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Mrs. S. Biddulph (London, UK)
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Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger
Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger
by Nigel Slater
Edition: Paperback

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A snack rather than a gourmet meal, 10 Feb. 2011
I had high hopes for this book as I love Nigel Slater's recipes and his TV shows, but it was really disappointing. The problem is it's gimmicky. What starts as a clever idea with little sub headings naming childhood or comfort food, quickly becomes too restrictive. I understand how flapjack just like your "mum used to make" can take you back on a Proustian memory trip, but this book seems to be written the wrong way round. The food seems to dictate the narrative, rather than the story and it makes it very stilted. I found the whole thing pretty shallow, only touching on Slater's feelings and his relationships with his family. The emphasis was more on framing his experiences through food and that didn't work for me. Things like your mum dying, a domineering father and a teenager's sexual awakening cannot be signposted or represented by bread and butter pudding and sherbert dib-dabs. For me the book fell short.


Great Expectations n/e (Oxford World's Classics)
Great Expectations n/e (Oxford World's Classics)
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.49

3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Huge Disappointment, 8 Feb. 2011
Mmmmm I spot a pattern here - another classic novel, another disappointment. This is the third book I've given up on, the others were Anna Karenina and 1984. I just can't see or share the wonder of the "Classics". No-one can deny Dickens writes beautifully, taken in isolation each page of prose is lyrical and crafted. But taken as a whole book, it's wordy, turgid, florid and boring. Pip is a pain in the proverbial and I couldn't warm to him, instead I wanted to slap him and shake him free of his naivety. The whole thing with the is he/isn't he convict he befriends at the beginning in the cliche that is the misty marshes and then the total abandonment of that storyline. Annoying, spoilt Estelle and pitiful, spiteful Miss Havisham. None of the novel gelled, I didn't love anyone and after 300 pages I gave up. Boring in the extreme, slow moving and treacle like prose. I had great expectations but gave up when the novel wore me down.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2011 2:11 PM BST


Always the Children: A Nurse's Story of Home and War
Always the Children: A Nurse's Story of Home and War
by Anne Watts
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Always interesting, but not memorable, 16 Dec. 2010
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I enjoyed this book and found it very easy to read and well written. The nursing experience jumps from the page and Watts's compassion and determination is clear throughout. Her style is surprisingly journalistic and this memoir is better than many others I've read. The places she's nursed in reads like a modern history of conflict though the prism of human suffering. This is the real and often hidden side of war - the story of those who try to pick up the pieces and deliver hope to the most vulnerable. For that reason the book is extremely interesting. However once I'd finished the final page, I could barely remember it. I'm not sure why as some of the episodes are haunting and I could feel her frustration at the futility of war and the politics behind it. Maybe it's because Anne doesn't give much of herself away, you're never really given the opportunity to connect with her, even now I'm not sure I know her. Big chunks of her life are missed out and you never know if she fell in love again, whether she pined for something more or for someone to share it with, whether she was happy with her transient lifestyle. It's one of those books I'm glad I've read, but that will sit on the shelf easily forgotten.


Don't Forget to Write: The true story of an evacuee and her family
Don't Forget to Write: The true story of an evacuee and her family
by Pam Hobbs
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A warm and frank wartime memoir, 21 Nov. 2010
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I loved this book, well written, pragmatic yet personal - a first-hand insight into the life of an evacuee and the war effort. The story is one that's shared by thousands of wartime children, wrenched from homes, scared and unsure, given to strangers to look after. Unthinkable in this day and age, yet a major part of our grandparents and elderly relatives childhoods still alive today. Pam Hobbs is a gifted writer, she has an eye for detail and conveys atmosphere vividly and succinctly. There is no gushing emotion in this book, it's real rather than nostalgic - straightforward and stiff upper lip, the very embodiment of how we just got on with the war. I learnt a lot - the contrast between plenty in the countryside and poverty in working class London. The fear which punctuated the pending invasion, the Blitz and the deadly doodlebugs, the rationing and the necessity of digging for victory and make-do-and-mend. But above all I loved Pam and her honest, hard working family.


Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original, soulful and raw, 21 Nov. 2010
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I loved this book. I didn't think I would as I feared it would be "Sex and the City"-esque, but it wasn't and it most definitely lived up to the hype. Liz Gilbert became a wise, calm, best friend with each new page, her book completely connecting with me. It stirs strong emotions and addresses so many of my fears, musings and anxieties. Those 3am sobbing on the bathroom floor moments resonated so loud, it was deafening. Her story is a search for the eternal, the divine, the essential, turning its back on what we seem to value - high-flying careers, material wealth and fitting into a set life plan. This book faces up to the "something more", the longing inside that never really goes away, the need to nurture our souls. It makes it Ok to feel like this even when you're seen to have everything. It's a study of the alpha female's condition in a hungry and unsatisfied world, that we just seem to perpetuate rather than change. Liz Gilbert says stop, gets off the conveyor belt and finds a higher meaning to life. In many ways I'm very envious of her - her courage, her faith and her ability to be at peace with her thoughts. My mind is never silent, always doubting or questioning, I wish I could turn the craziness off, Liz Gilbert can and her eventual happiness gives me hope. This book is real - only after a long, hard and often painful journey, does Liz find bliss. The rest of us just keep searching.


