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Small Great Things: 'To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century'
Small Great Things: 'To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century'
Price: £4.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not even slightly comparable with "To Kill a Mockingbird", 18 Aug. 2017
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I could have just about given this book 2 stars (at a push if I were feeling generous) but when a book’s publisher compares it to such an icon as Mockingbird it better live up to it. This doesn’t even come close.
The only likeness to Lee’s masterpiece is that its main theme is a court room drama around black injustice in the American Criminal justice system. Beyond that this volume lacks any of the subtle sub plots that turn Mockingbird into a virtual manual of prejudice in all walks of life. However even at the court room level this book lacks credibility with a plot so full of holes it leaks all believability away. For example it repeatedly states race cannot be made part of criminal defence and then makes a passing reference to the OJ Simpson case without drawing out the contradiction. In fact I found the whole scenario highly unlikely, could a white supremacist really manipulate the court into making the case? Are American courts that much of a circus? Maybe I’m naïve about the American legal system but the fact is I couldn’t believe much of what I read.
Furthermore the quality of the prose is very weak. In fairness Picoult makes her job tough by writing it in the first person of three different characters, that is a hard task and one I’m afraid has failed. I often got confused about whose voice I was reading, they all sounded the same. So when a scene is being described it sounds the same whether it is the white supremacist, the white guilty liberal lawyer or the black victim speaking.
However the biggest failing is the ending, if you plan to read the book stop here as the rest of this review is a rather big spoiler. It’s a happy ending. The black victim walks free and can sue her employer for a shed load of money, the white supremacist reforms and goes on speaking tour about the wrongs of hate. Seriously this is not where racism is in America today. A Mockingbird for today would look at something like police shootings of young blacks, it may have hope for the futuree but would not, could not, conclude the system will deliver justice – this book is feel good story for people who want to believe the world is better than it really is. Anything that aspires to be comparable to Mockingbird has to look at the reality of injustice and the heavy costs victims continue to pay today. Currently there are a load of good books on the black American experience today (The Sellout and Underground Railway shine out) but this isn’t one of them. Steer clear unless you want to live in a fantasied rose coloured bubble.


Naïve Super
Naïve Super
Price: £5.22

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book that stands out in an over crowded genre, 17 April 2017
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This review is from: Naïve Super (Kindle Edition)
As if the world needs yet another book about self discovery in an unfathomable world - if you are going to write about this stuff it better be good. And to say the least this is very good. It is a simple tale, very little plot, the narrator is often irritating and you just want to reach into the pages and tell him to sort himself out. And that is what I liked so much about the book, I wanted to be part of the story, I wanted to be there with him and help him make sense of his world. His relationships with his small number of acquaintances are touching, especially the friendship he develops with the young child next door. It is book that is hard to describe but easy to recommend, read it, go with the flow and be prepared to be very satisfied with the ending.


The Bad Girl
The Bad Girl
Price: £5.03

4.0 out of 5 stars A book that draws you in, 17 April 2017
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This review is from: The Bad Girl (Kindle Edition)
I found the two main characters difficult to get along with. The bad girl was so self centred and utterly unlikable; her obsessed 'good boy' admirer is so weak and hopelessly optimistic. In the first half of the book the plot goes round in predictable circles and I found the text heavy on narrative detail which although it felt authoritative didn't move the plot forward and I found an unnecessary weight. So why 4 stars?
Ultimately I think I was drawn in; I wanted to see how far she would lead this hapless admirer and how far down he would allow himself to be dragged. You also learn something of her past and despite everything begin to develop some (not much) sympathy for the bad girl. But more importantly after the scene is set in the first half of the novel it breaks from its predictable cycle and their meetings take on a different and unpredictable nature. However what I liked most was the ending it finished really as it should, it was neither a bitter tragedy nor a sugar coated happy ending. So many books of merit let themselves down in the closing chapters; this one doesn't it has a fitting ending to a very sorry saga.


A Boy Made of Blocks: The most uplifting novel of 2017
A Boy Made of Blocks: The most uplifting novel of 2017
Price: £0.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sentimental, predictable and sugary sweet, 28 Mar. 2017
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For £1.99 I thought I'd give it a go, another book about autism that would be full of sentimental anecdotes about how the world is different ...etc. It wasn't an enthusiastic purchase from the start. And it turns out to be a very mediocre book full the usual tales of parents struggling to come to terms with having an autistic child. As soon as the context was established the plot was utterly predictable and at times sugary sweet. It was okay, inoffensive and not patronising but it does drag on with its introspection and the pseudo self analysis of the narrator becomes tiring. The main cast is crudely cut out, father out of touch with his feelings while failing to come to terms with his past, strong mother who has tolerated her weak husband because she knows there is a better man inside, alternative lifestyle best friend, prodigal sister running away from her past, the ghost of a brother who died young (the father blames himself for the untimely death) etc. While having nothing particularly wrong with it has very little to enthuse about. There are better books that deal with the central theme, but also some much worse.


