Books review

25. „Take a look at me now” – Anita Notaro

Lilly and Alison are identical twins, yet couldn’t be more different in personality. Losing their mother at the age of five left their father bitter, unforgiving and aloof towards his daughters. To overcome this coldness, Alison took on the role of leader, making a solemn promise that she would always protect her sister – no matter what.

By a cruel twist of fate, however, Alison loses her life to the sea leaving Lilly bereft and sole custodian to her sister’s three-year-old son, Charlie. As she copes with the loss of her sister and the responsibility of becoming a parent overnight, Lilly slowly begins to uncover the secret life her sister had been involved in – high class prostitution.

To try and piece this shocking revelation together, Ali seeks out the four men her sister was involved with and tries to get to know them, partly out of curiosity but mainly with the intent of destroying their so-called normal lives.

Take A Look At Me Now is women’s fiction with a difference. Anita Notaro has tackled a very delicate and taboo subject, turning it on its head as she lets her readers look at things from the male perspective. By no means is this author condoning prostitution but she is showing both sides. Why exactly do men pay for sex? Or is it something else they’re looking for? Pick up a copy and find out!

Review from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/, by Angel „Angel”

24. „The Long Song” – Andrea Levy

In The Long Song, Andrea Levy explores her Jamaican heritage more completely than ever before. This sensational novel – her first since the Orange Prize-winning Small Island, recently adapted for the BBC – tells the life story of July, a slave girl living on a sugar plantation in 1830s Jamaica just as emancipation is juddering into action. Levy’s handling of slavery is characteristically authentic, resonant and imaginative. She never sermonises. She doesn’t need to — the events and characters speak loud and clear for themselves.

The story is expertly fashioned around a metafictional conceit. The “editor”, Thomas Kinsman, explains in his foreword that the book was written by his mother. It’s a well-worn device, but here it has such conviction and idiosyncrasy that it feels irresistibly fresh. His mother, it transpires, is July herself, and so intimate is she with her “reader” that she might be leading them around the plantation by the hand. Her Jamaican lilt, which despite her son’s careful Anglicising retains the rhythm and syntax of her dialect, is unfaltering and immersive. And her seemingly artless testimony, which scorns “ornate invention”, is a masterclass in storytelling and self-presentation.

She begins with her conception — the casual molestation of her mother Kitty by the plantation’s vile Scottish overseer. It’s an “indelicate” way to open a novel, as her son argues in one of their endearing squabbles, but it’s indicative of her petulant, assertive style that she will not apologise for it. She is a woman “possessed of a forthright tongue and little ink”, and tells the reader plainly that if we don’t like her story, we can go elsewhere.

Review from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/


23. „Emma” – Jane Austen

Although convinced that she herself will never marry, Emma Woodhouse, a precocious twenty-year-old resident of the village of Highbury, imagines herself to be naturally gifted in conjuring love matches. After self-declared success at matchmaking between her governess and Mr. Weston, a village widower, Emma takes it upon herself to find an eligible match for her new friend, Harriet Smith. Though Harriet’s parentage is unknown, Emma is convinced that Harriet deserves to be a gentleman’s wife and sets her friend’s sights on Mr. Elton, the village vicar. Meanwhile, Emma persuades Harriet to reject the proposal of Robert Martin, a well-to-do farmer for whom Harriet clearly has feelings.

Harriet becomes infatuated with Mr. Elton under Emma’s encouragement, but Emma’s plans go awry when Elton makes it clear that his affection is for Emma, not Harriet. Emma realizes that her obsession with making a match for Harriet has blinded her to the true nature of the situation. Mr. Knightley, the brother of Emma’s brother-in-law and her treasured friend, watches Emma’s matchmaking efforts with a critical eye. He believes that Mr. Martin is a worthy young man whom Harriet would be lucky to marry. He and Emma quarrel over Emma’s meddling, and, as usual, Mr. Knightley proves to be the wiser of the pair. Elton, spurned by Emma and offended by her insinuation that Harriet is his equal, leaves for the town of Bath and marries a young woman there almost immediately.

Emma is left to comfort Harriet and to wonder about the character of a new visitor expected in Highbury—Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill. Frank is set to visit his father in Highbury after having been raised by his aunt and uncle in London, who have also adopted him as their heir. Emma knows nothing about Frank, who has long been deterred from visiting his father by his aunt’s illnesses and complaints. Mr. Knightley is immediately suspicious of the young man, especially after Frank rushes back to London merely to have his hair cut. Emma, however, finds Frank delightful and notices that his charms are directed mainly toward her. Though she plans to discourage these charms, she finds herself flattered and engages in a flirtation with the young man. Emma greets Jane Fairfax, another addition to the Highbury set, with less enthusiasm. Jane is beautiful and accomplished, but Emma dislikes her because of her reserve and, the narrator insinuates, because she is jealous of Jane.

Suspicion, intrigue, and misunderstandings ensue. Mr. Knightley defends Jane, saying that she deserves compassion because, unlike Emma, she has no independent fortune and must soon leave home to work as a governess. Mrs. Weston suspects that the warmth of Mr. Knightley’s defense comes from romantic feelings, an implication Emma resists. Everyone assumes that Frank and Emma are forming an attachment, though Emma soon dismisses Frank as a potential suitor and imagines him as a match for Harriet. At a village ball, Knightley earns Emma’s approval by offering to dance with Harriet, who has just been humiliated by Mr. Elton and his new wife. The next day, Frank saves Harriet from Gypsy beggars. When Harriet tells Emma that she has fallen in love with a man above her social station, Emma believes that she means Frank. Knightley begins to suspect that Frank and Jane have a secret understanding, and he attempts to warn Emma. Emma laughs at Knightley’s suggestion and loses Knightley’s approval when she flirts with Frank and insults Miss Bates, a kindhearted spinster and Jane’s aunt, at a picnic. When Knightley reprimands Emma, she weeps.

