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A Place Called Winter: Costa Shortlisted 2015
A Place Called Winter: Costa Shortlisted 2015
by Patrick Gale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars And they all lived happily ever after, 15 April 2016
This is possibly the worst book I have read this year. The characters are cardboard, the "plot" trite and unsatisfying and the ending incredible (ie it has no credibility). Harry's "exposure" completely lacks any kind of credibility (the story of how the autograph book ends up in his brother-in-law's hands is simply laughable and the ending with his expulsion from the sanatorium just doesn't hold water). I read this part three times trying to negotiate round Gale's enormous plot holes but failed. The last third of the book is rushed and full of plot holes. The Munck character just doesn't ring true, and Harry himself is so saintly that it becomes nauseous. Of course, Harry is redeemed by the love of a good man who miraculously reappears out of the blue just in time for that big "Brokeback Mountain" finale (with, indeed, the impediments of wife and child conveniently taken away by flu within the space of two pages, leaving him free to be claimed by his One True Love) and indeed one wonders whether Gale was inspired by that book (or film) to try his hand at rough, hunky woodsmen types in lumberjack shirts and facial hair.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2016 6:35 PM BST


Behind The Seams
Behind The Seams
by James Bellini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.89

2.0 out of 5 stars Better to have seen the actual exhibition than buy this book, 12 April 2016
This review is from: Behind The Seams (Hardcover)
If you saw the wonderful exhibition in Brick Lane put on by Angels of their costumes (far, far better and more imaginatively curated than the "Hollywood Costumes" exhibition at the V&A the year before) you may well be extremely disappointed by this book. It's very short on text, and if memory serves it is little more than a rehash of the accompanying texts to the actual exhibition. Many of the costumes are rendered in photographs of about three inches high, so you cannot see any of the fabulous and intricate detail. Little prominence is given to how the costumes are made - you cannot do the subject justice in six small pictures of each! I was really, really disappointed by this book.


Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip
Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip
by Nevin Martell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless and frustrating introspection, 1 Jan. 2016
Frankly, this is a rather pointless exercise in self-promotion. If you start out admitting to yourself that you are never going to find your quarry, there does seem little point in pursuing your quest. I did wonder many times whether Martell was simply writing this book as a money-making exercise, given the amount of people who are so interested in C&H and the elusive, reclusive Mr. Watterson. The prose is long-winded and heavy handed, with the author doing the literary equivalent of rummaging in many dustbins and finding nothing, then telling his readers about that nothing in a terribly long winded fashion. As an unexpected consequence of reading (although "skimming" would be a more accurate description) my perception of Watterson himself has changed. Given the love that so many people have for C&H, his constant refusal to speak in print or in public does come across as "sticking two fingers up" at his fans. He's made his money out of us but refuses to engage with us in any way, and therefore might well be labelled as "an old curmudgeon" or, more simply "damned rude". I wondered whether Martell also jumped on the bandwagon of making a quick buck by constructing a paper-thin premise and then stretching it out over a couple of hundred pages of introspective maundering. Martell really has nothing to say, because let's face it, there is nothing left to say on the subject. So why bother saying it?


The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island (Bryson)
The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island (Bryson)
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Notes from a Major Moaner, 15 Dec. 2015
Moan, moan, moan, moan! That's all Bryson does throughout this book. He is now, he proudly informs us, a holder of UK Citizenship and can certainly whinge for England. Let's face it - Bill is now officially a Grumpy Old Man, complaining endlessly about how stupid everything and everyone is and how bloody awful modern life is. This really brings this book down. When it was first published, I read "Notes from a Small Island" during a train journey and most of the other passengers thought I was some kind of loon because all I did was laugh out loud for the entire journey - at one point I actually had to stuff a handkerchief in my mouth to stop the noise of my laughing reverberating through the entire carriage. This book is not "Notes from a Small Island" even though its in the same kind of vein. There are a few good laughs, but mostly the noise emanating from me was loud tutting sounds because Bryson's constant moaning really annoyed me. Yes, there are a lot of interesting facts and Bryson's inimitable style pervades the entire book, but God, can that man moan. Sometimes its in a self-deprecating way, but if the UK is really that bad Bill, why don't you just p*ss off back to Iowa and have done with it?


A History of Television in 100 Programmes
A History of Television in 100 Programmes
by Phil Norman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One star is pushing it, really., 24 Nov. 2015
Never have I read a more pompous, dreary book that promises so much and then proceeds to suck all the life out of the subject with its sneering, psuedo-intellectual tone and pop-psychology psychobabble. Mr. Norman manages to out-Yentob the appalling pseud Alan Yentob and probably thinks that Will Self is sharp and funny. After a very short time I threw this odious tome at the wall - unfortunately I can still see the dent in the wallpaper.