The Light of the Fireflies
The Light of the Fireflies
Price: £3.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A decent short story that grows into a dreadful novel., 27 Jan. 2017
I simply can't understand how this book has received so many good reviews. It starts of well enough; an emotionally and physically scared family are living in a basement. Initially there is no explanation of why they live this way, how they got their scares or what their intentions are. This part of the book is quite good, there is a lot of tension and mystery, the writer conveys their restricted lives well. The decision to only refer to the characters by their family role (father, brother etc.) and not use names adds to the sense of mystery and lack of hope in the family. At the end of this section there is a revelation, which although I saw it coming, was nevertheless still shocking and added to the enigma of the situation. If all the questions were left unanswered and the book ended there it would be a good short story. However unfortunately the writer gives us his explanation of how they came to be in the basement and frankly it is ridiculously. Fiction does not need to be realistic but it does need to plausible within its own context but this tale has so many holes in it it collapses into improbable farce. The number of implausible plot turns and character incongruences becomes overwhelming.

At the end of the novel the youngest child (the narrator) is an adult reflecting on his life. He had spent his first eleven years locked in a basement witnessing his cruel parents torturing his sister and yet carries no psychological damage; this ending is the ultimate implausibility which sums up the novels shortcomings perfectly.


The Sellout
The Sellout
Price: £5.55

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go with it, enjoy ride., 2 Jan. 2017
This review is from: The Sellout (Kindle Edition)
After reading the Kindle sample first few pages I procrastinated before buying the rest. I wasn't sure if I could tolerated the almost stream of consciousness style of writing for a whole book. I read some reviews, I am always interested in books that divide the readers and this certainly does that, many love it but lots of people hate it. In the end I bought it because I felt I wanted an opinion about it as well (I suspected I wouldn't like it) however I loved it. I am neither black, american nor did I grow up in a tough urban estate. However this book although uses the context of the 'black hood' is also I about the whole issue of the right on politically correct linguist politics which has dominated mainstream politics since the end of the 1980's. The book is full of fast moving comedy which, as all good comedy does, sail close to the wind of acceptability, sure much of the humour would have been lost on a middle class white brit but enough of hit the spot perfectly. This book is warning about politics full of linguistically perfect jingo but short on policy. Unfortunately it come too late with Trump elected, and in any case those that should read it probably wouldn't touch with a barge pole. Go with the flow, get into the rhythm and your enjoy this book, great ending too, the last line is spot on.


The Nearly Complete Works of Donald Harington Volume 1
The Nearly Complete Works of Donald Harington Volume 1
Price: £1.00

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars from a really mean reviewer., 18 Jun. 2015
Two things about me, I rarely give 5 stars and I am seldom moved enough to write a review. I would struggle to name a dozen books worth 5 stars, I'm mean and fussy. Two such books would be "To Kill a Mocking Bird" and "100 Years of Solitude", so if you like them Donald may be for you. Like Harper Lee, Donald sets his work in an imaginary town based on the world he grew up in, it is a place most of us with our metropolitan lives would at first glance find backwards and reactionary, but Donald writes about his Stay More with such compassion you end end loving its people even if you find their customs and views a bit red neck. The tradition of how the settlement got the name Stay More and how it residents use the expression 'stay more' throughout its history is just... well lovely. Like Márquez's in his "100m Years.." Donald creates a saga over many generations to describe the rise and fall of Stay More, this is most evident in the stunning third novel of this volume "The Architecture of the Ozarks" which could be a tribute to Márquez's master piece. But this is no collection of tributes of other authors it it is full to the brim with ideas that take you by surprise, I was constantly wowed by his seemingly unlimited ability to pull a new literary trick from the pages. In the weakest of the novels he looks at one part of Stay More's history through the eyes of a community of rather snobbish cockroaches (I know it sounds ludicrous but he does make it work) there is one starling part where he writes a cockroach sex scene which he manages to make sexy. And sex seems to be the issue here, there is a lot if it, especially in the first novel "Lightning Bug", and some of it is a little uncomfortable, casual, incest, rape and (by our standards) under-aged. Many reviewers have found it too much however it is very much part of the story and needs to be there. The rape scene in Lightning Bug is particularly challenging for the reader due to the relationship between the victim and perpetrator but that is exactly why it is such a good collection of novels, an easy read this is not but the challenge is highly satisfying. I took breaks between each novel but was dissatisfied with what I read in between and was eager to get back to Stay More, I look forward to volume 2 after a short break.


The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
Price: £0.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised, 1 July 2014
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This review is from: The Great Gatsby (Kindle Edition)
I often struggle with classics. I feel they get over hyped and get dated by the time I read them 100 years after they were written (92 in this case). But I was not one little bit disappointed with this. The prose was very accessible and I got you right into the moment, how I wish I was at those parties! Despite its lofty reputation this is an easy to read book, but it conveys great passion and weaves an intricate story with great pace in a pleasingly small number of pages. Readable in a weekend. Brilliant


Moro: The Cookbook
Moro: The Cookbook
by Samantha Clark
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.89

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay but there is better, 1 July 2014
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This review is from: Moro: The Cookbook (Paperback)
A bit disappointing, if you buy just one book on middle eastern cooking makesure it is the much better 'Jerusalem'.


1089 and All That: A Journey into Mathematics
1089 and All That: A Journey into Mathematics
by David Acheson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, Brilliant, Beautiful, 1 July 2014
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A great little book. Publishers really do need to understand less is very often more. The passion for maths drips through the pages, this is in my view essential reading for someone 'thinking' about maths A-Level, if after reading this they haven't caught the bug its probably best not to do it. Full of interesting maths anecdotes, party tricks and the best introduction to calculus I have ever read with a brilliant finale on Euler's Identity (if you don't know what that is read this book to discover the most beautiful relationship in the universe).


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