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J. Saunders "Kimberly" (UK)

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Boy 90
Boy 90
Price: £0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Short but Succint, 5 Jun 2011
This review is from: Boy 90 (Kindle Edition)
Tina Kolesnik provides us with an erotically charged tale with some interesting interpersonal and societal dynamics which is filled with characters whose very flaws not only define nearly their entire raison d'Ítre but also provide a unique set of perspectives into the society in which they live. Beck is a strong female character, and while she is seemingly the more aggressive of the two, River himself turns out to be no prince in a fairytale romance of star crossed lovers. Make no mistake, it is a tale of a love/hate relationship based upon circumstance and need, but not a romance when measured by any traditional yardstick.It's also a well crafted piece of fiction whose dystopian colony world reminded me of of le Guin (Left Hand of Darkness (Panther science fiction)and C.J. Cherryh (Deceiver (Foreigner)) in quality and scope, albeit in a much more condensed form. The illustrations scattered about are well rendered and show up well on the Kindle screen, adding texture to a tale already teeming with detail and emotion. For lovers of erotica and science fiction, this is a real treat well worth the price.

Close the Last Door (Yaoi): v. 1
Close the Last Door (Yaoi): v. 1
by Yugi Yamada
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Let the Heat Out, 22 Dec 2010
Close the Last Door was my first introduction to Yamada Yugi. It was not her manga however, but the OVA adaptation of it that I first encountered, and it did its job: sent me looking for the manga. Originally published by Biblos as Saigo no Door wo Shimero! , it tells the story of three men in a love triangle and their co-workers. Nagai is your stereotypical Japanese office worker. He works with a former university classmate, Saitou, with whom he has been friends with for what seems ages. In fact, they are best friends, so when Saitou gets married, it is natural that Nagai is the best man and gives one of the wedding speeches. Except for one thing; Saitou's nuptials have unveiled a personal problem with Nagai It seems that faced with the wedding, his introspection about finding someone he wants to settle down with himself leads to a startling self realisation: he is in love with Saitou! Of course, it's far too late to say anything, and he goes through with his duties and helps make the wedding a successful event for his friend.

Stressed out, afterwards, he heads to the bar, where he encounters Honda. Seems Honda is also drowning his unrequited love sorrows in the bottom of a glass, only his love was the bride. Licking each other's wounds, the pair end up in Honda's hotel room where it gets intimately interesting indeed! Nor does it turn out to be a one off encounter, as business causes them to cross paths. Throw in the complication that Saitou's bride ran off after the wedding with another man, and a grieving Saitou who decides that best friend Nagai is all he will EVER need, and you have a recipe for an entire casserole of relationship complications. It's a tale of laughter and mayhem that has its definite tender moments, in a style that is uniquely Yamada Yugi's.

Take her character set for example. We have three businessmen. In a typical BL manga, the office is often a convenient backdrop seen in snatches, if at all, and the business suits a convenient costume. In Close the Last Door, however, this is not the case. The very fabric of what it is to be a salaryman plays a lot into the story, as their working existence helps shape who they are. In fact, the inter-office politics causes a lot of the issues that come up in the out of office lives of the character. His not only adds realism to the scenario, but makes the protagonists easier to relate to.

Relate-able yes, but not necessarily likeable. I'm with Honda on how he feels about Saitou. Saitou was a whiny, clingy brat of a guy. It's no wonder his bride used him as a patsy for her own love troubles, nor that she felt very little compunction about dumping him straight after, before the honeymoon even started. Nagai's problem is that he is a nice guy. I mean it, a REALLY nice guy, the sort that whiny clingy people will latch onto and not let go of. Saitou comes to understand this but slowly, especially once Saitou revealed his TRUE colours. If wheedling and tears doesn't get you your way, a brat will show what they are made of and aggressively go to grab what they want, and Saitou turns out to be no exception. Nagai's adoration of Saitou is based upon his perception of the persona that Saitou shows him: a cute almost helpless sort of puppy. It is not a mature love at all, whereas Honda and Nagai's relationship is based entirely upon adult passions.

