Archive > February 2011

More Than You Can Say

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More Than You Can Say by Paul Torday, book reviewIn the early hours of the morning in a private gentleman’s club in London, feckless Richard Gaunt accepts a double or quits challenge on a £3,000 bet; he must walk to Oxford, arriving at the Randolph Hotel in time for lunch. Why not? It’s not like Richard has anything better to do. Since leaving the army Richard has struggled to settle into life on Civvy Street; his fiancé has dumped him, he has no job to speak of and his landlord is pressing him for unpaid rent.

Just after dawn, Richard becomes aware of a vehicle slowing down behind him; several hours later he wakes up in a room he doesn’t know.


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Daughters-in-law

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Daughters-in-law by Joanna Trollope, book reviewSince I first read one of Joanna Trollope’s books back in the early nineteen nineties, she has been one of my favourite authors and I look forward to reading her books with pure pleasure. Having just read her latest book, Daughters-in-Law, I can only describe it as a delight from beginning to end.

Joanna Trollope writes about middle class family life so well. In Daughters-in-Law, we meet Rachel and Anthony Brinkley. Rachel has raised three sons and raised them well which has meant that in return she has received their undivided love and devotion. Their home in Suffolk has always been the hub of all her sons’ lives, but now all three boys are married and Rachel’s daughters in law have minds of their own which that does not always mean fitting in with Rachel’s plans. Rachel ultimately realises that she will need to change unless she wants to risk the loving relationship that she has with her sons and grandchildren.


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The New North: The World in 2050

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The New North: The World in 2050 by Laurence C. Smith, book review“The New North: The World in 2050” by Laurence Smith is a good bet to turn out to be the best geography book of the year. If you feel underwhelmed by that statement, then you are probably not alone. Geography is a subject that has suffered greatly over recent years with an image problem; it is often seen as a fuddy-duddy subject taught by dull old men in tweed jackets and really of no great consequence. If you Google “geography popularity” you will see scores of press articles lamenting the decline of this subject in schools and universities across the Western world, and there was apparently even a government task force assigned to this very issue back in 2006. Why this should be the case rather mystifies me, given that we live in a changing world and as geography seeks to explain many of these changes, it is increasingly a vital subject area.


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The King’s Speech

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The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, book reviewThe King’s Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi is about Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, the man who helped King George VI overcome his stammer. It accompanies the recently released film of the same name, but it is not a novelisation, nor is it the book the film was based on.

Mark Logue is a grandson of Lionel Logue, and in his introduction he describes his quest to learn more about his grandfather, and also his reasons for wanting to tell his story. While the film covers only a decade or so, from 1926 to the start of the Second World War in 1939, Mark Logue wanted to provide a fuller picture of his grandfather’s life, from his life in Australia right through all the years he worked with and became friends with the King.

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Naked in Knightsbridge

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Naked in Knightsbridge By Nicky Schmidt, book reviewI have to confess I bought Naked in Knightsbridge by Nicky Schmidt because I felt like a bit of light reading, some uncomplicated chick-lit to read over a few days – I’m not a fan of chick-lit in general, I only like certain authors who write at a higher standard than most of the rubbish in the genre, but when it’s done well, chick-lit can make for an enjoyable read – which is what I was hoping for with Naked in Knightsbridge.

The main character is Jools, a girl who is down on her luck when her cleaning company goes bust and she is heavily in debt. We follow her through her attempts to earn some money and make a living, and the plot slowly gets more farcical as she decides the only way forward is to sell herself as a bride online.


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The Darkest Room

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The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin, book reviewI often find these days, when it comes to crime fiction, that it’s advisable to read the books of a series in chronological order, otherwise you’re likely to run into a spoiler or two. Sometimes an episode works well as a stand alone but when the central character – usually a police officer or detective – has a well developed background, especially one outside the job, readers may prefer to stick to sequence. The Darkest Room is only loosely a second novel of a short series, but, in retrospect, I wish I’d read its predecessor Echoes of the Dead first; not because I needed to be brought up to speed with the story so far but because it might have established a connection that would make me care about the characters.

The Darkest Room is a deeply atmospheric tale and one that doesn’t fit so comfortably under the banner “crime fiction” in spite of attempts by booksellers to hook it up with some of the recent Scandinavian best sellers of that genre.


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William Walker’s First Year of Marriage

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William Walker's First Year of Marriage: A Horror Story by Matt Rudd, book reviewWilliam Walker’s First Year of Marriage by Matt Rudd is a book that I downloaded for free from Amazon for my Kindle. It sounded quite amusing, and as I didn’t pay anything I had nothing to lose.