Cinderella
Cinderella
Dvd
Price: £0.00

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Never mess with a classic, 26 Sept. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cinderella (DVD)
The original animated version was slick, had great pace, was told with great economy and considerable charm. Beside it, this soupy live action version pales into complete insignificance. The pace is leaden, the dialogue nauseating, the acting wooden beyond belief. Bonham Carter plays the Fairy Godmother like a spaced out old drag queen, Lily Allen has the charm of a biscuit tin. Granted the costumes are incredible (Mr. Hadden's skintight breeches leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination whatsover), but the settings are CGI'd to buggery and it makes for a very long 90 minutes. The first half hour is excrutiatingly slow and the middle section like eating an entire box of liqueur chocolates all in one go - its a complete syrup fest, sufficient to bring on the dry heaves. The only scene which has any pace at all is the pumpkin ride home from the ball. By contrast, the final section feels skimped and rushed. If you want the ultimate version of the Cinderella story, stick with either the original animated version or "The Slipper and the Rose"
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 28, 2015 12:46 AM BST


A Robot In The Garden
A Robot In The Garden
by Deborah Install
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, funny and touching., 16 Aug. 2015
This review is from: A Robot In The Garden (Paperback)
I think you would have to be a particularly sour individual not to be charmed by this book. Yes, it has its faults in that the story is a little saccharine at times, there is an extremely unbelievable Bond-type villain complete with tropical island hideaway full of gadgetry and a dark secret in his past - but what the heck - I read it from cover to cover over the course of 24 hours and was completely charmed by it. It's incredibly funny - its obvious that the author has a young child whom she has been watching extremely closely - raises some interesting and unexpectedly dark questions about human relationships and has a certain warming glow emanating from every page. It would make a very interesting book for a young, thoughtful teenager to read. Personally I loved it - I finished it and said to my other half "I can't remember the last time when I have enjoyed a book quite so much". Its the literary equivalent of a warm duvet and a mug of hot soup when you are feeling unwell!


Looking - Season 1
Looking - Season 1
Dvd
Price: £0.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Practically unwatchable, 7 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Looking - Season 1 (DVD)
Dull, stereotypical and full of vacuous, shallow men, all of whom have perfect hair, great jobs, fantastic bodies - and the dull, stereotypical attitudes to match. This is billed as a "comedy" - really? Never seen such an unfunny "comedy". As this is HBO, I was expecting something really good - and it is naff beyond telling. Stick with "Tales of the City"
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2015 6:04 PM BST


The Tulip Virus
The Tulip Virus
by Danielle Hermans
Edition: Hardcover

1.0 out of 5 stars A total waste of paper, 28 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Tulip Virus (Hardcover)
I cannot describe just how bad this book is. The author has absolutely no feel for dialogue or characterisation at all, and the "plot" is so poorly realised that I think many of the details were cribbed from something like "The primary school child's book of how to write a detective novel". Many of them are simply not credible. There is not a sympathetic character in the entire cast - they are all highly unpleasant - and the "staff" are all caricatures of the kind that went out of literature in the 1940s. Added to that are vast number of factual blunders, the first being that any crime is investigated by the local police force rather than by Scotland Yard, at least for the initial stages. But here a murder is committed in the opening pages and by page 8 Scotland Yard are on the case. It is only crimes of national importance that involve Scotland Yard. Alcohol is not allowed in cemeteries, nor is it really credible to follow some people to a grave and then squat down behind a nearby tombstone and avoid being seen, yet be so close that you can hear every word of their conversation. Video recordings of funeral services are not allowed, and even if they were, no police force would use VHS tapes to do so, for pete's sake. Any City restaurant banning the use of mobile phones would quickly be out of business. Houses in Cadogan Place, SW3 do not overlook the river because Cadogan Place is nowhere near the Thames.

Hermans has obviously read a couple of pages about the tulipmania of 1636-7 and slapped them into a novel in an attempt to convince us that she is some kind of expert on it. Most laughable is the assertion that tulips originally developed in northern China, which is utterly ludicrous. At one point Hermans tries to convince us that tulips can be bred to have three petals when any gardener knows that they have five in their species form and can have no fewer than this. During the Tulipmania, tulips were not painted in watercolour but in oils and an "ace" or "azen" was 1/100th of an ounce, not 1/1000th - because scales of that period would not have been able to record thousandths of an ounce.

Honestly, by half way through this awful trash I was skim reading and marking all the errors in the margins, and my fingers were itching to throw the entire book at the wall with a great deal of force. The fact that this vile rubbish has never made it into paperback is indicative of its piddle poor sales, and i can well see why.


The Two Faces of January
The Two Faces of January
Dvd
Price: £0.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I had real trouble with this film - because there ..., 8 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Two Faces of January (DVD)
I had real trouble with this film - because there is one part of the plot (on which it all hangs) that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. After the murder of the detective, the con artist couple immediately flee from their hotel - leaving their passports and presumably most of their luggage (she has one small case and he takes a briefcase containing mainly cash). This, of course, shouts "suspicious". The remainder of the plot hangs on the fact that they don't have their passports so cannot leave the country. In order not to arouse suspicion, they should have just checked out, paid their bill, reclaimed their passports and took their luggage. It just doesn't make sense for them to do a bunk without paying or reclaiming their passports. Despite the fact that they don't take any luggage, the woman is subsequently seen in several different outfits and the man suddenly acquires not only different suits, clean shirts and - amazingly - a pair of pyjamas.

I tried bravely to watch this film, but the major plot holes outlined above made it impossible.


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