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The Ghost
The Ghost
by Robert Harris
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.71
87 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping!, Feb. 3 2011
This review is from: The Ghost (Mass Market Paperback)
"The Ghost" is a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter who stumbles across many secrets while working on a project: finishing up the memoirs of Britain's former Prime Minister, Adam Lang. Someone else had previously embarked in this task, but his body washed up dead on a deserted beach in an exclusive holiday retreat in the US, Martha's Vineyard.

This book is a very good political thriller, starting off a bit slowly, but it picks up speed as you read on, becoming a page-turner. Certainly a well-tailored book, which will keep you glued to the pages. The end is so surprising it will make you stare into space.

Well done to the author, good, solid entertainment, a plausible and clever story which will make you ponder over the (at times) self-complacent stance of power in the political world. My true vote: 4.5 stars.

The Last Child
The Last Child
by John Hart
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.99
128 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but very entertaining, Dec 30 2010
This review is from: The Last Child (Paperback)
As a fan of mysteries/thrillers (Coben, George, Cornwell to name but a few), this is my first book by John Hart and I shall certainly look into more of his books!

An intricate, painful story about a 12 year old girl, Alyssa, disappearing into thin air. Her twin brother Johnny, now 13, never stops looking for her, tries to keep strong, although his world has been shattered to say the least: his father left soon after the abduction and his mother is so anguished and upset that she cannot but hide from the world in a sort of catatonic state. Most times, she does not even realize Johnny is around. Detective Hunt, who has been following the case since it started, is still obsessed and frustrated by the lack of news and he is the only person who looks out for Johnny and tries to keep him out of trouble. Then bad news happen again: another girl disappears from the area...

This book has all the qualities a good thriller should have: edge-of-the-seat suspense, a good psychological insight about all the characters, conveying their feelings perfectly, heart wrenchingly at times, an unexpected epilogue and all loose ends become clear. My only criticism: a bit far-fetched in some of the situations involving Johnny and his personal search for his sister, not entirely believable for a 13 year-old in my opinion. However, a very good thriller nevertheless and quite a page-turner.

The Other Family
The Other Family
by Joanna Trollope
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.96
13 used & new from CDN$ 3.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, Dec 30 2010
This review is from: The Other Family (Hardcover)
I have read several novels by Joanna Trollope and have always liked the crispy quality of her books, combined with a competent psychological insight. What I liked about this one is what most negative reviews seem to reflect: an often irritating "bunch" of people (save a couple of them), two families who have to face the death of Richie, a talented musician who dies in the very first page of the book. The two groups of people are Richie's first and second family. Richie left his wife Margaret and young son up North when he fell in love with Chrissie, with whom he had, later on, three daughters. All the children are now grown-ups.

Understandably, everyone is shaken to the core about his sudden death and the years of total silence between the two families now resonate loudly for several reasons. Doubts, misplaced loyalties, old resentments and all sorts of negative feelings have to be faced. But is everyone willing or ready to face them? No. Not everyone.

I admit that I found some of the characters a trifle annoying, should I say a bit unlikeable? In primis: Chrissie and two of her daughters -excluding the youngest one, Amy-, not to mention Richie himself -sorry if he died but there you go-. But that is exactly what I appreciated about this book: every person is different and JT was able, as usual, to convey the essence of each character in a very suitable way. Everything is credible. The second family with a very upset Chrissie now having to handle her feeling of loss and three somewhat spoiled daughters, each in pain and with their own problems. And the first family, whose sense of loss is different but certainly not painless.

An entertaining book, upsetting at times, but definitely a good read.

My Mother's Clothes
My Mother's Clothes
by Jeannette Montgomery Barron
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward, poignant, touching..., Dec 27 2010
This review is from: My Mother's Clothes (Hardcover)
...I had a lump in my throat when I turned the last page.

One of the opening comments (by Patrick Kinmonth), describes this book perfectly: "part fashion diary, part personal memoir, part loving memorial and part life celebration".

A loving daughter, the author and professional photographer Jeannette Montgomery Barron, captures the essence of her mother, Mrs. Eleanor Morgan Montgomery Atuk, who loved life and had a true passion for clothes. As her Alzheimer relentlessly progressed, Jeannette started to photograph her favourite clothes and possessions, hoping to trigger her mother's memory by visualizing them. What was initially a project aiming to help her mother's struggles, became, later on, a tender account of her mother's life through some of the clothes and accessories, a delightful collection of photographs and memories. It is through the author's photographs and the straightforward, brief, seemingly unsentimental phraseology that an image of pure daughterly love is perceived, never evanescent, always there, almost palpable.

Another quote from the back cover: "This is a book about the depth of a daughter's love, and the breadth of a mother's life; it is about letting go, but never forgetting". Very fitting words.

The photographs speak for themselves. They are simply wonderful. Elegant. Stylish. And so is the prose. A truly wonderful book.

