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The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hogwarts revisited, or Baker Street redux?, 2 Aug 2013
So, hands up first: I was one of those brainless snobs who only picked up this book after the true authorship was revealed. I certainly have felt too old and too busy to be bothered with any new fictions since finishing the last one quiet a few years ago, which happened to be "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".

"The Cuckoo's Calling" is a well woven story, though I would agree with the editor who turned down the book when it was submitted as a debut by "Robert Galbraith", that it was "well written but quiet". There are a few points that strike me as "different" from a typical "detective story" yet so Rowling-esque at the same time, though they didn't give the game away. Her lawyers did.

Anyway, to start with, the author is clearly too literarily cultivated to just provide a gripping plot. How often do we see detective stories quoting Vigil and Horace, in Latin? Rowling, at some interview, did claim that she was one of the few who managed to put her training in classics to proper use. This is another indication that she can't completely stay away from her "roots".

A lesser point, the author wouldn't be happy with just naming her characters merely common "Kevin" and "James". If the unusual first names have been more becoming in a world of wizards and witches, they are surely meant to achieve some special effect too in a story about the "muggles" set in modern day London (almost modern day, Gordon Brown was still the PM)? But, to my untrained eyes, this isn't obvious, except on two insignificant occasions when the protagonist's name first became a constant target of ridicule when he was young, we were told retrospectively, then it was wrongly called in an almost comic way in the hospital at the end of the book.

Yet, there are also something too predictable. It becomes so obvious so early on that Robin would stay as Strike's sidekick at the end. Actually it's made clearer every time we're reminded that she will leave soon. And the author even goes out of the way to allude the Batman connotation at their very first meeting, as if she were afraid the readers didn't get the point. And it becomes almost Hollywoodian when Robin's heroics came to the last minute rescue at the culmination of the story.

Despite the predictabilities and occasionally over-elaborate descriptions of trivialities, however, I was still glued to the book, and managed to finish it within two days on top of all the daily chores a working father had to attend to. In addition to the plot which I found gripping enough, and the prose which I enjoyed, the context of the setting repeatedly stirred an almost nostalgic, personal reverberation in me: ULU (frequented the bar), SOAS (never went in but passed by on so many days), Charing Cross Road (interesting that, with the sketch of the guitar shop and so on, Rowling didn't mention anything of the second hand bookshops), Wong Kei (went with a group of friends to enjoy the humiliating service the restaurant is known, and loved, for), The Tottenham (downed more than a few pints), etc., etc.. Rowling is apparently a fan of this area, sending Harry, Ron and Hermione to fend the dementors when they were having a cup of cappuccino in a coffee shop in Tottenham Court Road.

Just like "Harry Potter" would never escape from being compared with "Lord of the Rings", Cormoran and Robin will be judged vis-à-vis Sherlock and John, if more stories will come to develop a series, which Rowling promises they will. With a talent that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wouldn't be too humiliated to be compared with, and with a marketing capacity and capability second to none, you never know, J K Rowling might be able to turn Denmark Street into another shrine just like Baker Street in the last 120 years. She only needs to give Strike's office a fictional street number. 221B, however sincere a homage it might be, would be too archaic and, yes, "predictable". How does 9 ¾ sound?

Oscar Wilde: The Complete Works (Collectors Library Omnibus ed)
Oscar Wilde: The Complete Works (Collectors Library Omnibus ed)
by Oscar Wilde
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £35.00

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An insult to Widle and Beardsley, 25 Oct 2011
I don't think I need to rate Wilde's works or Beardsley's illustrations. I'm only rating the quality of this book, and wish I could give zero star!

I've been a keen reader of Wilde for more than 20 years and know his works well, but I haven't got a decent edition of his complete works. That's why I ordered this one as a treat to myself. How wrong I was!

Honestly I didn't go beyond the "Foreword", which was enough to put me off and I instantly filed for a refund.

The "Foreword" is only 2-pages long. On the first page of it, there are at least two typos: "in1891" instead of "in 1891", "D?cadents" instead of "Décadents"--I'm surprised with the second typo though as all the accent aigu signs in the "Contents" section are printed correctly--and at least one grammatical mistake: "travelled widely in the Britain" (where does the "the" come from?).

These are followed by more mistakes on the second and last page of the short "Foreword": "Salome" instead of "Salomé" (another accent aigu), "refused it license it" instead of "refused to", "within eighteen months the following the premiere of" (the author looks to be a big fan of "the"). Even the quote of Wilde's own words can go wrong: "We did not separate as a rule until till after midnight".

I don't know who David Stuart Davies, who penned the Foreword, is, but I was appalled by this factual mistake: "Lord Queensbury". Marquess, please!

The book is bulky, but the quality of the paper is so poor that the illustrations printed on the front side of the page can be seen from the back side, while the illustrations themselves are more often than not messed by the words on the other side.

In summary, this book is a disgrace! Don't buy it!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2011 10:36 AM GMT

The Complete Yes Minister
The Complete Yes Minister
by Jonathan Lynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for any student trying to understand politics, 8 Nov 2010
Another book I lost over the years, more likely been borrowed by a friend and never returned. Could never forget the laughs I had first watching the shows, then as if Paul Eddington (RIP, old man!) and co were reading out the lines for me when reading the book. British humour at its best! And should be made a must-read for any students who're mildly interested in politics. We don't have to worry about the odd ones who may want to venture into politics later--they will pick it up before they reach 16, that is, old enough to make a speech at the Conservatives national conference :)

Ordered this copy from the dealer through Amazon. The book arrived very fast and in better than expected condition.