It is not a passion though that both are entirely comfortable with. Homosexuality is a hot button topic in Japan, coming with a host of social implications that a heterosexual simply does not encounter. Honda is a mature, capable sort, and is comfortable with his expressed sexuality, while Nagai's tendency t worry and fuss over people and things causes him no end of personal anguish in this regard. So much so that at first, to face it, he must gather up dutch courage by drinking before he can allow himself to express his desires. The calm, reassuring presence of the mature Honda is the perfect compliment to Nagai's flustered self, but will he realise it?

Art wise, Yamada's art is exemplary in the way the facial expressions are so delicately nuanced. How each person feels is literally written upon their faces, and their eyes express depths of emotion beautifully. Befitting the more mature ages and occupations of the characters, they are definitely manly in looks, as well as habit. She's taken average, everyday types and cast them into a BL manga, and it works wonderfully. The same can be said of her settings. From ordinary izakaya to small apartments, these fellows live out their lives across these pages in their natural environments. The simplicity of it all flows like water, with the twists and turns of the plot keeping the reader from losing momentum in their reading experience. Recommended.

Let's Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary (Let's Learn Picture Dictionary Series)
Let's Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary (Let's Learn Picture Dictionary Series)
by Marlene Goodman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.59

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Picture This, 15 Nov 2009
My first impression right out of the box was a positive one. It is a sturdily bound hard back, in a traditional picture book size (i.e. not these newer scaled down flimsy sizes), and the pages are of excellent stock. They look to be well suited to many page turnings and the rougher handling of children. Inside, colourful, engaging pictures depicting over 30 scenes appear. The pictures have no writing on them; instead to the side and underneath, individual items from the pictures are presented like clip art. The word for this is in English, followed by the Japanese word in romaji (Romanised letters), and followed by it written in actual Japanese. This is where as a book for children, it comes a bit unstuck. They use kanji. It would have been much more helpful to leave out the romaji and write the word in kana, then in the kanji, or to also include the kana with the romaji and kanji. It is a small niggle, but one worth mentioning as it has frustrated my children, though I have pointed out to them that having the romaji, they know what to write in the kana, as kana is phonetic, and therefore, you simply write the sounds down romaji is basically the phonetic spelling using Romanised letters).

The vocabulary on offer is well considered in itself, however. From around the house, to the four seasons, to a farm, to the high street, and even all the way to outer space, there are well over 1500 words that children may encounter or wish to know. Nor is finding the word you are wanting limited to flicking through page after page of pictorial scenes. The back of the book has a traditional glossary and index. One may look up the word either in romaji or in English, and there find its other half so to speak, as well as the page number you can find it depicted. This means that when I still get the "Nani?" from little madam, I can point her with ease to the bookshelf, where the two of them can squabble over who is going to look it up in the glossary/index, and turn to the page in question to go wandering about in related words.

The final quibble is not from me, but from my kids. The pictures used show scenes from someplace like New York or London. That is, Western city with Western housing and multicultural people (though predominantly white). I am sure this was to make English speaking children associate the words more readily with their own daily life, as it basically holds up a mirror and give the foreign word for it. BUT, Japan is not a Western country, and my children are actually annoyed that the scenes are not Japanese. I can see their point of view as well, because Japanese is not exactly a language you decide to learn without planning to at least visit Japan at some point.

Twilight (Twilight Saga)
Twilight (Twilight Saga)
by Stephenie Meyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bite Me and I'm Yours, 27 Sep 2009
To be brief, it is about 17 year old Isabella Swan. Until now she has lived with her mother in Phoenix, Arizona and it was just the two of them. Summers she spent with her father in Washington State in a little town called Forks, where he is the sheriff. She hates Forks with a passion. It is always overcast, with lots of rain, and nothing much seems to happen there. But when her mother remarries and begins to embark on her new life, Bella feels it is time to give her mother some space, and find her own place in the world without cramping her mother's newlywed lifestyle. With this in mind, the gloomy town of Forks seems perfect. She can stay with her father and not have to think too much while finding her feet.