News comes that Frank’s aunt has died, and this event paves the way for an unexpected revelation that slowly solves the mysteries. Frank and Jane have been secretly engaged; his attentions to Emma have been a screen to hide his true preference. With his aunt’s death and his uncle’s approval, Frank can now marry Jane, the woman he loves. Emma worries that Harriet will be crushed, but she soon discovers that it is Knightley, not Frank, who is the object of Harriet’s affection. Harriet believes that Knightley shares her feelings. Emma finds herself upset by Harriet’s revelation, and her distress forces her to realize that she is in love with Knightley. Emma expects Knightley to tell her he loves Harriet, but, to her delight, Knightley declares his love for Emma. Harriet is soon comforted by a second proposal from Robert Martin, which she accepts. The novel ends with the marriage of Harriet and Mr. Martin and that of Emma and Mr. Knightley, resolving the question of who loves whom after all.

Book review from: http://en.wikipedia.org

22. „The frozen heart” – Almudena Grandes

In the small town of Torrelodones on the outskirts of Madrid, a funeral is taking place. Julio Carrion Gonzalez, a man of tremendous wealth and influence in Madrid, has come home to be buried. But as the family stand by the graveside, his son Alvaro notices the arrival of a stranger – a young and attractive woman. No one appears to know who she is, or why she is there. Alvaro’s questions only deepen when the family inherits an enormous amount of money that is a surprise even to them. In his father’s study Alvaro discovers an old folder with letters sent to his father in Russia between 1941 and 1943, faded photos of people he never met and a locked grey metal box. The woman is Raquel Fernandez Perea, the daughter of Spaniards who fled during the Civil War. One episode in her past has marked her for ever – the only time she saw her grandfather cry. Her fate, and that of the family, now hangs on the secrets of Julio’s past. From the provincial heartlands of Spain to the battlefields of Russia, THE FROZEN HEART is a mesmerising journey through a war that tore families apart, pitted fathers against sons, brothers against brothers, wives against husbands. Against such a past, where do faith and loyalty lie?

21. „The Dollmaker’s Daughters” – Dilly Court

Lovely story set in early 1900 London of 2 sisters Ruby and Rosetta. Their hardships when their father the dollmaker died. At their fathers funeral they met the rich handsome Jonas Crowe who ran an illegal gaming house. Rosetta fell in love with him secretly, or more so his wealth. Rosetta the headstrong of the 2 sisters began working in the theatre and her advancement was rapid as her stage act and singing went higher up the bill. This however was due to her sleeping with the theatre boss. She found herself pregnant and out of a ob and returning home much to her mothers shock. And quick marrying a young rag and bone man Billy. But Rosetta was unhappy and after the babys birth she left her husband and began working at Jonas Crowes Club entertaining the punters.
Meanwhile Ruby was coerced into working for Jonas Crowe to look after his ailing lady Lilly who was terminally ill.
Jonas first took Ruby shopping to buy her some fine ladys clothing and set her up with room and lodging in his posh home.
Lilly became very ill and was sent to convaless and Ruby stayed on at the house. It was later that Jonas asked her to dress for dinner and Ruby once a little tiddly was seduced by Jonas. She didnt like him or what he stood for but as soon as he touched her her body reponded to his magic. She was to dream of this moment over and over again and wonder why when she loathed him.
With Lilly away Ruby approached the London Hospital to begin her dream of being a nurse. Unknown to her her tuition paid for by Jonas Crowe.
She met and became great friends with Dr Adam and Nurse Pamela at the hospital, and then later when war broke out in Africa the 3 went on a ship to help with the war effort.
Pamela eventually caught typhiod and died, and when Ruby also started to show the early symptoms of typhoid was sent home on the ship back to England leaving Adam there in Africa.
On her return Jonas and Rosetta collected her from the ship and insisted she have the best of care in his home.
When she was slightly better Jonas declared his love for Ruby which she was not ready for and in panic ran out on him home to her mothers home.
Jonas begins to turn his illegal activities around and start opperating a legal gaming house and clean entertainment bill all for the sake of gaining Rubys love. He also does all he can to help her family sister Rosetta when she returns home to her husband and to her mother when she becomes ill.
With all this kindness Ruby sees a new side of Jonas’s personality and to cut a long story short she admits she loves him and they get married.

Book review from: http://www.goodreads.com

20. „The Blasphemer” – Nigel Farndale

There’s never a dull moment for Daniel Kennedy. First of all, Daniel and his wife, Nancy, have to avoid a variety of dangers – sharks, hypothermia, drowning – when the plane in which they are travelling to the Galápagos Islands plunges into the sea. As if the accident weren’t enough to contend with, air traffic control fails to register the crash, and Daniel is obliged to swim for miles in order to fetch help. The couple’s eventual escape would appear to be miraculous, and perhaps it is. Shivering and delirious, on the verge of abandoning himself to the sea, Daniel sees the figure of a young man gently beckoning him forward. The vision disappears, but some time later Daniel’s life-jacket snags on the shell of a passing turtle and he is towed to the safety of one of the islands.