Bertrand Russell: 1872-1920 The Spirit of Solitude v. 1
Bertrand Russell: 1872-1920 The Spirit of Solitude v. 1
by Ray Monk
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very well researched and well written biography, 8 Nov 2010
Read this book shortly after it was published but somehow lost it in the half a dozen house movings since. Bought it from this dealer on Amazon. The booked arrived very fast in a condition better than expecated.

I had been quite impressed by Ray Monk's biography of Wittgenstein, so I decided to pick up this one of Russell. Obviously some materials he researched for the Wittgenstein book were reused, but overall this is a very well researched, structured, and written book. I didn't read the second volume though, and didn't intend to, after browsing through the overwhelmingly negative comments on Amazon. I feel Mr. Monk had done really well in avoiding being opinionated in his efforts on Wittgenstein and this first volume on Russell, but I don't understand how he could tread into that territory in the second volume of this effort -- I don't think he could be wronged by almost all the reviewers on this forum.

To the Castle and Back
To the Castle and Back
by Václav Havel
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great life in his own words, 20 Sep 2010
This review is from: To the Castle and Back (Hardcover)
Vaclav Havel has been my hero, and it's a highly pleasant journey to read his life told in his own words--well, almost his own words, as the booked was translated from Czech. I'm particularly impressed by his honesty, for example his difference from and his respect for the difference from Dubcek. This is a great example to show a politician's memoir should be written. Tony Blair, anyone?

by Paul Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What he lacks in details, he makes up in style and passion, 25 Feb 2010
This review is from: Churchill (Hardcover)
Paul Johnson surely can write good prose, old(ish) fashioned maybe, but he nevers lacks passion--though sometimes misplaced.

To cover WSC's 90 years'of life in <200 pages is in itself a formidable task, Johnson handles well by taking the predictable route of sacrificing details with broadbrushing the major happenings. However he did use selected anecdotes to make his points, though readers of Johnson would recall that quite a few of these anecdotes have been used in his essay on Churchill in his earlier book, "Heroes".

What slightly annoys me is that he seems to claim that he knew Churchill, which is an exaggeration, to say the least. (He cast a similar impression of "knowing" Bertrand Russell in his book "Intellectuals".) I assume Mr. Johnson is famous enough in his own right (as a acclaimed historian as well as a Catholic with some personal characters) that he doesn't need to enhance his fame by trying hard to display his acquaintance of other dignitaries. This will be all the more obvious if compared with Roy Jenkins, who sat in the Commons with Churchill for nearly 20 years yet still admitted that he didn't know the man. Johnson, however, is graceful enough to commend Jenkins' biography of Churchill as the best life story of the great man.

In short, if you're not familiar with Churchill's life, you may learn a thing or two in a short time by going through this volume. If you're a keen reader of Churchill (his own words and those words about him), you won't miss too much by giving this book a pass.

Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians
Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians
by Jason Dr Long
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, not only for doubting Christians, but for believers too, 11 Jan 2010
Don't get me wrong, I'm no believer, but this book provides with so much good ammunition when dealing with the believers. Boy, how I love it! A couple of logical holes plus a few detailed factual inconsistencies taken from this book will send your believer friend home to check his Bible then scratch his head, if he's at least somewhat rational!

Thank you, Jason!

Scosche Passport Home Dock for the iPhone 3G, iPod Touch 2G and Nano 4G - Black
Scosche Passport Home Dock for the iPhone 3G, iPod Touch 2G and Nano 4G - Black

3.0 out of 5 stars Works, but that's it, 11 Jan 2010
I was having trouble docking my new iPod Touch on my old Bose SoundDock, which I bought a couple of years ago for my old iPod (the U2 version). After a few Googling minutes I was directed to this little accessory that can help transform the porting--what I understand is due to the change of charging voltage by Apple. Amazon offers the best price, so I made the order.

I was pleased that it worked, and came in the package was a small plastic piece that sits in the Bose cradle and make the "Passport" dock properly, which is very useful.

Now for the 2 missing stars in my rating. 1. I can now charge the 2G iPod Touch on the Bose and can have it play music, but sometimes there is a weak sizzling sound (like faulty connection) if you don't press the iPod very hard on the dock, and you may also have to rock it back and forth to find the optimal connection position. And on a couple of occasions when I took the iPod off the docking, this Passport came off as well, clinging to the bottom of the iPod, propably because I had pressed it too hard earlier. 2. The Bose doesn't look so cool any more with this new added height at the cradle, that is, instead of sitting IN the cradle as my old iPod did, my new iPod Touch is now sitting on top of a "mound" raised from the cradle, a bit like a miniature tomb stone. 3. It's way too pricey for its functionality.

However this is the piece to go for if you don't want to invest in another Bose or other docking stations for the new iPod or iPhone.

The Beautiful South : Munch - Our Hits [DVD] [Region 1] [NTSC] [2002]
The Beautiful South : Munch - Our Hits [DVD] [Region 1] [NTSC] [2002]
Dvd ~ Beautiful South
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good collection, 11 Jan 2010
This is a good collection of TBS's earlier hits, but it would be better if a similar collection of their later hits could also be produced.

Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.88

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is good, 7 Dec 2009
This review is from: Choke (Audio CD)
Still don't know how I lost this when I moved house last year, so I re-ordered from Amazon. Good as expected from TBS.

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