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Graeme Wright "book worm" (salford)
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The Red House
The Red House
by Mark Haddon
Edition: Audio CD

4.0 out of 5 stars Family Misfortunes, 6 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Red House (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In this, his third published book of adult fiction Mark Haddon explores the intricate web of family life as Richard, a recently remarried hospital consultant attempts to reconcile past differences with his sister and her family during a week's holiday in a house on the Welsh border.Haddon's wonderful ability to explore the inner workings of his characters and the forces that have made them who they are give this book a rich, powerful palate of colour.
Over the course of the eight CDs in Audio Go's unabridged version the actor Nathaniel Parker gives a solid, sympathetic reading of the book, taking on the voice of each character with compassion and aplomb. Parker is of course no stranger to Haddon's work having read, to critical acclaim the author's previous book, A Spot Of Bother for BBC Radio Four's A Book At Bedtime. Although The Red House has little in the way of plot Parker's reading more than compensates, bringing the realities of the family, their fears and secrets into sharp focus. In many ways the book deals more with the characters who aren't present - parents, children, friends and enemies - than the eight who are. Haddon's mystical setting gives an eeriness to the proceedings as they slowly and irretrievably unfold. Never again will a simple family holiday seem so innocent.


Charlotte Street
Charlotte Street
by Danny Wallace
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.82

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life, Love And The Disposable Camera, 25 May 2012
This review is from: Charlotte Street (Paperback)
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A thirty something man assists a thirty something woman into a taxi in Charlotte Street, London. The woman is laden down with shopping bags and is somewhat flustered trying to cram all her possessions into the cab. Inadvertently a disposble camera gets left behind as she is driven off. Does the man, who is immediately smitten by her a) make an attempt to return the camera via a supervisor for the black cabs or b)dispose of the camera in the belief that the owner will probably not miss it or c) have the film developed himself and work out the true owner's story and identity from the photographs?
So begins one of the funniest, most erudite and un-put-down-able books I have read in a long time. In its four hundred plus pages Danny Wallace has penned not just one of the more immoral of moral mazes but has also painted a landscape of London that could tempt virtually anyone into the capital. Perhaps Boris Johnson could use his talents for some tourist PR.
Wallace's cast of characters are finely detailed and uncompromisingly lifelike from Jason, the narrator, ex teacher but current freelance journalist through Dev, his best friend and owner of possibly the quirkiest second hand video game shop in literary fiction to Sarah, Jason's ex and her awkward fiance Gary and the mysterious woman in the taxi whose identity is slowly and carefully revealed. Danny Wallace is without doubt one of Britain's wittiest and most profound topical writers. His previous books were widely acclaimed and his weekly column in Short List is a rare ray of sunshine among the grey clouds of this otherwise averagely written magazine. His brand of disturbingly accurate observational humour is just the remedy for the most forgettable of days and Charlotte Street is crammed full of it. Satire is another of Wallace's weapons of choice and he handles it like an Olympic champion scoring bulls' eyes with targets as diverse as modern art, pizza restaurants, free newspapers and PR campaigns for fruit juice. Incidentally this also gives the author the opportunity to unashamedly product place, presumably assuring him of many happy deliveries of "goods" from the companies mentioned herein.
Charlotte Street is just the sort of contemporary British novel that is ideally suited to be made into a high budget movie - it has that rare combination of feel good factor and laugh out loud humour running all the way through. Any offers Hollywood?


