Archive > September 2010

The Great Pet Sale

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Great Pet Sale by Mick Inkpen, book reviewAny children’s book by Mick Inkpen, of Kipper fame, is likely to be a delight, and The Great Pet Sale is no exception. The cover shows a koala bear and an anteater looking very forlorn, but don’t miss the cheeky little rat standing on one leg in the bottom right-hand corner.

We learn at the start of the story that everything in the pet shop is a bargain, even a little rat with half his whiskers missing, whose price tag is a mere 1p. A little boy with large spectacles is visiting the shop to see what he might buy as a pet, but the rat tries to waylay him and insist on being the best bet. Turning the page, we find the prices gradually increasing: a tiny terrapin for 2p, a turtle for 3p and a great big tortoise at 4p. In each case, attention is drawn to the numbers which are in a larger font.

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The Historian

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The Historian By Elizabeth Kostova, book reviewThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a vampire novel, but not in the same way as all the other vampire novels we see these days. The Historian is about several people who have researched and followed the myth of Vlad Dracul, otherwise known as Dracula, throughout the twentieth century.

The overriding narrator is the teenage girl, who remains nameless. She is a very clever girl, well versed in history and languages. She lives with her American father, Paul, in Amsterdam; her mother is no longer with them. Much of the story is told by her father as he tells it to her, and there are also portions from an old university colleague of his, Professor Rossi

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More Politics Than Sport

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Sellotape LegacyIn the middle of all the mess behind the Commonwealth Games, it’s nice to have a book that attempts to put the whole thing into perspective and provides facts and figures that are not commonly available. Majumdar and Mehta say that the idea for the book came to them during an auto rickshaw ride in which the driver grumbled that there was a great gap between the Delhi of the Games and the Delhi of the people. The result was a book that gives the Delhi Games a context against the wider picture of the Commonwealth Games and other international Games like the Beijing Olympics.

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Rattletrap Car

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Rattletrap Car By Phyllis Root, Illustrated by Jill Barton, book reviewDuring the National Year of Reading, I thought I should look for some different books to read aloud at the nursery where I work. I found just the book to inspire me at my local library: Rattletrap Car, by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jill Barton.

Why has it taken me so long to discover this wonderful book? What if I never had? My experience of the English language would have been so much the poorer. How have I been working with young children for so long and not known of the existence of razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz? Thankfully now I do, and I also understand to what uses chocolate marshmallow fudge delight can be put.

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From Hell

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From Hell By Alan Moore, Illustrated by Eddie CampbellFrom Hell is a graphic novel by Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell and was first published over a number of dates stretching back to 1989. This collected edition is 572 pages long and although Moore has been responsible for the likes of Watchmen, V For Vendetta and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this is probably his masterpiece. From Hell is Moore’s own speculation on the case of Jack the Ripper, a blending of fiction, fact and fantasy that begins with a Royal Conspiracy and weaves a complex and gripping story that involves Freemasons, time travel, prostitution, the history of London, detective work, a psychic, corruption, poverty, mystical visions, famous figures of the era and the birth of the 20th century. The book begins with the premise that Prince Albert Victor fathered an illegitimate child with a mere shop girl and married her – all while gaining a ‘social education’ under the care of artist Walter Sickert.

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No One Belongs Here More Than You

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No One Belongs Here More Than You By Miranda JulyNo One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of short stories by Miranda July, published by Canongate in 2008. I’ve been listening to the audiobook, read by the author herself.

July’s stories are about everyday people, their lives, their secrets, their thoughts and desires. Her narrators are primarily female, although not exclusively, and are a varied range of ages. There are no particularly extraordinary events in the stories,


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The Heart of Darkness

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Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II By Madhusree Mukerjee, book reviewTake an obstinate man determined to prove British racial superiority, put him together with a ‘brown’ state full of rebellious people, throw in a World War and you have a recipe for disaster. Churchill’s Secret War is journalist Madhusree Mukerjee’s expose of the real reasons behind the Bengal famine of 1943 – Winston Churchill’s determination to ensure that the British were well fed and looked after at the expense of the colonies. And his refusal to admit that India should be given its independence.

