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Profile for Joanne Sheppard > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Joanne Sheppard (England)
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Sex and the City 2 (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2010]
Sex and the City 2 (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Sarah Jessica Parker
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £3.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Utterly terrible - a million miles away from the TV series, 6 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was a huge fan Sex & The City in its heyday, and I thought the first film was reasonably good too. Having heard some terrible reviews of the sequel, I thought it couldn't possibly be as bad as people claimed.

I was wrong. This is a deeply terrible film, so much so that my jaw genuinely dropped at times.

First of all, the basic premise is utterly ludicrous: Samantha bumps into a billionaire sheikh at a movie premiere who in the space of a couple of minutes' chat decides she'd be the perfect person to do the PR for his obscenely luxurious Abu Dhabi hotel, and not only flies out her but also her three best friends, who each get a huge hotel suite, their own butler and their own car for the duration of their stay. Note to anyone who thinks this might conceivably ever happen in the world of PR: it absolutely just doesn't, ever. As if that wasn't insane enough, Carrie naturally happens to bump into her former fiance Aidan entirely by chance in the middle of a souk, just at the very moment she's having worries about her marriage to Mr Big. What are the chances?

Moreover, the script is so utterly crass with regards to the way it treats the Middle East and its people that I wanted to shout at my TV screen. Haha, let's all laugh at the silly prudish Arabs and their women eating chips under a veil, eh? Let's make a big joke out of dressing up white women in niqabs! Let's make Arab men who turn into an angry mob when a woman drops a condom from her handbag! Hilarious - oh wait, no it's not. It's ignorant, stereotypical, borderline racist guff.

The other major issue that I have with this film is that, far from being women to whose lives and problems I could on some level relate as I could in the TV series, Carrie and her friends now simply come across as incredibly spoilt and ungrateful. There was a time when Carrie had to borrow money from a friend in order to put a deposit on a small apartment; now that apartment has sat unsold for two years because it appears Carrie and Big can easily afford to have two flats in Manhattan without bothering to rent one out. Charlotte's big 'problem' is being exhausted from motherhood - yet she has a full-time live-in nanny and her big mummy meltdown occurs because her toddler gets paint on a vintage white Valentino skirt which she has chosen to wear for an afternoon of baking and fingerpainting. Miranda is also finding motherhood hard, but hey, she also has a full-time live-in housekeeper, and can apparently afford to leave her job on a whim without giving notice because one of her colleagues is rude to her.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned Samantha; this is because in this film she is literally nothing more than a nymphomaniac cougar. She used to be irreverent and tough; now she's just loud, rude, inconsiderate and makes jokes that rely on the fact that 'Arabia' rhymes with 'labia'. She also appears to be downright stupid, being by far the most culturally ignorant.

Oh, and there's also a gay wedding at which the ceremony and the reception entertainment is performed by Liza Minelli, with zero explanation of how/why the couple might possibly have been able to arrange this in a million years.

Finally: even the clothes aren't that great.

Give this one a miss. If you've seen it, try to forget it.


A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night [DVD]
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sheila Vand
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, eerie and strangely touching, 6 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Languid, eerie and dreamlike, this beautifully stylised black-and-white film is more a tale of lonely souls lost in a dying city than it is a story of vampirism. A young woman spends her days listening to music in a tiny bedsit, her nights wandering the streets of the all-but-abandoned Iranian town 'Bad City', searching for appropriate victims. Meanwhile, a young man is slowly reaching the end of his tether as he struggles to support his ageing, heroin-addicted father, and a prostitute dreams of escaping her drug-dealing pimp. There's a strong sense of these characters existing in some sort of ghost town, dusty, sparsely populated and apparently lawless - in this sense, it even has hints of a Western about it, yet there are shades of European art house cinema and early 20th century Expressionism too.

Don't watch this film if you're looking for scares; it may be about a vampire but it's absolutely not a horror film and the pace is slow and melancholic; the dialogue (in Persian, with English subtitles) is minimal but effective. Frankly, it wouldn't be out of place as an installation in art gallery. Every shot is visually perfect, and the soundtrack is excellent - there is not a moment of this film that isn't stunningly atmospheric, yet at the same time, its scale is somehow deeply personal. Ultimately, for all its mysteries and ambiguities, it's also strangely touching.


Exposure
Exposure
by Helen Dunmore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, sensitively-written and absorbing, 3 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Exposure (Hardcover)
Helen Dunmore's latest novel Exposure is set in 1960, when Britain was in the grip of the Cold War and a few years after the defection of Burgess and Maclean. Simon Callington, a mid-ranking civil servant at the Admiralty who lives uneventfully with his wife and three children in suburban Muswell Hill, receives a late-night phone call from a colleague and former friend, Giles Holloway. Giles has had a serious accident and been taken to hospital, but there's something wants Simon to do: to go to his flat, collect a file that Giles had taken home from work, and return it to the office before morning.

This simple favour triggers a ripple effect that has devastating consequences for Giles, Simon, Simon's wife Lily and their three children, gradually exposing a web of deception that extends beyond secrets of state and into the backgrounds of everyone concerned.

