adept at all. A niche can be more powerful than something mainstream because those who love it do so passionately and for longer than fans of whatever's hot at the moment. But when it's possible to listen to pieces of music that draw you into the required mood BY listening, much as Tron Legacy does, something like Rubber tends to get overlooked. If you have the money and time to spare this soundtrack is a worthy curio, but I don't think you'll miss out if you choose to skip it.

Crows And Guts
Trucycle Express
Everything Is Fake
Room 16
Bellyball Road
No Reason
Le Caoutchouc

Hidden Spring: A Buddhist Woman Confronts Cancer
Hidden Spring: A Buddhist Woman Confronts Cancer
by Sandy Boucher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unflinching indeed, 11 Aug. 2011
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'A Buddhist woman confronts cancer', reads the cover. True enough, but you needn't be female, Buddhist, nor suffering with cancer to recognise yourself in this book. Its power is in its ability to engage with human nature through one woman's experience.

Sandy Boucher's Hidden Springs is easily the most involving thing I've read in recent memory. Her lucid prose carries you through a year of her life from the time she is diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer; it covers chemotherapy, surgery, the minutiae of her daily life, and her spiritual practice in the grip of disease. It's heartbreaking, inspiring, funny, thought-provoking, and everything in-between. This isn't so much an account of a woman facing death; it's an account of life.

Her spirituality is used not as a crutch to escape her ordeal but as a tool to dive straight into it. She relays such clarity and compassion from various spiritual teachers, most notably her own teacher Ruth Denison, but Sandy is not a master; she struggles, she questions, and sometimes she succeeds.

The subject matter is brutal, but Sandy's style is such that you feel you are talking to a friend. I found myself flinching at times, but always compelled by her honesty.

Early on Sandy quotes something that impacted her; no matter what comes your way, don't make a move to avoid it. Never does she turn away from what happens to her, but does her best to experience her life as it's happening and relay it to the reader, regardless of how awful or wonderful it may be. As a study of Buddhism in practice you couldn't hope for better. As a study of life, you couldn't ask for more. This is why I read.

Read this book.

Jumper [DVD] [2008]
Jumper [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Rachel Bilson
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.44

3.0 out of 5 stars You know how they say some performances are phoned in?, 18 Oct. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Jumper [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
This is barely e-mailed. The locations for example, notable in a film about teleportation, are treated with such laconic disdain by the protagonist that it translates to the audience, and may just as well be the pictures needed to visit them. Flat and lacking atmosphere.

David, (Hayden Christensen), is a teleporter with a lifestyle built on impulse and stolen luxury, until he encounters other teleporters as he is hunted by an organisation bent on their destruction.

Why are they being hunted? Imagine a unification of teleporters, or 'jumpers'. They can go anywhere, take anything, and escape in an instant. They flout the law to their own gain, like modern day pirates, feared by law enforcement and thieves alike. Now keep imagining, because while that's hinted at, you won't see it here. The concept only serves to make Samuel L Jackson's villain Roland seem foolish, as hunting pushes the jumpers together where individually they seem inherently selfish, prone to crimes of decadence which seem petty in comparison to what their combined forces could achieve.

'Could' is the keyword here. Throughout there are genuinely interesting ideas posed and wasted. The specific focus on teleporters, (unlike in superhero ensemble pieces), gives us a unique chance to explore the power further. How much can they teleport? How does teleporting affect the atmosphere around them? Sadly, if you don't care about the characters posing these questions, you won't care about the answers, and the character work isn't there.

Individually? Rachel Bilson is cute but given nothing to work with. Teleporting is cool but we don't know if it's the only, 'power', in this universe. Samuel L Jackson is Samuel L Jackson, but he's laden with half-baked religious dialogue that never pays off. These elements almost appear to be in different movies cut and pasted together - the lack of chemistry between the elements make it difficult to care about the film as a whole, and while the climactic location-hopping battle is very cool, you can't help but wish you were seeing it in another movie where the outcome has some weight. As it is, you'll be laughing long before the conclusion of a ridiculous subplot involving David's mother.

The only one to escape unscathed is Jamie Bell as fellow jumper Griffin. Where everything else in the film fails to connect Bell practically jumps off the screen; his rogue survivalist jumper is a funny, disarming shot of life in an otherwise flat affair, subtly twisted by what his powers have forced him through. He is David if there was no penthouse. He's begun to see what it means to be different and it's ironic that through him David sees the truth of Roland's mantra, 'There are always consequences.' Another intriguing concept, that we might sympathise with the villain, but as much as Bell elevates his sequences his character also serves to highlight how we mostly follow David in a time where he's jaded to the wonders of his powers, and before he's fully involved in the struggle. While he begins to comprehend a world outside himself Griffin is already in the thick of it, something you only sees glimpses of but that appears to be the more powerful story. Indeed for all its aesthetics, not much is shown worth seeing.

So Jumper's not outrageously bad, but it's not good. It's got clever ideas, but they're not explored. It's got a double decker bus action sequence, but The Mummy Returns did it better. It's just not as much fun as it should be, and not meaningful enough to make up for that.

DVD extras are lacking too.

The Secret
The Secret
by Rhonda Byrne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas, must try harder. C-, 16 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: The Secret (Hardcover)
Reading this book is like being told about a great film by someone who saw it on a plane; shoddily related and in danger of ruining a good thing for you.
You know what it's about by now. As a science student this book appalled me - the writing standard is shocking. There's no real structure, quotes are miscellaneous. If you read the first ten pages you can stop, because you won't learn anything new after that. If I handed this in to my lecturers, I thought, I'd be in real danger of failing, positive thinking or no.
The worst part is that some really interesting ideas are presented here, they're just presented in such a frivolous manner! As if exclamation marks explain everything! It's infuriating, and a waste considering that a lot of people are discovering these ideas through this book. Frankly I cannot believe it was allowed into print as it stands. It simply isn't good enough.
There's also a pervading attitude towards hard work that's at best misleading and at worst dangerous. The only mention of actually working towards your goals is to say that it should feel easy, when the success stories presented are of people who worked for it. I can't say whether it was easy for them or not, but the notion of working is completely skipped over. You could argue that getting what you want without working for it is the crux of this particular book, (though not necessarily the ideas it's based on), and this is an entirely personal viewpoint, but you shouldn't look to get through life without working for what you have. You'll be so much better for it. Bear in mind how biased that makes my review as I seem to disagree with the core of this book, but I can't help but feel I could be far more objective if the book in question were written by a more capable author.
Clearly I've highlighted far too many flaws to recommend this book; it would lose none of its value if someone else read it and summed it up for you. By reading these reviews you've negated the need for it. If it's self-help you want I'm sure there are better sources out there. As an authority on the Law of Attraction it's worth a glance, (at someone else's copy), as long as you accept straight off that it's an interpretation, and a poorly written one at that.

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