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The Young Lions (Hodder Great Reads)
The Young Lions (Hodder Great Reads)
by Irwin Shaw
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE ORIGINAL BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL, 19 Nov 2009
Don't be put off by the war setting. This powerful, epic novel revolves around a richly drawn cast of characters - just ordinary people at the onset of the story - and shows how their lives become entwined in the ensuing conflict of WW2.

One of America's greatest and most-gifted novelists, Irwin Shaw is best remembered for his Rich Man, Poor Man TV mini-series of the 1970s, now available again on DVD. The quality of writing and depth of character in his classic novels is far superior to most of his predecessors today. A groundbreaking pioneer of the big, multi-character blockbuster novel (The Young Lions was first published in 1948), every author who has followed Irwin Shaw - from Stephen King to John Grisham - owes a debt to this literary trailblazer.

My favourite novels by Irwin Shaw are Rich Man, Poor Man; Nightwork; Evening in Byzantium; Two Weeks in Another Town; and the short story collection Five Decades, which contains such gems as "The Girls in their Summer Dresses" and "In the French Style."

Try to get your hands on the brilliant biography, Irwin Shaw by Michael Shnayerson, for the full story of this legendary author's life and work.


Halfway To Hollywood: Diaries 1980-1988 (Volume Two): The Film Years
Halfway To Hollywood: Diaries 1980-1988 (Volume Two): The Film Years
by Michael Palin
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Palin's adventure of a lifetime!, 4 Nov 2009
Michael Palin has that rare natural writer's gift of making a page come alive. Readers of his much-loved travel books and TV series will know full well the joyful flair and exuberant mischievousness he brings to his work.

Michael Palin's original and often offbeat take on life as detailed in his daily diaries are as equally absorbing and entertaining.

Lots of funny anecdotes, as you might expect, from one of the nation's favourite and foremost comedy character actors. The diaries are a warm, gentle, cosy read as we follow the day's events, action, dilemmas, reflections; so meticulously and honestly set out. It amazes me how disciplined - and with so much devotion - Michael was able to 'jot down' day after day the events in his wonderfully written, easy-flowing prose.

Michael Palin's aim in writing a diary account of his life - as stated in the introduction to the previous and also excellent "Python Years" volume - was simply to keep a record of how he fills his days and not to treat is as a confessional. So don't expect any inner anguish or the emotional arm-wrestling musings of the tragically brooding but equally-brilliant The Kenneth Williams Diaries - a book you must read too!

The more Michael Palin settles into the comfort zone of his storyline the more the reader gets caught up in this delightful little world of his. A list of characters at the beginning of the book of those who make regular appearances is a nice touch and sets the scene for this wonderful read.

The behind-the-scenes glimpses of film and TV shows and co-stars we've come to know so well is interesting and informative, but it's the normal events of the daily home life that are the real treats in this treasure trove of Michael's madcap crazy lovely little life in the rather quaint and idylic sounding Oak Village, North London.

A perfect mix of photos from Michael Palin's professional work and private family snaps make this lavishly-illustrated volume such a wonderful book.

"Halfway To Hollywood" takes us up to the momentuous moment when Michael decides to travel round the world in 80 days - a bold-at-the-time step that unexpectedly brings a whole new career direction in television and book writing. This sets us up nicely for the eagerly-awaited third volume of Michael Palin's diaries detailing his golden years as a gung-ho globetrotter taking on the Poles, the Sahara and his great Ernest Hemingway adventure.

We can't wait for the next instalment of Michael Palin's adventure of a lifetime!


The Blindfold
The Blindfold
by Siri Hustvedt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars A smart and sexy slow burn of a book, 3 Nov 2009
This review is from: The Blindfold (Paperback)
The fabulously original Siri Hustvedt novels, to me, are like the literary equivalent of Edward Hopper's paintings: portraying that haunting sense of abandonment and alienation in an anonymous American city landscape.

Coincidentally, both The Blindfold and the author's The Enchantment of Lily Dahl has a voyeur protagonist watching people through the windows of their apartments at night, a recurring subject of Hopper's work.

Told in four interconnecting short stories, narrator Iris Vegan instantly draws the reader into her offbeat world populated by quirky characters and bizarre situations.

Fresh out of Columbia University in New York, the graduate student's exploration and experimentation with the darker side of life is reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis territory in Less That Zero and a little disturbing to say the least.

Hustvedt's writing is beautiful, though; a deceptively simple spare prose that is polished and powerful. An intelligent and ingenious sexy slow burn of a book that grips you from the onset and makes you think as you savour each lingering sentence.

This is the kind of cult word-of-mouth book college girls will hug and hold dearly with an honest and real female character at the heart of its story who feels like an old friend.


The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing
The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing
by David Morrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.06

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INSPIRATIONAL AND INDISPENSIBLE, 3 Nov 2009
David Morrell is a writer's writer - a master of fiction who is avidly read and admired by fellow bestselling authors such as Dean Koontz and Stephen King. When I interviewed Stephen King for a writing magazine a while back he told me that David Morrell's First Blood was one of only two novels he used when teaching creative writing at the beginning of his career. 'David's a great writer,' he enthused. 'That's a wonderful book.'

