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Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable read!, 25 May 2014
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This review is from: Loyalty (Kindle Edition)
I have read many books about Richard III over the years - non-fiction & fiction, with Tudor bias, Lancastrian bias and Yorkist bias, both pro and anti Richard III - and this book is one of the best I have read.

The characters and events are all vividly portrayed with very realistic - and, in my opinion, plausible - scenarios presented for the many aspects of Richard's life that can still only be guessed at and must be weighed up using the limited real evidence (NOT SHAKESPEARE!) available.

At last, we are presented with a vision of Richard III as both a king AND medieval man. A man with both light and shade to his character as a father, son, brother, husband, duke and king (and, yes, uncle!). A king who exercised sound judgement but sometimes, as with all humans, someone who was far from perfect and sometimes made mistakes.

I thoroughly recommend this book and look forward now to reading its sequel, Honour.

Master of the Mill
Master of the Mill
Price: £0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Far better than the original, 16 Mar 2014
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Updating and changing plots and characters of established stories can be a hit-and-miss business. Some hit the spot just right. Others miss by a country mile. In this book, an update and twist on the North and South story, I can categorically say that, in my opinion, every single character is greatly improved on in comparison to the original book. This is one of the few North and South updates I have read (among many) where I actually like Margaret. In the original - (both book and TV series) - I couldn't stand her! John Thornton, by contrast, has always been a favourite of mine - even more so when I watched the TV series - and, in this book, he just gets better as a character with plenty of light-and-dark shades added into his already complex character.

The whole plot in this book is much earthier than Elizabeth Gaskell's original - and, in my view, the updates in Ms Toward's book are a vast improvement on the canon plot, making the characters very much 'people of their time'. As a consequence, what takes place between the characters (especially Margaret and John) is much more believable in this version, making the story flow better, without any jarring plot mis-steps or abrupt endings, like the original had.

Walimex Pop-Up 50cm Laptop Tent Super - Black
Walimex Pop-Up 50cm Laptop Tent Super - Black
Price: £41.79

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Keep kids and pets away!, 7 Aug 2013
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This product is just horrible, with nothing to recommend it at all.

It comes in a small cloth bag, which I doubt would last long before fraying. The 'pop-up' element is absolutely lethal, causing it to literally 'pop' out of the cloth bag and fly across the room. When the 'tent' is opened up fully (which is much easier than collapsing it proved to be!), it is far too big and cumbersome to use the laptop installed inside it. There are no instructions at all included in the very high price for what is essentially some flexible wire framing and black felt. Even when we did get it collapsed - thanks to You Tube and a lot of brute force (which took an hour and 3 people) - it managed to hit two of us in the face as it 'popped' back to a size that made it fit into the bag. And I can't imagine that the inner wire and/or felt covering would stand much of that treatment before breaking.

I sent it straight back to Amazon as soon as I could for a refund!

Les Misérables [DVD] [2012]
Les Misérables [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Hugh Jackman
Price: £5.00

14 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelmed, 16 Jan 2013
This review is from: Les Misérables [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
Some may feel the following has spoilers, though I have tried to avoid them as much as possible.

Having been a fan of the musical almost since it opened and having read the book several times, I was really looking forward to seeing this at the cinema. However, to me it felt like Les Mis the book (not the musical, despite some familar, often abridged songs) being done at double speed on an old record player with a jumping needle.

First the positive. Fantine, Eponine, Gavroche and the Thenardiers were wonderfully and subtly played, making me laugh and cry. Russell Crowe was surprisingly good (though his scenes/songs were often curtailed) and Hugh Jackman is a good singer and can act.

But for me, Colm Wilkinson (the original Valjean) and Frances Ruffelle (the original Eponine) put most of the cast to shame and I felt no emotion at all with what happened to either Javert or Valjean in this.

Additionally, Valjean was in prison for almost 20 years and is shown as an adult (with Hugh Jackman almost unrecognisable) upon his release at the start. Then, with Hugh Jackman back to normal looks-wise, the story fast forwards 8 years, then almost another 2 decades. So, Valjean must have been at least in his 60's at the end (assuming he went to jail around the age of 10, which is unlikely) and is supposed to be an old, sick, man. Yet Hugh Jackman still looks just like himself. Surely the make up people, who did such a great job at making him look old and world-weary at the start could have stepped up again?

But, more than anything, I was distinctly underwhelmed by Eddie Redmayne's Marius, who (like the book's unimpressive version) was nothing more than a spoilt, lovesick, rich kid. Neither deserving of Eponine's sacrifice nor appreciative of it. Michael Ball's crown is still firmly on his head for that role in my opinion.

Suddenly is beautifully sung by Hugh Jackman and serves a purpose (although, with Jackman not looking anywhere near old enough to be Cosette's adopted dad, it made it a little jarring/creepy as a 'love' song for me). But the cynical part of me can't help but feel the song was put in, in the hopes of awards for an original song and/or to make ladies swoon (it didn't have that effect on me, though neither does Jackman).

