Archive > May 2013

Jacob’s Folly

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Jacob's Folly by Rebecca Miller, book reviewJacob Cerf was an impoverished, religious Jewish peddler in 18th Century Paris. Circumstance led him away from his family and faith and into a world of impious debauchery. 300 years later, he’s back, but now he’s a fly in 21st Century New York and involved in the lives of two people. One of them is Masha – an innocent girl, sheltered from the world by her orthodox Jewish family. The other is model citizen, husband and father, Leslie Senzatimore. As Jacob curses his new fate, he decides to repay his maker by bringing these two together putting their goodness to test. This is Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller.

With this book, author Rebecca Miller has taken the literary “a fly on the wall” point of view to a new level, making the narrator of the story into that fly, literally.


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Cosmos

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Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation, Carl Sagan, book reviewThis article is part of our Holiday Reads 2013 series. Cosmos is Matt Haig’s recommendation. Matt just published his second book, The Humans.

I am getting into science books. At school, I hated science, but I think that was mainly because I had not very inspiring teachers. I didn’t get excited by bunsen burners and forceps and those safety goggles you had to wear. Also, I turned up an hour late for my Science GCSE, meaning I ended up getting an F.

Anyway, my allergy to science changed three years ago when I was on holiday in Sardinia. We were staying in a hotel that had books on the bookshelves, most of which were written in Italian. Anyway, one of the few books written in English was Cosmos by Carl Sagan.

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The Humans

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Matt Haig, The Humans, book reviewThis article is part of our Holiday Reads 2013 series. You can find Matt Haig’s holiday read recommendation here.

Matt Haig’s The Humans is the second of his novels that I have read, the first being The Radleys, about a family of suburban vampires. The Humans has a similarly mundane setting, largely set around a family in Cambridge, the father of which is an eminent professor of mathematics at the university. Yet from the outset, we know that this is no mundane story.

Professor Andrew Martin has just solved the greatest mathematical problem in the world. The next time anyone sees him, he is wandering aroung naked and doesn’t seem to be quite himself. He is no longer Andrew Martin, but is an alien come to suppress the knowledge of his breakthrough. Humans, however, aren’t quite as primitive and two-dimensional as he expected.

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Growing Old Outrageously

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Growing Old Outrageously by Hilary Linstead and Elisabeth Davies, book reviewThis article is part of our Holiday Reads 2013 series. You can find out more about Hilary’s and Liz’s favourite reads here.

Growing Old Outrageously by Hilary Linstead and Elisabeth Davies is a travel book that will either delight you with the scope of their retirement adventures and their willingness to have a go at anything or will fill you with fear that you might one day find yourself on holiday with these two eccentric old girls. Liz and Hilary met at school at Cheltenham Ladies College and then found each other again after retirement, despite Hilary being in Australia and Liz in the UK. They were reintroduced by a mutual friend, took their first trip together to Morocco and were soon bouncing around all over the world egging each other on to increasingly outrageous acts of self-embarrassment. Flirting with waiters, accidentally wetting themselves, getting locked in cupboards, offending fellow travellers and having a wild time soon became the norm.

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The Honey Guide

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The Honey Guide,  Richard Crompton, book reviewThis article is part of our Holiday Reads 2013 series. The Honey Guide is Michael Logan’s recommendation. Michael won Terry Pratchett First Novel Award prize for Apocalypse Cow, just published in paperback.

I don’t know what it is about sitting on a beach beneath a baking sun, surrounded by cavorting holidaymakers, that makes my thoughts turn to murder. I’m not talking about actually killing the over-muscled gentleman thrusting his bulging speedos in my face as he retrieves a casually tossed Frisbee, although I’m pretty sure no court would convict me if I did. I’m talking about burying my nose in a crime thriller to avoid such sights.

Last month, as I holidayed in Zanzibar, I was lucky enough to have a copy of The Honey Guide by Richard Crompton to shield my bleeding eyes.

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Safe As Houses

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Safe as Houses, Simone van der Vlugt, book reviewIf you are a woman in a thriller, there are a number of things that it is unwise to do: getting into a vehicle in a multi-storey car park without checking the back seat; coming home on a dark night and locking yourself in without first putting the light on, and living alone in a house that is in any way isolated are chief amongst them. Lisa makes the third mistake. Then she makes it worse by living in that isolated house with her sick five year old daughter, Anouk. Nicely ensconced as a vulnerable target deep in the Dutch countryside, Lisa goes out one sunny Monday afternoon in September to hang the laundry in her garden, and her life changes forever.