Picking up a secondhand copy of The Fraternity of the Stone on impulse a few years ago was my own introduction to David Morrell; little did I know then that he would become one of my biggest influences in fiction. Reading David Morrell made me want to become a writer, and I've been a fan ever since. I not only read his novels and short stories for enjoyment, but to learn. Now he shows you how he does it - how you can do it too.

The Successful Novelist is an essential guide book for learning the craft of fiction, and David Morrell is a fantastic teacher. It's a bit like Stephen King On Writing, and just as good (see my review of this book as well).

The former Professor of American Literature (and expert on the work of Ernest Hemingway) painstakingly explains in careful detail everything you need to know about dialogue and characterization, plotting and structure, pinpointing the pitfalls to watch out for that will spoil your chances of success. His advice on all aspects of writing (including the business side) is excellent.

The Successful Novelist is not only inspirational ... it's indispensable. Don't just read David Morrell's book ... keep it on your desk for reference.


Britney Spears - Britney - For The Record [DVD] [2008]
Britney Spears - Britney - For The Record [DVD] [2008]
Price: £9.02

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britney back to her best!, 9 Jun 2009
The film follows Britney Spears on her comeback trail and delivers what it promises - a no holds barred glimpse into her inner world where no question is dodged.

It's a really honest film and Britney looks as pretty as her early days before all the crazy stuff. She is also a lot happier and tries to reason and explain her past mistakes. In her words, she isn't looking for pity, just a little understanding.

Britney really is in great shape, back to her former self. And she's actually quite fun when you get to know her more as this intimate portrayal of her private life reveals.

Well done, Britney! Welcome back!

Highly recommended!


Roswell - Season 1 [DVD] [2000]
Roswell - Season 1 [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Shiri Appleby
Price: £8.50

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful show you want to watch all the time!, 21 April 2006
There is so much to like about Roswell, that you can watch the series over and over again. I have all three boxset series on DVD, but the first season is really special for me.
I liked all the characters at the Crashdown Cafe: Liz, Max, Maria, Michael, Isabel, Kyle, Sheriff Valenti and all. That's the beauty of the show: the characters, who you come to feel you know as you get caught up in their lives.
I especially loved the love story between Liz and Max (played by Shiri Appleby and Jason Behr), which was the inspiration for my song You Touch Me. Fans of the show seem to really like it, they tell me.
What makes Roswell different from other teen angst romance like Dawson's Creek is the really scary and spooky at times mix of X-Files-style sci-fi thriller. The storylines are really clever with twists and turns that keep you guessing and keep you on the edge of your seat. After watching the whole three series - one or two episodes a night for weeks with 60 odd in total - I didn't want it to end. I have only good things to say about this wonderful show that everyone should watch. So buy it - you won't be disappoined!


Red Tape
Red Tape
by Sophia Creswell
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive novel from an exciting new voice in fiction, 21 Sep 2005
This review is from: Red Tape (Paperback)
This is one of those rare books you pick up on impulse and find yourself unable to put down! A gripping East-meets-West love story of sorts about two compelling characters at odds with the world in general. It's a beautiful novel you'll want to savour slowly and never wish to end.
A young Russian girl Lydia travels to London to escape from her past and to try and fulfil her ambition of becoming a photographer. Meanwhile, newly arrived English boy Alex is an aspiring drama student with big plans of his own. They find themselves in the city of lost dreams, meeting unexpectedly on neighbouring Chelsea houseboats and later working together at a local restaurant. With Lydia there illegally and facing deportation, Alex is determined to help her at all costs. Will the unlikely pair thrown together by chance become victims of political circumstance - or will they manage to overcome the seemingly impossible barriers to their blossoming love? If only life was that simple, as they both find out the hard way.
For anyone who has ever lived and worked in a foreign country, the dilemma of Lydia and Alex struggling to adapt to new and sudden cultural changes will sound vaguely familiar; yet the 'Green Card' situation they find themselves in is given a fresh slant by this exciting new voice in fiction, Sophia Creswell. The author's unique perspective for this impressive and powerful novel was drawn from her own experience working as an English language teacher in St Petersburg.
As for the characters themselves, you might find matter-of-fact Lydia a little cold at first as it takes time to warm to her hidden charm; but this is understandable when you begin to learn more about her troubled background. Her reserved nature actually works well to counter balance the irritatingly exuberant at times Alex - a naive dreamer whose head is in the clouds at first. Thankfully, he calms down a bit as he becomes more responsible and matures as a man. Both characters are believable - with faults just like everyone else - and what makes the story special is to see them grown together as people as the story develops. This is the secret of all good fiction and the sign of a great novel.
I really loved Red Tape and it nows joins my list of favourite books I go back to and read time and time again. I've just ordered Sophia Creswell's earlier novel Sam Golod from Amazon; this, too, has a Russian setting. I look forward to reading it. A new novel by this talented writer is long overdue and will help bring readers to her impressive backlist I discovered only by chance when browsing through a bookstore.


