Archive > December 2012

True History of the Blackadder

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

True History of the Blackadder: The Unadulterated Tale of the Creation of a Comedy Legend, J. F. Roberts, book reviewIf you asked me what I thought of the television series ‘Black Adder’, I’d tell you it was very funny, a real classic that took me through my teens and beyond, and that I considered myself to be a fan. I was not obsessive about it by a long way – I never really ‘got’ the first series but I loved the rest – but many years after it last showed, I’m still prone to confusing my continental colleagues with comments about ‘cunning plans’ and by pronouncing the name ‘Bob’ in that distinctive way that Rowan Atkinson had. I’m not sure what I expected J F Roberts’ book True History of the Black Adder to be, but when Curiousbookfans were offered a publisher’s copy, I put up my hand and said “Yes, please”.


Continue reading

The Sweet Girl

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

The Sweet Girl, Annabel Lyon, book reviewI hadn’t previously come across Annabel Lyon’s books before reading her new release The Sweet Girl, although apparently she is very much the up and coming writer on the Canadian literary scene. She started out as an author of short stories and novellas, with her debut novel The Golden Mean first published in 2009; it became an award winner and best-seller in Canada, as well as being a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. The Golden Mean was about about the relationship between Alexander the Great and his tutor Aristotle, while The Sweet Girl, billed a sequel to the first novel, moves on to look at Aristotle’s home life and beloved only daughter in his later years.


Continue reading

Angels Beneath the Surface: A Selection of Contemporary Slovene Fiction

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

Angels Beneath the Surface: A Selection of Contemporary Slovene Fiction edited by  Mitja ?ander and Tom Priestly, book reviewThe Slovenes are very literary people. Their national heroes are men of letters, among them Primož Trubar, the father of the Slovene language and writer of the first book in Slovene; Janez Vajkard Valvasor, a noted polymath and writer of the Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, a mammoth encyclopaedia of the natural history of what is now Slovenia; and France Prešeren, widely regarded as Slovenia’s greatest poet and writer of the words of the Slovene national anthem. When a Slovenian asks your name, he literally asks how you ‘write yourself’; what could be more literary?

Slovenia has a population of just two million but publishes more books per capita than the United States; with more than four thousand books published each year, Slovenia is near the top of the international leader-board. However, a book that sells about six hundred copies in Slovenia is regarded as a best seller’; this begs the question, can an author writing in Slovene earn enough to have a comfortable existence?

,

Continue reading

Mortality

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens, book reviewI am rather ashamed that I didn’t discover Christopher Hitchens until it was in many respects ‘too late’. I had read reviews of some of his books and I knew he was someone I ‘ought’ to read but I just hadn’t got round to doing so. Sadly I hadn’t realised what I was missing until he was already dead – passing away in December 2011 to a flurry of critical acclaim and much praise for a life that was cut short but always well lived. Hitchens himself would no doubt have realised that there’s no better publicity for a writer than his own death though it’s not a technique from which the author can hope to benefit. Strange as it will no doubt seem, I decided to spend Boxing Day morning reading his final work, Mortality, a collection of his essays written whilst he was receiving treatment for cancer of the oesophagus and its spread to other parts of his body.


Continue reading

No One Left to Lie to

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, Christopher Hitchens, book reviewThe first book I read by Christopher Hitchens was ‘The Missionary Position’ in which he attacked Mother Theresa of Calcutta. I was impressed – I always thought there was something a bit odd about raising millions and preaching the glory of poverty. If I was impressed by his research and his merciless attack on a little old lady, I was totally blown away by the character assassination of Bill Clinton in Hitchens’ 1999 book No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. Whilst much of the world will look back on Bill as a philandering draft dodger who may or may not have inhaled, Hitchens soon shows us that fondling interns in the Oval Office was just the teensiest tip of the iceberg of misdemeanours which can be attributed to the 42nd president of the United States of America.


Continue reading

The Taste of Apple Seeds

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

The Taste of Apple Seeds, Katharina Hagena, book reviewThe Taste of Apple Seeds is a vivid and richly descriptive story in which the actions take place over just a couple of days but evoke the memories of a lifetime and beyond. The narration starts when Iris, a young librarian, learns that she has inherited her grandmother Bertha’s house in northern Germany; the house doesn’t just hold memories for Iris, it’s the house where her mother and two aunts also grew up and one that, like any family home, has seen not just happy events, but sadness too. Before she goes back home after the funeral, Iris spends a few days in the house to help her decide whether she wants to keep it. For her the house triggers a patchwork of half memories but as she explores Bertha’s house, she’s able to start piecing them together and with the help of an old childhood friend and a retired village school teacher, Iris starts to understand her dark family history.