The sheer implausibility of Daniel’s marine adventure needs to be understood in relation to the twin possibilities, explicitly invoked by the narrative, of hallucination and angelic intervention. Daniel, a zoologist, has no time for angels, and he later seeks out scientific explanations for the visions and sensations he experiences; but the possibility that the angels have time for him is raised early in the novel and kept tantalisingly in play throughout.

However we choose to account for the fact, Daniel survives the accident and, over the space of the next few months, has to deal with the disintegration of his marriage (Nancy blames him for having initially pushed his way out of the plane over her struggling body); the possibility of brain-damage; a campaign to wreck his academic career; a narrow (and again perhaps miraculous) escape from being blown to pieces in a terrorist incident; and the abduction of his remarkably precocious nine-year-old daughter.

And that’s not all. When he sets out on his journey to the Galápagos, Daniel is carrying with him a sheaf of letters written by his great-grandfather, which hold the key to a mysterious fragment of family history. Then there’s the discovery, among them, of a musical fragment which turns out to be – well, let’s just say that the find is astonishing, both in itself and in its convenient connection to another strand of the plot.

Stuff happens, and maybe miracles happen too; but it’s the task of serious novelists to make us believe in the truth of their fictions. Despite the detailed research that clearly underlies it, and despite its gestures towards an angelic presence that might, theoretically, account for almost any inconsistency or coincidence, The Blasphemer remains a largely unconvincing novel. Bundling relentlessly forward, or cutting erratically between timeframes, the narrative maintains its pace at the expense of both craft and credibility.

It’s a pity. Beneath the clutter it’s possible to make out the contours of the leaner, more thoughtful novel this might have been. Daniel’s predicament – as a Darwinian rationalist faced with the possibility that we are governed and sometimes protected by forces for which his science has no explanation – has considerable imaginative potential. The best of the writing is to be found in the chapters chronicling the wartime experiences of Daniel’s great-grandfather. Briefly lifted – again perhaps through angelic intervention – out of the brutalising turmoil of war, Andrew is given a little space to explore an alternative world of human warmth. It’s in the passages dealing with his fleeting moments of self-discovery that we find the substance and focus that the bulk of the novel so conspicuously lacks.

Review from: http://www.guardian.co.uk

19. „Room” – Emma Donoghue

Five-year-old Jack doesn’t know that other children are real. His skin has never been exposed to sunlight and his eyes have never focused on an object more than 11 feet away. He has never worn shoes. Jack was born into a small, windowless room and has lived there his entire life with his mother, who is being held prisoner by a sexually abusive captor. Now that Jack is five and increasingly curious, Ma knows they can’t stay there much longer without going crazy, yet escape seems impossible. Besides, what would living in the Outside be like for Jack, whose only home has been within these four walls?Despite its horrifying premise, Room isn’t a scary book. Told from Jack’s perspective in a stream-of-consciousness narrative, Room is about Jack – the similarities he shares with other children his own age but mostly the differences caused by living in almost-solitary confinement, not knowing about the existence of the world and everything it contains. It’s about the love between a mother and child regardless of circumstances 

Room is unlike any book I’ve read. It grabbed me from the very first page and didn’t leave my thoughts for the two days it took to read. Room will appeal to many types of readers. It’s a quick, relatively light read about a serious subject. Those with an interest in child development and early childhood education will be especially intrigued by its themes, but I think everyone will enjoy this chilling but ultimately satisfying story.

Review from: http://bestsellers.about.com

18. „Waters of the heart” – Doris Davidson

17. „The Hornbeam Tree” – Susan Lewis

16. „The day I died” – Polly Courtney

15.  „David Copperfield” – Charles Dickens

‘David Copperfield’ captured the hearts and imagination of generations of readers since the day of its publication. Charles Dickens chose the main character, David Copperfield, to describe his own life, thoughts and experiences. This is the reason why several readers describe this classic to be an autobiography of the writer. Born a posthumous child, David was looked after by his young mother and caring nurse, Peggoty. Had his mother not married again, life would have been different. But David’s step-father and his sister believed that David was a wicked boy and swore to bring him up in a civilized manner. After isolating him from his mother and beloved nurse, they packed him off to boarding school. His timid mother had no say in any of these affairs and was left lonely and disheartened; she eventually died an unhappy woman. Oh his mother’s death, David was compelled to give up his education and was sent off to work, where he befriended Mr.Micawber. In my opinion, David was so grateful for a dear friend that he continued to help the Micawbers even though they exploited him. When the Micawbers left, David decided to seek refuge under the roof of his aunt, Betsey Trotwood, whom he hadn’t seen once since the time of his birth. The old woman resented David deeply for she longed for a niece who would share the same name and hers’ and her resentment towards David had grown tremendously. Nevertheless, she placed David under her care alongwith her maid, Janet and her friend, Mr. Dick, who was a bit eccentric. She then sent David to school and life was quite alright. Charles Dickens described all his male characters with plenty of emphasis, significance and care. He described them to be innocent and seldom described any of them as treacherous. He even seemed to excuse the greatest of their faults. But he deeply looked down upon all his female characters and described even their most touching and heart warming actions as mere acts of stupidity. Some characters, as David Copperfield, Agnes Wickfield and others are described completely and significantly. Others, such as Uriah Heep are described with some obscurity. Dickens also had a way of reducing the suspense of his books. For instance, he described David and Agnes to be in love with each other, yet described David as being in love with Dora. Certainly, David would hate to leave Agnes, so it seemed quite obvious that Dora would die and David and Agnes would be together again. But such incidents as Ham’s dying for Steerforth, David’s good opinion about Steerforth after his treatment of Emily and Martha’s help for finding Emily are events that no one could imagine. One of the greatest mistakes David ever made in his life was marrying Dora Spenlow. Dora, with her beauty, innocence and childish ways captured David’s heart. But he failed to describe the real problems of life to her for fear of hurting her feelings. It might have been best if the two simply remained friends. The saddest event of ‘David Copperfield’ was Steerforth’s death. These lines from the book brought tears to my eyes: ‘I saw him lie with his head on his arm, as I had seen him lie so many times at school.’ This world classic is touching and extremely influential. It tells the story of a poor little boy, who grew up to be an eminent, wealthy and happy man, through hardships and personal losses. It is not a wonder that ‘David Copperfield’ is Dickens’ most cherished work!

