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On Her Majesty's Secret Service
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
by Ian Fleming
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure, action and romance. James Bond at his best., 4 Oct. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
James Bond is sitting in a concrete shelter watching the activity on the beach at Royale. Quietly he reminisces on his childhood then to his letter of resignation and the fact that he had spent a year searching for Blofeld. Bond was now tired of spying. The beach emptied as the sun was setting when Bond saw her, a pretty girl who began to walk toward the sea. Bond spotted two men, overdressed for the weather, begin to follow the girl. He was concerned, sensing danger and quickly ran to the beach. The girl stopped at the sea's edge. Bond was near 'Tracy,' he said. She turned 'What do you want?' she asked. 'I was worried about you', he replied. Then a gutteral voice behind him said, 'Don't move'. So began Bond's adventure.

We have a Corsican gangster make Bond an offer that would make him a wealthy man. Blofeld's name was mentioned sending Bond first to London then to the high Alps. After a hair raising escape from Blofeld's hideout and back in England 'M' and a team of experts meet with Bond and they realise what Blofeld is planning. Bond has to return to Switzerland to finally be rid of Blofeld with assistance from an unusual source. Bond realises the danger and that he could easily be killed, but it is important that he lives, a wedding and his future both depend on his survival.

This is a little different type of story, but still retains the high octane action and some beautiful girls. Brilliantly descriptive and well read by David Tennant, who captures the essence of the novel in his reading. An interview with David Tennant is included.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is an early Ian Fleming novel and is part of an audio series celebrating the James Bond phenomenon.

Catherine the Great: The story of the impoverished German princess who deposed her husband to become tzarina of the largest empire on earth
Catherine the Great: The story of the impoverished German princess who deposed her husband to become tzarina of the largest empire on earth
by Robert K. Massie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive and intimate lifestory of Catherine the Great, 8 Sept. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a sizeable volume and it would be impossible to review every aspect within it. The volume covers the complete life of Catherine from her birth to her death.

Princess Johanna married to Prince Christian Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst gave birth to a daughter, Sophia. Johanna was disappointed that her firstborn was a girl and Sophia was cared for by servants and nurses. Johanna's second child, a boy, received all the love and affection of the princess.

Johanna,through correspondence using a distant relationship with Elizabeth of Russia, eventually took Sophia to the Russian court. A marriage was arranged between Sophia and Peter (Elizabeth's nephew). Sophia married Peter adopted the Russian language and customs and on adopting the Russian Orthodox Church changed her name to Catherine. The marriage was a disaster and Catherine usurped her husband as incapable of ruling the empire. He was imprisoned and died some 7 days later in uncertain circumstances. Catherine was now declared Empress, but the only threat to her position was the existence of Ivan VI who had been imprisoned by Elizabeth as a baby and was still alive. Orders were given that should an attempt be made to free him he was to be killed. An escape was tried and Ivan was killed therefore removing a worrying threat to Catherine.

Catherine did good deeds,. Established schools, orphanages and hospitals. The conditions of serfs were improved and a payment of wages to miners and factory workers was proposed. (The nobility and owners were not in favour of this). Torture of prisoners was outlawed.

In her private life Catherine had lovers and favourites, all of whom were rewarded with lavish gifts and lands. She had a son Paul, by a lover, and the boy was declared as the son of Peter her husband. To increase her empire a war was fought with Turkey and a treaty made between Poland and Russia with eventually led to Poland being made a Russian Protectorate.

Catherine was noted as a fair ruler encouraging the arts and education and was loved by her people.

The only complication in the book is keeping track of the names as either they were changed or people mentioned had similar names.

Overall a very readable book, exceptionally well written and containing maps and colour photographs. Robert K.Massie is an excellent writer/researcher of historical material. The reviewer has read Massie's earlier book on the life of Tsar Nicholas II titled 'Nicholas and Alexandra' another excellent volume for those interested in Russian history.

The Cove
The Cove
by Ron Rash
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing mystery/love story combination, 2 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Cove (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hank Sheldon and his sister Laurel live in a small cabin and farm land in the Cove. The cove is a forbidding place, damp and shadowed by granite cliffs. People in the nearby town of Mars Hill keep away believing it to be cursed as bad things have happened there. Laurel has a birthmark on her neck and shoulder and the townspeople think of her as a witch and avoid her as much as they can. Hank is accepted, he has lost part of his left arm in the war.