Red: My Autobiography
Red: My Autobiography
by Gary Neville
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Neville Voices An Opinion, 19 April 2012
This review is from: Red: My Autobiography (Hardcover)
Gary Neville, one of the legendary Class Of 92 at Manchester United, has written one of the more thought provoking of autobiographies concerned with the modern game. Obviously, for any ex player who has played his entire career with one club there is going to be a bias towards United - with twenty years of experience at the highest level it would be bizarre if it were otherwise - yet Neville is not afraid to praise or criticize opposing teams accordingly. Even some of his colleagues at both United and England come in for some unkind words in a book which tells his story in a matter of fact style with little space for sentimentality. In many ways Neville writes in a not dissimilar style to how he played his football with the crunching tackles and single minded purposefulness apparent in virtually every page. Other reviewers have remarked on the lack of space in the book devoted to Neville's family life and while it would have been interesting to read something about his domestic side - he used to cook occasional meals for David Beckham in their earlier days - I feel that this is truly indicative of Neville in that he will always be remembered as a footballer and so that is what he chooses to write about, fluently and knowledgeably.
In a laudable final chapter Neville self-deprecatingly narrates the events leading to his decision to retire. His last appearance in a United shirt, barring his testimonial against a full strength Juventus, came against West Bromwich Albion and Neville spares little emotion when recalling the effort it took to last as long as he did in that match - every retired football player regardless of amateur or professional status, regardless of club affiliations must have some sympathy with Neville at this point. And the last word in what is a very entertaining read is when Neville is naming his ultimate United XI. Denis Irwin dons the number two shirt and the author spiritedly finishes with "I'll be lucky if I make it on to the bench". Praise, indeed.


The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club
The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club
by Peter Hook
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FAC 51: Warts and All, 18 April 2012
To those thousands who took to its dance floor throughout the eighties and nineties The Hacienda was as much a Mancunian icon as the cobbled streets of Wetherfield or the roar of the crowd in the Stretford End. It became as much a tourist attraction as it did a club and ultimately it made the national headlines for all the wrong reasons - guns, gangsters and drugs. Anthony H Wilson brought us one side of the story in 24 Hour Party People and now Peter Hook, bass player with Joy Division/New Order and self confessed cash cow, brings us his.
Hook writes with effortless honesty and ease about the ethos and conception behind the club contrasted with the unmitigated financial apocalypse that it turned into. Hindsight is a wonderful attribute for any business dealing and Hook, as part owner/financier of The Hacienda enterprise, uses it not just in a self-deprecating way but as a warning beacon to others. This book is a revelation even to those like myself who visited the club in the early to mid eighties when it was comparatively empty, peaceful and, above all else, safe; anecdotes abound throughout the book about the budgeting and designing faux pas, the shortcomings of Management and the general air of naivety which seemed to preclude every decision made about the running of the club as well as its stable mate, Dry bar.
A book such as this could all too easily have been written in a clinical and cold style appealing only to accountants and investment bankers - extracts from the annual accounts attest to this - but the author's obvious love of the subject (even after all the thousands of pounds it must have cost him at the time)and his zealous approach make this as much of a memoir as a history book, as much a tribute to a once great institution as an epitaph to a dream.


Five Days to Die
Five Days to Die
by Katia Lief
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Serial Killer Thriller Returns, 29 Mar 2012
This review is from: Five Days to Die (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Serial killer fiction has a morbid, macabre and somewhat quirky reputation to live up to. While the media is obsessed with communicating every minute detail of serial killer fact to us, the fiction has some very strong competition. How can it hope to capture the reader's imagination and become popular mainly by word of mouth when newspapers and television have, quite literally, a massed and captive audience? The answer, obviously, is for the fiction to be stranger than the truth. The novelist has to strive constantly to outdo reality - no mean feat when one considers some of the recent serial psychopaths who have taken up column inches and filled news channel minutes.
It is to Katia Lief's credit then that she has invented a serial killer with a truly original signature - he only kills once every seven years (for reasons which become obvious only towards the end of the book), he only kills male children and he does so five days after the abduction of the boy's mother. So far, so scary. That the story is set in the relatively sleepy backwaters of Cape Cod with a class system so Byzantine it is almost comical and that the action takes place between September 3 and September 7 2001 only adds to the reader's sense of anticipation. Lief's timing is crucial here as if to remind everyone that evil events still took place before 9/11 without having to justify herself further. The cast of Five Days To Die consists, centrally of the Parker family, Emily and her three children who are staying with her mother while her husband, Will is back in New York working. After Emily's abduction it is retired FBI profiler, John Geary who takes up the reins and steers the rather nonchalant local police towards the chillier alternatives. In the ensuing three hundred plus pages there are twists, turns, red herrings and cul-de-sacs as old, unsolved cases are dusted off and re-examined, suspicions heighten then dissolve to nothing and the time ticks steadily down towards the fateful, fifth day. Lief captures the air of suspense and fear allied to time running out very believably and it is this more than anything else which binds this story together.
Confusingly this book was originally published under another title in the US using a pen name, Kate Pepper. Lief has also, apparently published under her maiden name, Katia Spiegelmann. However in Britain it now seems that Lief will be her published name and, something more certain, that her books will soon prove as popular as they deserve to be.