That is the plan, and things seem to be settling in smoothly. Until she encounters the Cullens in the school cafeteria that is. Eerily beautiful, they are set apart from the rest of the town. They are somehow different, and everyone is in awe of them. But Edward Cullen seems to hate her, recoiling from her as if she had a deadly plague when she encounters him during her first day's biology class. Just what is wrong with him, anyway? When she finds out the truth, it is not quite what she expected...

While this may sound like your average teen aged school drama with boys and romance thrown in, it is not. Your average teen drama doesn't have vampires who drive shiny silver Volvos to school, do they? You got it, the Cullens are vampires. And Bella is not only about to find her angsty path through life, but find out just how fraught a romance with a hundred year old vampire can get. It would be terribly easy for this to get cheesy super quick, but Stephanie Meyers manages to pull off the hat trick of keeping this realistic and engaging without resorting to cheap tricks to keep the readers attention. Her prose is at times dreamy, perfectly in tune with the first person point of view of a teen aged girl. She is a bright and articulate teen aged girl, admittedly, but young and somewhat naÔve none the less.

It is marketed for the youth market, but, like Harry Potter before it, has found a wider audience amongst adult readers (including this one). The writer may not be as vividly descriptive and as dark as Anne Rice with her vampires, nor as action oriented and detailed as Potter's Rowling, but she doesn't talk down either. The first person narrative helps a lot in this regard. One does not expect a youth in their mid teens to be overly aware of the small nuances going on about them, and to be slightly self absorbed when it comes to viewing the world about them. Bella is no exception, often noticing the finer details only when they come to bite her back. This is relatable to many of us, having been there and done that (and many of us have THAT T shirt!), so the lack of verbosity in description is not a handicap, but rather a virtue. The timelessness of a deep and abiding first love is one that appeals to people of all ages, and toss in gorgeous vampires and you have a story that keeps the pages turning, and turning.

Galt Galt 100 Piece Puzzle Prehistoric
Galt Galt 100 Piece Puzzle Prehistoric

5.0 out of 5 stars 100 Pieces of Prehistoric Gold, 27 Sep 2009
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Made by Galt, famous toy makers for the past 150 odd years, it has 100 pieces. My children at first were a bit daunted at the prospect of a 100 piece puzzle as it seemed quite a jump from the puzzles in the age band before this one, with most of those puzzles only having 40 pieces or so. This proved to not be a huge hurdle though, as the pieces are not overly small and once completed the picture is larger than the preschool 40 piece puzzles. This is not to say that my 5 and 7 year old were able to sit down and do the puzzle in no time flat. The shadings and details added a level of challenge that allowed even Mommy and Daddy to have to pay a bit of attention when assisting so that even after nearly weekly plays every week since early January, this puzzle still is able to hold interest when it is pulled out.

Adding to the fun (and educational aspect) is a nice little chart Galt has provided. The sheet of A4 paper has a black and white outline drawing of the completed puzzle, with the dinosaurs and other pictured prehistoric creatures numbered. below this is a list showing the name of the corresponding creature. We have had great fun Googling the names and discovering the facts about each one. It all sounds fantastic, but sadly, this is where my children expereinced a small feeling of being let down. Why? Well, to explain it quite simply, my children gazed upon this wondrous scene and imagined it as a indow into the past, almost like a snap shot of what they could have perhaps witnessed if able to pop back in time. This proved not to be the case, however, as the creatures are from different periods, and even worse still, some of the depictions are actually inaccurate. It is a little nitpicky, and the inconsistencies are not from negligence, merely outdated representations often still on dispaly in some museums and the grouping made to be more of general diorama of prehistoric critters than those living in any one epoch. It has not been an occasion to put a dampner on their enjoyment of the puzzle at all, and has actually helped feed their thirst for knowledge on the various creatures and the times in which they lived.