Personally, I would say that Les Mis is (just) worthy of the cost of a cinema ticket but I very much doubt that I will be buying the DVD until/unless it reduces drastically in price.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2013 9:32 PM BST

The Selfish Pig's Guide To Caring: How to cope with the emotional and practical aspects of caring for someone
The Selfish Pig's Guide To Caring: How to cope with the emotional and practical aspects of caring for someone
by Hugh Marriott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Irreverent, offensive and unhelpful, 11 Nov 2012
This book is described on the back cover as "a must-read for anyone involved with care". As someone unfortunate enough to have to be in receipt of care, and with (I hope) a sense of humour despite it all, I was interested in reading a perspective 'from the other side of the fence' as it were.

I wish I had not bothered!

I realise that this book is for carers and not the person being cared for and I am all in favour of discarding politically correct jargon, which is often meaningless, silly and just as patronising as the terms they replaced. But when Mr Marriott insists on referring to disabled and elderly people as (amongst other rude terms) 'piglets' throughout, I felt that the person supposedly being cared for was being systematically and repeatedly dehumanised, infantilised and generally treated as an object to be repulsed by this rude and thoroughly unfunny author.

And as for his comment (on page 4) that "it's the wheelchair that attracts the sideways glances. [...] the person who's doing the pushing is invisible." This, in my opinion, summed up the author's attitude perfectly, unfortunately.

'The wheelchair' has someone in it too!!! Someone who is ignored, belitted and treated like an non-human burden by this author completely.

This book sent shudders down my spine at the way it seriously advocated people behaving towards another human being in a civilised society. I just hope that nobody who becomes a carer ever takes any of his appalling advice.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2013 8:58 PM BST

The Whistle Echoes
The Whistle Echoes
Price: £4.62

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best!!!, 29 Oct 2012
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Having loved North and South ever since I read it at school and absolutely adored the TV adaptation that came along a decade later, I am always eager to read about what might have happened to John and Margaret after Elizabeth Gaskell laid down her pen. Inevitably some of the available sequels are better than others, but in my opinion, The Whistle Echoes is unquestionably one the best.

Some of the most beautiful and memorable aspects of North and South for me were the simmering sexual chemistry between John and Margaret and the many emotional challenges they each had to overcome in order for love to blossom. Therefore, I was delighted to find that the author of The Whistle Echoes did not flinch from describing what was bound to be a very passionate relationship between the couple and I think that she did so in a superbly skilful and emotionally rich way.

In contrast to one of the less positive reviewers, I felt that John's temperament here was entirely consistent with both the John that we met and the John that we said farewell to in North and South and that he was simply behaving as a man of his era would have done.

As far as Margaret is concerned, personally I was irritated by her overly priggish nature in the original novel, which so influenced her character's decisions through much of the plot. However, her continuing evolution in this book, which was entirely realistic and very subtly done in Ms Marte's talented hands, made Margaret a much more rounded and likeable character in my eyes and a very authentic but still spirited Victorian woman.

Strike Back: Project Dawn [DVD]
Strike Back: Project Dawn [DVD]
Dvd ~ Philip Winchester
Price: £11.20

8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars From Hero To Two Zeroes, 29 Dec 2011
I agree with the reviewer who described this series as 'marmite'. A 3rd series has been commissioned, so clearly I am in a minority with this negative review. But, having really enjoyed series 1, I found Project Dawn a major disappointment (though I did make myself watch to the predictable - and long drawn out - end of the DVD).

Anyone who knows me will say I am definitely no prude and so I didn't really find the (many and explicit) sex and violence scenes from series 2 overly offensive. But there was a definite marked contrast between the two series in terms of such content. Series 1 was certificated 15, with nothing particularly sexually explicit (unless you count a few male topless scenes - most of which had nothing to do with sex - as explicit) and had surprisingly little in terms of OTT violence. However, series 2 was deservedly rated 18, with a lot of totally pointless sex scenes (with many different naked women) and gratuitous violence that made even my not at all squeamish stomach churn a little.

But it was not the gratuitous and explicit sex and violence that spoiled my enjoyment so much. The first aspect that spoilt it was the complete lack of continuity between series 1 and 2 with only the lovely scenery remaining intact from series 1. At the end of the brilliant series 1, we saw Collinson's departure and Porter seemingly trapped without help or ammunition. Yet in series 2 Porter is back and on a new mission with no explanation of how he got home or how long in the future we now are.

Additionally, the entire female support cast from series 1 (Layla, Danni and Porter's daughter, Alex/Lexie) have vanished with no explanation of where they have gone, never to be mentioned again. All we have to replace them female-wise (other than the many naked women) was Collinson's female replacement (yet another ball-breaking 'fiesty' woman role).

Furthermore, I have to mention the acting in series 2. Clearly changes had to be made due to Richard Armitage filming The Hobbit. But, even the fact that the powers above felt that they needed two new male leads to replace him speaks volumes in my opinion. And the two characters who replaced his character, John Porter, whilst tolerably acted (if you like a testosterone filled 10 hours of unrealistic nonsense, OTT sex, violence and swearing) I felt were very weakly written stereotypical caricatures of a boy's own fantasy of military life.

