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Austerity Britain: Smoke in the Valley (Tales of a New Jerusalem 2)
Austerity Britain: Smoke in the Valley (Tales of a New Jerusalem 2)
by David Kynaston
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb continuation, 20 Dec 2013
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The second part of Austerity Britain, published as one volume in hardback, this takes the story to 1951. It's the same mix of social and political history as before, drawing heavily on less familiar sources, and brings the narrative to vivid life. Immensely readable and fascinating for anyone interested in the period.


England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton
England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton
by Kate Williams
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Impressively researched, 20 Dec 2013
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Generally a very impressive history, well researched. Kate Williams actually makes Emma Hamilton's life before she met Nelson the more interesting part of the story, bringing out clearly and interestingly the story of how a woman from the lowest reaches of society made her way to near the very top of the social pyramid. Her (relative) fall after Nelson's death is equally moving.

My only reservation was that there was perhaps a little more speculation and narrative description ("she/he must have felt") etc in areas, especially in Emma's early life, where there was a lack of documentary detail to rely on. This doesn't however detract from the success of the book as a whole, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period.


My Chequered Career: Thirty-five years of televising motorsport
My Chequered Career: Thirty-five years of televising motorsport
by Steve Rider
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight, 16 Dec 2013
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If you have any interest in the history of sport, and particularly motorsport broadcasting, over the last forty years, My Chequered Career will be worth your while. Steve Rider, his smooth style translating well to the page, offers robust comment and some damning verdicts on both the BBC and ITV's attitude to sports rights.


1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off
1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off
Price: 4.68

4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing pot pourri, 26 Jan 2013
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It really does exactly what the title suggests. There are 1227 facts on a wide variety of subjects, clearly and simply expressed.

It's obviously a book to dip in and out of, and, dare I say it, would make an excellent addition to the bathroom library, but it's well-researched and produced (you're directed to QI's website for citations and background), but there'll certainly be something that will make you stop and think.


Terminal Earth
Terminal Earth
Price: 3.84

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like reading about apocalypses, there'll be something for you here, 10 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Terminal Earth (Kindle Edition)
This is a collection of short stories from new writers loosely themed around the end of the world. The scale varies from the intensely personal to the widest scale possible, and there are all sorts of views of the end of the world, from the deeply cynical or disturbing to the strangely optimistic.

Inevitably given the number of stories in the book, the quality is variable, but the best of them are haunting and powerful. I'd particularly recommend "Fields" by Desmond Warzel and "Outstanding Matters" by Neil Coughlan for bringing interesting and moving twists to the genre.

Given the low cost on Kindle of this collection, it's well worth it, and you should find something that will grab your attention and stay lodged in your memory.


King Kong [DVD] [1933] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
King Kong [DVD] [1933] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Fay Wray
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 20.10

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, superbly presented, 16 Dec 2011
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Most people browsing this review will have seen the film on TV more than once. I've loved it since I was a child, and I'm working on the basis that you like the film enough to be considering which version to buy, so rather than discussing the merits of the film itself, I'll discuss why I chose to invest in a special edition DVD.

This special edition is a US import which isn't available on Region 2. But if you're really interested in the film and its production, the Region 1 DVD is the right choice, even at a price.

The film is almost eighty years old, and any movie from so long ago will have technical limitations. Nothing has been done to render the sound and vision artificially clean, and this is the right approach. So to date it's the best available version.

The picture quality is probably as good as it's going to get. Some sections are still grainy, but for the most part the images are clearer than I've ever seen them on TV transmissions. It helps you appreciate the sheer skill and effort that went into creating the special effects in the early 1930s.

Likewise, the sound quality is as clear as you're likely to get. The dialogue is clear, the sound effects' impact improved and the cleaned-up music score ilustrates the action properly - it seems better mixed and less tinny than TV viewings in my recollection (it has been some time since it was transmitted in the UK and my home cinema equipment has also improved since then).