AVG Anti Virus 2012 2 PC, 2 Year Licence (PC)
AVG Anti Virus 2012 2 PC, 2 Year Licence (PC)

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Whistles, No Flashing Lights, 26 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In the labyrithine world of internet security there are many promises made about many products. It is all too easy for the technologically pedestrian among us to be roped in by claims of companies whose products can not only protect our computers from every known virus, trojan and other evil presence but also hold our hands while we cross the internet highway. Previous personal experience has taught me that quite often such claims are, at best, simply laughable.
AVG, on the other hand have been providing free basic internet security for many years. Their premium package gives the added features of a two year licence and protection for two seperate computers. It updates constantly and discretely in the background and even full system scans are hardly noticeable. All in all this provides all the peace of mind and protection for any home computer user without any of the whistles, flashing lights and ambiguous promises of its competitors.


The World's Best Street Food: Where to Find it & How to Make it (General Pictorial)
The World's Best Street Food: Where to Find it & How to Make it (General Pictorial)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.29

5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Taste Of Travel, 26 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You can always trust Lonely Planet to come up with something exciting and different in the realm of travel writing and this new compendium of street food from around the world certainly fits the bill. Divided quite naturally into Savoury and Sweet sections the hundred entries give brief notes on the origins, descriptions and traditions of some fairly ecletic foods along with a recipe, authentic or adapted, for each one. Admittedly some of the street foods included are of the 'grandmother and sucking eggs' school - does anyone honestly need a recipe for hot dogs? - and the national stereotypes are a little laboured - you're more likely to see somebody walking down an English high street eating a cheese and onion pasty from a well known chain of bakers/fast food outlets than the real Cornish version. However, such petty grievances to one side this book opens up the culinary world in all its sensual glory; the sight of golden triangles of pastry filled with egg, tuna and harissa, the Brik of Tunisia; the aroma of spices, chilli, shrimp and coriander simmering slowly in a Sarawak Laksa from Malaysia; the crunchy texture of biting into freshly fried Takoyaki, fritters of octopus seasoned with green seaweed powder and bonito flakes from Japan; the chilled velvet cushion that surrounds the taste buds with that first spoon ful of Italian Gelato.
There are some unlikely offerings to try as well - the Walkie - Talkies from South Africa are literally stewed chicken feet and heads, Stinky Tofu from Taiwan is bean curd which is fermented for between a few days and several months before being deep-fried and served with sour cabbage and fiery sauce and Uruguay's Chivito al Pan, a sort of supersize steak sandwich with added bacon, ham, mozzarella, hard boiled egg and pickles - just the sort of snack to fit in between meals while wandering through Montevideo.
The recipes by and large seem easy to follow with getable ingredients although I would have preferred quantities in metric or imperial/metric rather than the vague cup and teaspoon measures. A helpful index has listing both by country and by type of dish, a detail which more and more publishers seem to be following with this type of book. Handy for the backpacker and coffee table "traveller" alike this book will reawaken pleasant (and possibly painful) memories, stir imaginations and prove inspirational for some adventurous dinner party menu planning. Come Dine With Me may never be the same again!


