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Mrs. K. A. P. Wright
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The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory
The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory
by Deborah Alun-Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful gem of a book, 25 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a delightful book that I fear will be overlooked because it doesn't fit into any clearly defined category. Its premise is simple. It looks at that archetype of English rural society, the English rectory, serene and mellow, typifying all that we hold dear about our past and explores the lives of some of the many literary figures that have lived in them.

We meet Sidney Smith, Alfred Tennyson, Dorothy Sayers, Rupert Brooke, John Betjeman, RS Thomas, George Herbert, Vikram Seth, the Benson and de Waal families in their various rectories and have a glimpse of their lives. Amongsth the most memorable is Helen Sayers, Dorothy Sayers' free-thinking and progressive mother who "not only smoked, but disapproved of teetotallers".

Of course, frequently life in the rectory was not serene. For example we discover the dreadful early life of Tennyson, whose father, despite being the elder son of the Old Man of the Wolds, was disinherited in favour of his younger brother, because he was deemed unfit. Instead he was sent into the church. His living was only a few miles from the estate that he had been brought up to believe was his and rather that enjoying the freedom of a good income, he was confined to a rectory with his wife and twelve children. He became prone to depression and alcoholism and was frequently violent towards his children, at one point threatening to shoot them. It is not the background one would have expected of that pillar of the Victorian establishment, Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

John Betjeman who had been stationed in Dublin, in a talk on the BBC in 1943, called 'Oh to be In England . . .' summed up his nostalgic yearning for the English pastoral idyll and wanted to recapture it. Hearing that the Old Rectory at Farnborough was to be auctioned on VE Day, his wife managed to reach the auction by horse and trap, since no transport was running. Although by no means modernised, Betjeman wanted to return the Rectory to its original idyllic state, throwing out the bathroom and being content that the only water supply was the village pump. Not everybody took pleasure in the primitiveness or damp antiquity of their houses, whereas RS Thomas positively relished it and spurned comfort.

This book is full of gems, far too many to mention here. It is copiously and beautifully illustrated with pictures of the rectories and drawings and photographs of the incumbents.


A Darker God: A Laetitia Talbot Mystery (William Monk)
A Darker God: A Laetitia Talbot Mystery (William Monk)
Price: £6.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laetitia Talbot: Episode 3 does not disappoint, 21 July 2013
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This is the third of Barbara Cleverly's books featuring Laetitia Talbot and the action follows almost immediately after The Tomb of Zeus.

The action has moved to Athens, which in May, 1928, is politically very insecure. The first couple of chapters set the scene and introduce some of the characters who hope to manipulate the situation for their own purposes. At last we meet Andrew Merriman, 'scholar and man of action', who has played such a pivotal part in Letty's past. We also meet his wife, Maud. While based in Athens Andrew is writing a life of Alexander the Great which in the current political climate could prove controversial.

The action has moved to October. In an amphitheatre in Athens, a new English translation of Aeschylus's Agamemnon is being rehearsed. Letty and Maud Merriman are watching. Both have played a part in the production and there is much to-ing and fro-ing throughout the evening making sure that everything is right. At the end, it turns out that perhaps things were too 'right', as Agamemnon has been truly murdered in his bath.

Once more Letty is involved in murder and intrigue. In many ways she is the same Letty, but because Cleverly is an excellent writer, she has grown and matured and is less exasperating than in the two previous books. You could argue that this makes A Darker God less funny than the other two, but it is still a clever and absorbing thriller full of interesting people and ideas.


Bright Hair about the Bone (Laetitia Talbot Mysteries)
Bright Hair about the Bone (Laetitia Talbot Mysteries)
by Barbara Cleverly
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A clever and amusing prequel to The Tomb of Zeus, 21 July 2013
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This is the second of Barbara Cleverly's books featuring Laetitia Talbot, but it is a prequel, set just over a year before the Tomb of Zeus.

It is the 1920s, Laetitia is an archaeologist and although she has been to university, is finding it very difficult to find anyone who takes her seriously. This is very galling for someone of Letty's temperament. Finally she finds a place on a dig run by her godfather in Burgundy. Her father will only let her go if she is chaperoned by an ex-army chaplain whose life has been wrecked by his experiences in the trenches. Letty has to agree, but it annoys her so much that she is even more pig headed, obstinate and self-righteous than usual.

Her godfather dies violently and Letty is convinced that it was not a random act of violence. As she investigates, she discovers that the local nobility's beliefs in myths and legends will lead them to act in a way that could cause political mayhem. This may sound very Gothic and far-fetched, but Cleverly handles her plots and characters very deftly, leading Letty out of the tunnel of her prejudices into some sort of self-awareness and knowledge.

Intriguingly we discover some of the events of Letty's past that were hinted at so tantalisingly in the Tomb of Zeus, but perhaps not all . . .

An excellent thriller that combines humour with excitement.