Book review from: http://www.shvoong.com

14. „The winner stands alone” – Paulo Coelho

He must send the messages. The message that the cosmos and universe of humans have been destroyed. The message that she is welcome, that her past will be buried without any question, that his love has not abated.

He is Igor, a middle-aged millionaire from Moscow. All provisions had been made with every detail. There, at the reputable Cannes Film Festival. A Festival with numerous parallel events. A Festival where myriads of male and female celebrities spend their time in front of the mirror, everything for the renowned red carpet. There, his ex-wife’s, Ewa’s, love had to be won again and he should come out a winner.

Ewa had made her decision. She couldn’t stand Igor’s mental pressure any longer. He was a man who could easily commit murder. His service with the soviet army during the irrational Afghanistan war, had provided him with many assets to successfully develop, but it took as many from him, his humanness and compassion. Now, he was on Hamid Hussain’s side. A Bedouin who escaped from the desert he adored. He yearned to exhibit his country’s culture, his tribe’s thousand year wisdom and code of honor.

He accomplished that, aided by his father’s genes and his high connections. A respected fashion designer. A cherished member of the so-called Upper class. The power, however, which he strived to conquer for a noble purpose, in the end conquered him.

A young woman, Olivia, who laid her merchandise carefree on a linen sheet on the pavement, was the first sacrifice. The beginning of the messages were keyed in and sent to her. Then, Javitz Wild, a powerful and distinguished film distributor, a mere pawn in the plot of the crime, a pawn with self-awareness, yet without the power of will. Maureen was his third victim, a film producer who had placed all her hopes on Javitz, hopes which were quickly vanished.

However, a moment of penance, a moment of autognosis comes forward, asking from Igor to give her mental freedom, asking from him the cease of the death toll, asking from him to surrender to the police authorities. His stance is negative. He is a balanced person, capable of taking hard decisions, going all the way to completion.

The three murders have disturbed the police authorities of this small and extremely peaceful part of France. The elements of the crime lead to something weirder; they lead to a serial killer, who has only one goal. A case which excites the interest of police detective Savoy and in which he finds an outlet from the tenor of police reports. The culprit’s external features have been defined and an ambitious chase starts. A chase without results, because the plan of the murder is perfect. There is only one winner and it is not Savoy, it is not the justice.

There, at the impressive night event, Gabriela meets Jasmine Tiger. There, in an ocean of strangers, their eyes meet in such a compelling way. They find out that they work for the same person, Hamid Hussain, in different, however, departments. None of them had met him in person, what they knew of him was his orders and the army of his aides. The former, as a new actress who achieved her dream, the red carpet of the ephemeral dazzle and the latter, as a new haute couture model with the quality to reach for the top. Igor finds a refuge between them, in order to avoid police checking and to concentrate his powers for the forthcoming planned meeting.

Finally, the three tragic heroes, Igor, Ewa and Hamid meet at a far corner table. The story has to come to an end. Fear must be vanished. Love must prevail. Not, however, in public view, but outdoors, at the nearby beach. By the sea waves, under the starry sky, the receiver of human souls, both the rich and the poor.

A dialogue packed with dead ends. Love is lost. The end has come only for them. The Beretta rifle accomplished its purpose. Hamid is the first to be shot in his attempt to disarm him. Then, it is Ewa’s turn, who is not worthy for him any more.

The morning had come at last and the company’s jet was departing. Win had been achieved. Igor won. The winner, however, doesn’t stand alone. That’s what he thought. He felt the soul of his first victim, Olivia, very close to him. He felt her as an instructor of the future, which belonged to him. 

Book review from: http://www.shvoong.com/

13. If you awaken love” – Emuna Elon

After Yair Berman left her and shattered all her dreams, the devastated Shlomtzion Drore escaped as far as possible from him and her intensely religious life in Jerusalem, becoming an interior designer in secular Tel-Aviv. Twenty-one years later, her daughter has become engaged to his son, and Shlomtzion is forced to visit the controversial settlement in which Yair lives, not only to plan the wedding but to confront her former love and the mistakes of her life. Set in Israel between the Six Day War and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, If You Awaken Love is the intensely moving story of a stormy and spiritual young girl and her love-hate relationships with her childhood sweetheart, with her father, and with God.