The Blindfold
The Blindfold
by Siri Hustvedt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sexy and smart slow burn of a book, 21 Sep 2005
This review is from: The Blindfold (Paperback)
Siri Hustvedt's novels, to me, are like the literary equivalent of Edward Hopper's paintings: portraying that haunting sense of abandonment and alienation in an anonymous American city landscape. Coincidentally, both The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl has a voyeur protagonist watching people through the windows of their apartments at night, a recurring subject of Hopper's work.
Told in four interconnecting short stories, narrator Iris Vegan instantly draws the reader into her offbeat world populated by quirky characters and bizarre situations. Fresh out of Columbia University in New York, the graduate student's exploration and experimentation with the darker side of life is reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis territory in Less Than Zero and a little disturbing to say the least.
Hustvedt's writing is beautiful, though; a deceptively simple spare prose that is polished and powerful. An intelligent and ingenious sexy slow burn of a book that grips you from the onset and makes you think as you savour each lingering sentence.
This is the kind of cult word-of-mouth book college girls will hug and hold dearly with an honest and real female character at the heart of its story who feels like an old friend.


Closer [DVD] [2004] [2005]
Closer [DVD] [2004] [2005]
Dvd ~ Julia Roberts
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.72

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CLOSER TO PERFECTION, 19 Jun 2005
This review is from: Closer [DVD] [2004] [2005] (DVD)
A smart, sexy movie about the tangled relationships of two mixed-up couples whose lives become blurred by infidelities and their eventual betrayal. You just know it will all end in tears.
Your sympathy really goes out to Natalie Portman's character, Alice, a stripper who loves Jude Law, a selfish journalist, just too much. Clive Owen, on the other hand, is great as the conniving, manipulative, disturbing doctor Dan. Portman and Owen thoroughly deserve their Golden Globe awards - their acting is powerful with real screen presence. Jude Law delivers another strong performance, with only Julia Roberts seeming a little subdued; though her lacklustre, tired performance balances out well with Portman's usual, energetic, lively gusto.
The crude language used to depict "real people" in "modern relationships" was obviously designed to shock but is it really necessary? Do people really talk to each other like this, never mind supposedly sophisticated couples? Some viewers mind find the Owen/Portman strip club scenes uncomfortable to watch if cuddling up with their own partner for what is essentially a great couples film; but then, this sleazy underworld is only a small part of what is really a sweet story at heart.
The London scenery serves as a great backdrop for the two American girls living with their Englishmen. This is the kind of movie you can watch over and over again that will make you appreciate your own relationship or wish you were in a new one - though don't be tempted to copy the characters in this film because, as they found out, cheating only brings heartache and unhappiness.
Only disappointment with Closer is the lack of Special Features on the DVD - the single extra is a pop video for the haunting Damien Rice theme song The Blower's Daughter, so perfect for this picture. Cinemagoers who spend their money again on favourite films when they come out on DVD expect a little extra like director's and actor's commentary, deleted scenes, star interviews, making-of-movie features. Apparently there was a lot of footage left over from the final cut of this movie - extras are what makes collecting DVD so special. It's not like this is an old film reissued again with only a trailer (if you're lucky) as an extra. So only four stars for what is a five star movie.


First Daughter [DVD]
First Daughter [DVD]
Dvd ~ Katie Holmes
Price: £3.41

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ROMAN HOLIDAY STYLE ROMANTIC COMEDY, 18 Jun 2005
This review is from: First Daughter [DVD] (DVD)
Reminiscent of Roman Holiday with Dawson's Creek star Katie Holmes playing the "princess" sneaking out of the palace for a bit of fun. Okay, she's the US President's daughter leaving the White House and isn't going incognito like Audrey Hepburn - but under the full glare of the media spotlight. This has obviously been inspired by Chelsea Clinton's much-publicised time at college, with burly big secret service agents always on tow to protect the Prez's little girl which becomes a predictable running gag throughout the movie.
What starts out as a teen movie with a lippy black girlie sidekick sharing a dorm room with daddy's girl and plenty of frat jokes and pumping soundtrack soon settles down in to a charming Princess Diaries type family film that will appeal to everyone who likes fun romantic comedies. A neat plot twist (which I won't give away) puts a clever spin on the love story and heightens the tension of this charming little film.
Katie Holmes, as always, is a delight to watch. Director Forest Whitaker does a great job and watch out for his brief cameo appearance as a presidential aide on board Air Force One (he also narrates the story). Michael Keaton seems a bit cold and distant at first as the Prez but soon loses his stuffiness and you warm to him by the end of the movie.
Some great extras with deleted scenes and two features - Katies Holmes and love interest Marc Blucas being put through their paces as they learn ballroom dancing, and a tribute to composer Michael Kamen who died during the production but left a haunting fairytale theme tune that makes the film sparkle.
One sour note, though: according to the Special Features Information on the sleeve there is supposed to be an actor's and director's commentary but it is NOT on the DVD and leaves you feeling a little short changed. So only four stars for what is a five star movie.


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