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David Franks (Cambridge, England)
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The Reunion
The Reunion
Price: 2.05

5.0 out of 5 stars R J Gould has done it again!, 14 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Reunion (Kindle Edition)
R J Gould has done it again! In The Engagement Party Gould gave us an amusing insight into what happens in a family when multiple separations, divorces and re-marriages bring together a disparate group of relatives to celebrate the engagement of two young people. When they see how badly their relatives can behave, who can blame Clarissa and Wayne for wondering? But the novel is shot through with humour, and the reader laughs, thanking God that his or her own relatives aren't quite as bad - or are they?

Now Gould has done it again with The Reunion, a light-hearted story of David, whose marriage has fallen part, and Bridget, a widow struggling to make sense of her life. It may sound serious, angst-ridden, but it's shot through with a rich vein of humour. David and Bridget have plenty to keep them busy and us amused, from dissatisfaction with their work and bosses, to struggling to cope with their teenage children. It's a gentler humour than The Engagement Party, and even funnier, and David and Bridget are adept at snatching disaster from the jaws of success. David is an accountant, and has to learn that his life is not a spreadsheet. He has a gift for getting himself into a muddle with women, from his virago of a wife to his savagely critical line manager, Mary, who suddenly becomes amorous, and Bridget, with whom he experiences lust, love, and confusion, all helped along by his habit of leaving his action plan lying around, so that Bridget is left in no doubt about his carnal intentions towards her. Everything turns out right in the end, and we relish the humour with which David and Bridget make a success of their union.


Let's Preserve It: 579 recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables and making jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles and fruit butters and cheeses (Square Peg Cookery Classics)
Let's Preserve It: 579 recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables and making jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles and fruit butters and cheeses (Square Peg Cookery Classics)
by Beryl Wood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 6.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixture of the good and the bad, 22 May 2013
The status of this book isn't too clear. It was first published in 1970 by Souvenir Press, and this version is published by Square Peg (a Random House imprint). The commendation on the cover from Nigella Lawson says it is `reissued'. Nowhere is there any claim that the book has been revised or updated, and I assume that the text is as it was in 1970. So when it was published in 2011, 41 years had passed, and the fruits, vegetables and spices that we have now have changed a great deal. In addition, some of the recipes are unlikely to be followed nowadays - not many people would set about preserving figs (9 recipes), given how much figs cost (unless you, or a friend, have a fig tree in your garden).

The book is in two parts, a general introductory part (21 pages), which incidentally doesn't tell you how to sterilise your jars (essential for pickles, I would have thought - at least I hope I haven't been sterilising my jars unnecessarily for thirty years). The second part is the recipes (192 pages), and there's a wonderful selection. Some recipes that are in more modern books are missing, particularly from the pickles (celery, sweet pepper, courgettes, fennel, garlic, etc.). There's only one mushroom recipe, which tells you to boil button mushrooms for 15 minutes (don't, whatever you do!). There's no mention of shallots (as the main ingredient), although there are several for onions which can be adapted, but a one-liner telling the reader how much more subtle the taste of shallots is would have been welcome. There are chutneys missing, including my own favourite, Aubergine and Apple. The piccalilli recipes are good, better than the one I've been using. However, there are very welcome recipes for 'wild' fruits and vegetables 9such as elderberry) that don't always get into more modern books. There's no index, although the recipes are arranged alphabetically under what you might think is the 'main' ingredient, so it's difficult to be sure that some fruit or vegetable isn't lurking somewhere combined with some other ingredient

The biggest omission, as has been pointed out by other reviewers, is that it doesn't tell you how long to store what you have made before eating, or how long it will keep. That really is a fault.

I suspect that this book will be of more use to those who are familiar with preserving, and who will benefit from having an extraordinarily wide range of recipes. Many little details are missing, and a beginner would probably have to look elsewhere for help. But I'm glad I have this book (a present).


