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Ms. K. Johnston "Amazone" (UK)
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Jackdaws
Jackdaws
by Ken Follett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2.0 out of 5 stars A huge disappointment after Eye of the Needle, 6 July 2012
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This review is from: Jackdaws (Paperback)
Ken Follett was a new author to me so I decided to read Eye of the Needle as it was his first bestseller. It was an excellent read and kept me gripped (I usually have two books on the go at the same time) until the finale. Great plotting and convincing characters are key to a good novel and I am afraid Jackdaws fell at the first fence in that respect. It is a later Follett novel and it shows. The WWII setting is - again - very interesting but I couldn't relate to Dieter, the SD officer who, despite KF's character study, was really a nasty piece of work who enjoyed torture. There are times when a strong stomach is called for as some interrogations scenes are extremely graphic. Yes, we all know the Gestapo were experts in torture but I really could have done without some of the details.

Overall, the novel was pretty predictable - boy meets girl/girl initially dislikes boy/then they fall madly in love during dangerous work for the SOE. It could have been so much better but alas was not. 2 stars, but will try another Follett novel to see if this was a one-off dud.


Phantoms of the Isles: Further Tales from the Haunted Realm
Phantoms of the Isles: Further Tales from the Haunted Realm
by Simon Marsden
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully unsettling photography and locations, 6 July 2012
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I love Simon Marsden's work and this book of photographs and stories is no exception. Many of the houses/castles are from the Republic of Ireland, although Mr Marsden refers to it as "Southern Ireland", which is inaccurate. As he has mentioned before, the Celtic Fringe has a particular fascination with the supernatural and there are numerous instances of haunted houses and castles in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. A beautiful book, so 5 stars.


Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
by Kate Fox
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dated and snobbish, but occasionally amusing, 16 Jun 2012
As an outsider who has lived in England since the mid-1980s, I was curious about this book as I had read Jeremy Paxman's The English a few years ago. Fox's book is a mishmash of things but it was intriguing to see that it was published in 2004 and not 1994! She has very decided views about certain aspects of Englishness, snobbery being one glaringly obvious one, and the reader doesn't really need to be told that her brain surgeon fiance is an Oxford graduate. Why mention this unless to peg herself in a certain social class?

Ms Fox also seems rather obsessed with Jeremy Paxman and references him 20 times. I wonder why?

I put a few of her observations to the test, the first being to pay a compliment. This was carried out on a number of women of differing backgrounds and the result was that Ms Fox is totally wrong. Women LOVE to be complimented, whether it be a hairstyle or a dress, and there is none of this self-deprecating nonsense. Everyone to whom I paid a compliment thanked me graciously and that was that.

Secondly, dress is a very personal thing and differs greatly from country to country. In Europe, it is considered courteous to dress well and make the most of oneself, whereas in England it is a case of being very individual (and we've all seen the Edinas of various ages and reel in horror). England is very trend-driven when it comes to fashion and not always in a good way, as Fox has pointed out.

Overall, I found it disappointing and much preferred Jeremy Paxman's book. I agree they are written in different styles but Paxman's is much more perceptive in so many ways.


Frenchman's Creek (VMC)
Frenchman's Creek (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spirit of place - perfect!, 25 May 2012
My mother gave me her copy of Frenchman's Creek when I was about 16, telling me that she had loved the novel at the same age, and wondered what I would make of it. From the opening chapters, I was hooked. Du Maurier has a wonderful turn of phrase and her spirit of place is so evident in this novel. You can smell the sea, the grass and flowers, and feel Dona St Columb's frustration with her London life and dull husband. Then there is the coup de foudre when she meets her pirate and you will urge Dona to have a love affair, knowing that it is inevitable. I loved the scene when Dona is surprised by Lord Godolphin, her pompous neighbour - she is barefoot and deeply tanned from walking in the sunshine - and how the faithful William, her servant, protects her from unwanted "guests". William understands her need to escape her London self and they soon become allies against outside interference.

For me, this is one of Du Maurier's best novels, so please read it if you want to escape from reality for a few hours!


BT Studio Plus 4500 Single DECT Cordless Telephone with Answer Machine
BT Studio Plus 4500 Single DECT Cordless Telephone with Answer Machine
Offered by Premier Products
Price: 24.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light, compact and at a bargain price, 18 April 2012
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This BT phone is a light handset/answering machine which was a bargain purchase. The instructions are clear and free of technical jargon and it's handy to have a volume control so that you are not woken by a shrill ring tone! The complete unit is compact and takes up very little room on a desk, so an excellent buy.


Resistance [DVD]
Resistance [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Sheen
Offered by videosanddvds
Price: 2.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read the novel first!, 9 April 2012
This review is from: Resistance [DVD] (DVD)
Having read Owen Sheers' novel Resistance a few years ago, I was very interested to see how his work would translate to film. The two lead actors, Tom Wlaschiha and Andrea Riseborough were perfect in their roles as Albrecht and Sarah and their growing attraction was conveyed through their eyes rather than words. The women of the valley enter an uneasy entente with the six German soldiers and come to accept their help with the animals when weather turns foul. "Cooperation" and "collaboration" are very closely alligned words and the question is asked: what would you have done in similar circumstances? England has been invaded by the Germans and the SS, Wehrmacht and Gestapo are on the alert for resistance cells. The valley is a safe haven - for now - and the soldiers are reluctant to leave.

