Archive > November 2012

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story

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Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story, Anne Rice, book reviewOrphan, daughter, victim, monster.
She was the vampire who never should have been ……her very existence an abomination among the creatures of the night. A predator’s lust imprisoned in the body of a child, she moves through the shadows of a world forever beyond her reach.
This is Claudia’s story.

Anne Rice’s ever-popular novel Interview With The Vampire was first published way back in 1976, and spawned a big budget film adaption in 1994 which served to massively increase the popularity of the books (and vampire stories in general for that matter). While the book is still widely known and read, it left me wondering why it has taken until now for this new perspective on the story to be published.

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A Contract with God and other Tenement Stories

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A Contract with God and other Tenement Stories, Will Eisner, book reviewAfter I made a seemingly disparaging comment about comic books on this website, I was challenged to review a graphic novel. And what better graphic novel to review than the one that most sites have dubbed the first modern graphic novel, and also attributes it to having helped spawn the genre and bring it to art form level. I’m talking about Will Eisner’s 1978 graphic novel, A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories.

This book is actually a quartet of stories, all set during the 1930s, involving people who lived in the Bronx neighborhood of New York. In particular, these are stories about the residents of 55 Dropsie Avenue – a tenement building of immigrants, most of whom are Jewish.


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100 Places You Will Never Visit

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100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World's Most Secret Locations, Dan Smith, book reviewPossibly the strangest addition to the ranks of travel list publications, Daniel Smith’s new book 100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World’s Most Secret Locations is effectively a travel guide to places you can’t go. Or wouldn’t want to go for that matter.

So why read a book that tells about a bunch of things you can’t do? Well, for me the clincher was that I live virtually next door to one of these locations and I was a bit curious about it – the location being Cheltenham’s Government Communication Headquarters, usually abbreviated to GCHQ and known locally as “the doughnut” owing to its ring shape.


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The Racketeer

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The Racketeer, John Grisham, book reviewThe Racketeer is the latest brilliant legal thriller from John Grisham. It is an absorbing tale from start to finish and has some fiendishly unexpected twists and turns that I absolutely loved.

Malcolm Bannister used to be a fairly typical reasonably successful small town lawyer. That was until he was accused and sentenced for ten years after being innocently caught up in a massive money laundering operation. He is also the only black man imprisoned for a white collar crime in the prison. At the start of The Racketeer, he is halfway through his sentence, keeping his head down and getting on with his work in the prison library and advising fellow inmates on various legal matters.


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Philosophy for a Six

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 Centurion: The Father, the Son and the Spirit of Cricket  by  Pramesh Ratnakar, book reviewA book about Sachin Tendulkar eavesdropping on a college principal interview. Invisible to boot. Sounds impossible, but impossible or otherwise that’s what the Centurion is about. It takes the reader through a debates, arguments and internal musings that turn philosophy, sport and history inside out. But that is after you get to the inside pages. The first stopper is the cover which does not carry the author’s name. And which cocks a snook at the Catholic trilogy in the subhead, though diverting it deftly by adding the word cricket.

Inside is a dialogue between The Arranger of All and someone who may be the author but who declares vehemently that since the author is known by the fiction he creates the author is in short a work of fiction, so there is no need for the author to identify himself.


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Songs of Innocence: The Story of British Childhood

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Songs of Innocence: The Story of British Childhood, Fran Abrams, book reviewReferencing William’s Blake’s 1789 collection of poetry about childhood in its title, Fran Abrams’ new book Songs of Innocence: The Story of British Childhood offers an account of children’s recent social history from the Victorian era to the present day. While I have read several other books on childhood history, they have tended to be quite academic and it was a pleasant change to read something a bit more entertaining in tone. Abrams is a journalist by training (she works a lot for Radio 4 and the Guardian, and it shows) but has written other books with a social or social history theme to them (“Below the Breadline: Living on the Minimum Wage” and “Learning to Fail: How Society Lets Young People Down” amongst them); this is the first I have read.


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Magic Finger

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Magic Finger, Roald Dahl, book reviewThe main characters are the girl, Phillip Gregg, William Gregg, Mr and Mrs Gregg and the magic finger. What happens is that when the girl gets angry she points her finger at anyone that is making her angry or humiliating her and puff something bad happens. For example her teacher Miss Winter asked her to spell cat and she said “that’s easy K-A-T” and her teacher got all angry and she pointed the MAGIC FINGER at her teacher and amazingly she grew whiskers and sprouted a tail.

I would recommend this book to other people aged 4-7


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Strangers on a Train

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Around India in 80 Trains, Monisha Rajesh, book reviewThe inspiration of course comes from Jules Verne. And it struck London based journalist Monisha Rajesh one drizzly London day, reading about India’s airline boom, when she wanted to escape from the weather and the sameness of life in London. It also offered an opportunity to get to know India better, since Monisha’s encounters with the country of her origins had hardly been rewarding. As a child transported from England, she had found life as a schoolchild in Chennai filled with snide comments because her parents were ‘different’ from the rest, her mother did not wear saris. After that short unpleasant experience, the Rajesh family had left India, with no intentions of returning except perhaps to visit relatives.


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Band-Aid for a Broken Leg

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Band-Aid for a Broken Leg by Damian Brown, book reviewBand-Aid for a Broken Leg by Damian Brown is the author’s account of his experiences working for Medecins San Frontieres in Africa. Although there are no instances of giving a band-aid for a broken leg, the title represents the organisations struggle to manage serious conditions with limited resources, and that for all the work it does, it cannot cure Africa’s problems.

Brown is South African by birth, and moved to Australia with his family as a child. His first posting in Angola is a shock to the system: the climate, the danger of landmines, the hospital and the work under difficult conditions.


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Splendor

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Splendor Luxe, Anna Godbersen, book reviewSplendor is the fourth and final novel in the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen. Set among the upper classes of New York at the turn of the twentieth century, it follows four young women as they make their first steps into an adult life, full of passion, heartbreak and backstabbing.

In book number three, Envy, we saw Elizabeth Holland marry Snowdon Cairns to avoid disgrace; her sister Diana was determined to follow her love Henry Schoonmaker when he enlisted in the army to escape the wife he loathes, Penelope Hayes; and Carolina Broud finally got her dream of untold riches.


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The Lost Thing

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Lost Thing, Shaun Tan, book reviewA boy is busy working on his bottle-top collection at the beach when he notices the lost thing. Nobody else is taking any notice of it, but the boy feels he can’t ignore it. He plays with it for some time and then tries to find out if anyone knows anything about it. Nobody does, so he takes it to his friend Pete who simply feels that the thing is lost. The boy thinks he must take it home with him. His parents, when they finally notice the thing, tell the boy to take it back as it looks dirty and might be diseased.

The boy hides the lost thing in the shed but knows he can’t keep it forever.


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Dolly: A Ghost Story

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Dolly: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, book reviewDolls are curious things – they hold a fascination for their ability to be both attractively cute and yet quietly unsettling. Many children love playing with dolls, but their appearance of cold little figures with unmoving faces has long made them a popular choice for scary stories (think of Child Play’s Chucky and Fats the ventriloquist dummy in Magic). A Stephen King has noted, “dolls with no little girls around to mind them were sort of creepy under any conditions”. It is perhaps time, therefore, that this popular horror motif made an appearance in a book by noted ghost story writer Susan Hill. She has duly obliged by writing Dolly, which was aptly published shortly before Halloween this year.

In Dolly, we meet two cousins – Edward and Leonora – who are sent to spend the summer in the Fens with their Aunt Kestrel.


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