The only real friend Hank and Laurel have is Slidell who drives them to town and helps to collect goods. One day Laurel is walking in the woods listening to the birdsong, when she hears music. Quietly moving to a ledge in the cliffs she sees a stranger playing the flute. The next day she sees the man again lying on the ledge looking ill through insect bites. He is raggedly dressed and rough looking. Laurel takes him home, cares for him and finds a note stating his name is Walter, but he cannot speak, read or write. Hank is angry at first that a stranger is in the house, but decides of offer the stranger, Walter, paid work. Walter accepts and together they erect fences and begin to dig a new well.

The most unpleasant character is that of Chauncey, a local army recruitment officer. He has a group of boys, uniformed, who line up for inspection, salute him and call him 'sir'. This feeds his ego and in his eyes earns respect in the town. Chauncey is organising a homecoming celebration for a wounded soldier Paul Clayton and to further his standing has met Senator Zeller and invited him to the ceremony. Yet Chauncey has a misguided view of anything German even reporting that there were German titles in the library and the Languages Professor at the College, who could read and speak German as well as Latin and Greek, was a possible spy.

Walter and Laurel are alone together on many occasions and gradually fall in love and plan to go away together, but Walter has a secret which Laurel finally discovers, but does not change her feelings for him.

Chauncey, in town, is approached by Boyce Clayton carrying a paper with a sketch of a man on it and he tells Chauncey he knows Walter's secret.

At home Laurel and Walter plan a picnic whilst Hank decides to remain resting at the cabin. The work on the well is finished and all three are relaxing. The day is fair and warm.

None of them are aware of the danger they are in or that the danger is rapidly approaching.

This is a sound story, nicely descriptive and conveys the gloom of the cove and the simmering hostility in the town. The characters, both good and bad, are well drawn. Written by Ron Rash, a respected author, it is a worthwhile read.

Think Dog!: An Owner's Guide to Canine Psychology
Think Dog!: An Owner's Guide to Canine Psychology
by John Fisher
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding how your dog thinks and views the world., 31 Aug. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an ideal guide for dog owners and those about to purchase a puppy.

Part I. The author gives an insight into the ancestry of the dog and how its mind develops, learns and its association with humans and family life.

PartII. In this section John Fisher deals with animal behaviour especially where there is an existing or potential problem. He deals, for example, with the introduction of a new baby or adult into a family. Difficulties with aggression (or perceived aggression), stress and anxiety also, as the reviewer found with a pet dog, pulling when on the lead.

Most of the advice given is based on simple training techniques or, in some cases, how a change of diet can solve a problem.

In no way does the author suggest the use of expensive equipment or the use of medication to control a dog. Only in exceptional cases does John Fisher suggest the use of a homeopathic remedy for short term use and then this is suggested only whilst consulting with the dog's vet.

In each chapter case histories are included and how the problems were solved. All are fully explained.

The reviewer found the book useful and informative.

Past the Shallows
Past the Shallows
by Favel Parrett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An emotive story of loss and loneliness of an unloved boy., 7 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Past the Shallows (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Three boys living their early years with their father, a man fond of drink, given to outbursts of temper and violence, but who has a dark secret. Joe has left the family to live with his grandfather and to become a carpenter. Miles and Harry remain at home. Miles helps his father and crewman Martin with the search for abalone. Harry is afraid of the water and suffers from seasickness and is too young to help. He is often left alone except for days out with Aunty Jean. In his imagination and dreams he sees his mother who died in a car crash and has fond memories of his late grandfather. Harry collects shells and driftwood from the beach which he calls his 'treasure'.

One day whilst wandering through the trees and scrub Harry meets a puppy, the dog is friendly and leads him to an isolated wooden house. The house belongs to George, a man whom everyone avoids. Harry runs away when George comes onto the verandah.

Martin, his father's crewman, is ill and his place is taken by Jeff, an unpleasant, crafty man. He encourages the father, who is in financial difficulty, to dive illegally in protected areas and also to drink with him.

Harry after following the dog again meets George and they become friends although Harry knows his father would be angry. The friendship grows between Harry, George and Jake, the dog.

In the house, one night, there is a drinking session with Dad and Jeff during which Miles is injured after Jeff forces Harry to drink alcohol and Miles intervenes as the father does nothing.

