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Reviews Written by
C. Porter (Worcester, England)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

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Superpowers for Parents: The Psychology of Great Parenting and Happy Children
Superpowers for Parents: The Psychology of Great Parenting and Happy Children
by Stephen Briers
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reference you can dip into., 19 Nov. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
One size doesn't fit all, and all the more so where kids are involved.

So this book is a re-assuring reference, and very welcome.

It's written in a friendly and non-judgmental way (which in itself is re-assuring) and covers a vast array of potential worrisome scenarios for parents.

'Guide books' in this area can tend to be a little 'wholesome', but this is firmly on the right side of being preachy. I don't believe there will ever be a compendium that covers every eventuality where kids are concerned, but this is a refreshing and very readable stab at keeping you reading, and (perhaps more importantly) keeping you sane.

Recommended.


Tim Vine - Live - So I Said To This Bloke [DVD]
Tim Vine - Live - So I Said To This Bloke [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tim Vine
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.73

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A game of 2 halves, 20 Oct. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I haven't seen Tim Vine before, so didn't know what to expect.

It's an interesting mixed bag. The one-liners are a mix of innovative, funny and surreal on the one hand, and tortuous or downright unfunny on the other. The sight gags are great for the most part, and the self-deprecating acknowledgement of the tackiness of some of the props is judged well.

The opening 5 minutes is a blizzard of gags, most of which hit the mark, but then comes the first of the over-long intervals between the rapid-fire stuff. I understand that they may be needed to allow your brain to re-group after the sheer velocity of the one-liners - but they just aren't terribly funny, unfortunately. I know that comedy is very subjective (I never really got on with Vic n Bob, until Shooting Stars, for instance), but the 'interludes between the funny bits' (as I like to think of them) didn't half seem to drag, too.

I found 'Pen Behind The Ear' excruciatingly unfunny and overly long. Other people may find it hilarious.

But when he's funny, he's very funny. Some of the jokes are genuinely great, and should you groan at others, another will be along quickly that might tickle you - rather like the ethos behind The Fast Show.

The DVD extras were pretty risible, unfortunately, with the notable exception of the Native American name of the boating coach - I'll leave you to discover that for yourself...

On a final note (Tim would no doubt interject "F sharp?" at this point), he didn't need to resort to a single swear word, I don't think - and that was quite refreshing in current stand-up.


And Maybe A Tree Will Rise Out Of Me
And Maybe A Tree Will Rise Out Of Me
Offered by Hagewitt
Price: £13.85

2.0 out of 5 stars Oh. Dear., 6 Sept. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really wanted to like this, and the jazz chops are all there from the musicians, but....

Oh. Dear.

The lyrics are mawkish to the point of toe-curling awfulness, the subject matter is crushingly depressing for the most part and just doesn't sit comfortably with the deftness and 'lite'-ness of the music.

"Flyin'" is a good moment, but ultimately this artist's voice (which is reminiscent of both Jacqui Dankworth and Alison Moyet) doesn't have the panache or durability of either. She sings in a clipped, mannered style which makes her seem afraid of sustaining a note for fear of us noting her shortcomings in terms of tone. There is some pitchiness to the delivery, too - but it is deliberate, I'm sure, and meant to imbue proceedings with emotion, but ultimately this never quite works, and doesn't connect.

A shame.


Royal Weddings
Royal Weddings
by Julia Melchior
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 4 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Royal Weddings (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I selected this title hoping that it might be a mixture of candid and official pics culled from a vast array of royal hitches.

As it is, only a few are covered, and the picture quality varies quite a bit, and not just because of the age of the pictures.

I'm probably being dim here, but what's the point of the dual language presentation? I'm not going to learn to read German anytime soon, and I have no desire to appear to be more cosmopolitan than I am.

This one won't make my coffee-table, as there just isn't enough vapid titilation, which is what I was hoping for a glimpse of. 'Hello'/'OK' magazine it isn't.

Therefore, I found it a little too stodgy for my tastes, though royalists will probably appreciate the format (as long as they're not bothered by the bi-lingual text).


The Eyes of a King
The Eyes of a King
by Catherine Banner
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, 25 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Eyes of a King (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wish I hadn't known about the author's age when I was sent this - it totally coloured how I feel about it.

We'll see how this goes!

The first half, up to where the younger brother dies (and just beyond), is quite excellent. Though I was worried by the device of self-writing books - this has been somewhat over-used of late (Harry Potter, Terry Goodkind etc.) - I did get quite tense wondering if said younger brother would survive, and was pleasantly surprised when the author had the courage to kill him off.

After that, the 'thrilling' and 'fantasy' aspects of the novel dither, repeat and get, frankly, dull.

HOWEVER, as an exploration of grieving and loss, some of the writing was just incredible. Depressing, sure, but no less remarkable for it. This is what has suggested to me that the review get an extra star, rather than a safe and tepid 3 out of 5.

Then again, that writing, and those choices, are incidental to the plot. And, as said, the plot does meander. We end up with a pretty straight 'borrow' from Pullman's Amber Spyglass at the end - though I think I might have spotted enough loopholes to see where the story develops... And I liked the use of 3 different fonts to convey the different 'perspectives'...

