Newsletter No 12 (Nov 30th, 2010)


As snow is falling here in the UK it is a perfect time to ignore Christmas shopping, Strictly and X Factor and land on the sofa with an interesting book. We list some good ones we reviewed during November but you can find another 390 book reviews on the Curious Book Fans site.

To finish the year on the high note we are preparing a charitable book giveaway. We have a great pile of books to give away in return for your donations to Room to Read charity. I will just mention that we have 40 books and among them are latest titles from J. Frentzen, P. Pullman, N. Cave, L. Shoneyin… More will be revealed soon on our Forum and in the special newsletter.

Yours, Curious Book Fans

Late for Tea at the Deer Palace by Tamara Chalabi

Late for Tea at the Deer Palace by Tamara Chalabi charts the history of the authors Iraqi family through the twentieth and early twenty first centuries. She starts with her great-grandfather, then her grandparents and their children, her father and his siblings. As a prominent family and opponents of the regime which overthrew the royal family, the Chalabis, a Shi’a Muslim family, were forced into exile in the late 1950s, moving to London and then Lebanon.

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A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K Mack and Dinah Mack

The Guide is an interesting and slightly unusual text. The copy I read was the newly released, revised edition of a book that has previously been a bestseller (although never having read the original, I am unable to make comparisons). Drawing on the current fascination for all things supernatural – which the authors speculate is due to the need to find something unknown in our information-dense world – this is a reference text for those seeking an introduction to demonology and the lore of demons.

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Rupture by Simon Lelic

Why would a school teacher walk into a packed assembly hall and shoot two pupils and a colleague before turning the gun on himself? Detective Inspector Lucia May wants to find out but her bosses and the headmaster of the school seem happy enough to believe that this was just a moment of madness in the life of a loner.

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The Real Me is Thin by Arabella Weir

The Real Me Is Thin is a biography by actress, comedian and writer, Arabella Weir. Arabella was a regular face on the comedy series ‘The Fast Show’ with Paul Whitehouse, where her catchphrase “Does my bum look big in this?” featured regularly. As well as being a regular on the series ‘Grumpy Old Women’ she has appeared in plays and TV series such as ‘Skins’.

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Alex Marsh talks to Curious Book Fans

CBF: How does your wife put up with you and what does she think of you getting published? Did she get jealous about your crush on the Veg Box lady?

Alex Marsh: Yes. Ah. You would have to ask her that, probably. She is… ummm… she is obviously very close to the subject material and is a little touchy about it occasionally – she hasn’t the distance to fully appreciate that the joke is (hopefully) always on me. The Vegetable Delivery Lady and I never consummated our relationship. It was like Brief Encounter, but with celeriac.

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Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll by Alex Marsh

It’s perhaps harder to put your finger on what Alex Marsh is though – second-rate village bowls team stalwart, amateur chicken fancier, builder of bookcases with Scooby Doo-style hidden chambers, and a man who thinks that claiming he’s on a sabbatical sounds better than being a house husband. And he’s a lousy house husband as his LTLP keeps reminding him.

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Tonight, This Savage Rite – The Love Poems of Kamala Das and Pritish Nandy

Perhaps it was inevitable that two poets who wrote so strongly of love should have been brought together in a single book of poems. Pritish Nandy’s fantasy world of promises and Suzanne playing in the background set against Das’ obsessive stark realities of the hurt that love can engender.

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The Girl On the Landing by Paul Torday

The Girl On The Landing‘ is the first book I have read by author Paul Torday. Described as a tense thriller, I was intrigued by the storyline, which although starts off pretty mundane, slowly becomes darker and more disturbing with every chapter. What I initially thought was going to be an average read, as it wasn’t holding my interest as well as I had hoped, turned out to be a strangely gripping thriller which is so well written it compels you to keep turning the pages.

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Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi

The story is told from Pereira’s point of view but as a third person narrative. Each paragraph or detail as remembered by Pereira is punctuated with the words “Pereira Maintains” so that the account reads like one of the journalist’s newspaper stories. The effect is brilliant and really draws the reader in; it’s soon clear that Pereira’s account is moving towards one significant event and the teasing style really makes you stick with the story to find out exactly what that event is.

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Crown & Country: A History of England Through the Monarchy by David Starkey

I found that I thoroughly enjoyed Crown & Country: A History of England Through the Monarchy, despite my quibbles about David Starkey’s writing style and some opinions. I was able to rise above those issues, and enjoy what is, on the whole, a very good introduction to the royal history of England, and subsequently of Britain. I have found that I now have a list of time periods which I wish to read more about…

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Harry and the Dinosaurs say ‘Raahh!’ by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds

Taking a young child to the dentist for the first time could prove to be a frightening experience for them, having to encounter complete strangers and deal with the prospect of pain, but Ian Whybrow comes to the rescue with his story ‘Harry and the Dinosaurs say “Raahh!”

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The Dreams of Max and Ronnie by Niall Griffiths

The Mabinogion looms very large in the culture of Wales; as Niall Griffiths notes in his afterword to The Dreams of Max and Ronnie, it follows him wherever he goes to write “like luggage”. Given this presence, it is perhaps surprising that it took so long for a publisher to commission a contemporary reworking of these classic myths and stories, to breathe new life into them and bring them to a modern audience and readership.

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Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Toibin does a good job of capturing 1950s New York, seizing on not just the excitement of newly arrived immigrants but also the social change at the time. What I really liked was the way that New York is captured in the behaviours and experiences of the characters rather than in the visual aspects that are familiar to most of us anyway; I especially loved the warm portrayal of the Italian-American family that seemed to me so evocative of the spirit of the era.

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Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie is one of my favourite authors and I’ve read several of her other books but none made such a mark on me as Burnt Shadows. She’s unafraid to take on the most shocking events of the 20th and early 21st century. From the atomic bombs dropped on Japan through to the attacks on the World Trade Centre, via Partition and the Russian-Afghan war, she moves her characters from country to country to place them in the middle of some of the biggest events of recent history.

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Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Handle With Care is a wonderfully absorbing read and one that will provoke the reader to question themselves in many ways. It could be easy to sit in judgement one way or the other but one never really knows how they might behave in extreme situations. It is also a heart wrenching tale as one observes the fallout from what is taking place and the potential breakup of a once solid and loving family.

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