Continue reading

The Cove

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

The Cove by Ron Rash, book reviewOne of the joys of reviewing books is that you are sometimes sent something by a publisher that you would never normally read, but which you end up really enjoying. Ron Rash’s The Cove has been one of these books. I had never heard of the writer, and based on the title and cover art, I would have been pretty unlikely to have ever picked this up at a library or book shop. Yet when I come to actually write my review, I find I am struggling for words to do this book justice (something Rash himself has never had trouble with, I suspect).

In the last months of the First World War, the effects of the events in Europe have even reached as far as the small town of Mars Hill in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.


Continue reading

Harden’s UK Restaurant Survey 2013

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

Harden's UK Restaurant Survey 2013, Richard Harden, Peter Harden, book reviewI’m not honestly sure how I first came across Harden’s Restaurant Survey a few years ago, although I expect it was through an email from them. Harden’s invites members of the public to complete a survey giving ratings and comments on restaurants they have visited; they then publish a book that features the restaurants for which they received a sufficient number of responses from survey participants. Up until recent years, Harden’s published a reporters’ edition of the guide book which they sent out to all participants as a token of appreciation; for the past couple of years, however, participants have received the full version of the book.

,

Continue reading

Elizabeth the Queen

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

Elizabeth the Queen, Sally Bedell-Smith, book reviewElizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell-Smith was one of the many books about the monarchy which was reduced in the Kindle Jubilee sale earlier this. Unsurprisingly, it is a biography of Queen Elizabeth II, covering her childhood up to almost the present, ending in 2011 as she approached her Diamond Jubilee year in 2012.

As an American, Bedell-Smith is immediately different to the British biographers I have previously read. She could perhaps be able to take an “outsiders” view of the Queen and the monarchy, not being a subject of the Queen, but in all honesty this is not an angle which she explores. Her style is generally respectful, and she seems to be one of the many Americans who love the British royal family, despite being proud of being a republic themselves.


Continue reading

Married by Christmas

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

Married by Christmas, Scarlett Bailey, book reviewMarried by Christmas is Scarlett Bailey’s second novel and follows the festive theme from her first book, The Night Before Christmas. This latest book is an enjoyable light read that is a perfect distraction from the mayhem that occurs in the run-up to Christmas.

Anna Carter has always dreamed of a Christmas Eve wedding and that is what she is determined to have. Her fiancé, Tom, proposed on Christmas Day the year before and Anna’s winter wonderland wedding has been a year in the planning. With only a couple of weeks to go, everything is organised which is how it needs to be for meticulous Anna.


Continue reading

The Vanishing Point

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online

The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid, book reviewVal McDermid is a prolific writer, probably best known for her highly successful Tony Hill novels (adapted for TV as The Wire in the Blood series, although if you have ever watched them I can assure you that the books are far better). I’m sure McDermid could get along very nicely indeed just by knocking out a new Tony Hill book each year, but every now and again she likes to challenge herself – and her readers – by producing a stand-alone novel, in much the same way that Ruth Rendell periodically gives herself a break from writing about Wexford. As much as I like the Tony Hill books, I have found that these one-off stories are often among her best and most interesting works; The Vanishing Point has proved to be no exception.


Continue reading

Opening Innings in the Kitchen

Buy book online

Buy book online Buy book online Buy book online

 Cooking on the Run by Boria Majumdar, book reviewA cricket writer and sports scholar writing about food? That’s a surprise for a start, even though cricket writers certainly eat and probably enjoy their food as much as anyone else. Boria Majumdar’s book, though is written with specific agenda, to get men who cannot cook into the kitchen and make them comfortable with the pots and pans. He describes his book as “simply the average Indian man’s survival mechanism in times of need” and begins by explaining that one point he couldn’t even make an omelette. Then, while at Oxford on his Rhodes scholarship stint, he encountered Professor Talib Ali who invited him to dinner and fed him a comfortingly spicy home cooked meal that made Majumdar feel perfectly at home and determined to master food before his wife arrived on the scene.


Continue reading

prev posts