The book opens following William’s marriage to Isabel, the girl of his dreams. It is written not quite in diary style, but in first person and with daily updates. Williams recounts what has happened that day, and often goes off on other subjects which take his interest, and compiles some rather silly lists. We soon learn that he doesn’t like Isabel’s best friend Alex, who he suspects of trying to steal Isabel, and that he is terrified of his ex, Saskia, the Destroyer of Relationships.


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The Kenneth Williams Diaries

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The Kenneth Williams Diaries by Kenneth Williams, book reviewKenneth Williams kept a diary for more than forty years and in 1993, five years after his death, these diaries were published in an edited form. The diaries revealed a more complex figure than the comedian who became much loved through his Carry On roles and famous appearances on the chat show circuit. The private Kenneth Williams was a remarkably well read, religious man haunted by his homosexuality, his sometimes outrageous behaviour, and his thoughts of suicide. He lived an ascetic and often lonely life in a series of modest London flats and never seemed to have much money considering how famous he was. The diaries are 800 pages long (in my paperback copy) and include many interesting photographs from different points in Williams’ life, from his early revue days to the distinguished, grey haired figure of the late eighties shortly before his death.


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Wide Angle National Geographic Greatest Places

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Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places by Ferdinand Protzman, book reviewI’m not generally fond of what are often called ‘Coffee Table Books’ – those large books of artfully lit photographs that serve to sit around on coffee tables for your guests to browse and think how clever and cultured you are. I have a friend who always has arty books and magazines daintily arranged about the house and whilst I’ll pick one up and flick through, it’s not often I’d go looking for such a thing. The one exception I’d make to that are the photographic publications of the National Geographic – big, lush volumes stuffed full of eye-wateringly gorgeous and mentally-stimulating photographs. I was strolling past the Age Concern book shop in my local town and this book – Wide Angle National Geographic Greatest Places – lured me off my course and into the shop.

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Uprising

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Uprising by Scott G. Mariani, book reviewUprising by Scott G. Mariani is the first novel in what promises to be a series called Vampire Federation. I came across it on Amazon whilst browsing for free titles for my new Kindle – Uprising was free at the time although it is not any longer. As a fan of vampire fiction I thought this would be worth a go – after all, if it turned out to be rubbish it wouldn’t really matter given that it was free.

The vampires of Uprising are not “out” to humans, but they are reasonably organised. They have a Federation which sets rules and monitors the vampire population. It produces drugs which enable vampires to go out in sunlight, memory blocker for the victims, and a poison which kills vampires if they have the slightest contact with it. They do not, however, have any care for humans – vampires live among humans, but humans are merely a food source to them.

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La Grosse Fifi

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La Grosse Fifi By Jean Rhys, book review, Penguin mini modernsThis review is a part of book blog event in celebration of 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics. To mark the anniversary Penguin is launching a brand new series: The Mini Moderns – a collection of outstanding short-stories and novellas in convenient, pocket-sized and pocket-money priced editions. Curious Book Fans are contributing with the reviews of Youth by Joseph Conrad and La Grosse Fifi by Jean Rhys. You can read more about the Penguin Mini Moderns and book blogging event here.

The sleek, stylish design chosen for Penguin Mini Modern Classics is perfect for Jean Rhys’s ‘La Grosse Fifi’ and other stories. Within a few lines I was transported to another place and time – in the case of the title story it’s the south of France just after the end of the First World War; the silver cover of the book seemed to me like an extravagant novelty to have sticking out of a glamorous evening bag carried on a night at the casino, or thrown casually on the seat of a gleaming Bugatti while driving down to Cannes. Quite simply, the packaging fits this little gem!

Although not the longest of the four stories featured here, ‘La Grosse Fifi’ is certainly the most memorable.

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Youth

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Youth by Joseph Conrad, book reviewThis review is a part of book blog event in celebration of 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics. To mark the anniversary Penguin is launching a brand new series: The Mini Moderns – a collection of outstanding short-stories and novellas in convenient, pocket-sized and pocket-money priced editions. Curious Book Fans are contributing with the reviews of Youth by Joseph Conrad and La Grosse Fifi by Jean Rhys. You can read more about the Penguin Mini Moderns and book blogging event here.

When I expressed my interest in receiving one of Penguin’s new Mini Moderns series, published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics, I didn’t specify a particular book to receive. Having recently been considering revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which I read at school and hated (it being a school text), it seemed to be a sign that it was Conrad’s Youth: A Narrative which I received from the Mini Moderns collection.

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