Book review from: http://www.tobypress.com/

12. „No second chance” – Harlan Coben

Renowned plastic surgeon Marc Seidman wakes up in the intensive care unit after being in a coma for twelve days to learn that his wife was murdered and his six year old daughter Tara is missing. The FBI and the local police are on the case but so far there are no ransom demands. On the day that he is to be released from the hospital, his father-in-law asks Marc to visit him.

His father-in-law gives Marc a ransom note with instructions from the kidnapper that he must follow if he wants to see his daughter again. Marc gives two million-dollars in money supplied by his father-in-law to the kidnappers but they spot the police tail and escape. Eighteen months later, the kidnappers call his father-in-law again to repeat the process. Marc intends to handle the situation by himself, but ex-FBI agent Rachel Mills plans to help the man she loves get back his daughter. The two of them uncover a conspiracy much greater than a missing child scenario.

NO SECOND CHANCE is a fascinating roller-coaster ride of chills, thrills and non-stop action, so much so that readers will want to read the book in one sitting so they can find out just exactly what is going on. Harlan Coben uses the art of misdirection perfectly so that after awhile hope and dread run together leaving the protagonist totally confused about what his next step should be. This superb multi-layered story uses the first person narrative so that readers know just how Marc helpless feels and their hearts go out to him as he faces every parent’s worst nightmare.

Book review from: http://www.allreaders.com/

11. „The de Lacy Inheritance” – Elisabeth Ashworth

From the very first page the readers attention is demanded, as we are drawn into what promises to be a a gripping historical story of lost love, new love, family betrayal and compassion.  Local places such as Clitheroe, Pendle Hill and Whalley were used combined with some totally believable characters, in a novel which is partly fiction and part factual, where the joining of the two is, at times, so seamless that it is difficult to differentiate one from the other.

We read of the terrible plight of one of the principal characters ‘Richard FitzEustace’ an intellegent and deeply religious man and his dispairing journey for forgiveness of his sins which were committed in Palestine whilst fighting in the Crusades, where he unfortunately managed to contract leprosy. Whose ultimate quest is to secure the future of his family by aquiring lands which are rightfully theirs.

We are compelled to read on in the hope that this poor mans dreadful lot improves as we travel on through the following chapters.  Here is a man plagued with thoughts of his lost love ‘Leila’ many miles away in the Holy Land.  She who shared his food, his drink and eventually his bed in those far off dark and desperate times.

Upon returning to England alone, he tries to painstakingly rebuild his life.  Partly due to the generosity and kindness of total strangers, but primarily due to his own dogged determination.  Not to mention the healing properties of the sulpherous waters of St Mary’s well close by to Clitheroe Castle, a place where he choses to live the life of a hermit hidden away from society in a cave.

Essential to any good read is a family feud where greed and power come in equal measure.  Also a resident ‘Baddie’ in this case Richards brother ‘Roger’ fits the bill.  His nasty character and his heavy handed tactics leaves the reader no choice but to hope he meets a grizzly end!!

The youngest member of the FitzEustace family is Johanna.  A formidable, feisty female witha pretty stubborn streak to her character.  When brother Roger tries to arrange a marriage of convenience with with a portly old suitor she will have none of it and takes to the hills!! Clitheroe Castle to be exact where she seeks solace with the kindly Sir Robert de Lacey and his wife the Lady Isobel.  They grow increasingly fond of Johanna as time goes by.  The couple have not been blessed with children of their own and the headstrong Johanna provides them with what has been missing in their lives.

A good looking, kind and loving man enters Johannas life in the form of Geoffrrey de Wallei.  This man had been invaluable to Richard during his internment at Whalley Abbey and also in Clitheroe.  Johanna is warned not to have anything to do with Geoffrey and to stay well clear of him, but you just know she wont!

Book review from: http://lancashire.greatbritishlife.co.uk/, by Catherine Craw

10. „Small wars permitting – Dispatches from foreign lands” – Christina Lamb

Small Wars Permitting: Dispatches from Foreign Lands was written by Christina Lamb, who won the British Press Award for Foreign Correspondent of the Year in 2007. She’s written pieces for the Financial Times, Time and the Sunday Telegraph, just to name a few.

Lamb started her career when she finished university, and her first piece was on attending a wedding in Pakistan—before it imploded, exploded, and became implicated interrorist activities involving a man named Osama—that happened to be the wedding of Benazir Bhutto, later the first woman prime minister of Pakistan. By a combination of sheer determination and luck, Lamb has managed to cover most of the major events that have occurred in recent history, most of which are documented in this book.

A mixture of history, a little biography and current events, this book makes things that have happened around us interesting. If you’re over the repetitive CNN reports but need some information on how parts of the world have turned out the way they have, this is the perfect introduction. Lamb covers Pakistan, Afghanistan and the beginnings of what influenced and may have led to terrorism starting from the 70s. There’s also the war in Iraq, a smattering of what’s going on in Africa, and some Brazil for good measure. Along the way she falls in love and has a son.

Lamb is very relatable, which is a great part of why I liked this book. Somehow, despite being this super journalist + I-don’t-know-how-she-does-it-type mum I can still picture her as the somewhat dorky but wild grammar school girl who ended up being the first person in her family to go to university—and to Oxford no less. Some of the most striking impressions she has left on me are not from any of her adventures around the world but from her narrating about her everyday, non-working life: how she prepared for her son’s 7th birthday, having just returned from Afghanistan in bruises; or how, when he was a toddler, every time he saw her he used to just say goodbye, because that’s all she seemed to do—lleave. Despite her extraordinary life, like all of us she had to balance different demands, too.

