Archive > February 2010

Last Man Standing

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Survivor  by Chuck PalahniukTender Branson is on a plane and now he has already cleared the plane of all other passengers and he is the only man left, he is planning on letting it crash. Before dying, he wants to tell the world about his life. Tender is Creedish and brought up in the beliefs of a religious cult. As the second child (his twin brother was born a few minutes before him), he is destined for a life of servitude, and, as soon as he was old enough, he was sent out to make his living. Then the police began investigating the Creedish, and rather than share their world with the outside one, all the Creedish, with the exception of those working outside the Creedish camp, commit suicide. Tender’s entire family is wiped out, while Tender is one of the few survivors. As all Creedish people are programmed to commit suicide eventually in this situation, he knows his fate. Or will he be able to find a way to override this fate?


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I’m Really Ever So Not Well

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I'm Really Ever So Not Well (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren ChildPoor little Lola is tucked up in bed with a cold, but big brother Charlie brings her a tray of her favourite pink milk and some biscuits. Today, however, Lola says the milk tastes green and the biscuits are ‘too prickly to swallow’. Charlie tries to cheer her up with flowers, but they simply make Lola sneeze. She can’t join in a song with Charlie because her throat hurts, but she begs her brother to sing for her. Charlie is in a quandary because he has promised to play football with his friend Marv. He doesn’t want to break his promise, but Lola tugs at his heartstrings so he tries ‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.’ Lola, however, doesn’t clap because, as she says, ‘I’m really ever so not well.’

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Negotiating with the Dead

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 Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret AtwoodHaving read and been so impressed by several of Margaret Atwoods works of fiction, I imagined that a book written by her about the art or activity of writing would prove to be an interesting read. As explained in the introduction and prologue to the book, the chapters here are based on the Empson Lectures given by the writer at the University of Cambridge in the year 2000.

Chapter 1, entitled Who do you think you are? is mainly autobiographical, tracing Atwood’s early years from her birth in Ottawa in 1939 up until her undergraduate student days at Victoria College, the University of Toronto.


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The Star-Faced Crocodile

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The Star Faced Crocodile By  David MellingBefore meeting the star-faced crocodile of the title, we are introduced to a bear with a banjo sitting beside a lake, singing to the stars. The crocodile loves the song; he swishes his tail to the music and the bear sees his eyes just above the surface of the water, piercing the centre of the reflection of a star. The bear is astounded to see what he presumes is a star-faced crocodile, and every night when he sings, he tries persuade the crocodile to dance. The crocodile, however, knows that if he comes out of the lake he will no longer be star faced and will not impress the bear.

Being a rather imaginative creature, the crocodile makes a hat out of star-shaped flowers, but the petals drop out one by one as he dances. The crocodile slithers back into the water, ashamed.

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That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown

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That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, By Cressida Cowell, By Neal Layton

Emily Brown loves Stanley, her grey rabbit, to bits, even though he is old. Together they have adventures around the house and garden, imagining that they are diving off the Barrier Reef, going up into space, crossing the Sahara on a motorbike or climbing through the Amazonian rainforest.

At the start of ‘That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown‘ life seems wonderful until the Queen notices Stanley and decides she wants him for herself.

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The First Cut is the Deepest

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 Love for Lydia  by H.E. Bates In the 1920s, Lydia Aspen moves to Evensford after the death of her father to live with two elderly aunts. She leads a solitary existence until a local lad, Richardson, introduces her into Evensford society. She loves her new life, especially when Richardson  falls in love with her. However, the path to true love doesn’t run smoothly – Lydia flirts with two of Richardson’s closest friends, Alex and Tom right in front of him, and others outside the group of friends. Then it appears that Alex is going to ask Lydia to marry him. Richardson is devastated by this news and the way he responds is completely out of character. Life for the friends will never be the same again.