The boys run away to a friends home and Harry stays there, but Miles leaves to work on the boat. Harry decides to return home.

The boys are together again and asleep when Dad wakes Miles and then Harry He demands that Harry go with them to the boat. Harry is afraid, but his protective brother assures him that he will be safe with him. The weather is poor and the sea rough, but Dad, Jeff, Miles and Harry take the boat out....

This is a beautifully written story and the reader is drawn into Harry's lonely world. The author brilliantly captures the mood of the sea and the bleakness of an isolated community in a wild landscape. This is Favel Parrett's first novel and she expertly weaves past events in the story, memories and thoughts of the characters to great effect. A very readable book which draws the threads of the story together to give a powerful climax.

Albert of Adelaide
Albert of Adelaide
by Howard L. Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unusual, moving story of friendship and loyalty, 2 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Albert of Adelaide (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We meet Albert a duck-billed platypus, lost and alone in the Australian outback. He had escaped from Adelaide Zoo to search for old Australia rumoured to be a place where animals ruled and where humans did not venture. Now Albert was struggling through a sandstorm, exhausted and close to death when he heard singing. Following the sound he stumbles into the camp of Jack, a fire loving wombat. Saved by Jack, Albert becomes his close friend. They travel together to a remote mining station run by O'Hanlin, a wily kangaroo. Albert gets drunk and joins a gambling game of two-up. Things go wrong and a fire starts. Albert and Jack run away, but are soon pursued by a fierce troop of kangaroos and wallabies. A poster shows Albert to be a wanted platypus. Of course, the other animals have never seen a platypus so they are wary of him and blame him for the fire.

Eventually Jack leaves Albert, who finds a sign 'Gates of Hell' which turns out to be a store run by a disreputable duo Bertram, a wallaby and Theodore, an evil possum. Albert is robbed by the pair but is saved again by TJ, a racoon. They travel together and TJ tries un unsuccessful attempt to be a robber. Albert is not much help as he cannot shoot very well. Albert is left alone again after TJ is taken away by some dingoes.

Albert decides to try and find Muldoon, an old champion wrestler. Jack had spoken of him, but would not answer questions about their relationship.

After finding Muldoon, camped by a waterhole, and again meeting up with Jack, now limping and TJ who was befriended by the dingoes the foursome rest in their camp. They hear a battle and soon shells are falling nearby.It is the posse of kangaroos and wallabies led by Theodore and Bertram against the dingoes. Jack, TJ and Muldoon go ahead and leave Albert alone at the camp as a decoy. When things go quiet and his friends have not yet returned Albert sets out to find them.....

This is a western style story where human characters are replaced by animals who shoot, drink whiskey and gamble. The story is well written, the characters beautifully formed and with excellent description. A tissue may need to be at hand. A very readable story. A sequel would be great.

The Girl You Left Behind
The Girl You Left Behind
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A moving story of obsession and possession, 10 July 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Part I. Sophie Lefevre, with the help of her family, runs what was once a thriving hotel in Saint Peronne. Her husband Edouard is away fighting on the front and she has no love of the Nazis. German soldiers move into the village and take food and possessions from the people, leaving the villagers hungry and frightened. Sophie is obliged to serve the soldiers. Their Kommandant arrives and Sophie sees a less harsh and cultured man. He speaks of art and sees the portrait of Sophie, painted by her husband, immediately he is enthralled by the painting.

Later Sophie learns that Edouard is a prisoner and has been moved to a reprisal camp.

Accidentally, whilst walking in the local woods with the children she meets the Kommandant and asks for his help to obtain the release of her husband. She is told to go home, but to call and see the Kommandant the next evening. Sophie goes to his quarters, taking the painting with her. The meeting is a disaster and days later the German soldiers arrest her and she is bundled into a truck to start a journey to an uncertain future.

Part II. A century later Liv Halston, a young widow, is the owner of Sophie's portrait 'The girl you left behind'.

Liv is drunk in a London bar and is noticed by Paul McCafferty. Liv loses her handbag and after a search Paul takes her to his flat and an affair begins.

Liv is shocked some time later to receive a letter stating that the LeFevre family want the painting 'The girl you left behind' returned to them and is also shocked to see that the letter is signed Paul McCafferty who is director of an organisation helping to return missing items to the rightful owners. Determined to keep the painting Liv and her friend and flatmate Mo begin to research the history of the work and trace the remaining members of the LeFevre family.