Tomb of Zeus (new series)
Tomb of Zeus (new series)
by Barbara Cleverly
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing Laetitia Talbot - archaeology, murder, intrigue . . ., 21 July 2013
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This is the first of Barbara Cleverly's books featuring Laetitia Talbot. It is the late 1920s and Laetitia is an archaeologist. We meet her on her way to Crete where she is going to take part in a dig. Female archaeologists are rare beasts in the 1920s and Laetitia is very protective of her status and takes herself very seriously, so seriously that it is not immediately obvious how old she is.

She is staying en famille with the head of the dig, a man of great charm and charisma, and his extended household. She soon becomes aware that things are not as they should be, and then she finds that another member of the household is someone from her past, who not only has hurt her badly, but is also morally very dubious.

Then the deaths begin and the accidents start to happen. Letty, being Letty, plunges in headfirst causing mayhem and danger on all sides.

This is an excellent book. The plot is complex and convoluted. Hints are constantly being thrown out about past events, which is tantalising. Some you find out about and some you don't. The characters are also complex. We tend to see them through Letty's eyes and she does not always see clearly, so what you see is not always what you get.

I have enjoyed all the books by Cleverly that I have read (and I think I have read all that are in print) and this one is an excellent addition.


Pull Yourself Together
Pull Yourself Together
by Thomas Glavinic
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.81

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written and funny for some, but not for me, 18 July 2013
This review is from: Pull Yourself Together (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this book very difficult to get on with. It's not badly written. The opposite in fact. The characterisation of the narrator is very sharply defined and we see the world through his eyes and from his point of view. The trouble was, I couldn't bear him. He is an unattractive, facetious, posturing, idle waste of space whose charm was not sufficient to keep me interested.

I know that some people have found this book hugely amusing, so it really does depend on whether or not you can cope with Charlie. I suggest you look inside and have a taster. You will be able to decide very quickly which side of the fence you are standing on as he comes at you full blast from the word go.


Midnight in Havana: An Inspector Ramirez Investigation (Inspector Ramirez 1)
Midnight in Havana: An Inspector Ramirez Investigation (Inspector Ramirez 1)
by Peggy Blair
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A detective story with a difference, 18 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a detective story with a difference.

Firstly, it is set in Cuba, where the laws, customs and facilities are worlds apart from the common run of detective stories.

Secondly, Inspector Ramirez, our hero, sees dead people, in fact murdered people. His rational mind tells him that these are symptoms of the disease he believed killed his grandmother and now he is getting other symptoms that indicate that he is dying. He is aware that his time is short but he doesn't want to tell his family or colleagues yet.

A little boy has been raped and murdered. His body has been fished out of the sea and Ramirez is racing against time as he only has seventy-two hours to make his arrest. His main suspect is Mike Ellis, a hideously scarred Canadian whose wife has just dumped him. The boy had his wallet and had been seen pestering the Ellises earlier. Mike had returned late to his hotel, very drunk with no memories of the evening before. But Mike is a policeman specialising in crimes against children . . .

The setting feels realistic - hot, crumbling and battered yet beautiful. The characters have depth, revealing their secrets slowly as the action progresses. The plot is complex and slow to unravel.

I believe this is Peggy Blair's first detective story. It's a very promising start.


Paris
Paris
by Edward Rutherfurd
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A good read!, 17 July 2013
This review is from: Paris (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a huge sprawling book that slips forward and back through time illustrating the story of Paris through the stories of the generations of a few families. If you have read other books by Edward Rutherfurd you will know what to expect - good stories, interesting and varied characters placed in accurate pictures of the period and the setting. If you are unfamiliar with his books you have lots of pleasure to look forward to.

This is an excellent holiday read - it is long, absorbing and never short changes you. Of course, these same qualities make it an excellent read for cold winter nights. My only complaint (and it is a very minor one) is its weight. I read it in book form, but I see that it is now out in a Kindle edition too. If you have a Kindle, I would buy it in that form.


Intimate Deception
Intimate Deception
by Laura Landon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.54

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tawdry and silly - don't waste your time, 9 July 2013
This review is from: Intimate Deception (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Whether you like this book or not depends on what you want from a historical romance. If it is a good plot, enacted by engaging well rounded characters in a believable and mostly accurate historical setting, then this book is not for you.

Intimate Deception, because it puts a date to each section purports to be mid-Victorian but it bears very little relationship to Victorian England (not many Kevins in High Society). Rather, it lies in that muzzy area of the Regency romance, which has, sort of, acquired its own reality. The plot is a raunchy rehash of a plot used many times by among others, Marian Chesney, in her various guises, Georgette Heyer and many others. I described it as raunchy, but it is more titillating than that - heavy petting rather than actual sex. The characters are neither believable or really sympathetic.

The pity is, with its concern about death in child birth, there is the germ of a much better book here, but the idea was squandered.