And finally, there was the manner and swiftness of John Porter's departure. This is the man who, singlehandedly rescued people and got himself out of major, death defying scrapes in series 1. Yet within a few minutes of series 2 starting, he is dead in an extremely brutal way while his supposed rescuers seem more interested in extra-curricula activities than getting their comrade home safely. After his death, the remaining 9+ hours were (in my opinion) aimed solely at the male 'I want to be James Bond and get the girls, guns and glory' fantasy end of the viewing audience.

It felt to me that with Project Dawn the writers have simply taken the worst parts of Ultimate Force and the forgettable last series of Spooks and just added some unnecessary explicit sex and violence to the mix. Which in my opinion is a great shame.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 29, 2012 8:15 PM BST

Spooks - Series 10 [DVD]
Spooks - Series 10 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Firth
Price: £10.00

8 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If only it had ended with series 9, 23 Oct 2011
This review is from: Spooks - Series 10 [DVD] (DVD)
I own and often watch series 1-9 on DVD. But unfortunately one star is being generous this time round. I agree the BBC probably scheduled it to justify its demise, but viewers had ample opportunity with catch-up services and repeats to watch both. So the loss of viewers cannot be blamed solely on its scheduling in my opinion. The writers promised Spooks would 'go out with a bang' but it barely managed a whimper, with series 10 turning a once great show into a weak parody of itself.

Yes, the other series' needed viewers to suspend their disbelief (sometimes a lot!). But at least the plot holes and some bad scripts were covered over by some amazing acting in the past. But in series 10 the performances of everyone was unconvincing, awkward and wooden. I have never been much of a fan of Harry and Ruth as a couple and fail to see why they are almost canonised by Spooks fans; but even more so after what was covered in series 10, which left even Peter Firth and Nicola Walker looking and sounding embarrassed and awkward. There were two new Grid characters who were absolutely terrible in my opinion. Dimitri just stated the obvious yet failed to spot blatant clues right in front of him (a common failing this series with all of them!). The best character, I think, was William Towers (Home Secretary) who had some good lines but very little else to do.

Series 10 started badly with a continuity error-filled wrap up of series 9. And from that point it got worse with very obvious signposts to every incident given several times so that nothing - including in the finale - was ever a surprise (except how supposed MI-5 agents could not see the blindingly obvious). Little, if anything, was original; just multiple rehashes and self indulgent reminiscing of series 1-9. Episode 5 was the best, but that is not setting the bar very high because the first 4 episodes were mind-numbingly boring and the finale was full of predictability and sugary memories (and a pointless scene with an old character for all of one minute).

Needless to say, I won't be buying series 10 on DVD and have cancelled my pre-order of it.

When Knighthood Was in Flower: Or; The Love Story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tud
When Knighthood Was in Flower: Or; The Love Story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tud
by Charles Major
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.31

2.0 out of 5 stars More The Tudors than romantic fiction, 12 Sep 2011
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Having long since found the story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor interesting, I could not wait to read this book. Unfortunately I was very disappointed and had to force myself to even finish it. The language was very flowery but in my opinion did not flow very well as a story and the author seemed far more interested in telling the story of Edwin and Jane than the supposed central characters of Charles and Mary.

The author also made it hard for me to see why Charles ever genuinely fell in love with Mary as the history books tell us he did (apart from her being pretty and a princess). In many ways it reminded me of the portrayal of the couple in The Tudors, with Charles being the dashing heroic figure and Mary (Margaret in The Tudors for reasons best known to the writers of that!) being haughty and selfish. In fact, in made me wonder more than a few times if this was the book that the writers of that historically mangled series read when writing the scripts!

My copy of the book is now in a charity shop.

Daughters Of The Grail
Daughters Of The Grail
by Elizabeth Chadwick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I've read better, 3 Aug 2011
This review is from: Daughters Of The Grail (Paperback)
Please note: some may consider the following as potentially containing some plot spoilers.

Although the subject matter of the persecution of the Cathars in this book was interesting and as always I cannot fault Ms Chadwick's fluid writing and research, I found the constant references to the 'life force' caused a bit of a 'human' barrier for me, preventing any real attachment to the characters and their lives.

But the aspect that I found the most difficult to stomach was the cold and calculated way in which the aforementioned 'life force' was passed from Bridget to Magda.

Basically Catharian Bridget - who had proof she was descended in an unbroken female line from Mary Magdalene - wanted Raoul (a man from her dreams/visions she knew was married) to get her pregnant with a daughter to continue the line. And so, before you can say 'hello soldier', they have a one night stand and she duly gets 'with child' on the first and last attempt with Magda.

Meanwhile Raoul's wife, Claire, is being brutally raped by Simon De Montfort, who persecutes her Catharian people. Claire similarly finds herself pregnant as a result, giving birth to Dominic who is taken away from her at birth and brought up with De Montfort's other Catholic children.

No prizes for guessing what happens when Magda and Dominic meet.

Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad book by any means and will certainly not stop me from reading future books by the author. It's just that I found that, for me, it lacked the elusive X factor of Elizabeth Chadwick's other books (of which I have read almost all).

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