So, you're watching a very old film from early in the sound era, and from the earliest days of special effects. It's just in the best form that can currently preserve the essence of that classic.

The extras however are what distinguishes this from the European equivalent release. The film commentary, in large part from Ray Harryhausen, is interesting on a technical level, and the inserts from contemporary interviews, including from Fay Wray, are worthwhile. It's the second disc, which seems only to be available on Region 1 however, which is of most value. As well as an interesting documentary on Merriam Cooper, there is an excellent documentary on the film's production.

This includes fascinating insights from Peter Jackson and the Weta team who reconstructed the lost spider-pit sequence (also a standalone extra), and also interesting insights into the cancelled Creation, whose special effects fed into King Kong. The whole lengthy documentary provides excellent context. All DVD extras should ideally increase your appreciation for the film itself, and these do.


The Big Book of Top Gear 2011
The Big Book of Top Gear 2011
by Jeremy Clarkson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Third Big Book, More Big Laughs, 16 Jan 2011
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The third adult (or at least arrested adolescent) oriented Top Gear book offers more of the same Blue Peter annual on acid content. Lots of reports on the more memorable stories from the year's TV series, lots of extremely tongue-in-cheek articles that spin off the presenters' already cartoon-like TV personas and lots of ironic humour to be had at the prominence The Stig enjoys given Ben Collins's much-publicised falling-out with the BBC after this book had been signed off.

It's a considerable improvement on the 2010 edition, with plenty of laugh-out loud moments ideally suited to the beach, the loo or any other time when you want short, chunky features and lots of amusement for little effort. As before, it's written in large part by Richard Porter, TG's script editor and the man behind the Sniff Petrol website amongst other things, and his own sense of humour is evident throughout. The contents page, index and errata sections are particularly worth a close read. It's become a highlight of my Christmas.


Towers Of Midnight: Book 13 of the Wheel of Time
Towers Of Midnight: Book 13 of the Wheel of Time
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Preparing the ground for the finale, 31 Dec 2010
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If you've come this far with this sequence, you'll probably see it all the way to the end now in any case. As with The Gathering Storm, this volume benefits from a combination of Brandon Sanderson's sparer, faster style compared to Robert Jordan's and the simple need to push on to the finale in the next instalment. That said, it's less satisfying than The Gathering Storm as there is a strong feeling of pieces being set on the board in the right places for the conclusion, and along with a number of earlier volumes there are long passages where nothing actually seems to happen. You are asked to turn a lot of pages and invest a lot of time for sometimes limited reward. Despite this, there are a couple of fascinating plot twists and developments, and just enough resolutions to keep you going. But Brandon Sanderson has an awful lot to do in the final volume given how many threads are still floating around waiting to be tied up.


Flamingo (Deluxe Edition)
Flamingo (Deluxe Edition)
Price: 13.44

4.0 out of 5 stars The Killers' next album...nearly, 13 Oct 2010
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Brandon isn't straying too far from his band's normal stamping grounds here. But that's no bad thing - the tunes are memorable and the lyrics as idiosyncratic as ever. It seems pretty clear that many of these songs would have made it onto the next Killers album if they had gone straight back into the studio. But this is more than a stopgap - it's a worthwhile and entertaining solo debut.

The additional tracks on the deluxe album are interesting, but you can tell why they didn't make the cut for the main record. The additional cost of upgrading to this version is pretty substantial for the quality of the additional material. So make sure you're certain you want the complete set before buying this instead of the regular album.


A Princess of Mars (Modern Library)
A Princess of Mars (Modern Library)
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.55

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but very much of its time, 3 Aug 2010
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I was interested in the book because of the mooted big screen version coming soon. As perhaps could be expected, the novel shows its age. It's pretty primitive "scientific romance", and its characters, even the first person narrator, never really come alive. That said, its story is fast moving and the imagined Martian landscapes, technologies and societies are colourful and engaging. Expect an entertaining and lightweight read and you won't be disappointed.


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