The novel has translated well to screen but because of the small budget, a lot of the action is unexplained. The significance of the map (the Mappa Mundi) is explained in detail in the novel Resistance but is not in the film. Perhaps if the screen time had been say 120 minutes, then the plot would have unfolded more evenly. The Welsh countryside is portrayed very lovingly and you can see how people's livelihoods shaped their personalities. Life was hard and with all the men gone, the women are left to fend for themselves.

Overall, performances are excellent although the film is rather bleak. As one reviewer commented, not one to watch if the mean reds have descended! I loved the novel but my memory of the DVD will be of Tom Wlaschiha and Andrea Riseborough - two superb actors.


Operation Valkyrie [DVD]
Operation Valkyrie [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sebastian Koch
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 6.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More realistic version of the 20 July 1944 plot, 3 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Operation Valkyrie [DVD] (DVD)
Having watched Tom Cruise's Valkyrie, I wanted to see this film for a number of reasons. Firstly, Sebastian Koch is a German actor who is always watchable (and looks superb in uniform!) and that he and Ulrich Tukur have appeared together before in Amen. Secondly, the film is more realistic than Valkyrie as it is on a smaller scale than the Hollywood version and the feeling of tension is more palpable. I would add that performances are also more realistic and that German actors are used (in the most part) throughout. In the Tom Cruise film, many British actors were cast and they looked unconvincing in uniform. Here, the faces fit and look totally at ease in their roles.

Sebastian Koch, who is from the same region of Germany as Stauffenberg, plays the role superbly. At the beginning of the film, he is shown to be a young, idealistic officer who clearly adores Hitler, but then realises that Germany is in the hands of a madman and that that madman needs to be eliminated.

The subtitled version is so much better than the dubbed version, so anyone wanting to brush up on their German language skills, watch this one.


Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake 5)
Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake 5)
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Much too long and overly padded, 3 Mar 2012
I have enjoyed most of the Shardlake series so far (Dark Fire and Sovereign are my two favourites as they are novels that will make you read into the small hours), but found Heartstone a disappointment. It was as if C J Sansom's publisher had told him to write a doorstop novel of 600+ pages to fit the blockbuster mould and Sansom had obeyed him/her to the letter!

Although Sovereign is set in York and is a riveting read, I feel that Shardlake's true home is London - Barak's too - and he is like a fish out of water elsewhere. Heartstone doesn't really start to pick up pace until nearly 400 pages into the novel and things begin to get tedious. A good editor would have made Mr Sansom prune some chapters and tighten the action up. That is my main gripe with this novel, although descriptions of time/place/dress are, as always, excellent. Richard Rich is his usual malevolent self but at times he can appear like a pantomime villain, hissing. The character of Leacon has been developed well and he is a sympathetic character clearly suffering from PTSD and one who anticipates he will not return home again from the Mary Rose.

I hope Shardlake will continue for a few more novels but as pointed out in Heartstone he is past 40 years of age which in Tudor times was quite old. Perhaps C J Sansom will have Matthew helping out the future Edward VI? I hope so.


Templars: History and Myth: From Solomon's Temple to the Freemasons
Templars: History and Myth: From Solomon's Temple to the Freemasons
by Michael Haag
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History of the Templars for the non-academic, 14 Feb 2012
I found this book quite by chance in a local charity shop that has a history section and, being interested in the Templars/Cathars but not Dan Brown, decided to buy it. Michael Haag's book is ideal for someone who enjoys popular history written in a readable style (but not dumbed-down)and I feel he achieves this. Much of mediaeval history is heavy going but he could have included more maps to convey how the geography of various regions changed over time. One gripe though: Haag's decision to change actual given names to an anglicised version is absurd. For example, Jacques de Molay is rendered James of Molay and Guillaume de Nogaret is William of Nogaret. "A note on names" is the last page of the book, too! The name of Saladin has been so for a long, long time as Arabic names can be lengthy, but this rendering of French names into English is ludicrous and spoils the text. For anyone reading about the Templars, Jacques de Molay is a well known name and NOT James of Molay!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2012 5:11 PM GMT


The Warrior's Princess
The Warrior's Princess
by Barbara Erskine
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, repetitive and could have been shorter!, 19 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Warrior's Princess (Paperback)
I read Daughters of Fire and enjoyed it, as the Romano-Celtic mix fascinates me, but the Warrior's Princess was a complete let-down in my opinion. Barbara Erskine is an excellent storyteller but her novels seem to be a variation on a theme and are very formulaic. Her female characters tend to be rather irritating and the men tend to be strong, square-jawed heroic types - give us some flawed characters for once! This novel could have been shortened by at least 100 pages as the plot was all over the place and some of the dialogue was very stilted. She also has a tendency to make her characters shrug a lot/drink coffee so perhaps a good editor can weed out these bugbears??

One reviewer commented that the historical background was more interesting than the present and I couldn't agree more. Only 2 stars, I'm afraid, as this novel could have been so much better.


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