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About Viccie

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    reading, writing, wine, dawdling around
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  1. Simon Sebag-Montefiore is better known as a historian than a writer of sweeping romantic epics and this is his first novel and the first of a trilogy of novels set in Stalinist Russia. This one os set in three different time periods, 1916 and the lead up to the Russian Revolution where the 16 year old Sashenka, priviledged daughter of a rich Jewish businessman is working secretly for the Bolshevieks, 1939 where Sashenka, utterly loyal party member, is married and has managed to skate unscathed through the Stalinist purges of the last three years and 1994 when a young History student is asked to research a family history. Simon S-S is obviously an expert historian and in places his sheer skill in evoking a place, a period is absolutely suberb, particularly in the section set in the Stalinist era. There you could feel the uneasy mix of complacency that as a good Party member nothing was ever going to happen to you combined with a constant unease and refusal to acknowledge what was really going on as well as the memory of friends who had become 'non-people'. However I couldn't help feeling he took Writing Romantic Saga 101 lessons from his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, for the romantic/sagaish elements often don't seem to sit very easily. He gets flowery, dwells too much on looks and Sashenka's worry that her bosom is "too noticeable" (I cannot recall any of my three daughters or their friends ever complaining aout too much frontage when they were 16!) - apparently the last two books in the series are more in thriller mode and I suspect they will suit his style better. In addition the last section has far too many unlikely co-incidences and relies strongly on people living to iimprobably great ages (one is 102 or more, others mid 90's). That said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book which I wouldn't have picked up if it hadn't been our book group Summer Read. With all its faults, it's still a very good read and the middle section is truly memorable.
  2. The Man in the Wooden Hat - Jane Gardam
  3. Oh goodness i remember The Machine Stops so well. It was in a book of short stories we read at school when I was about 13. How often do you ever find that a school books produces a reaction of 'Have you read ..... yet. You must, it's great!'
  4. The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
  5. True. I reckon Charlotte gave him an anti-love potion right from the beginning.
  6. I was just wondering if anyone in the group has ever managed to download a freebie that was worth reading? Apart from classics, books from the Guttenberg project etc and bona-fide published authors who are kickstarting a backlist such as Peter May who offered the first of his Enzo books for free for a while. I've had a Kobo since Christmas and thought that I was going to have a lovely time with it. I work one or two days a week during the summer with arrivals and departures for river cruises which involves a lot of waiting around (aka readig time),20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, so lightish reads which you can put down and pick up again are ideal. I scoured Amazon for freebies and was really looking forward to getting dug in so far, I haven't found one - not one - that truely merited the time I spent on it. Thrillers aren't thrilling, murder mysteries have no mystery, comic romances are neither funny nor romantic and the majority are so badly written, edited and formatted. I've downloaded some great books which have been discounted on short-term promos, no problem wth that, but as for novice self-published authors, zilch. Anyone ever made a real find among the Amazon freebies?
  7. What about the Longbourne witches? Neary half the coven made up of Bennets of course with Charlotte Lucas as chief witch? Then when she marries Mr Collins she can be occupying her time casting spells on Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
  8. The Horse and his Boy - C S Lewis
  9. I was a bit doubtful about which category to put this in because it advertises itself as a 'psychological thriller, and though there's lots of psychological in In Her Wake, there really isn't much thriller. It's a study of loss, of having your very identity taken away from you, of grief, of growing and changing so I decided it belongs here. This was one of those rare times when I read a book without reading the back blurb and I'm really pleased I did so no plot description here! it begins with Bella's much loved mother's funeral. Her mother Elaine had been reclusive, a shining light in Bella's sky, adoring and protective of her daughter, home schooling her because oridinary schools were horrible, leeping her away from anyone who might hurt her. Bella is so close to her mother that she didn't even like to tell her mother how much she enjoyed having maths and science lessons frm her distant, undemonstrative father in case it hurt her; Bella's mother had wantd to keep her at home but her father insisted that she go to university where she met and married a much older lecturer David - all the more unpleasant because he and his controlling behaviour is so horribly believeable. Bella reads a letter from her father which smashes her safe, cocooned world - you can read on from there yourselves! The first half of this book is utterly mesmerising because you so want to immerse yourself in the world Amanda Jennings has created, the second half slows down a little, there are a couple of hallucinatory episodes which I didn't feel added much, but on the whole it was a really satisfying book and one that I was reluctant to ever put down. I like Amanda Jenning's writing, it's unflashy and slides by smoothly without you noticing just how polished it is and I'll definitely be looking out her other books.
  10. All Quiet On The Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
  11. Just treated myself to the last in Catherine Fox's Lindchester trilogy.
  12. Helen Macdonald

    This is a strange book in that i don't have a great compulsion to pick it up and read it, I got it from the library nearly a month ago, and it sits on the side in the kitchen for days, in one case a week, at a time, then I start again and am completely hooked. Maybe it's better in bite-sized pices (no pun intended).
  13. This is quite simply a very, very good book and one that I would never have even looked at if it hadn't been for MM's priase of Linda Grant's writing. Thank you so much! It's 1946 and Evelyn Sert, a reluctant hairdresser from London, sets sail for Palestine where Jews from all over the world are gathering in the hopes of making a Zionist state in Palestine. Evelyn has no particular strong political feels, it's her "Uncle Joe" , her dead mother's protector, who is passionate about the idea of a Jewish homeland, and since he can hardly go and help set it up himself as he has a "real" family to look after in London he despatches his ex-mistress's daughter instead under the guise of being a Christian tourist, the only way she can get a visa for the country. Evelyn has no idea what she is going to, she quickly discovers that kibbutz life is not for her and flees to the city, where an innocent in the middle of a cultural melting pot she's only half aware most of the time of what's going on around her. This book works on so many levels. The writing is superb, as is the charecterisation and though the story line is hardly fast moving I fund the book absolutely mesmerising because Linda Grant evokes a sense of time and place so very well that you feel that you're living along with Evelyn. It's also utterly unjudgemental and even handed. I loved it.
  14. The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan
  15. It's a brave author who decides to wrtie a thriller about the election of a pope. After all the action is largely limited to a group of elderly men being locked away until they can agree which of them is going to be supreme pontiff. They are allowed no contact with the outside so it's hard to move things along with a little bit of extra infrmation coming in and changing things. Robert Harris nearly pulls it off. He's very good at pacing his books, There is some tension as front-runners for the election drop out in one way or another, one or two mysterious things going on, a completely unknown cardinal turns up at the last mment and it become's apparent that the recently deceased pope had a prvate agenda of his own. Ultimately it fails to satisfy though, I felt that the cardinal who was elected to bepope was firstly a huge cop- out, secndly disticntly rpedicatable and thirdly not very believeable. I don't regret reading it, the backgrund info about how popes are elected was fascinating and it was a page turner, it's just it's not one to look back on and savour.