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LiztheWhizz (Warrington)

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The Great Gatsby (Wordsworth Classics)
The Great Gatsby (Wordsworth Classics)
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Vastly overrated, 1 May 2013
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I re-read this book recently, some 20 years since I first read it as an English undergraduate. I am willing to give a book a second chance. But second time round, 'The Great Gatsby' offered the same dull, cold, disengaged experience.

The problem is that once a novel acquires iconic status, people shy away from criticism. But this faux reverence does the book no favours. Yes, the descriptive prose is tight and it captures the decadence of the age like an unpleasant Spitting Image cariacature. But simply holding up a distorted mirror is not enough to make a novel great. At heart, it is stylised and self-consciously pleased with itself - not an winning combination.

It says very little for American literature if this is still revered as one of their finest. Time to move on, there are clearly many that are much better. On the plus side, at 115 pages, it is mercifully short!

Star Wars Trilogy: Episodes I, II And III [DVD]
Star Wars Trilogy: Episodes I, II And III [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hayden Christensen
Offered by lightningdvd
Price: £49.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars View from a newbie, 15 July 2010
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I had never seen Star Wars before (apart from yawning through about half of the original film many years ago), and just never got it. Then my son (age 9) asked for all six episodes for his birthday, as he likes Lego Star Wars, and I was suddenly immersed in the complex world (or should that be galaxy) of Star Wars.

Episodes 1-3 are the prequels, and pretty dark they are at times, with the fall of Anakin Skywalker from Chosen One to Dark Lord. These are in essence like mediaeval morality plays, all about hubris and overreaching, but with a lot more CGI! Some great action scenes, silly characters like Ja Ja Binks and a stack of Hollywood A listers make it impressive, but all 3 are a bit ponderous and self-important, lacking the relief and light touch of Episodes V and VI (Yoda hardly us laugh making, hmmh?).

My son loves them, and has become a walking Star Wars encyclopaedia. Good value, and I can now belatedly see what the fuss was about.

Hurting Distance: Culver Valley Crime Book 2
Hurting Distance: Culver Valley Crime Book 2
by Sophie Hannah
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2.0 out of 5 stars Strangely compelling but ultimately hollow, 12 Feb. 2010
A book about the humiliation of women (both physical and mental) is never going to be an easy read.

On the plus side, Ms Hannah has created a suspenseful premise and a sinuous plot which keeps you guessing for quite some time.

On the minus side, it eventually sinks under an unsustainable weight of coincidence, with the final twist over-elaborated and unconvincing. It is hard to feel sympathy for any of the characters, who are used as one-dimensional plot devices.

This was my first Sophie Hannah book - I won't be rushing to read another.

Birding Maine: Over 90 Prime Birding Sites at 40 Locations (Birding Series)
Birding Maine: Over 90 Prime Birding Sites at 40 Locations (Birding Series)
by Tom Seymour
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.09

2.0 out of 5 stars Does not cover all the prime locations, 19 Jun. 2009
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We bought this book on the assumption that it would cover the prime birding sites in Maine, and would therefore include Scarborough Marsh, one of the top birding sites in Maine.

For some reason best known to the author, it doesn't.

A fatal flaw, don't buy it.

Birding Cape Cod
Birding Cape Cod
by Cape Cod Bird Club
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Packed with information, great maps, 19 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: Birding Cape Cod (Paperback)
The only way to test a birding site guide is to use it in the field. We visited Cape Cod in May 2009 and found it to be very useful.

Cape Cod is a big area but we found the guide to be full of useful detail about the best locations with very accurate maps.

Highly recommended for any visiting birder.

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa
A Guide to the Birds of East Africa
by Nicholas Drayson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A liitle gem, 19 Jun. 2009
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I really liked this book for many reasons:

1) it is short - at 200 pages, even if you don't like it, it is soon over
2) having visited Kenya on several occasions, and with family there, it is evident that the author knows the place well and can elicit many a wry smile from his witty and pertinent observations
3) As a birdwatcher who has seen many, many more bird species in Kenya than either contestant, I greatly appreciate the thoughtful detail around the bird race which added to the book's authenticity as well as its aesthetic appeal
4) the humanity of the self-effacing Mr Malik shines through the piece as a whole, both through his highly effective and anonymous politial satire and his compassionate visits to AIDS sufferers motivated by the sad circumstances around the death of his son
5) I enjoyed the very conscious interventions in the literary process by the author, who acted as an amiable companion rather than a neutral observer
6) It is a novel where the good guy gets the girl (albeit that she is of pensionable age)

This is a sweet, funny, whimsical novel which creates a bubble where post-colonial Kenya can exist even though it is under threat from muggers and Somali bandits. And what's wrong with that?