Standing up to two young children and their visiting freinds an prove a fearsome task for a toy made out of papery materials, but this one has held up well. The cardbaord is dense and sturdy, resisting bending even when a fitted piece is being removed hack handedly by an impatient child. the art work is detailed and very colourful, and is likely to remain pristine thanks to a wipe clean laminated surface. The age guide says from ages 6-10, but my son was 5 1/2 when he got this and with a bit of assitance quite easily got the hang of it. he has not yet completed the puzzle by himself despite being 6 in a few weeks time, but that is simply because once this puzzle is out, his ssiter and any other child within the propertyy line makes an instant beeline wanting to play as well.Highly recommended as the enjoyment is ongoing, and looking forward to buying others in the series.

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
by Susan Wise
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Language Foundation, 27 Sep 2009
Designed for the home educating family, this book is similiar in approach to that of the book we used to teach our children to read (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons). That is so for a few reasons.

1. It uses very short, to the point lessons presented in an engaging manner. Each bite sized chunk is built upon day by day, making knowledge mastery almost effortless even for the child who hates to pay attention! I should know, my six years old is the one f the world's worst fidgeters! Having said that, he really enjoys these lessons, and looks forward to each day's small associated activity. For example, one of the first lessons involved a poem by Christina Rosetti (The Caterpillar). He was so excited to get to draw a picture to illustrate it, and looked up pictures with me of different caterpillars so that he could draw one.

2. Like 100 Easy Lessons, there is no need for advance planning. Each lesson has clear instructions and is scripted. Simply read the script, do the activities, and answer any questions your child might have. This means even if your own grammar is a bit hazy, you won't have any problems. So if you can't recall precisely what an interjection is, don't worry. Your script will remind you as you read it out the lesson. I really like the scripted books for these early language arts lessons as it frees up my time for planning other parts of the week's lessons and activities, and I also know that there will not be any holes in what we have covered. The author is a former primary school teacher and school principal (head teacher), who home educated her own three children (one is a professor now at William and Mary), so the lessons are well thought out and thorough.

3. It is self contained. The book not only contains the script for the grammar lessons that cover the parts of speech, but the pictures, stories, and poems used to round this out as a whole language program are included within each lesson. No need to go find clip art, locate poems, or find the stories that the lessons refer to. Again, this frees time, and it also lessens clutter about the place as there is no need for multiple resource books. The only extras needed for this are paper, crayons, pencils, and about 15-20 minutes of time each day.

I don't mean the reading program sort of meaning of whole language, which relies on sight word learning and not phonics. Rather, having learned to read with phonics, this makes use of the whole language approach. Your child can now read the words upon the paper thanks to phonics (such as learned thanks to Jolly Phonics or 100 Easy Lessons), so this book takes these words and gives them their place and meaning. From learning the parts of speech by what they are, and learning to categorize words they know and use everyday within these classifications, children learn to structure speech. Child friendly poetry and classic short children's stories and fables are used to familiarise children with proper language usage, both by listening as well as learning to narrate. Basically, each way we normally make use of language in our daily lives is utilised to demonstrate and reinforce proper language use.

There are just a few things to be aware of, so you don't hit the panic button. The author IS American. So references are made to a map of the US and to zip codes. Now, the map is merely to illustrate that place names are capitalised, so it is not a big deal, but you can if you wish, dig out a map of the UK or Europe instead, and substitute the word post code for zip code when reading the lesson out. This is not a spelling book, so no bother with spelling differences here either. That's the only two little niggles! The paperback version is sturdily bound, so I managed to acquire my copy second hand with only some cover creasing to contend with. It is a popular book, so resale value is excellent if you wish to do so.

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Peter Robbins
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £7.86

5.0 out of 5 stars It's No Trick, This is a Real Holiday Treat, 26 Sep 2009
love Peanuts. There, I said it, and I am not embarrassed either! I grew up with the antics of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the Peanuts gang making regular appearances on my childhood bedding, my Mom's kitchenware, in the daily newspaper comic strip, and a special coloured edition of the strip on Sundays in the Sunday paper. Then there were the holidays and specials...guaranteed to have an award winning Bill Melendez produced Peanuts prime time family special! Halloween was anticipated not only for the goodies at the school classroom party where we all got to dress up in our costumes, nor for the treats handed out by neighbours who admired our costumes as we came Trick or Treating (always politely, mind!). No, while that was loads of fun, the bigger treat was the anticipation.