The Pleasure Seekers
The Pleasure Seekers
by Tishani Doshi
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.46
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Seamless writing, memorable novel, Dec 2 2010
This review is from: The Pleasure Seekers (Paperback)
This is a book to be savoured unhurriedly. It has, in my opinion, an inner quality that comes to light from the beginning, with some graceful poetic "whisper" seeping through the pages, sprinkled here and there (the author's background is poetry). The richness of language is a balm to the eyes and the deriving overall prose is stylish and intense. Never pretentious nor ostentatious though. The narrative flows beautifully, lyrically. The use of certain expressions -i.e. sha-bing, sha-bang, ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-boom-boom-boom- renders some descriptions more vivid, providing even more texture to some circumstances and feelings.

We meet the Patel family, based in Madras, India, in 1968. Babo, the first member of the Patel family to fly out to London for education/business purposes, falls head over heels in love with Sian, a Welsh girl (this is an association/reference to the author's own parents). The love is mutual, but as soon as Babo's parents hear of it, they are distressed and dismayed; with a tricky excuse, Babo is asked to return to India. It is soon clear to all that Babo and Sian cannot bear to be apart and, as soon as this fact is "digested" by both the Indian & Welsh families, love prevails and the two can get married. The story unfolds covering roughly three generations, through different continents, cultures and historical events.

The love uniting Babo and Sian is the narrative path upon which the books is based, placing them as main characters, along with Babo's parents, his brother Chotu and his sweet grandmother Ba and later, their daughters join the picture: Mayuri and Bean. Other characters are more marginal (such as Babo's sisters or Sian's family) but they still find their niche complementing the background as seen fit for a family saga. Ba especially, is a remarkable character, a favourite of mine: a widow living in Anjar, she has an eternal wisdom aura, lives surrounded by the village women and an eunuch whom she is very fond of. She also has the power of "smelling" the future and is the central figure for the entire Patel family: everybody turns to her for any kind of problem. Ba's powers provide the book with what I would define as a touch of magic realism, which blends suitably as events unfold throughout the years.

Many themes are explored through the lives of the Patels: love, above all. And racial issues, social acceptance, lost innocence, death. The adjustments we have to face when a loved one takes another direction, unexpectedly, leaving an unbearable emptiness. And patience. This book makes you think at how difficult it is sometimes to master this art without getting overwhelmed, or crushed, by intricate circumstances. However this is not a depressing read; it is a book about life and it has several amusing touches throughout. As it progresses and we get acquainted with all the characters and what shapes their life, the elegance and power of the language levitate through the love, joy, pain, tears, and love again. Life, as it is.

Seeking pleasure? Ba-ba-boom-boom-boom. You shall find it by reading this book. Very well done to Tishani Doshi, 10 Amazon stars! I am looking forward to read more of her work.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel
by Mary Ann Shaffer
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
171 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, Charming, Memorable, Nov. 6 2010
"Every now and again, a book comes along that is simple yet effective, readable yet memorable. This is one such delight... It is a uniquely humane vision of inhumanity; one to lift even the most cynical of spirits".

I have borrowed the above quote from "The Times" as it summarizes my opinion about this book perfectly. I absolutely LOVED it! Exquisitely written in an simple and easy-to-follow epistolary form, we step back in time, just after WW2 in Guernsey and are drawn into the life and issues of each character in an irresistible way.

London, 1946. Meet Juliet Ashton, a writer looking for ideas for her next work. Her sunny nature, combined with curiosity and the wish to start afresh after the terrible ordeals during the war, are the driving force for a new working project, but... what could she write about? Blank.
Guernsey, 1946. Meet Dawsey Adams, a farmer who loves books. He comes across a book that once belonged to Juliet. A correspondence ensues between the two and Juliet learns that Dawsey is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The correspondence continues and Juliet is increasingly intrigued by the vicissitudes of other Society members who start to write to her too, mainly about life in Guernsey during the German occupation. She reports all that she learns to her dear friends Sophie and Sydney (sister & brother); Sydney is also her boss. The more she writes about the Guernsey people, the more everyone realises what a remarkable, amazing and fascinating story each Society member has to tell.

If there are inaccuracies about Guernsey and/or other details historically and/or geographically speaking, I am, regrettably, not knowledgeable enough on the subject. However I feel that the book has the quality of a classic. Poignant, amusing and comforting at the same time, it is highly recommendable. My true vote: 10 stars!

All That Mullarkey
All That Mullarkey
by Sue Moorcroft
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.47
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant chick-lit, Nov. 2 2010
This review is from: All That Mullarkey (Paperback)
Cleo & Gav have been married for a while and have a seemingly flawless life together. Until their first real argument: Gav writes something nasty on their bedroom wall announcing the abrupt end of their marriage. Cleo cannot believe her own eyes. She is shocked and terribly distressed. And enraged. She storms out of the house, intending to meet with her sister and unburden herself. As things turn out, she ends up "colliding" with an irresistible man, Justin. And things change forever, not just for Cleo.