The Lighthouse
The Lighthouse
by Alison Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Drabble's review, 9 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Lighthouse (Paperback)
Where is Margaret Drabble's review published? All of the other reviews and comments reference where the review is published. The review by Margaret Drabble is the only one that isn't. Margaret Drabble has written extensively about Virginia Woolf's novel, "To the Lighthouse". I hope no-one's muddled that up with Alison Moore's book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2013 10:55 PM GMT


From Enclosing Jaws (a medical thriller)
From Enclosing Jaws (a medical thriller)
Price: 0.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A scary and fascinating story, 13 Jan 2013
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The premise of the story, that a reporter investigating a death at a psychiatric hospital could get himself admitted as a patient seems implausible, but Margaret Carlton provides a link to an article in the journal Science which describes how several pseudo-patients were admitted to American hospitals in 1973, and after that nothing seems impossible. Of course, this isn't to deny that mental ill-health exists. The story describes how Sam Carpenter, the young reporter, infiltrates the hospital at which a patient has died in comes to seem suspicious circumstances. My overwhelming thought was how brave and foolhardy Sam was: patients in such hospitals are given drugs, and some of these drugs have nasty side effects, worth putting up with for a real patient with real problems, but not something a sane person would welcome. And one's worst fears are realised: Sam is sectioned, confined involuntarily, under the 1983 Mental Health Act. From there on things go downhill at an alarming pace. I won't spoil the story by relating what happens. The other characters are interesting, the settings well-evoked, and Margaret Carlton keeps your interest right to the very last page.


Cambridge Red
Cambridge Red
Price: 1.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Husband alert: don't keep secrets from your new wife!, 23 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Cambridge Red (Kindle Edition)
This book seems to be popular with readers, like myself, who live in Cambridge. It does paint a realistic picture of Cambridge: there's a real university there with departments in which academics work, with all their rivalries and misbehaviour, not just the ancient colleges that the tourists visit. The departmental politics and machinations are convincingly displayed, much the same all over the world, of course. The body count is quite high, and is increased towards the end, and looked for a time as if even more characters might be wiped out. The real message of this novel was, I thought, don't keep things from your new wife. It's fairly clear who the murderer is, so four stars, but then it is the hardest thing to keep that hidden right up to the end. It's a good read.


The Engagement Party
The Engagement Party
Price: 2.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A humorous look at an amazing family party, 5 Oct 2012
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R J Gould does a nice humorous line in awful men and tough, resilient, stroppy women. If you thought your own family were embarrassing, just read this. There are so many scenes where you think the characters couldn't get more impossible, but they do. The characters are amusing, but they're also interesting. Gould has made the reader look forward to the next appearance of even the obnoxious Reginald, to see what further disaster awaits him, using accident, misunderstanding and the sheer perversity of fate to keep you wanting to read on. He also shows how each turn and twist in the story inevitably follows from what the characters are like.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and read it in one sitting. Then I read it again, and I saw new meanings in scenes that I hadn't spotted the first time round. I'm looking forward to reading "The Reunion".


A Summer Bird-cage
A Summer Bird-cage
by Margaret Drabble
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious first novel that foreshadowed what was to come, 17 April 2012
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This review is from: A Summer Bird-cage (Paperback)
Sarah, just graduated, is embarking on the world, and not knowing what to make of her life. In 1963, when this book was published, a common choice for a young woman was marriage, but Sarah asks herself if this is what she wants, a question that clever, educated young women were increasingly asking. Her beautiful sister is getting married, and Sarah has been called back to be a bridesmaid, inevitably invoking sibling rivalry. Sarah does not like her sister's future husband, wonders why her sister is marrying him, and Drabble does a brilliant job conveying his awfulness. All of the hallmarks of Drabble's novels are already there: the unsympathetic characters, the use of different points of view to illuminate the characters and to explore the plot, and it is not surprising that this novel was so acclaimed when it appeared. This isn't usually the first novel of Margaret Drabble that most people read: usually readers first embark on one of the novels of her maturity, like The Seven Sisters or The Radiant Way, but The Summer Birdcage repays reading. Brought up to look for a central character, a protagonist, it is interesting how unsure one is about whether it is Louise or Sarah. The bridesmaid is traditionally the subordinate character, but Sarah is a perceptive observer, shrewdly analysing the inevitable failure of Louise's marriage, and examining the marriages of her friends, wondering what kind of a marriage she wants herself, or indeed whether she wants marriage at all. She is wondering about marrying her boyfriend, an academic absent in America throughout the novel, and she is clear that that she will not be an academic's wife: she is going to marry an academic, she will not be defined by a future husband.

