Newsletter No 14 (Jan 4th, 2011)


Curious Book Fans wish you a Happy New Year!

Thanks to the great support of friendly publishers we have ended the 2010 with the big donation to the charity Room to Read. With the help of the proceeds of our charitable auction of 22 new titles from six publishing houses the total we raised for Room to Read topped $300 ensuring we were able to pay for the one year of education for one girl in one of the developing countries in Asia and Africa. Thanks to all charitable donators and publishers which supported the auction.

In our December newsletter, as usual, we highlight some interesting books we had reviewed on the site during the last month of 2010.

Yours, Curious Book Fans

December 2010 Charitable Auction

Our charitable auction raised over $300 thanks to book donations from DK Travel, HarperCollins, Profile Books, Canongate Books, Hachette and Headline. We thank you all for a generous support.

Every cent raised on the auction is going towards girls’ education program of charity Room to Read. The program identifies girls at risk of dropping out of school and ensures that they have the opportunity to complete secondary school. Currently, the majority of program participants are ages 7 to 12.

We plan more similar actions for 2011 as we strongly believe that world change starts with educated children.

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A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

Apart from his recent appearance as the reincarnation of Ian Fleming, I devour the novels of Sebastian Faulks with relish, and saved the reading of his most recent to appear in paperback, “A Week in December”, to coincide with a trip to the capital. It’s a rather ambitious project with an extensive cast of largely unlikeable and unsympathetic characters; the story follows them over a week and gradually the connections between them become stronger.

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The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters is the first novel by Tatjana Soli, yet the prose reads as though she is far more accomplished than that. Soli’s descriptions of Vietnam – the sights, the smells, the poverty and the violence – are so vivid that they leap off the page and it is hard to believe that she didn’t have first-hand experience of the war. Helen’s love for the country, despite all the horror, is palpable and expertly detailed.

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Slum Child by Bina Shah

Bina Shah is one of those Pakistani writers in English who has made a name for herself outside Pakistan. She has written five books, of which Slum Child was first published in Italian as La Bambina Che Non Poteva Sognare, or The Girl who Could not Dream, in 2009. The English name of course, immediately evokes memories of Slumdog Millionaire, even though the two stories have very little in common.

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Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

This is quite an unusal book, hard to categorise, given that it covers everything from schoolboy fantasies to complex scientific theories. However, somehow this eclectic mix works and what emerges is a masterly tale of life, love, past versus present – a veritable saga.

As the title states, Daniel “Skippy” Juster does indeed die and the prologue details his untimely demise.

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Divinity Road by Martin Pevsner

Divinity Road tracks the four characters – Greg and Nuala, Aman and Semira – weaving their stories together across 276 pages of finely crafted story telling. I was totally hooked throughout and read it in under a day, desperate to see where the story would lead me and how the characters’ tales would be pulled together and entwined – or perhaps never find each other.

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No and Me by Delphine de Vigan

Thirteen year old Lou Bertignac is a bright and inquisitive Parisian schoolgirl; in fact she’s so bright that she’s in a class two years ahead of her age group. Lou spends her free time conducting all manner of experiments and investigations, logging the results with almost obsessive diligence, in order to keep herself occupied at home; her dad works all hours and often has to work away from home, while her mother is little more than a ghostly presence in the family apartment since the death of Lou’s younger sister.

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The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo and Gwen Millward

In ‘The Beasties‘, Jenny Nimmo has created a delightful book of stories within a story. Each of the inner stories that Ferdinand, Weevil, Floot and Jenny tell are unique little gems. There is a sense of adventure as faraway places are visited and young imaginations will be stirred by the desert island, the friendly wolves, the beautiful bird or perhaps the mermaid.

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The Squeeze: Oil, Money and Greed in the 21st Century by Tom Bower

The Squeeze: Oil, Money and Greed in the 21st Century by Tom Bower is detailed account of the activities of the oil industry, with particular focus on the oil majors, during the later part of the 20th century, and into the 21st century. With unprecedented access to sources within Big Oil and around the industry, Bower has constructed a detailed and action packed account of a necessary but disliked industry.

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Armistice by Nick Stafford

This accomplished and entertaining novel crams a tremendous amount into its 336 pages. The war, and how it affected those who fought in it, almost becomes a character in its own right; it seeps into all parts of the story and Stafford has done well to capture its impact and how it has changed society. Many people, Philomena included, suddenly got the chance to build a different kind of life than the one they might have expected had the war not happened.

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Winston the Book Wolf by Marni McGee and Ian Beck

Winston the Book Wolf is a fabulous book for any small book loving children out there. It is written by Marni McGee and illustrated by Ian Beck and tells the tale of a much misunderstood wolf who truly loves books. The only problem is that rather than reading them he tends to want to eat them – that is until one little girl shows him the error of his way!

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The Associate by John Grisham

The Associate’ features a young law graduate called Kyle McAvoy. We meet him when he is just about to finish law school and is considering his future. He thinks he might start his career by doing some legal aid work but unfortunately for him, he comes across some nasty men who have other ideas! These men also have possession of a video that could incriminate Kyle…

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

White’s Books have now published a selection of classic books in a pocket hardback edition – the size and price of a small paperback, but with a lovely hardback binding. Pride and Prejudice in this edition was perfect for reading on the train and carrying about in my handbag, and it looks good on my bookcase. It also included an introduction by Kate Atkinson, which came across rather like an essay for English Literature class, and some reading notes.

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The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality is a summary of the behavioural patterns that he has been studying over the years. The book is a follow up to his Predictably Irrational, which was a runaway success when it came out, and The Upside of Irrationality shows every sign of following in its footsteps. What it is is a study of the irrational way in which people behave in a manner that goes against their best interests.

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