The planning of what costume to wear, selecting a pumpkin to carve, the route to take for Trick or Treating , and the pre- excitement of the local children's parties. All these rather neatly summed up with deadly accuracy by Charles Schultz, when he created "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie, Brown". This was was a special so hotly anticipated for this holiday event that you simply did not make plans to watch any other channels, or to go anywhere. Mom and Dad sat down with children all across America, and sat and watched a humorously retold vignette of childhood. Not that trick or treating is an American invention. Oh no, that honour goes to the Scots, who carved neeps (turnips) and went guising (and still do) door to door for treats, before bringing their tradition to the US and Canada, where the pumpkin found favour as the lantern of choice!

It's the whole idea of treats and carved pumpkins that resonates most when you ask children about Halloween, and I guess that makes it no great surprise that this is what Schultz brings firmly to life, but in a way that can only exist in the world of Charlie Brown. This time, though, Charlie Brown is not entirely the main focus. No, this is a true Peanuts ensemble piece, with Linus actually being the main attraction. It seems Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin, and plans to go sit in the pumpkin patch to keep a faithful vigil for when the Great Pumpkin shall come. Linus states that the Great Pumpkin shall arise from the most sincere pumpkin patch, and fly through the air, to deliver toys and treats to good girls and boys around the world who believe in him. The Great Pumpkin, of course, fails to appear every year, but Linus remains steadfast and undeterred, and this year is no different. He dutifully writes his letter of pumpkin praise, noting to Charlie Brown that unlike writing to Santa, you don't say what you want, but just believe utterly, lest he fail to appear to you, and then accept whatever he decides to give you. Lucy and Charlie Brown and the other children think Linus is a bit nutsy cuckoo with his Great Pumpkin idea, and are busy planning their trick or treat outing followed by going to the local children's party. All save Sally, Charlie Brown's little sister, who as always remains convinced that Linus is right and she will watch with her sweet Baboo to await the coming of the most marvelous Great Pumpkin. And so it is that they go and sit, while the rest of the gang go to put on their costumes and venture out to trick or treat.

This in itself is pretty hilarious. Most costumes are bed sheet ghosts, save Lucy, who goes as a witch. Poor Charlie Brown as usual mucks up, and his sheet has dozens of eye holes all over as "I kinda had trouble with the scissors." And while we know full well Linus and Sally are set for disappointment, it would be too much of an upset to the status quo for Charlie Brown to come out ahead, with a running gag making its appearance as each child excitedly looks at the latest addition to their haul (I got a rock). Nor is Snoopy off form. No, it's dark out, and he has a mission...the WWII flying ace must fly his Sopwith Camel on a daring mission over occupied France..and oh no! The Red Baron shoots him down. Will Snoopy make it back home, Charlie Brown get any treats, and Sally forgive Linus for making her sit in a cold, dark pumpkin patch, missing all the fun?

It's loads of harmless and utterly satirical fun. The picture and digital mono sound on the DVD are quite good, no scratchy images or hisses and pops, so poor quality does not detract from the viewing experience. It gets put on every Halloween after the trick or treating is done, and the Halloween party food laid on. A little Monster Mash music to dance, some jack o'lantern themed mini pizzas and what not, and the Great Pumpkin DVD to watch while they munch make for a still satisfying taste of childhood fun around these parts. My son particularly rolls on the floor, and we have to remind him to mind the food he has just put in his mouth, every time Charlie Brown says, "And I got a rock" after the other kids list the candy or fruit they received. My daughter's favourite bits are the Snoopy vignettes as he does WWII Flying Ace bits, finding his way through France via his own back garden.