But would I have given this review 4 stars had I not known about her age, though? Ah, heck.

Her prose is good enough to warrant checking out, and the bleak, oppressive feel she conjures is done so with some nice poetic turns of phrase and imagery.

Go on, then. 4 stars. (But only 'cos 3 and a half ain't available!)


Brooklyn Rules [DVD]
Brooklyn Rules [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alec Baldwin
Offered by RED 32
Price: £2.48

3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking something, 3 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Brooklyn Rules [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
An average movie only.

The recently-reliable Alec Baldwin is a hefty presence, but very underused.

Scott Caan is great, looking like a missing Penn brother, and seemed wholly immersed in his role.

Freddie Prinze Jr is, rather like the movie, ok.

But an ok movie is never going to win out against the thoroughbreds, and this one falters quite quickly after getting out of the gates. It's not that there's anything specifically wrong with it, just that there's this crushing sense of deja vu about the whole shebang.

The 70s and 80s are re-created with affection, and the soundtrack's ok, too, but there's no real staying power here. It kept me watching to the end, but won't linger.


Wristcutters - A Love Story [2007] [DVD]
Wristcutters - A Love Story [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous)

3.0 out of 5 stars A curio, 1 Aug. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A good idea feels unexplored here.

It's well-shot, well-acted....

It just doesn't seem to WANT to connect.

Maybe that's the point, with all the disaffected-ness writ large on the screen, but the whole feels llike too much of an effort to WANT to get to grips with either. Unsure in tone and pace, it LOOKS great. But hey, 3 out of 5, it's that unsure.


The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal
The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal
by Sean Dixon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique, at least, to me..., 25 July 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Now then.

I'm not a particular fan of magic realism, but this book, despite going there, still kept me turning the pages.

Without providing a synopsis, between being rooted amongst very real events and flights of fancy (don't get me started on Emmy and the AI of the fitzbot), this book frustrates and intoxicates in equal measure. It's very well written, includes visceral sexual language, but never quite shakes off the feeling of being an intellectual exercise rather than a story that's aching to be told. But then magic realism can do that.

Problem providing a coherent narrative link? Or willfully don't want to? Then shove in an oblique explanation to make the reader scratch their head and wonder where coherence went. It's not truly as blatant at that, but the read starts as a chore and only later draws you in.

The characters are strong and individual, but the lack of a (true) omniscient narrator renders you helpless to the whims and wiles of whoever the author/s really are - at least in terms of finding out the usual building blocks of age, gender, background etc. But then it's not the Lacuna Cabal for nothing, and the nature of the unfurling of the narrative is a vital component in keeping you page-turning.

Our story-tellers more or less admit to being unreliable, admitting vagueness, errata etc. with footnotes and references as they go, which, oddly, serves to keeps the wheels on the narrative rather then stalling it.

There's a breakneck ending which leaves the reader exhilerated after all the build-up (leave them wanting more!), and I would definitely check out Shaun Dixon again based on this.

It's elitist, sure (at one point I felt relieved that I knew the song 'Suzanne' by Leonard Cohen (though only 'cos Peter Gabriel covered it!)), but I didn't feel cheated by not knowing the Gilgamesh legend.

Interesting, and not in an exclusive way, I hope.


Shanghai Kiss [DVD]
Shanghai Kiss [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ken Leung
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All over the shop, 3 July 2008
This review is from: Shanghai Kiss [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This feature is tricky to review, as it doesn't appear to know what it wants to be.

As a meditation on identity, and the tricksiness of modern life, it fails, as it doesn't have the gravitas.

As a witty piece of relationship analysis, you're left feeling short-changed as the storyline tries to crowbar in so much plot that the characters are only sketched-in, and they don't get to grow/show a background to lend their (sometimes) pithy lines any weight. And the editing doesn't point the movie in a choppy or hip way to suit that style either.

I still found myself sort of liking it, however, and wanted to know the outcome, as I was absolutely certain that all the loose ends would be neatly tied up with a little bow by the end - and I wasn't disappointed on that score.

Some sharper focus on the actual tone of the film could have made this a stronger title, perhaps, but then that might have also killed it stone dead, too. So, it's a romantic dramedy one moment (let's dance like no-one is watching), culture-shock social commentary the next (wow, so this is why you have to do bad things?) and question-your-identity metaphysical ramble (what? I have to choose where I want to belong?) in between.

A bit of a dog's breakfast, then, and also a one-size-fits-all.

But it doesn't fit them all that well.


Collins Concise English Dictionary (Collins Concise)
Collins Concise English Dictionary (Collins Concise)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All-rounder, 2 July 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was expecting a 'concise' dictionary to be smaller - by definition - so it was a surprise when this publication turned up woefully unable to fit through the letter box!

But it's a tremendous addition to the home - defined words are picked out in blue, making them stand out, and the same blue creates a quick-find code along the edges of the leaves.

There are encyclopaedic attributes to it, as pointed out by other reviewers, and the online aspect leaves you feeling that you won't get left behind as our mother tongue continues to mutate.

As the debate to unify English so that it is written phonetically continues to hot up, this attractive book reminds me of the wonderful aesthetic and variety of the written/printed word in our mother tongue. Don't let it happen!

A terrific reference, and a worthy purchase.


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