When he died Churchill was given a hero’s funeral because he had kept British morale high in the face of Hitler’s Blitz. However, where India was concerned his policies had ensured that what had once been India’s richest state was drained and impoverished.

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Doing the Animal Bop

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Doing the Animal Bop By J. Ormerod, By Lindsey Gardiner, book reviewPicture books often have a simple story line with a strong rhythm and plenty rhyming words: Doing the Animal Bop by J. Ormerod and Lindsey Gardiner begins ‘If you like to dance and you sometimes sing, Why don’t you do the animal thing?’ It is hard for children to resist the urge when this is read aloud to get up and try to move in the same way as each animal that appears in these pages, jiggling and jiving, waddling like a duck or stomping like a rhino.

This is not really a story at all, more of a poem that introduces a series of animals, one on each double page, concentrating on the way they move and the sounds they make.

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In Pursuit of a Good Read

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In Pursuit of Glory: The Autobiography By Bradley Wiggins, book reviewThis was really an unusual book for me to pick up, and to be honest if you had told me a couple of months back that I would have read it, I would probably have laughed. I did go through a phase a few years ago where I was very much into reading biographies, but I haven’t picked one up in quite a while – and this is certainly the first biography of a sporting personality that I have tried (my choices previously inclined towards historical figures and writers). So what inspired me to pick up Bradley Wiggins’ autobiography? Well, undeniably there was the wave of post-Beijing euphoria that was sweeping the country that piqued my interest, and I had found track cycling in particular to be a surprisingly exciting sport to watch in the BBC’s Olympic coverage.


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I, Alex Cross

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I, Alex Cross By James PattersonI, Alex Cross, is another crime thriller from James Patterson, featuring Detective Alex Cross whom we were first introduced to in ‘Along Came A Spider’ back in the early 90’s.

In this novel which was first published last year, a member of Alex’s family is murdered and the case catapults Alex into a very dangerous world. A world of power and evil which throws up a shocking revelation.

As Alex is called away from his birthday celebrations with his family and given the tragic news that his niece has been found brutally murdered, he vows to hunt down the killer.


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Urmilla Deshpande talks to Curious Book Fans

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After reviewing Urmilla Deshpande’s second novel Kashmir Blues we were curious to hear more from the author. Although busy writing her third novel and a book of short fiction at her Tallahassee, Florida home she found time to answer few questions for Curious Book Fans.

Urmilla DeshpandeCBF: How did you suddenly decide on Kashmir as the main setting for this novel? Was it because of the current political crisis?

Urmilla Deshpande: I didn’t suddenly decide on “Kashmir” as the setting. This book was written in 2003-2004, not recently. I was interested in individuals who decide to stand against a power much greater than themselves, such as a government. I didn’t know much about it. The other thing I would like to say is that no matter how closely fiction is based on, or resembles reality or the real world, it is fiction. The Kashmir in my book is no more real, I think, than is the Alexandria in Durrell’s quartet or the London that Sherlock Holmes lives in.

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An Idiot Abroad

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An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington By Karl Pilkington, By Ricky Gervais, By Stephen Merchant, book reviewI find travel writing irresistible. The best travel books inspire me and the worst give me plenty of material for writing damning reviews about just how awful they are. I was pretty sure that ‘An Idiot Abroad’ was going to fall into the second category but having finished it, I’m still not sure. It surprised me in ways I wasn’t expecting at all.

It was pitched as a humorous account of a naïve traveller’s trip to see the Seven Wonders of the World. It sounded like an idea with potential but what I hadn’t counted on was the involvement of two unstintingly irritating and annoying celebrities in what might otherwise have been an interesting project.

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