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S. Hapgood "www.sjhstrangetales.com"
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Philips SA3MXX04PA/02 Pink 4GB Portable MP3 Player
Philips SA3MXX04PA/02 Pink 4GB Portable MP3 Player

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the biz, 22 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought my first one of these over a year ago, have used it constantly, and I can't recommend it enough. Easy to use, with nice simple navigation, bags of room to load any amount of songs and tunes you wish, and easy to recharge. The Philips MP3 Players are the best.


Daughters of Rome (Rome 2)
Daughters of Rome (Rome 2)
by Kate Quinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Daughters Of Rome, 21 July 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'Daughters Of Rome' is a colourful and vivid recreation of Ancient Rome. It tells the story of four women, sisters and cousins, and the dramatic things that happen to them during a time of ever-changing emperors. Cornelia is the elegant one, the woman who has married well but has yet to produce the covetted son and heir. Marcella is the bluestocking, working on her chronicle of Roman history, but cursed by the fact that a woman is not allowed to be a historian or a published writer. There is Lollia, the vivacious one with a fondness for her male slaves, and lastly the tomboy, Diana, obsessed with chariot-racing.

Some of the Roman names get a bit confusing at times, but other than that this is a perfect read, crammed full of larger-than-life characters and memorable (at times bloodthirsty) scenes. Like a sort of full-bodied Roman version of 'Little Women'!


Why I Love Singlehood
Why I Love Singlehood
by Elisa Lorello
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why I Love Singlehood, 29 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Why I Love Singlehood (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Eva is in her 30s, a published author and coffee-shop owner. She has a close circle of friends who seem to adore her and hang on her every word, a lovely house by the sea, not only that but all her customers seem to adore her too, writing her long, supportive letters, eagerly wanting to hear all her news at the coffee-shop, and ready to drop everything to listen to her latest tale of woe (not one awkward, grumpy devil amongst them!!). At a friend's insistence she starts up a Facebook blog about the joys of single life ... and then realises she's not certain she is enjoying being single after all, and in fact is still pining after her ex, who dumped her when he decided that their relationship wasn't good enough for him. Add to that he's recently got engaged, and has decided to turn up at the coffee-shop parading his attractive new fiance in front of Eva.

I enjoyed this at first, but it quickly outstayed its welcome. I think I was expecting something funnier, more of a biting satire on the perils of being single in a world that still seems stubbornly geared towards family life. It occasionally went that way, with the speed-dating evening for instance, but then it got dragged back to sentiment again. Plus Eva's angst was wearying. On her 34th birthday she moans "what have I achieved?" Well you've had a book published, you've got your own business and a home of your own, pretty good for starters! She also seems to have hordes of eager men desperate to get to know her better, but still pines for the loathsome ex, I mean really, get a grip lady!

If you're after a light, fluffy, feel-good read then this is probably just your thing, and in that case I can recommend it. Sadly, it wasn't for me though.


The Mistress's Revenge
The Mistress's Revenge
by Tamar Cohen
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent debut novel, 28 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Mistress's Revenge (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The story is told by Sally Islip, a 40-something married mother of 2, who has been having an intense affair with a flash TV presenter called Clive (who is also married with kids). Everything falls apart for Sally when Clive suddenly dumps her over lunch one day. Sally refuses to accept this, and her obsession with Clive accelerates until she finds herself following his family's every movement on Facebook, popping into the bar where his son works, and even bursting in on his pregnant daughter in hospital.

Tamar Cohen has managed to make a bunch of frankly dislikeable characters very readable. Like Sally, most of them are chronically selfish. Clive in particular is vile and self-indulgent. He's a serial philanderer who admits to even trying to pick up women on his honeymooon. The only truly sympathetic characters are Sally's longsuffering husband Daniel, and her children, who are practically strangers to her.

This is a complex novel, with plenty of brilliant dark humour amongst the heartbreak, such as Sally's truly dismal one-night stand with a younger man. I was fascinated to see how it would end, and the final twists didn't disappoint. Overall, this is a very promising debut novel.