Japanese for Young People: Kana Workbook Bk.1
Japanese for Young People: Kana Workbook Bk.1
by The Association for Japanese Language Teaching
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone Loves Kana..., 26 Sep 2009
Part of learning any foreign language should ideally mean learning to read and write that language as well as the spoken word. For our chosen language this means we have to master not one, but three writing scripts. The how and why of this is not only interesting, but helps provide a more solid understanding of how the writing system works together. This book covers the first two, hiragana, and katakana, referred to as kana collectively.

Altogether, there are 25 lessons. The first 15 lessons cover hiragana, and the second lot of ten cover katakana. This may seem very short to you, but kana is extremely simple to master. The hard part is not the memorising of the symbols, but of the writing and proper use of them at will. Let's take a look at how this workbook takes this issue in hand.

Part 1- Hiragana

Each lesson in this section contains six parts. In the first part, we are introduced to a small group of hiragana characters. It is easy to know in advance which ones they are, as they make up that lessons title. The second part of the lesson is finding the matching hiragana. We get a symbol followed by various other hiragana characters all mixed up and must circle the ones that are the same as the example. This section has the optional tape symbol we encounter in the student text book that accompanies this, but it is indeed optional. The idea for this is that either the instructor (or student if doing self study) or the audio tape can be used to articulate the phonetic sound this represents. Now, this may make the very expensive (and often difficult to obtain) cassette tape set seem a must have, but this is not so.'s Japanese lessons includes a kana section, and one can actually use this to learn the sounds to the hiragana in each of the workbook's lesson, and then say the sound aloud as doing the exercise. It is free to do it this way, and makes your brain think a little more too.

The second part of the lesson involves reading. The hiragana covered in the first part of the lesson is now combined into very simple words with pictures to show what they mean. Reading the sounds aloud together (and without any stresses on any part of the word), gives us practice reading elementary level vocabulary. If unsure of how to pronounce them together, again, this is so basic, they are on Econtrader. This is a very short section, with only a half dozen examples to practice, so one comes away feeling flush with success and not like one has tried to scale Mt Fuji in winter. Seeing as this is aimed at young people, this is ideal, especially for the younger set, as they come away able to swagger that they can read and spell some real Japanese words. For us grown ups who have been out of school for awhile, it means we can learn without our brain turning to mush and knowing we actually accomplished something real, and therefore able to feel smug while making the tea after.

The next section covers writing. This is where we learn the correct stroke order for writing the symbols, and again, this is made so painless one wonders what they were so worried about. We get a page divided into writing squares, just as the actual Japanese writing paper known as genkoyoushi is. The squares on this type of paper actually serve a function, and that is to allow one to distinguish where one character begins and ends, as little hash marks can make all the difference in the world. In this case, the first square gives us the character. The second gives us a dotted line version of the first stroke to trace, as well as a nearly transparent graph marking to show the correct placement within that square. The second square gives us the first and second stroke in the same manner, until we have traced an entire character. It is at this point that we get a nearly empty square with a single dot as a starting reference point to write it again without tracing, then another entire character to trace before we once again write the character on its own without any stroke order or placement aids.

Not to worry though, this is not the only time we practice our writing skills. You see, the fifth section is more writing. This time it is a combo of writing and reading, with those super duper easy vocabulary words we learned in section two making reappearance. This time we write them out in the squares, and match the pictures to the words. It is all rather like those very simple worksheets we all had in reception year when we learned our ABC's and had fun with phonics! Indeed, the sixth and least section ties into this by giving us fun puzzles to reinforce these reading and writing skills. We get lots of edutainment with mazes, dot to dots, anagrams and simple word searches and the like. Indeed, the dot to dot and mazes are also deceptively educational in that they sneakily impart our grey matter with the "alphabetical" order of the syllables, a vital skill one must learn in order to use Japanese-English dictionaries.

