Archive > August 2011

Temporary Perfections

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Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio, book reviewGuido Guerrieri is a defence counsel lawyer living and working in the city of Bari on Italy’s Adriatic coast. He runs his own small but successful office with a team of loyal staff and has plenty of business to keep things ticking over nicely so when an old friend, a criminal lawyer, asks him to take on some work that he feels is not his area of expertise, Guido reluctantly listens to what he has to say. A young woman, a student from Bari but living in Rome has gone missing and, with little to work on, the police are about to shelve the case. Manuela’s family hope that Guerrieri can run a legal eye over the paperwork and spot any errors in the police handling of the investigation that might give them the leverage they need to get the case re-opened.


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Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers

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Blow on a Dead Man's Embers , Mari Strachan, book reviewIn a small Welsh community it seems that nobody has been able to escape the aftermath of World War I. The town sent away their men to the trenches to fight for their country (or more precisely perhaps, the one next door) and many got back only telegrams and photographs of crosses in a foreign land. Mothers fight to get their sons’ names onto the war memorial, one even blaming the flu that the ‘men’ brought back for the death of her boy who stayed home throughout the conflict. Mediums and con-artists make a lucrative living pandering to the needs of those desperate to contact loved ones on the other side and young women who’ve lost their fiancés face future spinsterhood with stoicism. Non (Rhiannon) Davies is considered one of the lucky ones – the man she married just a year before he went away came back to her physically undamaged but far from the man she knew. She watches his early morning rituals as he cowers under the kitchen table, shouldering an imaginary rifle and reliving his wartime terrors.


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Playing the Game

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The Winning Way, Anita and Harsha Bhogle , book reviewSports and management have been joining hands in India ever since companies like Tata Steel started hiring cricketers and built a sports stadium in Jamshedpur. ‘Sports is a way of life’ was one of their corporate mottos. What does that have to do with Harsha and Anita Bhogle’s first book? Quite a lot because while many people feel that sport has no relationship to management, it actually shares quite a few values and sports terminology has crept insidiously into management jargon. According to the Tata Steel ethos, good sportsmen make good citizens.

What does sport have in common with management? Quite a few things – most sports rely on teamwork and leadership and so does management.

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The Empty Nesters

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The Empty Nesters - Nina Bell, book reviewWhat do you do after eighteen years of selflessly bringing up your children when they suddenly leave home? Do you see it as a huge opportunity to do the things that you have always wanted or is there just a vast empty hole in your home and in your heart? This is the question that Nina Bell poses in her fabulous new book, ‘The Empty Nesters‘.

Laura, Clover and Alice have been friends ever since their children started school together. Now they have all left for university and the mothers are feeling slightly adrift. Having no children at home feels very strange for Clover and she worries what is left for her and her husband George, especially as they don’t seem to have anything to talk about these days. Laura still wants to mother her son Jamie and cannot come to terms with the fact that he wants his independence.


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It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels

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It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn, book reviewRoy H Williams once wrote, “lives, like money, are spent. What are you buying with yours?”. This is a question that many of us will struggle to answer coherently, I suspect, but not Robert Penn. For Penn is a man with enthusiasm for all things pedal-powered; he has ridden a bike for thirty-six years, on nearly every day of his adult life, including one 40,000km, three-year, round the world trip as an apparent reaction to having been a pin-striped solicitor for too long. As his book “it’s all about the bike” – a cheeky riposte to Lance Armstrong’s best-selling biography about recovering from cancer to win the Tour de France – opens, Penn owns five bikes in various states of repair, but has decided he needs a new one. “I could go online right now with a credit card and spend £3000 on a mass-produced carbon or titanium racing bike” he writes. “It’s tempting, very tempting. But it’s not right. Like many people, I’m frustrated at the round of buying stuff that is designed to be replaced quickly…I want the best bike I can afford, and I want to grow old with it…I want MY bike.”


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Shadowmagic

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Shadowmagic , John Lenahan, book reviewThe current popularity of supernatural or fantasy fiction means that there is an awful lot of rubbish out there. Searching through the cheaper options available as Kindle ebooks is like negotiating a minefield – you know that there is every chance you will download a clanger. At only 49p, I thought there was nothing to lose with John Lenahan’s Shadowmagic – the low price could indicate it was rubbish, but at least I wasn’t risking spending a lot on it.

Shadowmagic’s main character is Conor, an eighteen year old boy who lives with his eccentric father. His father seems to live in the past and in a world of mythology, but soon Conor sees his father in a different light once they are both pulled into Tir-Na-Nog, the Celtic land of immortality, where Conor’s father was once a prince.