As she works, a man suddenly appears from behind the flapping sheets.


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Letters from the Fire

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 Letters from the Fire, Alma Alexander,  Deck Deckert, book reviewDuring the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, also known as “Operation Allied Force,” two people “meet” on an internet newsgroup – one is a woman in Yugoslavia, watching her homeland being bombed by NATO forces. The other is a man living in the USA – watching from afar. As they argue the different sides of what they see and believe is right, they discover a connection that is stronger than their disagreements, and surpasses the physical distance between them. This is the story of Letters from the Fire written by R. A. Deckert (aka Deck) and Alma Hromic.

First of all, this novel is told almost entirely through the fictionalized postings to an internet newsgroup and email correspondence, making it probably the first electronic epistolary novel ever written.

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Dead Ever After

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Dead Ever After: A True Blood Novel, Charlaine Harris, book reviewIt’s finally here: the last novel in Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, also known as True Blood. Dead Ever After is book number thirteen, and we finally learn whether Sookie gets her own happily ever after – and who with.

The story so far is almost impossible to summarise. so I’ll just mention recent events. In book number twelve, Deadlocked, Sookie and her vampire love Eric were having some problems due to a situation created by Eric’s maker, the now permanently deceased Appius Livius Ocella. Someone had tried to frame Eric, Sookie and friends for a murder. Deadlocked ended with a showdown which revealed who was behind everything, and led to Sookie using her cluviel dor, the fairy love token which gave her one wish.


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Berlitz: Lille Pocket Guide

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Berlitz: Lille Pocket Guide, book reviewThe Berlitz Lille Pocket Guide is such a tiny format that it really could fit in some pockets, measuring 4 inches by 5.75 inches. Despite that it does contain plenty of information; the font is of course small, but not to the extent that you would strain your eyes when reading.

The guide begins with a double page that has colour photos of Lille’s top ten attractions, which include the Porte de Paris, the Modern Art Museum, the Vieille Bourse and Wazemmes covered market. Each picture has a caption that tells you the page number where you can find out more about the attraction.


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Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer

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Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer by Hannes Rastam, book review“I wonder what you would think of me if you found out that I’ve done something really serious…”

It was with these few words, tentatively spoken to one of his nurses, that psychiatric patient Sture Bergwall started a remarkable chain of events that ultimately led to the publication of Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer by Hannes Råstam. I received a proof copy of this book recently with interest. I have read a good deal of British true crime books over the years, but my awareness of Swedish criminal cases extended only as far as Olof Palme (the assassinated Swedish prime minister) and the “Laser Man”, John Ausonius, who used a rifle equipped with a laser sight to shoot a number of people in and around Stockholm, killing one of them.


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Learn Love in a Week

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Learn Love in a Week, Andrew Clover, book reviewIs it really possible to Learn Love in a Week when it takes many people a lifetime, if ever? That is what the online course promises in Andrew Clover’s entertaining book of the same name. As far as Arthur Midgley is concerned, it’s worth giving this programme a tray because, after ten years of marriage, he and wife Polly seem to have forgotten how to love each other. To complicate matters further, they both have managed to reacquaint themselves with old flames. Therefore, if they do learn to love again, will it be with each other?

This thoroughly enjoyable story takes place over just one week but what a lot happens in that short space of time! It starts with Polly being really fed up with Arthur because she is the one with the sensible job that earns the money to keep the roof over their heads while he messes about while attempting to write a book.


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Things We Never Say

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Things We Never Say , Sheila O'Flanagan, book reviewI am a big fan of the Irish novelist, Sheila O’Flanagan and with each new book from her, I know that I am going to be in for an enjoyable read. Her latest book, Things We Never Say is just as good as any of her other books that I have read and it is a book that just makes you want to keep on reading.

Things We Never Say tells the story of a somewhat dysfunctional family living in Ireland and a young woman living thousands of miles away in California. Abbey Andersen’s life has never been that conventional. As a child, she and her mother always travelled but years later, things changed when her mother decided to become a nun and live a simple, solitary life.


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