Reality hits you hard when you read this book. There’s so much going on in the world that we don’t get to see and experience, and Lamb does a great job of bringing it to us. Each person that she meets almost feels like you’ve met them too, and their lives touch yours for a moment, just as a good storyteller is meant to do.

Book review from: http://bookthingo.com.au


9. „127 Hours – Between a rock and a hard place” – Aron Ralston

It’s obvious that Aron Ralston had it coming. It’s not that he somehow deserved to be pinned to a canyon wall by a boulder, eventually surrendering his right arm in exchange for his life.

It’s that – as he acknowledges himself – his young life as a gung-ho mountaineer and passionate outdoorsman always seemed to be leading to that critical point. What makes 127 Hours truly extraordinary is exploring that point, and beyond, with someone who has seen the grinning face of death, and grinned back at it.

This book leaves you gulping at the extravagant depth of courage, spirit and determination on display in its pages. Ralston writes with both adrenalised verve and refreshing vulnerability, melding gnarly tales of his near misses on high peaks with his tearful reactions to sunrises. The force of his personality is clear, and it’s this character that not only kept him alive, but gifted him the ability to tell the tale so unforgettably.

Very few autobiographies are life changing for more than just their author; 127 Hours is unquestionably one of them. You’ll never look at rocks or penknives in the same way again, either.

Book review from: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk


8. „The Glass Castle” – Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle is another entry in the long line of memoirs of horrendous childhoods that have cropped up over the last few years. But what’s refreshing is that Jeanette Walls doesn’t come across as a bitter whiner. She is quite forgiving of what she refers to as her parents’ „non-conformity”. The book grabs you immediately from the first sentence and never lets go.

“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster. It was just after dark. A blustery March wind whipped the steam coming out of the manholes, and people hurried along the sidewalks with their collars turned up. I was stuck in traffic two blocks from the party where I was heading. Mom stood fifteen feet away. She had tied rags around her shoulders to keep out the spring chill and was picking through the trash. It had been months since I laid eyes on Mom, and when she looked up, I was overcome with panic that she’d see me and call out my name. I slid down in the seat and asked the driver to turn around and take me home to Park Avenue.”

From here on, the story is one dysfunctional family rollercoaster ride. Jeanette tells her courageous tale of growing up with an alcoholic father who had grandiose, Ralph Kramdenesque schemes to find gold (and building her a glass castle, thus the title of the book) and her mother’s backwards methodology on almost every aspect of their lives. Everything – and I mean everything – could be twisted and contorted into something positive if seen through the distorted prism of Jeanette’s parents’ eyes. Some parts of this will push you to the breaking point, making you want to shake some common sense into them. In other places, you can see that even though they were in desperate need of a psychiatric evaluation, they loved their kids.

 

But love is not enough. Just when things started to get semi-normal – dad getting a job or mom getting a job and the household having some sort of stability and food to eat – the family would be uprooted and take off to a new town or state (the skedaddle as her dad liked to put it). And through these misadventures of criss-crossing the country and popping up in new towns, Jeanette had to deal with the pedophilic tendencies of certain family members and homeless people, going hungry, not bathing, bullies, picking food out of the garbage, multiple fires, and on and on and on. Its absolutely heartbreaking at times, especially a particular twist concerning “Oz” the piggy bank. And though you could see it coming a mile away, fully expecting it to happen, when it does, it still feels like a kick to the gut.

But through all this strife, Jeannette eventually finds herself when she lands a spot working for the school newspaper. She and her sister hatch a plan and stick to it, eventually leading them out of the hardships and into more productive lives. Definitely one of those read-in-one-sitting type books. Just remember to call your parents, or even better yet, go see them and give them a big fat hug when you’re done.

Book review from: http://www.curledup.com


7. „Breaking Dawn” – Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn is split into three separate parts. The first part details Bella’s marriage and honeymoon with Edward, which they spend on a private island, called Isle Esme, off the coast ofBrazil. Two weeks into their honeymoon, Bella realizes that she is pregnant with a half-vampire child and that her condition is progressing at an unnaturally accelerated rate. After contacting Carlisle, who confirms her pregnancy, she and Edward immediately return home to Forks, Washington. Edward, concerned for Bella’s life and convinced that the fetus is a monster as it continues to develop with unnatural rapidity, urges her to have an abortion. However, Bella feels a connection with her unborn baby and refuses.

The novel’s second part is written from the perspective of shape-shifter Jacob Black, and lasts throughout Bella’s pregnancy and childbirth. Jacob’s Quileute wolf pack, not knowing what danger the unborn child may pose, plan to destroy it, also killing Bella. Jacob vehemently protests this decision and leaves, forming his own pack with Leah and Seth Clearwater. Bella soon gives birth, but the baby breaks many of her bones and she loses massive amounts of blood. In order to save her life, Edward changes her into a vampire by injecting his venom into her heart. Jacob, who was present for the birth, almost immediately „imprints”—an involuntary response in which a shape-shifter finds his soul mate—on Edward and Bella’s newborn daughter, Renesmee.

