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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

1 of 2 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.


Maleficent
Maleficent
Dvd
Price: £0.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitterly disappointing, 15 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Maleficent (DVD)
It starts very well, and its undeniably had shedloads of money spent on it in terms of costumes, sets and effects. But the money certainly wasn't spent on the script, which is woeful. Embarrassingly, the best bits of the script are those lifted directly from the original animated version. The story runs out of steam and gets squirmingly twee after the first half hour, and there are many wasted opportunity to do for The Sleeping Beauty what "Wicked" did for The Wizard of Oz - tell a familiar story from a completely different angle. But what happens here is that the story is more or less completely rewritten. And it all gets very homoerotic - it does seem at several points that there may be the stirrings of sexual love on Maleficent's side - which is a) not necessary, b) not credible and c) does the original story no justice. The three fairies are incredibly annoying - and of course as anyone who knows the original will tell you, they should be called Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Him Indoors fell asleep after the first 45 minutes. A totally wasted 90 minutes, in my view.


The Secret History
The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious twaddle, 10 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
**SPOILER ALERT*** A very, very long book in which very, very little actually happens. Tartt never uses one word where 25 (or even better, 125) will do. So densely written is this book that, by page 150 I was beginning to tire. By page 250 I was skipping huge chunks because the pace was so tedious. By page 300 I had had enough and downed it, feeling that I had been taken for a complete fool by the author and cross with myself for having wasted so much time when there are far better books out there to be read. The central premise - five very unpleasant people kill someone by accident, one of them threatens to break ranks and tell the cops, they kill him to keep him quiet - breaks down when you realise that there actually TWO people who know about the murder, but nobody considers killing the book's narrator, to whom the remaining four have told every single detail. There also seems to be an awful lot of "back writing" going on - nearly halfway through the book the character of Bunny suddenly demonstrates kleptomaniac tendencies (to cover up an important plot situation), which apparently he has had for a very long time, yet this is the first we have ever heard of it. The narrator is apparently only able to play the children's card game "Go Fish" but 50 pages or so later he is playing solitaire poker like a professional. I get the feeling that Ms. Tartt is so in love with her own intelligence that she merely dollops it into every sentence and smears every page with it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 23, 2015 9:33 AM GMT


Madagascar 3 - Europe's Most Wanted
Madagascar 3 - Europe's Most Wanted
Dvd
Price: £0.00

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If only there was a "zero" star rating, 2 Aug. 2014
crass, loud, and stupid. They should have stopped after Madagascar 2.


Raising Steam: (Discworld novel 40) (Discworld Novels) by Pratchett, Terry (2013) Hardcover
Raising Steam: (Discworld novel 40) (Discworld Novels) by Pratchett, Terry (2013) Hardcover

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars When we we see the witches again?, 22 July 2014
Unspeakably dull. The Discworld series is seriously running out of steam and, if there are any more books as bad as this then I am going to buy some copies of mid-period Pratchett such as "Lords and Ladies" and read them again and again and again to remind myself just how good these books used to be. There is little here of the wordplay, "in" jokes, out and out craziness and outrageously entertaining plots that Pratchett fans came to know and love from "Mort" onwards. As with the last couple of novels, I found myself skipping through huge wads of text without really reading any of it - jeez, but those dwarves are boring. What sly references to other books etc that used to add so much pleasure to a Discworld novel are now shoehorned in with all the subtlety of a brick in the face - such as the "Railway Children" references towards the end. I actually didn't finish this book - about 40 pages from the end I simply lost the will to live (a Weatherwaxism floated across my mind: "I can't be doing with this"). Pratchett hasn't written a half decent novel for years and this one stinks. Time to make a graceful exit from the stage, Terry, before your loyal fans start turning their backs because of the tripe you are writing.


Animals Are Beautiful People (1974) Hilarious Documentary DVD
Animals Are Beautiful People (1974) Hilarious Documentary DVD

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, wonderful film, 27 Jun. 2014
I haven't seen this film in over 35 years. It was always on at Christmas or Easter, and clips of it were always being shown in compilation programmes (these were the days, of course, even before video cassettes!) and I distinctly remember that it was due to be shown on TV one day and I completely forgot and went out. And then I remembered....... and spent the next 35 years trying to find it again. And I found it and was so happy - and it is every bit as wonderful as I remember it being all those years ago. Yes, it is deliberately mawkish in some places and yes the prose is often very purple, and yes, your emotions are manipulated by the images and music, and yes, there are some obviously manufactured scenes, but who cares? Its probably the best wildlife film ever made and is as fresh and entertaining as the day it was made. It compares extremely favourably with modern wildlife programmes - the research is just as good, the narrative just as entertaining and educational. And then, of course, there is the justly famous scene where the animals eat fermented fruit and get drunk. 35 years later and it still makes me roar with laughter and I watched it twice through in one sitting.