This book isn't, as such, a spy thriller (although it is a gripping read). It's something quieter and more reflective, more personal. The technicalities of spying and the nature of the material in the secret file are also of little importance, and the identity of those who colluding in handing secrets to the Soviets is revealed almost immediately. Instead, the book focuses on the personal implications of what becomes a high-profile scandal. Giles, Simon and Lily all have more to hide than their involvement in the espionage plot, and each of them is, to some degree, estranged from their own past, whilst still shaped and defined by it.

Helen Dunmore is not only a deeply perceptive writer with a remarkable gift for character - Lily, with her steely determination and innate loyalty to those she loves, is particularly well-drawn - but is also exceptionally skilled at evoking history and place. Every period detail is perfect; each mundane detail of suburban life and the social norms of the day is acutely well-chosen. It's impossible to read Exposure without feeling utterly immersed in the setting.

While it's often observed in the novel that 'real spies are dull as ditchwater' rather than 'cloak and dagger types', the characters are still in enough genuine jeopardy to punctuate their reflections with moments of grim tension. Giles, Simon and Lily are really mere pawns in a much bigger and more sinister game, and when one of the major players decides to pay them individual visits, things take a dark turn.

Exposure is a beautifully-crafted and deeply absorbing novel, and I'd really struggle to find any fault any fault with it.


The Good Liar
The Good Liar
by Nicholas Searle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some promising elements but ultimately disappointing, 26 Jan. 2016
This review is from: The Good Liar (Hardcover)
It seems from other reviews, both by readers and professional critics, that most people have enjoyed Nicholas Searle's first novel, The Good Liar. That puts me in a minority: while I felt The Good Liar was a confident debut, I found much of the story rather flat and even dull. I'd be hard-pushed to find much wrong with Searle's actual prose - his sentences are well-crafted and his descriptive details well-observed and well-chosen - but I found it impossible to really immerse myself in this book right up until the last quarter of it, when the plot takes an abrupt and surprising turn. Frustratingly, that last quarter did give some real glimpses of how good the novel could have been.

The book begins with Roy, an eighty-something man, meeting Betty, a woman perhaps five or so years younger but still full of zest for life, for a pub meal arranged through an internet dating site. We're told almost immediately that Roy is a con-man, and looking for a well-off widow whose money he can make off with, and after that there are alternating chunks of narrative dealing with the relationship between Roy and Betty after he has moved into her home, and flashbacks to incidents from Roy's past. Where the present-day sections become interesting is the point at which we start to realise that Betty might know more about Roy than he thinks. How does Betty know Roy is a serial fraudster, and which of the pair will win their battle of deception?

This strand of the plot is, for me, the most successful. Betty is a smart, wily woman, yet there is something insidiously manipulative and sinister about Roy that almost makes him seem like an elderly Tom Ripley at times.

Unfortunately, the flashbacks to Roy's earlier years are, for the most part, infinitely less engaging. Beginning with one of his most recent scams and working backwards to earlier and earlier snapshots of his criminal life, they simply didn't hold my interest. The detailed mechanics of how Roy cheated a bunch of other tedious middle-aged men in a shady investment scam were utterly dull, as were his brief relationship with a woman in the 1970s whose bank account he empties, the Soho sex shop he tries to open with a non-existent loan and even the incident in the 1960s in which he assumes another man's identity altogether. Clearly these episodes are intended to build a picture of the type of man Roy is - callous, misogynist, cunning, wholly selfish and disdainful of others - and in this regard they succeed, but we could have learned these things about Roy in half the time, and indeed could simply have guessed most of them. The fact that Roy is a manipulative psychopath is obvious very early on, but this alone is not enough to make him an interesting character, and frankly that's all there is to him for most of the book. Only when we get right back to Roy's early twenties and finally his teens in the 1940s do we learn anything genuinely revealing about him, and even then, we only learn what he was as a youth, rather than why.

Betty, whose past is also addressed in this final quarter of the book, is infinitely more fascinating than Roy, and it's a great pity her character plays second fiddle to his for most of the story. I was more gripped by Betty's part in the story than Roy's, more interested in what made her the woman she became. As I finally reached the last couple of chapters, I had high hopes for a confrontation to end all confrontations, but even after the one truly gripping section of the story, the actual ending left me with a distinct sense of anticlimax.

I wanted so much to like this book, as the premise of it is fascinating and I enjoyed seeing two older characters leading a novel in this way - particularly Betty; there are frankly not enough heroines in their eighties. But while it did show some promise, I had to force myself to keep reading and was, overall, left dissatisfied. Not a book for me, sadly.

Do read some other reviews, though, as I'm far outnumbered by people who loved this book, and it's perfectly possible that you will too.