The third section of Breaking Dawn shifts back to Bella’s perspective, finding her changed into a vampire and enjoying her new life and abilities. However, the vampire Irina misidentifies Renesmee as an „immortal child”, a child who has been turned into a vampire. Because „immortal children” are uncontrollable, creating them has been outlawed by the Volturi. After Irina presents her allegation to the Volturi, they plan to destroy Renesmee and the Cullens. In an attempt to survive, the Cullens gather other vampire clans from around the world to stand as witnesses and prove to the Volturi that Renesmee is not an immortal child. Upon confronting the gathered Cullen allies and witnesses, the Volturi discover that they have been misinformed and immediately execute Irina for her mistake. However, they remain undecided on whether Renesmee should be viewed as a threat to vampires’ secret existence. At that time, Alice and Jasper, who had left prior to the confrontation, return with a Mapuche called Nahuel, a 150-year-old vampire-human crossbreed like Renesmee. Nahuel demonstrates that the crossbreeds pose no threat, and the Volturi leave. Edward, Bella, and Renesmee return to their home in peace.

Book review from: http://en.wikipedia.org


6. „Scarlett” – Alexandra Ripley

The book begins where Gone with the Wind left off, with Scarlett attending the funeral of her former sister-in-law and rival for Ashley Wilkes‘ affection, Melanie Wilkes, at which her estranged husband, Rhett Butler, is not present. Scarlett, heartbroken and aggravated that Rhett has left her completely, sets out for Tara and is saddened when she learns that Mammy, her mainstay since birth, is dying. When she arrives at Tara, she sends a telegram to notify Rhett about Mammy under the name of Will Benteen (her sister Suellen‘s husband), because she knows that Rhett won’t come if he suspects Scarlett is there. Before Mammy dies she makes Rhett swear to look after „her lamb” Miss Scarlett. Rhett agrees, although he has no intention of honoring the request. After Mammy’s death, Rhett and Scarlett fight, which culminates in Rhett leaving and Scarlett returning to the Atlanta house, determined to win Rhett back.

Scarlett, in her haste to win Rhett back, travels to Charleston to visit Rhett’s family and tries to corner him by winning his mother’s affection. He instead secludes himself in the family’s old plantation on the river. Scarlett convinces Rhett to take her for a sail on the harbour, where their boat capsizes during a terrible storm. When they become shipwrecked, Rhett tries to keep Scarlett awake until they reach land. Scarlett and Rhett swim until they reach an island, and take refuge in a hollow of sand dunes. Rhett says, „Oh my darling, I thought I’d killed you! My love, my life…”. Scarlett thinks he means it, and the two make love in the cave. Rhett later tells her that „when a man survived something he thought he wouldn’t, he does and says crazy things,” and that he didn’t mean it. Scarlett, knowing that he meant it tells him to look her in the eyes, and tell her honestly that he does not love her. He then confesses, but runs out because he does not want to „lose himself” over her again. He compares her to an addiction to opium. Once safely back in Charleston, Rhett leaves Scarlett near death at his mother’s house, telling her, in a letter, that while he admires her bravery in the face of danger, it has changed nothing; he will never see her again.

After Scarlett has regained her strength, she leaves Charleston with her two aunts, Pauline and Eulalie, to attend her maternal grandfather’s birthday celebration in Savannah. She leaves a hastily written note to Rhett’s mother, whom she has grown to love and admire, with Rhett’s sister, Rosemary. Rosemary burns the note. (Rosemary overheard a nasty exchange between Rhett and Scarlett and was upset with this „dark side” of her brother. Rhett told Rosemary the whole story of loving Scarlett till there was not one drop of love left and how he would fall in love with her again if he didn’t keep away from her.)

Scarlett connects with the Savannah O’Haras against her maternal family’s wishes. Scarlett’s grandfather offers Scarlett his entire inheritance if she will remain with him in Savannah until his death and avoid all contact with her father’s side of the family. Scarlett refuses the old man and storms out of the house, furious at his demands. She goes to stay with her cousin Jamie and his family. Soon after another cousin named Colum, a priest from Ireland, joins them. Later Scarlett agrees to travel to Ireland with him. By this time Scarlett has realized that she is pregnant with Rhett’s child but she keeps her pregnancy hidden.

In Ireland, Scarlett is heartily welcomed by her Irish kin, including her grandmother, Old Katie Scarlett, Gerald’s mother. Exploring one day with her cousin Colum, they pass by an old house which the latter explained was called ‘Ballyhara’ along with the land surrounding it; it was O’Hara land long ago before the English seized it, along with other land from the Irish. Scarlett is mildly interested until she receives a notification of divorce from Rhett. Scarlett makes plans to leave for America at once but is stunned by more news; Rhett is married to another woman, a Charlestonian named Anne Hampton, who is said to resemble Melanie Hamilton. Heartbroken and full of remorse over her past deeds, Scarlett decides to remain in Ireland. She works with lawyers and leaves her two-third share of her father’s plantation, Tara, to her son Wade Hamilton (fathered by her first husband, Charles Hamilton, brother of Melanie Wilkes), buys Ballyhara and settles down in Ireland, to her Irish family’s delight. She and her cousin, Colum, tell everyone that her husband had taken ill and then died, leaving her a widow, rather than tell the truth that she was divorced.

As Ballyhara is slowly restored, Scarlett eagerly awaits the birth of her child, praying for it to be a girl and vowing to be a good mother. She is well respected by the townspeople and her family, earning her a reputation as a hard worker, with fierce Irish pride. She becomes known as The O’Hara, a title reserved for the undisputed leader of a family clan.