Part two- katakana

This is the part that frustrates many students of Japanese. Having learned the hiragana, suddenly one has to learn the katakana too, and the katakana phonetics are exactly the same as the hiragana. No surprise then that time is spent learning which katakana is the same sound as what hiragana. That is, we learn that a (ah) in hiragana is such a symbol, and in katakana it is written this other way. That is, they are equivalent to each other, and just the usage is different. Don't smack your head on the table yet, though. We get to view the hiragana equivalents and associate them with one another during various simple exercises, followed by the same sort of writing and reading practice we got for hiragana. Then we get the fun and games again. It is well thought out in that the vocabulary words in this section are actual words that would be normally written in this script: names of foreign countries and imported words of non Japanese or Chinese origin, such as the words for hamburger, ice cream, and so on. Again, sneakily giving us what we need to know, in useful context, and without any heavy explanations about grammar or rules.

Going to the text book

Once this workbook is completed, moving on to the student book is made so much easier. It makes the vocabulary so much more naturally accessible and one does not feel so frightened when the Romanized Japanese suddenly disappears after lesson five. In addition, the confidence building this inspires will offer a can do attitude that makes the formal language lessons something to really look forward to. It has my kids saying, "What are we learning today," and "Hey, can we have another lesson?" Not only that, but knowing the kana means that when ready, you can even type in Japanese, as keyboards and mobiles use kana to write, then you can elect to have it converted to the kanji for you. Yippee!

Firefly - The Complete Series [DVD] [2003]
Firefly - The Complete Series [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Nathan Fillion
Offered by EagleDVD
Price: £11.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Burn the land, Boil the Sea..., 26 Sep 2009
I came upon this series quite by accident, thanks to a TV advertisment. How could I resist it? Nathan Fillion's beguiling voice telling me how "we" had fled Earth after using it up, a view of a REALLY decrepit space ship (honestly, it make's Han Solo's Falcon look rather posh) flaring its engine in space, and a tantalising glimpse of what appeared to be....a WESTERN! What WAS this?! I simply had to satisfy my idle curiosity. Well,
I split my gut laughing. Not because it was bad or anything, but sheerly from the humour imbued within the crew's life. A good bit of the humour comes from the crew's make up itself:

A captain who was on the losing side of a war, yet names his decrepit transport ship after the very battle he lost everything at, and who often gets beat up, badly, quite often. His second in command is a very lovely, but tough as nails former soldier who served with him at said battle (the Battle of Serenity). Her rather needy techno geek husband who is rather insecure about her friendship with the captain. The ship's cute young country bumpkin mechanic. Think if Scotty had been a naive Daisy Duke, but in a boiler suit or coveralls. Then we have a man named Jayne. Now that man truly is brainless, and a bit on the greedy side, but he has an awesome collection of guns and is a crack shot. He is also dumb enough to do the dangerous stuff the captain sends him to do.

Then we have the passengers who became crew. You see, Serenity is a scrap yard bargain the cap'n bought in order to move cargo. Only there is not a lot of cargo he can actually run legally, so he takes passengers from time to time, mostly to cover the fact that he has illegal cargo hidden on the ship. In this case, a passenger called Shepherd Book, a preacher who is not quite what he seems, and a young brilliant doctor named Simon who is on the run from the law. Oh yes, and also his sister, the reason he is on the run from the law. Seems the government that won the war pretended to set up an academy for young geniuses, only they did terrible experiments with them to see what they could get them to do...things like bring on telepathy and also to turn them into lethal fighting machines. She makes Jessica Alba's X5 look like an amateur! Her brother froze her, took passage, and pretended she was cargo. Only we have that stupid, greedy crewmember on board who wanted a nosy at the rich doctor's belongings...Unfortunately, their mind games also made her a trifle insane.

One of the other ways the captain makes money is by renting out one of his two space shuttles. The space shuttle is rented by one beautiful geisha called Inara, and the captain and she are infatuated with each other, but disdainful.

