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Latest Reviews

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Gossip girl : The complete fifth season [videorecording].
Author: Von Ziegesar, Cecily. -- Lively, Blake. -- Meester, Leighton, 1986- -- Badgley, Penn, 1986- -- Westwick, Ed, 1987-
Publisher: Neutral Bay, N.S.W. : Distributred by Warner Bros. Entertainment Australia, 2012.
Review by: Leeon, Elektra  on: 10/02/2020 3:41:44 PM
Member Rating:
I really liked the story and I have not seen the first but it is very good
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Fludd / Hilary Mantel.
Author: Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt, 2000.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 22/01/2020 2:59:42 PM
Member Rating:
Hilary Mantel won two Mann Booker prizes one for each of her first two novels in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy viz. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies the prize winners. The third The Mirror and the Light is due to be released in early 2020. The first two are definitely prize-deserving historical fiction.

However Fludd is a totally different genre. It is light-hearted but cutting satire. The target of her satire is the Catholic Church which despite its high ecclesiastic doctrine is at the lay level steeped in superstition and hang-overs from pre-Christian times. An example of this is the reverence and god-like worship given to icons such as remnants of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. In Fludd it is statues of the Virgin Mary and various saints that are the target.

Father Angwin is the parish priest in Fetherhoughton a dreary and isolated fictional town somewhere on the moors of northern England. The year is 1956. Although faithful to Catholic doctrine he is practical and respects his parishioners desire for their almost animistic worship these statues. However his bishop is modern and progressive and is determined that the church moves into the 20th century. The statues are to go.

The Bishop sends Fludd a curate to assist Father Angwin with the planned modernisation of his parish. But Fludd is a mysterious man. Miraculous events occur wherever he is and wherever he goes. He is both a saviour and transformer. Will he be Father Angwins solution to his meddlesome bishop Will his parish be able to continue to believe in a supernatural Christianity

Mantel tells her tale with a witty and dry humour worthy of the best satire. Her idiosyncratic style is a refreshing change from mere pedestrian story-telling. Well worth a read if you wish to be entertained while you ponder the place of religion in the human condition.
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A place of greater safety / Hilary Mantel.
Author: Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
Publisher: London : Harper Perennial, 2007.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 22/01/2020 2:58:25 PM
Member Rating:
A Place of Greater Safety is an earlier work of historical fiction but no less meritorious than her prize winning successors. It is set in the lead up to and early years of the French Revolution.
It is an epic novel following the lives of Georges Danton Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre from their childhood through the execution of the Dantonists. These were probably three of the most famous figures of the Revolution. Numerous other historical figures make an appearance.

This novel is backed by rigorous and comprehensive research. Learn history while you are entertained. Hilary Mantels style is idiosyncratic and sometimes enigmatic. You have to pay attention and work a little to fully grasp the flow of events and the characters motivations and goals. Do this and you will be drawn inextricably into the novel. You will live the story with its characters.
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The red-haired woman / Orhan Pamuk ; translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap.
Author: Pamuk, Orhan, 1952-, author. -- Oklap, Ekin, translator.
Publisher: Rearsby, Leicester : WF Howes Ltd, 2018. -- �2017.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/01/2020 3:30:11 PM
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The Red-Haired Woman is a curious mystery. A middle-class boy, whose father disappeared after being arrested for politically subversive activities, finds work with a master well digger 30 miles from Istanbul. A filial bond grows as they excavate without luck in the summer heat. He encounters an alluring red-haired woman, a member of a travelling theatre. A tragic accident occurs. The boy flees back to Istanbul. Years later he reflects. Was he responsible for his masters death And who was this mysterious red-headed enchantress

Take a step into another culture another world view another time. Take up the challenge to fathom the nature of Pamuks characters as they negotiate their worlds. If you want some meaty reading Pamuks novel will fit your bill.
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A strangeness in my mind [electronic resource] / Orhan Pamuk.
Author: Pamuk, Orhan.
Publisher: [Melbourne, Vic.] : e-penguin, 2016.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/01/2020 3:28:00 PM
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A Strangness in My Mind takes the reader to late 20th century Turkey. A boy from a poor village come to Istanbul with dreams of becoming rich. He tries to sell boza, a traditional Turkish drink on the streets. A traditional trade for centuries it is dying out as Istanbul modernises. Forced by economic necessity to take a variety of other jobs he refuses to let the tradition die. Follow his journey as he elopes with the wrong sister and even marries her after he realises his mistake and struggles to maintain his dream while the rest of his relatives make their fortunes.
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My name is Red / Orhan Pamuk ; translated by Erdaæg M. Gèoknar.
Author: Pamuk, Orhan, 1952-
Publisher: London : Faber, 2011, c2001.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/01/2020 3:26:44 PM
Member Rating:
Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. This in itself deserves exploration. However remember that winners of major literary prizes don't win them by writing popular airport fiction. Their plot lines are neither straightforward nor simple. The reader is forced to concentrate to see the messages behind the words to tune into nuances of emotion and motivation and to appreciate the subtleties of the characters personalities and the cultural setting. But this is all the more rewarding as it draws you into the world of the novel.

