Archive > January 2010

Shiver

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Shiver by Maggie StiefvaterWhat a beautiful looking cover, it’s black, with leafy vines crawling around the sides, some dotted with red and the title in sketchy “shivery” writing in the middle. Although I (somewhat neurotically!) have my books stacked in the order in which I received or bought them and then that dictates what order I read them, my eye kept wandering to this book and eventually I decided that this one was far too tempting to let sit there gathering dust!

Shiver” tells the story of a sixteen year old girl called Grace who falls in love with a wolf. I’ve read a review that calls this book “Twilight , the Jacob version” and I have to agree that this is an extremely accurate way of summing up this book. Like Twilight, it falls into the teen romance category but this is not something I realised when I got this book as the cover seems much more sophisticated and almost has a horror/thriller feel to it.

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Zoia’s Gold

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Zoia's Gold (Paperback) By (author) Philip SingtonThey say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I’m afraid it was the cover of Zoia’s Gold that attracted me to it. The woman’s face reminded me a little of an Italian Renaissance Madonna with the soft shadows reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s genius. Reading the blurb on the back cover convinced me that as an art lover I was likely to enjoy this book.

An interesting blend of fact and fiction, the story intertwines two threads, the factual one focusing on the Russian artist Zoia Korvin-Krukovsky and the fictional one on Marcus Elliott who is in Sweden to catalogue the artist’s work following her death. The thread concerning Marcus moves chronologically and is set totally in Sweden. The one that revolves around Zoia, however, switches from one period of her life to another, backwards and forwards, and covers relationships or affairs with a number of men.


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The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret AtwoodFirst of all let me start with how I came across this book and the rest of Margaret Atwood’s novels. It was during the final year of my degree and my tutor suggested that I read “The Handmaid’s Tale”. After reading that, I went on to read many others of hers as such as the Blind Assassin, Alias Grace, The Edible Woman and The Penelopiad. I enjoyed her books so much that I decided to write my whole dissertation on two of her books, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Robber Bride.

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer who has written a huge amount of work ranging from novels, to short fiction to poetry to children’s books. She is known for her feminist views which do crop up time and again in her novels, none more so than “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize 5 times and has won it once with one of my favourites, “The Blind Assassin” . Thankfully, to all Atwood fans, she is still writing today.


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Beware The Charming Man

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This Charming Man By Marian KeyesIf I told you that I’ve just read a 676-page novel about Irish politics, corruption, domestic violence and alcoholism my guess is you wouldn’t immediately think “That sounds like just the perfect thing to read on the sun-bed on my summer holidays”. And I might agree – but only because mine is the hard-back and probably weighs more than two pairs of shoes. However, it could be the ideal book to hook you in and make you incapable of doing anything other than rushing home, microwaving the cat, stroking the ready meal and neglecting your ironing until you’ve finished it. Marian Keyes’ novel ‘This Charming Man‘ is chick-lit for the thinking woman – superficially fluffy but with plenty of depth and exploration of the motivations and causes of social breakdown.

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Another Woman

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Another Woman By Penny VincenziAnother Woman is the first book I have read by Penny Vincenzi and I was not disappointed at all. In fact I found it an incredibly enjoyable but intriguing read! This is one of her earlier books though, written in 1995, and it always seems strange these days to read a fairly contemporary novel where there are no mobile phones! It goes to show how even novels become dated!

Anyway, back to ‘Another Woman’. I was firstly drawn to the title, wondering who indeed was this ‘another woman’. It turns out that she is Cressida, who disappears mysteriously the night before her lavish wedding is due to take place. Interestingly, we never meet Cressida in the story, although she is about somewhere at the beginning.


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A Nasty Book About Nasty People Doing Nasty Things

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Phnom PenhOne of life’s eternal questions must be ‘Why do most people behave pretty much the way they should, most of the time?’ Excluding the odd bit of swearing at speed cameras and folk who ‘forget’ a few little things on their tax returns, society gets along because the majority behave in line with the law and the norms of social interaction. You can put it down to it ethics, a desire to conform with the ‘greater good’ or even at its most base, a fear of getting caught. Even though our prisons are apparently bursting at the seams, one way or another, most people behave themselves most of the time.

