Archive > November 2013

The Truth About You

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The Truth About You, Susan Lewis, book reviewIn Susan Lewis’ latest book, The Truth About You, Lainey Hollingsworth is determined to find exactly that – the truth about her past. Her mother, now deceased, never told her anything about her real father, and now that she is no longer around to ask, the only way to find out is for Lainey to travel to her native Italy and to the town where she was born. However, in order to do so, she also needs to sort out her life at home even if that means uncovering some unpleasant truths. Where is her husband Tom just when she needs him and what does her teenaged daughter Tierney get up to? There are more secrets than she probably wants the answers to. When she does learn the truth about herself, how will she cope? And in doing so, will she be there to support her family and help, them come through their own trials?


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Ammonites and Leaping Fish

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Ammonites and Leaping Fish, Penelope Lively, book review“This is not quite a memoir. Rather it is the view from old age.”

Ammonites and Leaping Fish is Penelope Lively’s third autobiographical work (the others are Oleander Jacaranda and A House Unlocked). Rather than a chronological account of her life, this volume contains 5 pieces of prose, mixing current reflections and anecdotes with past recollections.

Old Age

At what age are you old? This is a witty piece on our shifting definitions of old age and what it means – apparently most people think youth ends at 41 and old age starts at 59, but those over 80 suggest 52 and 68 respectively. She speculates on the political and economic implications of the growing number of people over 80.


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The Outline of Love

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The Outline of Love, Morgan McCarthy, book reviewGreek myth tells us of the young maiden Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, who was abducted by Hades while out playing in the fields with her companions one day. Hades takes the girl to his underworld realm and makes her his bride, while above ground her mother Demeter, goddess of the harvest, searches in anguish for her lost daughter, pleading for Persephone to be returned to her. When she learns that Zeus has conspired in Persephone’s fate, she refuses to let anything flower or fruit until her daughter is freed from Hades. Persephone is eventually returned so that her mother may restore balance to the world, but as she was tricked by her husband into eating his realm’s food, she is condemned to spend each winter as queen of the underworld, with her return to Earth each spring signalling the time that Demeter will bring life and colour back to the world. In Morgan McCarthy’s new book, The Outline of Love, we are given, if not a reworking, then certainly a parallel story that is broken up into ten parts, each preceded by a piece of the myth that creates a spine of structure throughout the text.


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Lonely Planet Devon, Cornwall and Southwest England

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Lonely Planet Devon Cornwall & Southwest England,  Oliver Berry , book reviewI bought this guide just before visiting Dartmoor and Cornwall for the first time in 2012. I would usually be content with borrowing a guidebook from the library, but as one of my sons lives in Bristol and I occasionally meet up with him in Bath, it seemed like a book worth buying since I would continue to use it in the future.

Right at the beginning, the guide has a double-page map in colour; the area it covers extends to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in the north and the New Forest in the east. To avoid confusion, the area actually covered by the guide is shaded in grey. Major cities, towns and attractions are shown, and these include Torquay, Bristol, the Isles of Scilly, Corfe Castle and the Eden Project.

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The Reunion

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The Reunion, Amy Silver, book reviewAmy Silver’s latest book, The Reunion, is fabulous. It is the sort of book that hooks you in from the very first page and keeps you hooked until the very last. It is a potently moving story of a group of friends who were torn apart by a terrible tragedy almost twenty years ago. Now, many years later the friends are back together but can things ever get back to the way they were or has too much happened?

There were six friends who all met at university; Jen and Conor, Andrew and Lilah, and Natalie and Dan. When they were young they thought they were invincible; they could have whatever they wanted and they would make great successes of their lives.


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Aspen and the Dream Walkers

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Aspen and the Dream Walkers, Caroline Swart, book reviewAspen and the Dream Walkers is a new young adult fantasy novel by Caroline Swart, the first in a series entitled The Dream Walkers. Aspen is approaching her sixteenth birthday, and life isn’t exactly great. Her father died when she was very young, and her stepfather and stepsister are horrible to her – Miriam, her stepsister, has is spoilt by her father while Aspen has nothing. Then Aspen starts to have very realistic dreams, and she becomes friends with Dylan and Sandy, new students at her school. Soon she learns that dreams are not just dreams…

Some time ago I read and reviewed Ms Swart’s debut novel, Liquid Gold. I enjoyed the story and excitement of the novel, but felt that there was improvement to be made, although the author definitely had promise.