A court claim is being made for the picture and Live whose husband's business is losing money is advised that to contest the case would ruin her. Liv is determined to go ahead. She has letters and documents relating to the painting and Paul McCafferty is now on the opposing side.

The only way to decide possession is through the law. This is a challenge Liv is about to take on to keep the portrait.

Part I is a well written piece with all the makings of an interesting, moving story of the determination of two women in very different circumstances to keep the painting 'The girl you left behind'.

Part II. this was somewhat disappointing as it seemed to be descending into merely a romance between Paul and Liv rather than concentrating on the painting. However, its saving grace was that we learned more about Sophie's experiences and something more of David. Added to this was a little more of the 'journey' of the painting over the years before it was given as a wedding present by David Halston, her husband, to Liv. We also learn something of the attitudes and feelings of the LeFevre family and other owners of the painting.

A rather long story that would have been better if Part II had been shorter and written in a sharper style. It was rather too romanticised.

Ocean of Life
Ocean of Life
by Callum Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific, informative narrative on the world's seas, 8 July 2012
This review is from: Ocean of Life (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The author takes us on a journey from the formation of the oceans and the organisms that lived in them to the present day.

Callum Roberts tells of how over fishing has depleted fish stocks, driving some species to near extinction. He describes how only two centuries ago fish were larger whereas now fish are smaller and often immature youngsters are caught in nets losing the natural cycle of reproduction.

The rise in sea levels are a danger to low lying islands as the Maldives and major cities built on shorelines, New York.

Drag nets (bottom fishing) have turned the seabed into marine deserts. Plant life, marine creatures have been disturbed, damaged or obliterated by human activity. Medicines that protect our health whose components have found their way into the sea have caused diesease and deformity in sea creatures.

The author gives many other examples of the dangers to the seas - ice caps melting, sewerage pollution, chemicals, plastics, alteration of currents and global warming. Also noise from ships and even ocean wind farms which disrupt the food searches of whales and dolphins.

Every topic that is now coming to human attention is covered.

The book is not all gloom. Some less polluted and protected areas still have shoals of brightly coloured fish, marine plants and delicate coral structures, which the author describes beautifully.

Callum Roberts offers ways in which we can reverse some of the damage as well as preventing further disastrous consequences.

An excellent book written in an understandable format. Illustrated with colour photographs and black and white explanantory diagrams and graphs.

Tigers in Red Weather
Tigers in Red Weather
by Liza Klaussmann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great combination of hot weather, fine living and murder, 5 July 2012
This review is from: Tigers in Red Weather (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Five people together at Tiger House; their lives entwined. The weather is hot and sultry. A time for a cooling swim in the Chappaquiddick. A time for picnic, dinner parties, fashionable dressing and cocktails. Yet beneath the veneer of respectability lie secrets in past lives, deceit, suppressed emotions and murder.

The story is told through the eyes and actions of the five main characters; Nick and Hughes Derringer and daughter Daisy. Helena Lewis and son Ed. All are staying at Tiger House and after the war years life is easier, with pleasant days on the island until a murder occurs. There are suspicions, but nothing proven. The incident is pushed aside and life returns to normal - until another murder is plotted.

The story covers the latter years of the war through the 50's and 60's. The characters are complex yet somehow shallow. Adults have their problems and the children growing up and learning about life and relationships.

It is an intriguing story with an unexpected twist in the end.

Torchwood: Mr Invincible (BBC Audio)
Torchwood: Mr Invincible (BBC Audio)
by Mark Morris
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £7.07

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superb Torchwood story., 5 July 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ross Chapman is shot at point blank range, yet does not die. He gains super powers and becomes a crime busting vigilante 'Mr. Invincible'.

Cpt.Jack Harkness sees a vision of Gwen lying murdered, shot by an unknown gunman. Jack is angry - he does not know where the death of Gwen took place.

At the local police station Jack demands to see Sgt.Andy Davidson and hears of other incidents; young people becoming old, adults becoming young and others dying.

Jack must find the truth about Gwen in order to save her as time is shifting around the city. He must also find out who or what is causing time's erratic motion.

This is a very well written story with all the right ingredients expected in a Torhwood adventure. Events are a sequel to Miracle Day, with suspense, mystery and an unusual solution.

Written by Mark Morris and read by Tom price.

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