All of this of course means you get classic moments between the characters. Throw in the adventures on the ground they get into during their escapades of trying to make an (dis)honest living and the unsavoury people they encounter, and even just the trouble they get into trying to seal an air leak, find more advanced medical care for a sick crew member, or the poor captain getting hitched all unawares, and you get a cracking good show that defies categorization. It is a western by virtue of some of the outer planets being rather frontier like, and low tech in many ways. It is sci fi because it has space ships, hi-tech weapons and wealthy worlds full of (for them) modern technology. It is a thriller because spies are after the girl and a beyond top secret secret that she knows that will shake the known political 'verse. It is just plain great viewing.

As for the DVD quality, the transfer quality is excellent. But no boxset is ever complete without some goodies. And the goodies in this boxset are just shiny! You get the wonderful series PLUS revealing Commentaries on selected episodes, a BEHIND-THE-SCENES featurette which was extremely fascinating, Deleted Scenes, a really funny Gag Reel and even the audition tape which was interesting. Scarily, you also get Joss Whedon singing the theme song. I wish I had not heard that; he even scared our cats. But even so, this set is so good, it would even distract Jubal Early from his mission.
Go on, watch it. Then get Serenity and be amazed again. Just be warned, it is addictive. You will catch yourself wanting to watch it again...and again, and again...heck, it wa so good, I bought some more as gifts and created new fans.

M*A*S*H - Season 1 (Collector's Edition) [DVD] [1972]
M*A*S*H - Season 1 (Collector's Edition) [DVD] [1972]
Dvd ~ Alan Alda
Price: £10.13

5.0 out of 5 stars PA Announcement: Laughter is good medicine, 26 Sep 2009
War is not funny. It is many things, but war itself is not funny. But in the most horrible of places and times that people in war find themselves in, there are the moments of great irony. It is these moments that MASH brings so poignantly to our screens, and which highlight the frailties and humanity of those people caught up in war, as well as the futility, horror, and outright stubbornness they often encounter. This programme first aired in the US in 1972, following a smash hit film by Robert Altman of the same name. America was still suffering from Vietnam, and many critics said this would not allow the show to succeed. But succeed it did, and it became a TV legend of epic proportions.

It is Korea, 1950. The UN sent in peacekeeping troops to help stop the Chinese and the North Koreans from overthrowing the Korean government. The show takes place mostly at a mobile Army surgical hospital (MASH) unit. Most of the doctors and nurses were drafted, as were the enlisted personnel who worked there with them. They are a mere three miles from the front, and stray artillery and even sniper fire often hits their camp. They even have a minefield to be mindful of.
The comedic situations are based on the real life experiences of the real MASH 8055 and a few other unit doctors the writers actually interviewed. I have to tell you now they strove for great accuracy in this series with everything you see being GI correct for the period.

The doctors and nurses are often waist deep in wounded (no gory scenes, though a medical scene is in EVERY episodes as Alan Alda insisted on it when he signed on) that are brought in by chopper, jeep, ox cart, you name it. Amidst this, they forge friendships, laugh at military incompetence (How many thousand tongue depressors and no toilet paper did the army send this shipment?!), celebrate Christmas (thermometers on the tree for icicles made for a classic moment), and for practical jokes. A lot of humour is also to hand from situations arising between the gung ho regular Army doctors and nurses, and the draftees, most noticeably Dr. Hawkeye pierce (Alan Alda) who is not only a draftee, but very antiwar and wants the war to end NOW. This is in addition to later series' run ins with the so called Military Intelligence officers the whole camp endures at their most inane. I have to say this is one truly funny series and it had many memorable guest stars, so you will find yourself hitting the pause button to take a good look. (A young Ron Howard makes an appearance for one.)

The audio is excellent and while the original laugh track (which when it first aired in the UK, the BBC had switched off) is included, you are able to turn it off from the set up menu quite easily and must do so or else you get canned laughter. The audio is presented in Dolby Surround sound, but like most old TV shows, you will likely find you need to turn the volume up a bit to hear it as clearly as it was mastered from nondigital sources.

So if you like comedy, and like realism (without any gore of course!), this is a great show to watch. If you like military programmes, this is also a great show to watch; you will be nodding your head knowingly at many of the situations! Perhaps, with us in yet another of these peacekeeping situations, this little box set is all too timely.

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