So what would happen if you took away the laws; if prostitution, drugs and guns were readily available and nobody was likely to give you a hard time for using them? Nobody would raise an eyebrow if you popped off to a brothel in your lunch break the way that many of us might pop into a Starbucks and it would cost about the same amount; nobody would notice, or apparently mind, if you showed up to work stoned and couldn’t make it through the afternoon without heroin; and if you got mad at someone you could get them bumped off for a few hundred dollars. All this and more is standard fare in Amit Gilboa’s horrible little book about Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, in the late 1990s.

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Sleepy Me

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Sleepy ME By Marni McGee, Illustrated by Sam WilliamsSleepy Me is a very simple but effective picture story book written by Marni McGee and illustrated by Sam Williams. I loved to read this book with my little girls at bedtime when they were younger as it was a very good way of calming them down and getting them ready to go to sleep!

There are very few words in the book but these accompany some very expressive pictures which help to move the story along.

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Arctic Chill

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Arctic Chill By Arnaldur IndridasonIn Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indridason’s “Arctic Chill” the story once again centres on senior detective Erlendur Sveinson and his team. Having now read several of the series, the characters were familiar to me and by now I would say that it would be better to read one of the earlier books rather than start with this one.

This time Erlendur has to investigate the death of a young boy, a child whose mother is a Thai immigrant, now separated from the boy’s father, an Icelander. The boy is found in the snow near his home having died from a stab wound.

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Love me, Love my Entire Extended Family

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Home by Manju KapurIn a past job I used to visit India several times a year for work and I got to know some of my local colleagues quite well. We understood each other on most things but there was a colossal culture gap in one area of our lives; our views and experience of marriage and family were totally alien to each other. We could talk for days but for me to get my head around the idea of arranged marriage and living in an extended family was every bit as difficult as them trying to understand how I could have married someone my parents didn’t know or approve of and then live a life pretty much separated from both our families. As for my husband and I not wanting children, that was just too much for anyone to get their heads round. I couldn’t understand the very Indian concept that you marry a stranger and ‘love will come’ and I struggled to see past my Western ideas of romance and passion.

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I am Too Absolutely Small for School

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I am Too Absolutely Small for School By Lauren ChildI am Too Absolutely Small for School‘ is a brilliant book which is written by Lauren Child and features the characters Charlie and Lola who can be seen on Cbeebies most days.

This is an animated TV series which centres on a boy called Charlie, who I would guess is about seven, and his younger sister Lola who is probably about four. Lola always has very strong opinions about lots of things, and Charlie always tries to put her straight! The TV series is really quite endearing and the same can be said of this book too.

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Each Peach Pear Plum

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Each Peach Pear Plum By Janet Ahlberg, By Allan AhlbergEach Peach Pear Plum is a really fun book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg that works well on a number of levels! Essentially it draws on children’s knowledge of lots of different nursery rhymes and fairy tales, bringing the characters together to tell the story of these people meeting with each other basically to have a picnic. Children don’t necessarily need to know the original rhymes and tales, but I think it adds to the enjoyment if they do!

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Ferret Smuggling and Partying with Warhol

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Area Code 212 By Tama JanowitzTama Janowitz is a favourite of mine and I love her fiction, the titles in particular – “The Male Cross-dresser Support Group” and “A Cannibal in Manhattan” are just two of her greats. So even though I don’t really like books of essays, the strength of the Janowitz ‘brand’ was enough to draw me to this book. It was an opportunity to get to know a bit more about the woman behind the name.

‘Area Code 212?’ I hear you ask ‘what’s that about?’ I really couldn’t tell you how I know that, I just do, that 212 is the New York telephone area code and appropriately enough, this book is both a collection of essays on living in New York. It’s a bizarre and sometimes irreverent homage to one of the world’s most famous cities.

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