Archive > January 2011

Hypothermia

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Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason, book reviewThe sixth of Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason’s novels featuring the lugubrious Erlendur, ‘Hypothermia’ is something of a departure from the format of those that preceded it. Here Erlendur more or less goes it alone as he carries out his own off the record investigation into the case of the apparent suicide of a woman at her holiday home in Iceland’s Lake District; Erlendur is not directly connected with the case but becomes involved when it is found that the dead woman lived on his patch. Everything seems straightforward until a couple of days later when a friend of the dead woman asks to see him; she tells him that there is something that doesn’t seem quite right with the events around Maria’s death and that, although Maria had been depressed for several years since the death of her mother, with whom she and her husband, Baldvin, lived, she doesn’t believe that she would have killed herself.

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Karachi’s Seamy Underbelly

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Invitation by  Shehryar Fazli, book reviewNoir – the word conjures up images of blazing guns or sleazy ladies of the night clutching swathes of blue velvet – pace David Lynch. Fast paced action and mean streets. If that is the definition of noir then Shehryar Fazli’s debut novel has ample noir and more than enough to spare. And what makes it even darker is the fact that it is a sneak peek into a Karachi that no one knows. For Indians there is a voyeuristic thrill about this raising of the curtains, Karachi with its dirty linen totally on show and a Karachi that few are aware even existed.

According to Fazli, who researched the subject amongst his father’s friends, this was how Karachi used to be before prohibition was enforced and the city’s famous bars and cabarets shut down.


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The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain

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The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain  Allan Massie, book reviewThe Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain by Allan Massie chronicles the Stuart (or Stewart) monarchs who ruled in Scotland for 300 years, and a further century in the United Kingdom following the Union of the Crowns. The most famous of these monarchs and their descendants are Mary, Queen of Scots, James VI & I, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, but The Royal Stuarts takes us right back to the beginning, tracing their origins from the salt marshes of Brittany to their rise in the nobility of Scotland, leading to their ascendancy to the throne. The daughter of Robert the Bruce, Marjorie Bruce married Walter, High Steward of Scotland. Their son became the first Stewart monarch, King Robert II in 1371.


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How Opal Mehta got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life

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How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life by Kaavya Viswanathan, book reviewOpal Mehta is an exceptional young woman with outstanding academic prowess, virtuoso musical skills, multiple languages and lots of clubs and societies that ought to make her the perfect candidate for a place at Harvard. Her application is just about perfect. Opal didn’t get all those attributes by accident – she’s the result of the meticulous planning of her parents and their plan, codenamed HOWGIH, or how Opal will get into Harvard.

Opal ought to be a dead cert for a place. She’s got a smart suit, she’s practiced all the answers to all the likely interview questions but things aren’t going to plan.


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Sister

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Sister - Rosamund Lupton, book reviewSister is Rosamund Lupton’s first novel and I enjoyed it so much that I hope she is going to be writing lots more. From the moment I started reading it I was so drawn into the story that I was reluctant to put it down for anything! It is a compelling crime thrilling that had me on the edge of my seat and kept me guessing from start to finish.

The story is told my Beatrice who lives in America with her fiancé, but who comes back to the UK when her younger sister Tess goes missing.


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Harry and the Dinosaurs First Sleepover

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Harry and the Dinosaurs First Sleepover, Ian Whybrow, book reviewHarry and the dinosaurs are busy helping Nan pack Harry’s bag for his first-ever sleepover at his friend Jack’s. As well as the essentials, Harry packs a book, some toys and some moss for the dinosaurs. His big sister Sam has to upset him as usual, telling Harry that it was stupid to put the moss in. Harry, however, stands up for himself, saying that the moss is for the dinosaurs to make sleeping bags from in case they are homesick.

Although Harry’s Mum and Nan were worried about leaving him, they need not have been.

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Q&A with Martin Pevsner

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Martin PevsnerMartin Pevsner recently published his first novel, Divinity Road. Our reviewer praised him as “a writer to put on your watch list if this multi-dimensional tour de force is anything to go by”. koshkha was curious to learn more about stories and thoughts behind the book.
Martin lives and works in Oxford but has spent time in Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

CBF: I chose the book because I recognised the reference to the road where part of the story is set. I’d guess that’s not why you chose it though. What was the thinking behind the name?

Martin Pevsner: I had a different name for the novel originally – Companions of the Garden – a reference to the Qur’an. An agent told me people browsing in a bookshop would presume it was a gardening book.

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The House of Special Purpose

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The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne, book reviewMuch has been written about the shocking events that toppled the Romanovs so it’s a brave author who places his fictional narrator at the heart of the Tsar’s household in the last years before the Russian revolution. John Boyne seems to specialise in writing fiction that is set in a very specific place and time, and I really enjoyed his novel “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” in spite of the problems with authenticity which will gnaw away at any readers not willing to suspend their disbelief; it is the sheer simplicity of that work that makes it such a success but the same cannot be said of “The House of Special Purpose”.

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Please Forgive Me

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Please Forgive Me by Melissa Hill, book reviewI’ve been a big fan of the Irish writer Melissa Hill for quite a while now so I was really looking forward to reading ‘Please Forgive Me‘ which was one that I had not yet read. It contained lots of the elements that you would expect from Melissa Hill and it was an enjoyable read although, for a couple of reasons, I did not enjoy it quite so much as others I had read from her.

At the start of the book we meet Leonie who is ‘running away from home’ even though she is in her thirties!


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Obliquity

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Obliquity: Why Our Goals are Best Achieved Indirectly by John Kay, book reviewWhen I was presented with a copy of John Kay’s book Obliquity, my heart sank just a little at seeing the words “goals” and “achieved” used in the same sentence on the front cover. Books that use these sorts of words are usually dull, prescriptive and….well, the sort of books that Kay goes to considerable length to tell you are not in slightest bit helpful. Why? Because they are too direct to work in an uncertain world such as ours.

Obliquity – as a more effective alternative to directness in Kay’s terminology – is basically an extended essay that grew out of a short article in the Financial Times’ weekend magazine in January 2004.


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Northern Lights

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Northern Lights By Philip Pullman, book review“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.” Philip Pullman.

Not so long ago, my search for something new and interesting to read brought me to the covers of “Northern Lights” by Philip Pullman. For those of you unfamiliar with the title, it is book one of the His Dark Materials trilogy; a publishing phenomenon that I’m sure will have filtered into your consciousness on some level over the past few years. Now, I am not normally one to read children’s books (although in my defence, the author does actually say that his did not intend this to be aimed at any particular target audience; it was for adults as much as for children) but I was motivated to read this after a number of promising personal recommendations, and good reviews.


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Bed in a Tree and Other Amazing Hotels from Around the World

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What Comes First, the Destination or the Accommodation?

When planning a holiday or a short break most people choose a destination, book the flights or train tickets and then go looking for accommodation that fits in with their plans. In Bettina Kowalewski’s book “Bed in a Tree” the author has turned this ‘destination-led’ approach to travel on its head.Bed in a Tree and Other Amazing Hotels from Around the World by Bettina Kowalewski, book review She introduces us to 27 unique hotels and other types of accommodation and then tells us what else there is to do in the area if you go to them. It’s an ‘accommodation-led’ approach that puts the place you’ll sleep in at the heart of the holiday and creates a sense of ‘Hotel as Destination’ that may well get readers to stop and think about the nature of holiday. Even if you cannot afford to travel to some of these fabulous and funky hotels, castles, tree houses and really weird places, it might just make you stop and think about places nearer to home that you could consider booking.


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