Archive > May 2011

Happy Odds and Ends

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The Vague Woman's Handbook by Devapriya Roy, book reviewIndia has already shown that it can master the chick lit. Now it’s the turn of the Sophie Kinsella type of novel, the girl after marriage dealing with accounts. In fact Sophie Kinsella’s heroine pops up fairly often in this peppy debut novel, as does Alexander McCall Smith’s middle aged sleuth Isabel Dalhousie, so it’s good if you’ve flipped through books by both authors.

It’s a book about the friendship between a young newly married girl, Mila Chatterjee and an older woman. Mila’s just got married and has moved to Delhi with her husband Abhimanyu who is studying something strange after giving up a full scholarship to a prestigious American university.

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AQA Working with the Anthology Student Book: Achieve an A*

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AQA Working with the Anthology Student Book: Achieve an A*, Tony Childs, book reviewThis is a textbook designed primarily to assist students with Unit 2 or Unit 5 of the AQA GCSE English Literature specification. These two units focus on poetry; Unit 2 is assessed by means of an exam, and Unit 5 by Controlled Assessment. The book is aimed at students who are capable of raising their level of achievement from a grade B to a grade A, and then up to an A*.

The book starts off with an introduction and is then divided into six chapters. The first four of these concentrate on the poems that feature in the AQA Anthology. Chapter 5 deals with Section B of the exam, in which students have to respond to an unseen poem. The final chapter gives a practice exam paper as well as mark schemes and explanations.

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The Garden Party

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The Garden Party by Sarah Challis, book reviewI am so pleased that I have just read The Garden Party by Sarah Challis because I have now discovered a new author that I love and can’t wait to read more of. Never having read any of her novels before, I didn’t know what to expect but as the description appealed to me I thought I would read it and see whether I enjoyed it. The book did not disappoint in any way and I loved reading it from beginning to end.

The Garden Party tells the story of the Baxter family – Alice, David and their four grown up children. Alice’s aim is to hold the party partly because it will be her sixtieth birthday and hers and David’s fortieth wedding anniversary, but mainly to celebrate all that is good about the family.


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South Indian Spice

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Chettinad Kitchen: Food and Flavours from South India by Alamelu Vairavan, book reviewChettinad food is known for its spicy hot flavours, that can bring tears to the eyes of those unused to encounters with chillis. In the last few decades it has been making its presence felt in five star hotels and offering foodies an alternative to the traditional South Indian vegetarian cuisine. Alamelu Vairavan’s third book makes few concessions for Western readers like offering mild spice variants, even though she herself is based in Wisconsin. In this book she has listed 170 recipes, clustered under different headings to make the book easy to navigate.

Each recipe has a detailed list of ingredients including the traditional sambar – there are nine varieties to choose from – six different rasams, including prawn and chicken, chutneys and tamarind rice, though the recipes in this book are primarily non vegetarian, since that is what Chettinad food is famous for.

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On Stranger Tides

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On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, book reviewOn Stranger Tides by Tim Powers is the novel upon which the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film is based. Originally published in 2006, it has recently been re-released in paperback and Kindle format to coincide with the film’s release. As a fan of the movie series, when I happened upon Powers’ novel available for pre-order at a bargain price in the recent Kindle sale, I decided to give it a go.

Set in the 1700s, the main character is John Chandagnac, who is travelling from England to the Caribbean to track down his uncle, who conned his way into inheriting Chandagnac’s grandfathers whole estate, by claiming his brother, Chandagnac’s father, was dead. Aboard the ship, Chandagnac meets the lovely Beth Hurwood, but their friendship is interrupted by pirates – who force Chandagnac to join them or die.


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We All Ran into the Sunlight

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We All Ran Into The Sunlight by Natalie Young, book reviewWhen I purchased We All Ran into the Sunlight by Natalie Young, I was trying to find some “proper” books to water down the (virtual) stack of young adult and supernatural fiction I was buying in the Kindle spring sale. Set in France in different time periods of the twentieth century and with a family mystery going on, this sounded just the thing for me.

The novel opens in the 1980s, when a tragedy occurs in the chateau of the Borja family, in the Cevennes region of France. In the present day, Kate Glover becomes fascinated by the chateau and is drawn to it. But her interest in the chateau reawakens the family’s tragedy. The story goes back in time to the late 1940s, when Lucie Borja and her husband moved into the chateau, to provide the background to the story.