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I and Claudius – Travels with My Cat

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I and Claudius: Travels with My Cat, Clare de Vries, book reviewBereavement is a great catalyst for change. It makes us stop and reconsider what we want from life and in the case of a sudden loss, that sense of ‘do it now’ urgency is enhanced. Clare de Vries lost her mother very suddenly to pancreatic cancer, looked at her job and her life in London and wanted out of both. The problem is that sometimes when you want a change, you need someone to keep you company and your friends and relatives don’t want the same things you want or aren’t available when you need them. How could she find the perfect travel companion? Enter Claudius – the perfect loyal friend to take on a road trip across the USA. ‘I and Claudius‘ is the story of their road trip – and it’s fantastic.

De Vries describes what she was aiming for as a Thelma and Louise experience – without the rape and the killings of course.


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No Off Switch

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No Off Switch (Hardback) By Andy Kershaw, book reviewThose moments in life when you feel a genuine connection with another person are few and far between; I’m talking about that moment you realise that there’s someone thinks the same as you, has the same values and ideas. Often it can come from books, for me it came through music and the person who made everything make sense was Andy Kershaw. As a teenager I did not follow the crowd; I had my own firm ideas about what made good music and those ideas were fueled by Kershaw’s Radio 1 broadcasts. You might say I grew up with Kershaw; as the content of his shows grew wider and his travels took him all over the world so too did my musical (and often political) horizons expand. Did I mention I also had an enormous crush on the man too?

No Off Switch” is an autobiography I’ve been eagerly awaiting for a long time. The shelves of bookstores real and virtual teem with so-called celebrity autobiographies but few of them can offer the stories that Kershaw has to tell.


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The Straight Razor Cure

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Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure , Daniel Polansky, book reviewThe Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky is a blend of noir crime with fantasy fiction. It is set in Low Town, a crime-ridden and deprived region of a larger fictional world which is not described in detail. The hero of the novel is “The Warden”, whose history is gradually revealed during the course of the book. We learn early on that he is now a drug dealer (although he seems to consume at least as many drugs as he sells), a dominant figure in his own territory within boundaries agreed with similar neighbouring figures. He seems to be on good terms with most of the populace, though quickly and violently dealing with any incursions from other dealers into his space. In due course, it comes apparent that previously he had been a member of a law enforcement agency, although the events which led him to his current occupation are never quite made clear.


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How Do Dinosaurs Learn Colours and Numbers?

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How Do Dinosaurs Learn Colours and Numbers? by  Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Mark Teague, book review“How Do Dinosaurs Learn Colours and Numbers?” is a picture book divided into two sections, predictably for numbers and colours. The first section covers all the primary and secondary colours plus brown and pink one at a time, as well as white and black together. It ends with a double-page spread on rainbows. The second section introduces the numbers one to ten in order and ends saying that the dinosaur will count again. It isn’t the most thrilling ending to a book.

Jane Yolen’s text for the book is in a very clear, large font on a white background; there is no problem reading it. Perhaps one of the book’s strongest points is that the text is in rhyming verse, for example:

“a purple towel
left on the floor,
a green sign taped
to the bedroom door.”

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Dragon’s Oath: A House of Night Novella

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Dragon's Oath: A House of Night Novella  by P. C. Cast, Kristin Cast, book reviewThe House of Night series by mother and daughter team P.C. and Kristin Cast is one of the most popular young adult supernatural series. Following young vampire Zoey Redbird and her friends at the Tulsa House of Night school, it is gripping and action-packed. When recently checking Amazon to see when the next book is due for release (October! Boo!) I came across the newly published Dragon’s Oath: A House of Night Novella, and immediately downloaded it to my Kindle.

Dragon Lankford is one of the professors at the House of Night. As Sword Master, he is a strong teacher and popular with his students. His wife Anastasia also taught at the school prior to her death during the struggles the school has faced. In Dragon’s Oath, we are taken back to the nineteenth century, when Dragon was a student and Anastasia was a new professor.


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Harvesting the Heart

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Harvesting the Heart,  Jodi Picoult, book reviewI love reading Jodi Picoult’s books and they never fail to make me think as well as make me feel a huge range of different emotions. Her characters are often faced with moral dilemmas and the choices they have to make are never easy. This is the case with ‘Harvesting the Heart‘ which was one of her earliest books, published in 1993, but has recently been republished.

Harvesting the Heart‘ centres on a young woman called Paige who’s life has never been easy. Her mother left home when she was five, she had an abortion just before she graduated high school and ran away from her home at age eighteen rather than face her father’s daily disappointment in her. She arrives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and fortunately finds waitressing work in a diner, where she becomes quite well known for the drawings she creates of all the customers.


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