Archive | January, 2011

January Quick Fire Reviews

18 Jan

BOOK: Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
Out now, Atlantic Books, £12.99
When Nicholas moves to Moscow for work, he suffers from an extreme culture shock, struggling to get used to the bitter cold, the debauched nightlife and his colleagues’ distinct lack of morals. But when he falls for the mysterious Masha, he’s also seduced by a hedonistic lifestyle of clubbing, vodka and sex. When Masha asks him to help her family, he quickly finds himself involved in a complicated web of deceit.

Narrated by Nicholas as a confession to his fiancée, this psychological drama is a dark, sparkling tale of corruption that compels you to read on.

CD: Stand Still by Emma’s Imagination
Out now, £7.93, Amazon.co.uk

She’s hailed as the Next Big Thing after winning Must Be The Music and getting snapped up by Gary Barlow’s record label, but Glasgow girl Emma Gillespie isn’t one of your headline-grabbing show-stoppers. Instead, the focus is on her pure, folk-style voice, and her ability to write beautiful acoustic pop songs. This Day and Brighter Greener lift the spirits while the spine-tingling Focus and quiet longing of Falling Slowly add depth, although songs about daisies, fairy lights and butterflies can become a little saccharine at times.

A nice collection of easy-listening pop with a few gems, but we’re not sure if there’s enough ‘wow’ factor for Emma to be able to compete with the strong female singers around right now.

BOOK: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
Out now, Atlantic Books, £8.99

When her husband leaves her for a man and she’s the victim of a bone-crushing car accident in the same week, Janzen decides she has little choice but to move back home with her parents – and back to the Christian sect she grew up in. A New York Times bestseller, this frank and funny memoir will have you chuckling and cringing at the same time.

A survival story for anyone who’s found themselves back at square one.

The Switch, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, movie, film, promo

The Switch poster

DVD: The Switch
Out now, £10.99, Amazon.co.uk

Jennifer Aniston stars as single girl Kassie in this offbeat rom-com about a last-minute sperm donor switch. It’s not much of a departure for Jen, but an endearing performance from Jason Bateman and the comic irony of Jeff Goldblum make this modern love story sharper than your average. That said, it’s six-year-old Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) and his pessimistic one-liners that end up stealing the show.

Pssst… We reviewed this in more detail a few months ago – click here to see what we said.

Bookish: The London Train by Tessa Hadley

18 Jan

Hadley, Tessa, London, Train, Novel, Book, Story, Latest, Fiction, Release

Out now, Random House, £12.99

Longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and nominated for the Orange Prize, Hadley’s previous books are praised for being excellent observations of the human condition. Her latest novel continues such a theme, this time using two stories that are linked by a brief encounter and its explosive consequences.

Paul lives with his wife Elise and their two young daughters in the Welsh countryside. When his ex-wife tells him their eldest daughter, Pia, is missing, he travels to London to find her, eventually discovering the teenager is pregnant and living with her enigmatic Polish boyfriend, Marek, and his alluring sister, Anna.

Stumbling into their new world, he becomes strangely captivated by the makeshift family, their carefree attitudes and the excitement of London and soon finds himself under a seductive spell of temptation and possibility.

Cora, meanwhile, has moved from London back to Cardiff, fleeing from a marriage that has been tarnished with disappointment and regret. Filling her time with menial tasks at the local library, she is attempting to move on with her life when she learns that her husband Robert has gone missing.

Told in two parts, the stories become intertwined by a chance meeting on the London train that will change Cora and Paul’s lives irrevocably.

An intense and absorbing story, Hadley exposes the sentimentality of romance by exploring the difficulty of ‘real-life love’, the reality of compromise and the perception changing effects of time on individuals.

However, it’s as much about ideas and idealism as it is about love, with multi-dimensional characters forcing us to reassess, and sometimes rediscover, truths that we thought we already knew.

Read this if: you’ve always secretly longed to start an emotionally charged affair with a stranger.

Don’t read this if: you have to Google the definition of the word ‘metaphor’.