Look Back in Hunger
Look Back in Hunger
by Jo Brand
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars An easy, entertaining read, 21 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Look Back in Hunger (Hardcover)
This is a fun, light-hearted and honest book. I raced through it and found it very easy to read and enjoyed it. Jo Brand is a decent author and this book reads very much like a diary. At times it's a bit too much "and then this happened" as if it were a list, but overall she skips through her childhood and adolescence telling it how it is honestly and with a wry smile on her face. It doesn't live up to the "hilarious" label, but at times it does make you laugh. It's just a shame it stops when she arrives on our TV screens. I'd have liked to know more about her career once successful.... who did she marry? How does she feel about being a mother? I find her intriguing and disarming and grew to like her much more by reading the book.


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium Trilogy Book 3)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium Trilogy Book 3)
by Stieg Larsson
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks a sting in the tail, 21 Nov. 2010
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This is by far the best of the three Millenium books but it suffers from the same problems as the other two. It picks up straight after the end of book 2 but takes ages to gain momentum, you have to wade through 200 pages before anything really starts happening. This makes for a lumbering, disjointed read to begin with, but then it picks up. The denouement is gripping and pacey and everything is finished off neatly. The court scenes are particularly well done in tandem with the Section's downfall with "villains" falling like dominos. Salander is as intractable as ever, determined and intriguing. Her moral compass unwavering. But there are big flaws in this book. Again like a schoolboy fantasy. Blomkvist beds every available female. The side line story of Berger's "stalker" is completely irrelevant and adds nothing to the plot and the showdown between Niedermann and Salander is cliched in the extreme, like something out of a Hollywood gangster movie. The trilogy is at times a real page turner, very gripping and you genuinely care what happens to the characters, but for me it seems to have been written in a rush, could be edited down dramatically and is sometimes way too reliant on tried and tested crime thriller tactics rather than being original. Good yes, outstanding no, worth the hype, not really.


The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium Trilogy Book 2)
The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium Trilogy Book 2)
by Stieg Larsson
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Simmering rather than sizzling, 26 Oct. 2010
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Like Larsson's first book, this one is a real page-turner, but overall it's disappointing and not worthy of the hype. Again like the first book it takes a long time to get going and the first 100 pages or so have nothing to do with the real meat of the story. They could easily have be edited out. Once up to speed the plot races along but at times it's too fast. When the murderer is revealed, it's dealt with in a few pages and badly written, so much so that I had to refer back to it and re-read it to work out who it was. I also think Larsson's characters, with the exception of Salander, lack any depth and are pretty stereotyped. Zalachenko is a baddie straight out of hammer horror and his hulking sidekick is a poor copy of Jaws from Moonraker. It's all a bit unoriginal. I'm also extremely irritated by Blomkvist sleeping with every woman he meets. He is neither irresistible nor amazingly charismatic so it makes no sense. He's just written like some schoolboy fantasy. I will however read the third book out of curiosity more so than desire as I want to know what happens to Salander.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy Book 1)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy Book 1)
by Stieg Larsson
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A page-turner not a masterpiece, 4 Oct. 2010
I enjoyed this book and at times I couldn't put it down, but I finished it feeling slightly disappointed. It lacks consistency and the flow is quixotic - at times lumbering and at others warp speed. It clunks along for first 100 pages until Blomkvist and Salander join together to solve the Vanger mystery. That part of the story is intriguing, but the end game disappointing. When the serial killer has been revealed I was still left thinking there has to be more to it than this, where's the twist? But there wasn't one. It seems a bit too tidy and obvious, even though it was horrifically violent and sadistic. The Wennerstrom affair sits rather uncomfortably either side of the main narrative as if it were bolted on as an after thought. Because we never really know who he is or what he did, I was left thinking why does this even need to be in the book? I will read the next installment but only because I like Salander, she's different, flawed and intriguing. Blomkvist I could take or leave, he does have some redeeming features but bedding amost every female he meets is too much of a cliche. It's all a bit too obvious.


From Here To... Obscurity
From Here To... Obscurity
by Jon Roseman
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing the underbelly of showbiz, 19 Sept. 2010
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I loved this book. It is pacey, funny, wry and honest. Jon Roseman is a flawed character, but he knows it, he doesn't take himself too seriously and is well aware of the ephemeral nature of stardom. His memoir is a who's who of the British celebrity scene, at times scandalous but at others touching. It not only takes in the "faces" but also the executives behind the scenes calling the shots. It's written in easy to digest chapters, each one leaving you wanting more. It lifts the lid on the whimsy of celebrity and the capriciousness of telly. My only criticism is that Roseman could have done with a decent proof reader as every now and again a word is missing from the text or the wrong word is used. I wouldn't be surprised if the book was self-published. However it's still a roller-coaster of a read - a ride I didn't want to finish.


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