The Grand Tour
The Grand Tour
by Harry Seidler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better, 5 Jun. 2014
This review is from: The Grand Tour (Hardcover)
had the author not demonstrated his utter adoration for Corbusier quite so much. Practically every one of Corbusier's (to my eyes, extremely ugly and much-overrated buildings) is slobbered over by Seidler, often at the expense of native architectural styles and some of the world's most beautiful and iconic buildings. There is little of domestic architecture here - few houses or cottages - but much of cathedrals and other places of (mainly Christian) worship, which gets a little wearying after a while. And Corbusier - always bloody Corbusier, whatever country Seidler happens to find himself in, if there is a Corbusier building there, Seidler will photograph it and stick it in this book. In Britain (which seems to consist of just England, I could see no examples of Scottish, Welsh or Irish architecture here) there is no mention of Robert Adam, Edwin Lutyens, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle or Ironbridge. In Spain, there is precious little mention of Gaudi. In Russia, St Petersburg (one of the world's most beautiful cities) is hurried over in a page or two and one could be forgiven for thinking that St. Petersburg and Moscow were Russia's only two cities. In Norway there is no mention of the iconic wooden churches. But Corbusier always manages to find a place - even in India, for pete's sake. The picture of the Parliament building in Budapest was taken at a time when a large part of the facade was covered in hideous and very prominent scaffolding.

Also intensely irritating is the fact that the layout of the book means that many beautiful buildings are presented over a two page spread - which means that with the paperback version, if you want to see the entire thing, you have to crack the spine of the book back or lose a good 1/5 of the image in the dip where the pages meet. Better by far to have rotated the images 90 degrees and presented them as landscape images on a single page, surely? The picture numbering is also extremely strange; often you are told that pictures 1, 2, 4 and 6 are of one building, while pictures 3 and 5 are of two others - this is just weird and gets very irritating. Surely it would not have been difficult to have put all the pictures of one building consecutively before moving onto the next?

The irritations of this book began to outweigh its pleasures for me and it was only by the slenderest margin that I was persuaded not to throw it at the wall. One for the charity shop box, I think. Mainly because I got fed up with being told repeatedly just how bloody wonderful Corbusier was.


Life After Life
Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have been here before......, 26 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Life After Life (Paperback)
This is probably the best book I have read in years. I found it at the library completely by accident as it was on the "Returns" trolley when I put another book back there (in another life, I will probably go back to the library and someone else will have taken the book a couple of minutes before me.....). I was pleased to see that it wasn't another boring "Jackson Brodie" book - hated those, and shot through it it less than a week, on occasion staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning reading it because I couldn't bear to put it down. In fact, I may well have to read it again just to savour it a little more and follow the threads in slightly more detail. Its great - really a superb and extremely clever book.


One Summer: America 1927
One Summer: America 1927
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another badly researched book from Bryson, 21 Feb. 2014
After the critical drubbing that Bryson got for "Home" you would think that he would perhaps spend a bit more time checking his facts for the next one. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case. On pg 116, Bryson asserts that Mickey Mouse was originally called Oswald, whereas it was actually Mortimer. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was a completely different character. On Pg 117, we get the "Lindbergh Hop" which was actually the "Lindy Hop". Lindbergh's autobiography is variously called "We" or "The Spirit of St. Louis", and so on. The US flag did not acquire the nickname "Old Glory" until at least 1831. No doubt there are many more mistakes that I didn't pick up on, not being totally obsessed with American culture.

Honestly, Bryson's continued determination to laud the USA starts to become embarrassing. Is he trying to prove some kind of point? It becomes clear throughout the book that in 1927, the USA was a dangerous place to be, over-run with mobsters, corrupt government officials, rife with racism, anti-semitism, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and led by Presidents Coolidge and Hoover, both of whom come across as despicable, weak willed idiots. But to read Bryson, you would be forgiven for thinking that he was in charge of PR for the entire continent. I am sure that there were interesting and important things going on in other countries as well - but of these there is no mention. In fact, there is no mention of any other continent than the US.

Bryson is at his most tiresome when wittering on endlessly about baseball. Most of his UK readership will be completely at sea when plodding through acres of text about batting averages, pinch hitters and bunts. And there is a major lack of focus to the book, which weaves in multitudes of characters and expects you to remember all of them. Some of their alleged "connections" are tangential, to say the very least.

Having said that, this was a good read, if you can keep up with all the jumping backwards and forwards and the constant slobbering over Lindberg and Babe Ruth.


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