A part from the difficulties of marriage, this book explores the responsibilities of commitment and the repercussions of a single act. The descriptions of each character are well drawn. I found it a bit far-fetched in certain parts (especially where Justin was concerned), but all in all it was a pleasant read, with fiction meeting with reality. My true vote: 3.5 stars.

The Bay At Midnight
The Bay At Midnight
by Diane Chamberlain
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Children make mistakes, Oct. 23 2010
This review is from: The Bay At Midnight (Paperback)
Izzy died 41 years ago. Her death still haunts her sisters, especially Julie. Izzy was a beautiful 17 year-old. Adolescently rebellious and very much in love with Ned. The feeling was mutual. Izzy's and Ned's families were neighbours; every summer their families would spend lovely, care-free holidays in their respective cottages by a canal, with a beach nearby. 41 years later, something shifts in a story that seemed to belong to a never-forgotten past.

The narrative does not let you "into" the story immediately, not even about the long-ago murder, so I do not want to spoil it for future readers, you will have to find out bit by bit. The story is recounted by three characters: Julie, her sister Lucy and their mother, Maria. They all recount the events from long ago with a juxtaposition in the present day. It never becomes confusing though. Technically, I would say that the story is interesting enough to keep you turning the pages, but I was not completely satisfied. I mean, it is an intriguing enough mystery but I would have shortened the book a bit, especially where some characters are concerned, Julie's daughter Shannon in primis (present day). Not because "I didn't like her" but I felt that that particular story-line was quite detached from all the rest (excluding the matriarchal connections, if you will), it was a bit unnecessary. It could have been another book. And some other events, quite far-fetched, especially the epilogue.

On the other hand I did appreciate the psychological insight, especially where Julie is concerned. She has always felt guilty about her sister's death. Her feelings and emotions are very well expressed.

All in all, not a great read, but not bad either. My true vote, 3.5 stars.

Testimony: A Novel
Testimony: A Novel
by Anita Shreve
Edition: Hardcover
82 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A page turner with a bitter after-taste, Oct. 23 2010
This review is from: Testimony: A Novel (Hardcover)
Young students having sex. In a dorm. Three males and one female. Everything caught on tape. An example of how a reckless, drunken and unfortunate episode can change so many lives in a matter of minutes. The tape is viewed by the school headmaster. And hell breaks loose.

The author gives voice to each participant and their relatives and friends in an interview-style. Each chapter bears the name of the speaking person, a technique that I found interesting. It also has a suspenseful quality that has the semblance of a thriller, although it is not.

It is not a light read. The central theme is... well, there are many themes to explore. First and foremost, human fallibility, no matter at what age. And then, the unfortunate, terrible problem of adolescent children drinking recklessly, breaking every possible rule or boundary, the accessibility to alcohol (or drugs), lack of (or impossibility) to control, to check everyone out every minute of the day on the part of the teachers, and then the circumstances leading to the sex act. A shiver will run down your spine, especially if you have adolescent children.

It is only by the end of the book that we learn the whats and the whys, even though the whys themselves bear a different meaning for each character. And are there plausible or credible answers? It is for you to find out.

Shreve's clear-cut style is piercing. I have read many of her books, and liked them all. As usual, through her touching yet sharp narrative she has delivered a book that should be read by parents, teachers and, possibly, by adolescents to warn them against some dangers: although it is fiction, it could have happened anywhere in real life.

Adrian Mole The Prostrate Years
Adrian Mole The Prostrate Years
by Sue Townsend
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dear Adrian, Sept. 19 2010
Dear Adrian,
My second letter to you. I hope you're feeling better my friend because I'm not prepared to let you go. It is in fact with much anticipation that I wait to read your next Diary*. I also read your (brevis) Literary CV with interest and, with all due respect (forgive me Adrian, perhaps I'm being unappreciative of your efforts) I think that it would be a brilliant idea to have the Diaries published instead, all of them. Why don't you ask "that Sue Townsend" for some help about that? (like I suggested in my previous letter, also via Amazon; she is very well known in the trade for helping out unsuccessful but gifted authors like yourself). Because you see, I feel that without realising it, you have produced some fantastic work with the Diaries, and everybody should know about you!

As I said, I'm really looking forward to your next Diary Adrian. Please send it to me as soon as it is finished. You are such a special person. You have kept me company for so many years, I have laughed with gusto, and often had a lump in my throat reading about your depressing moments. And trust me, I think that if you decide to publish your Diaries (please contact Sue Townsend), they will be a HUGE success! (This could lead to hordes of women at your feet begging you to marry them, and you could easily forget about your marital problems).

My best regards to your family and a big hug to you, my best wishes for a long and healthy life! From your affectionate reader

I LOVE BOOKS X

*Although he has never mentioned me in his Diaries (at my request), Adrian & I go back a long time, we met in Leicester years ago and we share our love for books.

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