Orhan Pamuk is a Turk and his novel The Red-Haired Woman is set in Turkey in the late 16th century. There is a clash of cultures or more accurately a threat of cultural change as Western art styles infringe on Eastern and Muslim ones. Islam eschews the depiction of living images both human and animal in its artwork and book illustrations. Yet in this novel there are now some miniaturists book illustrators who are advocating Western practice with tacit support from the Sultan. Jealousies and rivalries abound competition for the Sultans favour is rife intrigue leads to murder. Is it due to professional rivalry romantic jealousy or religious terror This is a murder mystery set in a different culture and a different time. A map and historical chronology is provided to help those readers with little knowledge of the Turkish historical setting.
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Behave : the biology of humans at our best and worst / Robert M. Sapolsky.
Author: Sapolsky, Robert M., author.
Publisher: London, UK Jonathan Cape Ltd (UK) 2017. -- London : The Bodley Head, an imprint of Vintage, 2017. -- ©2017
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/01/2020 3:18:44 PM
Member Rating:
Ever pondered why we behave the way we do What forces - biological, cultural, environmental - motivate us or compel us to act how we act, say what we say, scheme, intrigue and manipulate? In this 790-page tome Robert Sapolsky attempts to provide some answers. His answers are not simple nor necessarily definitive. As he continually reminds us it's complicated.

Robert Sapolsky is something of a polymath. Professionally he is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University California. However it is clear that he is well-read in anthropology palaeontology sociology and psychology. Throw in animal behavioural studies and I think I have just about covered it.

His opening chapter introduces us to one of his specialties the human brain. Remember he is a neurologist so expect a detailed description of the brains anatomy and function. Information is dense comprehensive and at times technical. Persist and you will be rewarded with a wealth of knowledge.

For the rest of the book Sapolsky moves onto human society and culture. He tackles it both at the individual and group level. He draws parallels with other primates an understanding of which is necessary as a foundation for unravelling our own obsession with ever-shifting groupings of us and them. He explores topics such as hierarchy, obedience, morality, empathy, freewill, criminality and war.

Underlying the complicity of human behaviour is context. Although our behaviour is rooted in biology Sapolsky reminds us that it is moderated, even diametrically changed, depending on situational social or cultural factors. For example testosterone is often portrayed as the male aggression hormone. However Sapolsky stresses that it actually propels us to maintain or increase social status. If this is achieved by people being nice and considerate it propels them to be generous. Similarly oxytocin is called the love hormone. Wrong again. While oxytocin elicits trust generosity and cooperation this is first and foremost among us the in-group. If outsiders are perceived as a threat or challenge to our group oxytocin amplifies pre-emptive aggression. We are quite willing to sacrifice them for the greater good of us.

This book covers a large range of behavioural issues. It takes a multidisciplinary approach. Multiple explanations are offered. So don't expect a concise neat summary at the end. I can only quote the author himself "its complicated".
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Selection Day / Aravind Adiga.
Author: Adiga, Aravind, 1974-, author.
Publisher: London Picador, 2016.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/01/2020 3:08:16 PM
Member Rating:
This novel will appeal to cricket fans. Cricket runs through the Indian blood. Wherever space can be found from vacant lots in villages to narrow lanes in urban slums children with improvised bats and balls will be playing cricket. Dreams of international stardom unfortunately are quickly destroyed by the exigencies of everyday life in such an overcrowded nation.

Selection Day is a coming-of-age story. It centres around Manjunath Kumar the son of a cricket fanatic and elder brother Radha who is being groomed as the next cricket great. But who is the greater talent Manjunath or Radha And how does Manjunath square off his cricket ambitions with his passion for science His internal conflict and ambiguous identity are challenged when he meets his brothers greatest rival a boy whose privilege and confidence forces him to review his sense of self and the world around him.
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Last man in tower / Aravind Adiga.
Author: Adiga, Aravind.
Publisher: London : Atlantic Books, 2011.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/01/2020 3:05:38 PM
Member Rating:
Set in India like his debut novel The White Tiger but with a theme that is common in rapidly developing economies. Indias cities are expanding at an exponential rate with huge inflows of rural mision.
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The white tiger.
Author: Adiga, Aravind.
Publisher: London : Atlantic Bks, 2008.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 13/01/2020 3:02:31 PM
Member Rating:
Adiga won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 for this novel and rightfully so. His style of presentation is refreshingly idiosyncratic. It takes the form of a letter to the premier of China who is making a State visit to India. Balram Halwai the protagonist of this story feels he has some knowledge even lessons to impart on this Communist apparatchikknowledge that India is a progressive and successful capitalist nation and lessons on how to become a successful entrepreneur in a dog-eats-dog mercantile nation.

Balram Halwai is the White Tiger, the smartest boy in his village. He moves from his poor origins to the bustling urban opportunities of Delhi. He harbours the dreams of so many rural poor to become successful and rich. He gets a job as chauffeur and general dogs body to a wealthy businessman whose success borders on the edges of illegality. Not content to play second fiddle he resorts to nefarious means to get a leg up. I shan't go into detail. This would spoil the story for a prospective reader. Needless to say he remains both unrepentant and proud of his success regardless of his amoral means.

Adiga presents an India warts and all. It is both thrilling and shocking but also endearing. Travel with the author through this hybrid culture steeped in millennia of tradition with a thin facade modernity thrown on top.
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