Of Bees and Mist
Of Bees and Mist
by Erick Setiawan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars highly original, 30 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Of Bees and Mist (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This novel centres around Meridia, who at the beginning of it is an only child growing up in a cold (literally so), loveless household, with parents who are at best indifferent to her, and at worst openly contemptuous. She lives a lonely existence, in a house full of ghosts and secrets, until at the age of 16 she meets a young man called Daniel at a village fiesta. Daniel is down-to-earth and good-humoured, he has no time for superstition and flights of fancy, and he is like a breath of sunshine for the solemn Meridia. They soon marry, and Daniel takes her to live with his family. Meridia hopes that with her eccentric in-laws she will finally find the stability and true family life that she has always craved. But this is a fairy-tale with a bitter edge, and instead of living happily ever after, Daniel and Meridia's marriage slowly begins to unravel under the day-to-day strain of being grown-ups. This is a thoroughly original story, a surreal adult fairy-tale, told in a beautifully-written style.


The Heretic's Daughter
The Heretic's Daughter
by Kathleen Kent
Edition: Paperback

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Heretic's Daughter, 7 Sept. 2009
This review is from: The Heretic's Daughter (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Heretic's Daughter has a possible added interest over other novels about the Salem Witch Trials in that it is written by a direct descendent of Martha Carrier, one of the women hanged during this whole shameful debacle. The novel is narrated by Sarah, Martha's young daughter. On the whole it is good, but I have to say I did find it a bit dreary and heavy-going at times, and matters weren't helped about a third of the way in when we get one of those scenes I personally can't stand: annoying psychic relative appears in a dream to Sarah and warns of imminent disaster. And the climatic scene when Martha is taken to be executed, I found weirdly unmoving. Having said all that though it does capture the atmosphere of a community living in great hardship, stalked by disease, and consumed by paranoia.


The Time Machine (Classic Radio Sci-Fi)
The Time Machine (Classic Radio Sci-Fi)
by H. G. Wells
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.25

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Time Machine, 7 Sept. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At the height of the Blitz a young American journalist is sent to interview the legendary H G Wells. He relates to her a fascinating experience from his youth about a man who managed to time-travel far into the future. Classic stories always bear re-telling, and this one is no exception. It is atmospheric and refreshingly-free of politically-correct gimmicks, staying true to the spirit of H G Wells' work. Two things stood out for me personally about this production. One is that on the practical level every word spoken was as clear as a bell. I'm partially deaf so this means a lot to me. The other is the ending, where the time-traveller goes even further forward in time to the very end of the world (it reminded me of William Hope Hodgeson's 'The House On The Borderland'). This was outstanding. Top-notch production, easily bears more than one listen. Highly-recommended. 5/5.


Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 17 April 2009
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had been looking forward to reading this. Anything to do with the court of King Henry VIII is usually fascinating, and I thought this one would be particularly so as it takes Thomas Cromwell as its central character. Cromwell's life is certainly the stuff of a good story. He came from a humble background, the son of a Putney blacksmith. His father was a drunken thug who beat him. Eventually Cromwell ran away to become a soldier in Europe, spending some time in Italy. When he returned to London he trained as a lawyer, and worked in Cardinal Wolsey's entourage, eventually rising up to become one of the most powerful figures in the land. The lad done good, so to say. Cromwell is often seen as a cold-bloodied, ruthlessly ambitious man, endlessly scheming, so I was looking forward to finding out a bit more about him. But I was disappointed.

I think part of the problem for me personally was the author's style. She writes in a very cold, detached way, as if she was not emotionally engaged with it at all. Some of the characters don't come alive, and exist only as printed names on the page (particularly Cromwell's family, who I just gave up on in the end). I also felt the book ends at a strange point by finishing at the execution of Sir Thomas More in 1535. So it misses out all Cromwell's plotting of Anne Boleyn's downfall a year later, and his own eventual come-uppance with the Anne of Cleves fiasco, when he completely lost Henry's support. Unless the author is planning a sequel (and there is no evidence that she is) I found it odd that she stopped where she did. Also, the King himself is barely humanised at all, and Anne is simply a scheming witch. I suppose I've got used to more complex characterisation than that in historical fiction.