Drabble went on from strength to strength, of course, giving us sixteen wonderful novels that explore the capacity of women and men for love and betrayal.


Damage [1993] [Dutch Import] [DVD]
Damage [1993] [Dutch Import] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Irons

3.0 out of 5 stars Superb film, but the dutch subtitles!, 15 Dec 2011
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I saw this film at the cinema some years ago, and thought it was superb, and so bought the (Dutch) DVD. Usually you can switch off the subtitles on these Dutch DVDs, and then it's just a normal English-language DVD. But on this DVD it doesn't seem to be possible to switch them off, and I found it impossible not to read the subtitles, which I didn't understand, of course. This is an interesting side-effect of watching foreign language films with English subtitles for years, and I gave up quite soon. Amazon took it back, of course, and I'll try the Region 1 version next.

Later: The Region 1 version is fine, of course, and this is a superb film, a bit harrowing, but beautifully filmed and acted.


AirPort Express Base Station w/ AirTunes (802.11n)
AirPort Express Base Station w/ AirTunes (802.11n)

4.0 out of 5 stars Good bit of kit. Pity about the instructions and the software., 25 Nov 2011
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The Airport Express Base Station plays music through my wireless network from iTunes on my computer to my Sony Audio setup. The sound is fine, the network connection hasn't dropped so far, and I'm very satisfied with it.

So why only four stars? Well, I don't think I would ever got it set up without the help that's in the review by S J H Crommie, and even with his help it wasn't easy. In my opinion, both the instructions and the Airport utility software leave a lot to be desired. It may be OK if you have a purely Apple system, but setting it up with a Windows 7 computer and a wireless network based on a Cisco/Linksys wireless router was a bit of a nightmare. The Airport Utility told me that it couldn't detect an Airport device, even though the device was about 20 cm from the computer. I've always been wary of Apple device in a Windows system, and have had some bad experiences, but, as far as I know, the Apple Airport Express Base Station is the only bit of kit that will wirelessly input into a HiFi audio input (if anyone knows otherwise, please let me, and everyone else know!). In contrast Cisco Connect is a wonderful bit of software for a Cisco Router that almost thinks for you.
But it does work, and the result is very satisfactory.


Griffin GA22050 iTrip Dual Connect Play, Charge, Control  Through Car Stereo for iPhone/iPod
Griffin GA22050 iTrip Dual Connect Play, Charge, Control Through Car Stereo for iPhone/iPod
Price: 27.44

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant!, 24 Nov 2011
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After downloading the iTrip app from the iTunes store through my computer, I went to my car and had my iPod Touch playing music through the car FM radio in under five minutes. The iTrip app finds empty wavelengths in seconds, and then I stored the best on my radio on one of the push buttons, so that starting listening is a simple matter. The sound is just as good as playing a CD, and considerably better, of course, than listening to FM radio.

I wonder if some of the problems people have had with some of the Griffin iTrip models is something to do with the car or the car radio.

I would strongly recommend this to anyone. Now I can set up a playlist that will play for the whole of a long journey. Great.

Note added later: I still think it's very good, but what I hadn't realised was just how difficult it is to find a wavelength that will be OK for a journey of one or two hundred miles, you very soon move into an area where the wavelength that was empty when you started out comes into use. The list of UK FM transmitters at [...] is a great help, because you can see fairly easily if you're driving from, say, Cambridge to Nottingham, which will be the empty wavelengths for the entire journey. 87.7 FM in this case. The list is 30 pages long, but I've imported it into Excel and re-sorted it, and it's now very easy to use.

But what would be really good would be if the kit could do it for you: detect when a 'real' station is breaking in and switch to another empty wavelength. How about it, Griffin? I'll give you that idea for free.


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