One stormy Halloween night, her water breaks. Her housekeeper, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and the midwife whom Colum summons are unable to handle the situation, and it appears that Scarlett will die. Instead, she is saved by the wise old woman who lives near the haunted tower and who appears suddenly. The Caesarian birth is successful, but internal damage is done to Scarlett; as a result, Scarlett can no longer have children. The baby, a girl, is born with dark skin like Rhett’s, but with blue eyes that slowly turn as green as Scarlett’s. Full of love and thanksgiving, Scarlett names her Katie Colum O’Hara, and calls her „Cat” because of her green eyes. Rumors in the town abound about the birth of the child since one of the townspeople summoned to help with the birth claimed that the wise woman (witch) birthed a healthy boy from Scarlett but replaced the boy-child with a girl-child changeling. These rumors and fears are accented by the fact that Cat is born on Halloween, the time when bad spirits roam and play tricks on the living.

After Scarlett has settled down in Ballyhara, she runs into Rhett a number of times—in America when she sees him while she is on the boat to Boston, at a fair where she admits she still loves him and at a hunt a week later. All the while, he still does not know he has a child. He then seeks her out at a society ball and, in this gesture, Scarlett realizes he still loves her, and that she in turn loves him in a way only she and he will ever know.

Lord Fenton, one of the wealthiest men in Europe, pursues Scarlett relentlessly, wanting to marry her but not with good intentions. He wants Scarlett to bear his children after seeing Cat’s fiery spirit and fearlessness. He also plans to unite their estates; he owns Adamstown, the land adjacent to Scarlett’s. The combined estate will go to their son upon their deaths but Cat will bear his name and have the best of everything. Angered by his arrogance, Scarlett refuses and orders him out of her house. He laughs at her and asks her to call him when she reconsiders. Scarlett leaves for Dublin for her yearly visit for parties and hunts. She later decides to accept Lord Fenton when she hears that Anne is pregnant with Rhett’s second child (the first child was lost to a miscarriage). The news leaks out about her engagement and Rhett, in a drunken state, insults her when she runs into him at a horse race. A mutual friend tells her that Anne died of a fever and the baby died four days after its birth and she rushes back to Ballyhara hopeful that Rhett would come looking for her. She finds English there with a warrant to arrest Colum, who is the head of the Fenian Brotherhood, a group of Irish people planning to revolt against the English. Colum is murdered and Rosaleen Fitzpatrick sets fire to the entire English arsenal to avenge Colum. The villagers, thinking Scarlett is in league with the English, burn her house down. Rhett comes to her rescue and he tries to convince her to escape with him. Scarlett doesn’t go, but runs around her house yelling, „Cat! Cat! Where are you?” Rhett, confusedly says, „There’s no time for the cat! We have to go!” Scarlett looks at him, dumbfounded. „Oh you fool! Not a cat,” she barks. „Katie Colum O’Hara, called Cat. She’s your daughter.” Stunned, Rhett demands that Scarlett tell him how that’s possible. Scarlett, still anxious about finding Cat, gives him a hurried explanation of when Cat was conceived. Rhett frantically goes in search of his newfound daughter with Scarlett at his heels. They find Cat in the kitchen after Scarlett remembers that Cat loves the kitchen. The three climb into the high tower on Ballyhara where Cat has made a playhouse and they stay there for the night. Scarlett explains why she didn’t tell him about Cat and he understands. Rhett and Scarlett both say „I love you”. They wake up the next morning ready to start their new lives together and leave Ireland. The book ends with „Grainne told me to keep it,” said by Cat, speaking of the old rope ladder which they will use to climb down from the tower.

Review from: http://en.wikipedia.org


5. „The Lovers” – John Connolly

It’s 10 years since Charlie Parker’s wife and daughter were murdered in Connolly’s first novel, Every Dead Thing, but fate is still dealing him duff cards. Stripped of his PI’s licence, Parker is living alone and working in a Portland bar when he decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him all his life: why did his NYPD cop father shoot two unarmed teenagers, then turn the gun on himself? And what does this have to do with the more recent murder – staged to look like a suicide – of a young man whose ex-girlfriend believes she’s been cursed? The supernatural element in Connolly’s Parker books has always annoyed some fans, who feel it nudges what are essentially crime novels too far into Stephen King territory. It’s present here as an unobtrusive background hum – the perfect complement to Parker’s measured narration.

Review from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

4. „Daughter of darkness” – Virginia Andrews

Here is a vampire story with a twist, the bloodsucking ghouls are three beautiful teenage sisters who escape from the Night World and try to find a new life, and love, with humans in a small town.

Review from: http://www.goodreads.com

3. „Torment” – Lauren Kate

Hell on earth. That’s what it’s like for Luce to be apart from her fallen angel boyfriend, Daniel. It took them an eternity to find one another, but now he has told her he must go away. Just long enough to hunt down the Outcasts – immortals who want to kill Luce. Daniel hides Luce at Shoreline, a school on the rocky California coast with unusually gifted students -Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans.

At Shoreline, Luce learns what the Shadows are, and how she can use them as windows to her previous lives. Yet the more Luce learns, the more she suspects that Daniel hasn’t told her everything. He’s hiding something – something dangerous. What if Daniel’s version of the past isn’t actually true? What if Luce is really meant to be with someone else? The second novel in the addictive FALLEN series . . . where love never dies.

Review from: http://www.goodreads.com

2. „The Help” – Kathryn Stockett

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women — mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Review from: http://www.bookbrowse.com

1. „Eat, Pray, Love” – Elisabeth Gilbert

Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want—a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.

To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world—all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the twenty-three happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way—unexpectedly.

Review from: http://www.bookbrowse.com

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