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The Forgotten Waltz

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The Forgotten Waltz - Anne Enright, book reviewThe Forgotten Waltz is the story of an affair, told in detail from the perspective of one of the participants, Gina Moynihan. “I met him in my sister’s garden in Enniskerry” she tells us, in the first sentence of chapter one. And already we know that a child is involved and will play a key role, because Evie is the subject of the preface. So the key building blocks are in place from the very beginning, and we know in general terms how the book will end. However, in this book it is the journey that matters at least as much as the destination.

The background for the novel is suburban Dublin towards the peak of the Celtic Tiger economy, and during the beginning of the property collapse.


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The Wedding Wallah

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The Wedding Wallah , Farahad Zama, book reviewWhen I read Farahad Zama’s first book ‘The Marriage Bureau for Rich People’ I was completely bowled over by the gentle tale of Mr Ali, the retired gentleman making matches across racial and religious divides. It felt like I’d found a blend of Jane Austin and Alexander McCall Smith and he’d hit the jackpot for me by setting it in India. I read his second book which I liked but not to quite the same degree as the first and when I spotted the third was about to be released I asked Curiousbookfans to see if the publishers could let me have a copy. Hence just a few days after it was released the postman brought me a copy of Zama’s third book – The Wedding Wallah.

In the southern Indian coastal city of Vizag, Mr Ali is still running his marriage bureau under the watchful eye of his redoubtable wife and with the efficient support of his assistant Aruna.


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Saving The World’s Wildlife

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Saving the World's Wildlife: The WWF's First 50 Years - Alexis Schwarzenbach, book reviewSaving The World’s Wildlife: WWF – The First 50 Years by Alexis Schwarzenbach is, rather unsurprisingly, the story of the formation and first five decades of one of the worlds foremost conservation organisations, the World Wide Fund for Nature (or World Wildlife Fund as it started out in the 1960s). The WWF is one of those organisations which is recognised globally by millions, thanks to its iconic panda logo. It is something I have been aware for as long as I can remember – when I was a child, maybe around 5 years old, I collected all the stickers in a WWF sticker album which taught me about the animals of the world and the dangers they face.

When I heard about this book, I thought it would be an account of the work that the WWF has done over the years, how they have helped save species from the brink of extinction and create conservation areas and national parks around the world.


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I Saw Her Standing There

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Chocolate Guitar Momos, Kenny Deori Basumatary, book reviewJoseph has come back home to Guwahati without a job but with lots of musical hopes and he finds that his girlfriend has had enough of him. She’s been freewheeling behind his back with a musician that he dislikes and is issuing marching orders. Being dumped, of course, is par for the course for Joseph – Uma is his third girlfriend and, unkindest cut of all, she’s even sold his bike and refuses to give him the money. After he’s finished mourning her, with some help from his irrepressible friend Utpal, he decides the best thing to do is ask destiny for some help.

Relationships, like marriages, after all, are made in heaven. After strumming through some sad ballads and his memories, Joseph remembers the fleeting glimpse he had of a girl he had nine years ago at a bus stop.


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Follow Me Home

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Follow Me Home, Patrick Bishop, book review“What’s your idea of heaven?” asked Zac, turning to Miles as they prepared for the mission that they both knew could make or break their military careers. Zac joked that their Muslim targets thought heaven was “seventy two virgins and all the kebabs they can eat” but what is heaven to a British soldier?. It’s a question that comes back to us as the tale progresses. Will we ever find out or are we destined to spend the next 286 pages of Patrick Bishop’s second novel getting much more familiar with the soldier’s idea of hell?

The place is Afghanistan – Helmand province to be precise. The time is…..well I guess sometime right round about now. Certainly it’s a time after the initial gloss of combat has worn off; when the days when the men feared conflict in Afghanistan might be dull and lacking in proper fighting lay far in the past.


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The Final Testament of the Holy Bible

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The Final Testament of the Holy Bible - James Frey, book reviewImagine the birth of a figure like the Biblical Messiah in contemporary New York. What would he do? Where would he live and how would the people around him react? What would be his fate? This is the starting point and theme taken by James Frey in his new novel, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible. Of course, since this is Frey writing, the approach taken is provocative. The Last Testament is a book which is likely to stir strong feelings in a significant proportion of readers, and it will probably infuriate as many people as it will amuse.

James Frey is probably best known for his autobiography, A Million Broken Pieces, which was released to great acclaim in 2006.


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