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French Verb Drills

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French Verb DrillsIf you are looking for a workbook for verbs, French Verb Drills by R. de Roussy de Sales would be an excellent choice. The book is divided into two main sections, Part 1 being on regular verbs and part 2 on irregular verbs. Part 1 has twenty-seven subsections dealing with the various tenses and moods; several of them are devoted to regular -er verbs that have idiosyncratic changes in spelling such as ‘Verbs ending in -yer that change -y- into -i-‘. It does make for clarity when such subtleties are singled out and given a page or half a page to themselves. Etre and avoir are in actual fact included in Part 1 although they are irregular verbs; this is presumably because they need to be learned in order to form compound tenses (such as the passe compose or perfect tense) of regular verbs.

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The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie  By  Tennessee WilliamsSet in America in the 1930s, the narrator tells us that ‘The Glass Menagerie‘ is a memory play and as such it is not realistic, as our memories select only what they want to remember. He tells us who the main characters in the play are, including Jim, the gentleman caller, who is intended to be a symbolic character, ‘he is the long delayed but always expected something that we live for’. The narrator also points out the larger-than-life-size photograph of the father on the wall: considered as the play’s fifth character, he actually appears only as a photograph.


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The Tolling of the Bells

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 The Nine Tailors: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery by Dorothy L Sayers When the grave of the local lady of the manor is dug up so that her husband can be buried beside her, the villagers of Fenchurch St Paul are horrified to find that there is another body in the grave – one that absolutely shouldn’t be there. The vicar, who is acquainted with the famous private detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, calls him in to help solve the mystery. Lord Peter quickly finds out that not all is as it seems. There is much confusion over the identity of the body, which eventually leads Lord Peter on a trip to France. The theft of an emerald necklace several years before also appears to be tangled up in the crime. In this case, Lord Peter’s detective skills are pushed to their limits. Who was the dead man? And why was he buried in someone else’s grave?

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Love is All Sustaining

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 Under Fishbone Clouds by Sam MeekingsThe Jade Emperor wants the Kitchen God to study humans and what keeps them alive even when war and political unrest cause great unhappiness. He picks a newly married couple, Bian Yuying and her husband, Hou Jinyi. Their marriage takes place in the 1940s, just before China became a Communist country, and really only happened because Hou Jinyi was poor and Yuying’s family thought it would help with their political status once Communism comes in. The couple are forced to move to the countryside to earn a living, and lose two babies along the way. Eventually finding their way back to the city, they start up new lives and have more children, but then the Cultural Revolution rears its ugly head, tearing their lives apart once more. How do they find the strength to continue living when being beaten and criticised for their bourgeois past and forced to work in different parts of the country?

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Sympathy for a Burglar

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Maigret and the Idle Burglar By (author) Georges SimenonAlthough he is technically working outside his usual area of command, Maigret is interested in the murder of a man he thinks he once knew. A little checking proves him right – the man is a known burglar. No-one else seems concerned about the man’s death, but Maigret is intrigued – the man worked alone and quietly and Maigret can’t understand why anyone would want him dead. Then another case comes along – the theft of a large sum of money and the death of one of the gang involved – and Maigret’s superiors want him to concentrate on that. But he can’t leave well alone. The burglar left a mother who is now without financial support – surely he wouldn’t have died without making provisions for her? Can he solve both cases without getting into trouble?


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French for Cats

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French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need (Hardback) By (author) Barbe Henri De La, By (author) BoswelIf you are thinking of house-sitting in France this summer and are worried that you won’t be able to communicate with your hosts’ cat, then this is just the book for you. When the cat says meow, is it trying to say, “Here comes a fur ball,” or “I did not break that vase”? All will be revealed in Henry Beard’s mini bilingual book of catspeak. With English phrases given first followed by French translations in italics and accompanied by illuminating illustrations, each page gives us a rare insight into the inner workings of a feline brain.

We are first introduced to The Major Cat Parts (of the body), and these are followed by The Basic Cat Wardrobe consisting of a bell, flea and tick collar, and name tag.

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