Black Bear (Peter Cotton)
Black Bear (Peter Cotton)
by Aly Monroe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.14

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, absorbing thriller set at the start of the Cold War, 8 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Black Bear is the fourth in a series of books set at the end of and just post World War 2. It is possible to read it as a stand-alone book, but, I think, much more enjoyable to read the series in sequence, The Maze of Cadiz, Washington Shadow and Icelight.

At the beginning of Black Bear, Peter Cotton is beginning to come out of a coma. He is very confused, cannot see and has little or no memory. The first part of the book is taken up, in many ways reminiscent of Margery Allingham's Traitor's Purse, by Peter rediscovering who and what he is and whom he can trust.

If you have read the earlier books, you will know Peter and you will like and trust him as you have seen him grow and develop. You will know that he works for the government. To say he is a spy casts much too glamorous an aura over him. Towards the end of the war, because he spoke Spanish he was directed to go to Spain to sort out why a British agent had gone off the rails and then died in rather dubious circumstances. This led to him being sent to Washington to work ostensibly to support Keynes's team negotiating a loan from the US government but in fact to investigate the crisis in the US intelligence agencies. Back in Britain, in the third book, during the freezing cold winter and spring of 1947, Cotton is seconded to Operation Sea-snake, apparently supported by both MI5 and MI6, to stop the targeting and witch hunting of homosexual scientists. The common factor with all three of these stories is that Peter works in a fog of ignorance and misdirection and has to work out not just what is happening, but what he is supposed to be doing about it. None of this is clear to him or us.

In this fourth book the confusion has been made physical and Peter must recover before he can work out what is happening and what is required of him. It is summer 1947 and he is back in the States to attempt to build intelligence into the emergent United Nations. It seems that almost as soon as he has arrived, he has been abducted and filled with a cocktail of mind altering drugs which have damaged him, perhaps permanently, both physically and mentally. Having been found collapsed in the street, he has been brought to an exclusive clinic catering for severely brain damaged American officers. This, in itself, is strange.

The story would appear to be: who did this to Peter and why? But is it? There are many, many strands woven in this book and it is only quite near the end that we achieve some idea of what is going on. The work is hard, but rewarding.

I have no idea what the life of an intelligence agent in the 1940s was like, but this is very convincing - no glamour, lots of confusion, empire building and betrayal. As with the three previous books, Monroe's attention to detail creates a complete and believable world in which her characters weave backwards and forwards, gradually revealing themselves to us. Nothing is explained. We, like Peter, have to work it out for ourselves. It is completely absorbing.

An excellent series of books.

At the end, there are brief factual notes, disentangling fact from fiction.


Ikra Flexotrim ART-1520-MC 24V Lithium-Ion Cordless Grass Trimmer
Ikra Flexotrim ART-1520-MC 24V Lithium-Ion Cordless Grass Trimmer
Price: £129.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An expensive waste of time, 29 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At first sight this looked like a good piece of kit, if a bit on the expensive side (£128.37 Amazon price). It is light and all the adjustable bits seemed to work well. I followed the instructions without trouble, once I had found a screw driver, and all the parts seemed to go together easily. I charged the battery for the recommended time and then set out to use it to edge a piece of lawn. I pressed the trigger, the motor started and the blue cutter flew off, broken. This was the first flaw. The second followed immediately after when I realised that because of the position of the trigger, I was in dire danger of chopping my fingers off if I tried to examine it. So I removed the battery, not an easy job if you have small hands (third flaw). I examined it carefully and suspected that the full circuit of the blade was being fouled by the safety guard. Perhaps I had not assembled it properly. So I took it to pieces and reassembled it very carefully, making sure that I had screwed it together as tightly as possible. I took it outside and tried again. Exactly the same thing happened again.

As you are only provided with four blades, I thought I had better check how easy it was to get new ones. Nowhere on the product page is there any information beyond the fact that they are easy to locate. I tried Amazon's search but only found a completely different product. As it happened I was going to the garden centre (a branch of a major chain of garden centres), so I took the blade and the product name with me. Nothing similar was on show, so I asked an assistant. They had never heard of it. Looking at the blade I had brought with me, we thought a Bosch blade might be similar enough to use. This took me about half an hour to discover (fourth flaw).

I decided to wait until the next day to try again. This time when I pressed the trigger, nothing happened. The battery was flat. It had been in use, at most, twenty seconds (fifth flaw). I recharged the battery, tried again, no joy.

Rather than give up, I called in the help of a friend, who is more experienced in the art of strimming than I. We started from scratch. She read the instructions and reassembled the strimmer. She fixed the blade, satisfied that she had followed the instructions correctly and tried it out, the fourth blade snapped off and whizzed into the long grass.

There is no trouble shooting section in the instruction leaflet and no helpline (sixth flaw).

I feel I have given this enough of my time and patience.

Even if it had worked, I am not sure that it is worth the money. It specifies that it is only for lawn edging and is not to be used on any rougher foliage. There are other cordless strimmers on the market for half the price that are more robust, simple to assemble and use and whose spare parts are easily accessible.


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