There are some frustrating glimpses of what a great novel this could have been, such as the one-to-one conversations between Wolsey (who I was at least pleased to see gets a reasonably sympathetic treatment for a change) and Cromwell, and some poetic touches, such as the author's marvellous alternative history of Britain section, but on the whole I didn't really enjoy this, I struggled with it, and I felt it was a wasted opportunity, particularly as it's been published to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry becoming king.


The Grin of the Dark
The Grin of the Dark
by Ramsey Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware of clowns and Internet trolls!, 3 Mar. 2008
This review is from: The Grin of the Dark (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Simon Lester's life hasn't quite gone the way he had hoped. At university he had showed signs of having an interesting career ahead as a movie expert, but now he is living in a rented room and working at a petrol station. Then suddenly, out of the blue, his ex-tutor turns up and offers him several thousand pounds to expand and publish his thesis on silent movie clown, Tubby Thackeray. Not surprisingly, Simon eagerly accepts his offer. He soon encounters problems though when he finds that Tubby has been almost entirely expunged from cinema history. Only odd scraps of film footage can be found, plus old press cuttings from his music hall days, when he was arrested for inducing a state of mass hysteria in his audience.

I like a good horror thriller, but I'm also interested in the early days of cinema, so this was a double bonus for me. The author provides good insight into those wildly anarchic early days of film comedy, and shows what a fine line there can be between broad slapstick fun and the stuff of nightmares. (This is done particularly well when Simon watches an old sketch of Tubby's, in which a dentist goes mad ripping out a patient's teeth). The characterisation is also good, and his Internet troll sections are absolutely spot-on! The only part of the book I really didn't like was the ending. It felt silly. Nonetheless this is above-average horror. Recommended.


Cathedral of the Sea
Cathedral of the Sea
by Ildefonso Falcones
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cathedral Of The Sea, 8 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Cathedral of the Sea (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There seems to have been a bit of a mania for novels about Medieval cathedral-building in recent years. We've had Edward Rutherfurd's 'Sarum', and Ken Follett's (absolutely sublime) 'The Pillars Of The Earth'. Ildefonso Falcones' 'Cathedral Of The Sea' is very much in the same vein. It is set in Barcelona in the 14th century, and spans over 60 years. The book begins with farmer Bernat Estanyol's wedding to the lovely Francesca. An idyllic alfresco wedding feast in the Catalonian countryside is interrupted by a visitation from the local squire, a thoroughly unpleasant piece of work called Llorenc de Bellera. When Llorenc discovers that a wedding party is in progress, he demands his squire's rights with Francesca, and a travesty of a wedding night follows.

Bernat's life is never the same again. Francesca goes into a sad decline. She gives birth to a baby boy, who she refuses to show any love for, even though (because of the distinctive birth-mark on his face) it is clear he is Bernat's and not Llorenc's. When another incident means that Bernat has to flee the area, he takes the baby with him, and goes to Barcelona to look for work. He is employed by Grau, an ambitious relative who has made good, but is embarrassed by Bernat's predicament and makes him hide away in his household as one of his slaves.

The main focus of the story then gradually shifts to Bernat's young son, Arnau, who grows up in an atmosphere of war, disease, and gross social injustice. But in the midst of all this grim horror Arnau witness the beginning of the building of the cathedral, and it becomes his refuge from the hardships of home. He befriends a steet urchin called Joanet, whose mother has been walled up alive for adultery. Joanet is one of the more interesting and complex characters in the book, a young lad from an appalling background who eventually takes up holy orders.

This is a rich, atmospheric novel, one in which the characters suffer more than their fair share of humiliation and degradation, and there are some truly hair-raising moments. My only real complaint is that some of the characterisation is a bit too one-dimensional, as if the author was concentrating all his energies on the main characters of Arnau, Bernat, Joanet, and the passionate Aledis, and leaving some of the others to exist simply as names on the page. Plus the wicked Baronness with her silly, angry arm-waving in the air seems more like a cartoon character than anybody we should take seriously. But I think that fans of good, solid, non-fluffy historical fiction will find plenty to compensate for that!


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