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A grim fairytale, 22 May 2009
I read this book already knowing what it was about, which was a shame in some ways but it also meant I approached it differently.

Several reviews pick up on its simplicity and assume it is therefore written for children. But it reminds me more of a modern fairytale which can work work on different levels depending on the prior knowledge of its audience. And its main character (Bruno) has the same role central to fairytales of a childlike and innocent observer in the midst of evil.

Even if you know what the book is about, it doesn't really matter because plot twists are not really important here. What matters is the awful weight of history, and that the facts behind it are not fiction. Some reviewers have complained that it is not based on historical events. But it is not meant to be a history, rather a distillation of the very essence of innocence versus evil.

Bruno's use of language as an 8 year old (chillingly, the same age as my son) is key to the success of the book. His distant father and sherry-fuelled mother both find ways to cope with what they are caught up in. Bruno's language reflects his lack of comprehension of his surrounding landscape and its dramatic changes; his malapropisms underline the sense of the family's distance from reality (I had a wry smile at the "Fury", but didn't twig "outwith" until half way through).

The final outcome is predictable but no less terrible and emotional.

While I was willing to suspend disbelief, a couple of the plot devices used to set up the finale jarred. Bruno was the least likely child in the world to get nits and the security breach of the fence was also a stretch. I know they were a means to an end, but it felt false and detracted from my feelings for the book as a whole. Hence 4 star.

As an approach to the awful events it portrays, this is a thoughtful and commendable read. I hope my son will read and understand it one day, but not yet.

The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into our future?, 6 May 2009
At the heart of this book is an interesting proposition - what if time travel is in our genes?

The answer would be chaos if the book's leading man (Henry) is anything to go by. This is not Dr Who style time travel where you (mostly) control where and when you travel in time. This is a series of random, stress-triggered disappearances which drop Henry naked into his past or future. He cannot change events but he can and does often meet himself. This sort of time travel is not change the world stuff, it simply adds layers of complication to relationships. Henry seeks medical advice to try and prevent it, but without success and his daughter inherits the time travelling gene. In the middle of it all, non-time traveller Clare (the Wife of the title) has no option but to get used to Henry's comings and goings.

The time travelling is the cleverness of the novel, but the theme is love. If you can accept the time travel rules, you soon get used to the time shifts and they create an additional dimension to both character and storyline. Without giving away the plot, it also creates some very poignant scenes, such as when Henry meets his daughter and of course the ending.

There are some irritations with the book - the perpetual scavenging of clothes becomes a bit irksome, and the book could have done with a good edit to take out some of the author's more self-indulgent passages. Ms Niffenegger clearly revels in creating vivid characters as plot devices, but Gomez is more implausible than time travel itself. And call me old-fashioned, but did we really need that much sex?

So, an interesting and original take on love and fate. Ignore the hype and tripe, it's well worth a read.

Mamma Mia! The Movie [DVD] [2008]
Mamma Mia! The Movie [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Meryl Streep
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You won't know whether to laugh or cringe...., 14 Mar. 2009
I am inspired to write this review after the brilliant Comic Relief "homage" by the mistresses of the film spoof, French and Saunders. They captured exactly why Mamma Mia is at once so unlikely to work but, in spite of everything, does. It's just sheer exuberance and an enormous slice of suspension of disbelief...

I found the first 10 minutes of Mamma Mia almost cringeworthy, but once you accept the premise, it's great fun and you get swept along by it - after all if the sold it to Meryl Streep, who are we to argue?

And watching the French & Saunders take on it makes it all the funnier - Jennifer Saunders' "Winner Takes it All" is just a superlative. Watch the fikm, then the spoof - enjoy both.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You have to remember to keep breathing....., 13 Mar. 2009
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This review is from: The Kite Runner (Paperback)
This is storytelling of the finest order. Some of the sequences are almost unbearably dramatic it literally takes your breath away.

It gives a real insight into the grim reality of life in Afghanistan after the ravages of Russian invasion, tribal feuding and most chillingly the Taliban, the gritty detail reminiscent of Solzhenitsyn. The portrait of the Afghan refugees in America, made equal by their exile with car boot sales as their social hub, made a good foil to the intensity of writing at either end of the book. I found the final chapters a little less in tune with the rest and many the kite symbolism was over-stretched, but it would be churlish indeed to give it less than 5 stars.

Read it - you won't regret it.

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