Potiche [DVD] [2010]
Potiche [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Catherine Deneuve
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Political Yet Mild French Comedy, 26 Mar 2012
This review is from: Potiche [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set in the late 1970s Francois Ozon's adaptation of a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy is a graceful and gentle comedy with some wonderful dialogue, a great soundtrack and a wonderful feel for the period. As Suzanne, the trophy wife of umbrella factory owner Robert Pujol (played by Fabrice Luchini) Catherine Deneuve suitably underplays her role at first, very unnerving for one of France's strongest actresses of the past thirty or so years. It is only after the factory workers go on strike and her character becomes head of the company that Deneuve's presence and strength really come to the fore. The casting of Gerard Depardieu as union militant and Suzanne's former lover gives the audience the chance to wallow in the firework display which happens when Deneuve and Depardieu are on screen together - Tracey and Hepburn, Burton and Taylor and Gere and Roberts had very similar chemistry.
In French with English subtitles this is a film to smile along with rather than a laugh out loud comedy and if like me your French is not as good as it used to be you will find yourself speed reading the subtitles to keep up with the dialogue at times. Not as witty as Ozon's earlier films such as Swimming Pool and 8 Femmes, Potiche is nevertheless a stylish, mildly amusing and inoffensive movie.


Cefalonia [DVD]
Cefalonia [DVD]
Dvd ~ Luca Zingaretti
Price: £7.10

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Believable Than Hollywood, 26 Mar 2012
This review is from: Cefalonia [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This made-for-television drama was, at its initial release, compared to the Hollywood version of the same story, Captain Corelli's Mandolin which was in turn based, albeit loosely on Louis de Berniere's novel of the same name. My initial criticism of the Hollywood version was that Nicolas Cage, though a fine actor, was no Italian army captain and, more perversely, Penelope Cruz was definitely no Greek peasant girl. Along with a typical Hollywood hatchet job on the outstanding original book the film of Captain Corelli's Mandolin was decidely out of tune.
It was with some trepidation then that I approached Cefalonia, a film directed by Italian television veteran Riccardo Milani. This film is based more on the politics of the time, September 1943, when Italian forces occupying the Greek island of Cefalonia were faced with the choice of agreeing to the terms of the armistice between Italy and the Allied forces, surrendering to the co-occupying German forces or siding with the Greek resistance and fighting the Nazis. They elected on the third choice.
Milani's film tells the story with both compassion and a steady focus on historical fact; many of the incidents which occur throughout de Berniere's book are based on documented actuality and this film underlines that attention to detail. The acting, generally, is of a very high standard from a predominantly Italian cast, the cinematography is professionally handled and thrives on the landscape and location, the sound, at times a little out of balance, is acceptable and the music by Ennio Morricone is as good as many of his more lavish soundtracks for bigger budget films.
Cefalonia tells a great story the way it was intended to be told and does so with humanity and style.


Wink Murder
Wink Murder
by Ali Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Treading Softly in the Tracks of the Masters, 26 Mar 2012
This review is from: Wink Murder (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The psychological suspense novel has, for many years been one of the most popular, most anticipated and, for the authors and their agents, one of the most lucrative genres of modern fiction. A new voice, Ali Knight, now joins the popular favourites such as Patricia Cornwell, Val McDermid and Sarah Dunant and this, her debut novel, is no poor relation.
The plot, though a little contrived (husband returns home unusually drunk and covered in blood, later one of his female employees is discovered murdered, wife unsure whether to contact police or remain loyal)is nonetheless played out slowly and carefully throughout the book. Knight's main characters, however, are too two dimensional to really create much empathy from the reader and their dialogue is, at times, implausible and a touch repetitive. And the title? It really is so bad as to be memorable, a bizarre USP in itself. The main strength of the book though is the plot and the building suspense of how well a wife knows her husband. Knight plays her hand with a professionalism honed in British journalism and writes with confidence and candour. Interestingly the narrative is in the present tense which, though well suited to this genre, is all too rarely found. I look forward to Ali Knight's next novel but just hope that she can improve on the title.


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