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The Medici Mirror

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The Medici Mirror Melissa Bailey, book reviewMelissa Bailey’s The Medici Mirror is a novel about an architect, Johnny Carter, who discovers a mysterious mirror in a secret room under the Victorian show factory that he is renovating. The mirror fascinates and worries both Johnny and his assistant Tara, and Johnny’s new girlfriend Ophelia is sucked into its influence as well.

The Medici Mirror sounds like an interesting historical mystery; I think time-slip is the correct term, including sections in the past and present. And overall, that is exactly what it is, but unfortunately there are flaws. In the context of the time-slip storyline, the issue is that the sections from the past just don’t fit in.


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The Lost

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The Lost, Claire McGowan, book reviewEvery two minutes in the UK, someone disappears; that’s over 200,000 people a year. Crime fiction – whether books, TV or film – would have us believe that most of these people would be done away with by serial killers, but as Claire McGowan points out in her new novel The Lost, statistically 64% will have gone missing voluntarily, 19% will just drift away from weak societal bonds and 16% will not mean to go missing, but will somehow lose their way or their memory. Only 1% of missing people vanish as a result of someone else taking or hurting them. It is this 1% that haunts psychologist Paula Maguire.

As an expert on the missing, Paula is seconded from her usual work in London to a newly established Missing Persons Unit based in the small border town of Ballyterrin in Northern Ireland, which also happens to be the hometown that she happily left as a teenager.


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How to Become a Freelance Writer

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How to Become a Freelance Writer by Rachael Oku, book reviewAlongside my day job working in a University, I am also a freelance writer. I guess that makes me a semi-professional writer, and one who would quite like to eventually lose the “semi”. Becoming a freelancer in my spare time is one thing; making the leap into fully professional writer is something else entirely, though. Having already started down this particular road, I was sceptical that Rachael Oku’s debut book Become a Freelance Writer would be of much use – after all, I have effectively already become one. Having just finished reading it, I have to say that the problem here is that the book has been rather misleadingly titled. It is not about becoming a freelance writer. It is about the business side of writing once you already are a freelance writer, which is another matter entirely.


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Transforming India: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy

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Transforming India: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy Sumantra Bose, book reviewWith a nation of 1.25 billion people, India is the world’s most diverse and possibly most baffling democracy. At one end of the spectrum are prosperous farmers in the Punjab who live in chalets that could have come straight from Switzerland. At the other, in Mahasrashtra is the wife of a farmer who once did well enough to become his village’s pradhan, but who was forced by crop failure and debt to commit suicide and to be followed by the son as well, leaving the wife to bring up her grandchildren on one meal a day and the bullying of debtors she cannot repay.

Drawing on his wide-ranging experience in the field and his understanding of the Indian political system, Sumantra Bose recounts the tale of Indian democracy’s evolution from the 1950s and lists the threats that confront it today: they range from poverty and inequality to Maoist rebel cadres and Kashmir secessionists.


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The 100 Most Pointless Arguments in the World

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The 100 Most Pointless Arguments in the World by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, book reviewHow long is too long in the bathroom? Should we abolish the Royal Family? Should I get a degree or not? Which is the best crisp flavour?

Yes, Pointless fans, it is that time of year again. With Christmas rapidly approaching, and the success of The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World demonstrating that fans of the BBC game show also like to read books, a second offering by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman has been released – The 100 Most Pointless Arguments in the World.

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Peter the Great

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Peter the Great by Robert Massie, book reviewBorn in 1672, Peter the Great is credited as being the Russian Tsar who pulled Russia out of the medieval world it was living in, and transformed it into a Westernized empire, becoming a great European power in the process. Peter was the son of Alexis I, by his second wife, and came to the throne after the death of his sickly half-brother Feodor III. Ruling initially as joint tsar with another half brother, Ivan, Peter became sole ruler in 1696. Having spent much time in the company of Europeans in his youth, Peter was determined to turn the Muscovite people into a European nation, and brought in many reforms, including forbidding beards. He expanded Russia’s territories, with wars against the Ottoman Empire and Sweden. He had a huge love for the sea, and turned Russia into a naval power. On land won from Sweden in the Baltic, he built his new capital, St Petersburg, and insisted that the court move there. Peter the Great died in 1725, still issuing decrees to improve Russia.


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