The Darkest Secret
The Darkest Secret
by Alex Marwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, tense, astutely written thriller, 21 Jan. 2016
This review is from: The Darkest Secret (Paperback)
Like Alex Marwood’s debut novel The Wicked Girls, The Darkest Secret has aspects of its plot readers may recognise from news coverage and public speculation about a well-known crime. In The Wicked Girls, two children are locked up for taking a toddler on a long walk and then killing her. In The Darkest Secret, a pretty blonde three-year-old disappears from a room of sleeping children who have been left unattended in a holiday villa while her parents are enjoying a meal with friends in a restaurant a short walk away. The other children don’t wake when Coco is taken, and a professional publicist leads the campaign to find her. I’ll leave you to decide if you recognise that scenario.

The strength of The Darkest Secret isn’t so much the mystery of what happened to Coco – I actually guessed this at around the halfway point, including the final twist – but the chilling portrait that Alex Marwood paints of Coco’s father, Sean Jackson, and the people around him.

Sean is a millionaire property developer who, his daughters later suggest, appears to have sociopathic tendencies. By the time he dies (this is no spoiler – the death is in fact the catalyst for the present-day action, which alternates with flashbacks to Coco’s 2004 disappearance) he has been married four times and is estranged from most of his children. The only constant presence in his life, and indeed after his death, is the group of equally wealthy, equally amoral friends with whom he congregates for hedonistic weekends of excess – among them an ambitious Tory MP, a celebrity publicist and a doctor to the stars known for his ‘treatment’ of rock stars on tour. What begins as a series of sharp, satirical observations of a spoilt, shallow, self-serving gang of ageing rich kids gradually becomes something much more sinister, almost grotesque. There are several moments where their behaviour is so shocking that it teeters on the brink of unsettling heightened reality, but in a way that's appropriately nightmarish rather than the stuff of caricature.

Fortunately, there are sympathetic characters - spending so much time in the company of Sean and his repulsive friends would be almost unbearable without any counterpoint at all. Half the story is narrated by Camilla, Sean's daughter from his first marriage, who with her trust fund and her faux-boho Camden lifestyle could easily have been utterly dislikeable, but instead develops into an astute, protective older sister to Coco's twin Ruby and - obsessed as she is with personality disorders - a perceptive narrator with a surprisingly clear moral compass. The relationship between Camilla and Ruby is touching and convincing, and their respective observations about their father and his marriages are often terribly sad. Amid the darkness and the tension (of which there's plenty; this was very much a book I wanted to stay up late to finish) there's a real pathos to some elements of this book.

Without giving too much away, The Darkest Secret is not a neatly-resolved crime thriller - there were a couple of hints I expected to be picked up upon which were ignored at the end, and doubtless some readers will finish this book frustrated at the position in which certain characters are left. Personally, I feel that Alex Marwood took some brave choices with the way this novel ends, and was right to do so.


Medieval Patterns to Colour
Medieval Patterns to Colour
by Struan Reid
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Might be OK to keep a kid busy for half an hour, 19 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Doesn't really work as a colouring book for me - nice enough designs, but some of them are printed to be partially coloured already, which takes a lot of the fun away and makes it impossible to 'match'. Maybe OK to occupy a kid for half an hour, if you bought it in the gift shop of a castle or museum, but not great for adults who are into colouring.


The Festive Fifty
The Festive Fifty
by Mark Whitby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great, niche music book crammed with detail, 19 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Festive Fifty (Paperback)
This book has clearly been a major labour of love by the author and a huge amount of work has gone into it. It's crammed with encyclopaedic detail and a fascinating read for any alternative music fan, particularly if you've ever spent your New Year's Eve glued to the Festive 50 as my partner and I do. It covers the John Peel and Dandelion Radio years.

I'm guessing it's a self-published book as the subject matter is so niche, and there are a few typos and mistakes - but that's understandable given the nature of the book and the sheer volume of information inside. I bought it for my partner, who was extremely pleased with it and has been referring to it constantly to create playlists etc.


Men's Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite T-Shirt Indigo Blue, Medium
Men's Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite T-Shirt Indigo Blue, Medium
Offered by Two Red Dogs Pembrokeshire
Price: £16.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Nice quality t-shirt for the Sprite enthusiast in your life..., 19 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought one of these a couple of years ago for my dad, who owned a Sprite in the 1960s - eventually he spilt something on it, but he liked it so much that he asked me for two more for Christmas to replace it! These are nice quality t-shirts that fit well and the Sprite design is subtle. I bought one in grey and one in red; the colours are vivid and don't fade.


CellBoutique Anti Scratch Back TPU Silicone Bumper Case Cover For The Apple iPhone 4/s 5/s 5c 6 4.7 and 6 Plus 5.5
CellBoutique Anti Scratch Back TPU Silicone Bumper Case Cover For The Apple iPhone 4/s 5/s 5c 6 4.7 and 6 Plus 5.5
Offered by CellBoutique Limited
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Nice, smart, decent quality case, 19 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Decent, discreet-looking case that fits the phone perfectly. It includes covers for the the power and volume buttons, which I wasn't sure were going to work, but in fact they're really efficient and don't stop the buttons working at all. Good product for the price, especially if you're someone like me who doesn't want a bright, flashy, fancy-looking case. This one doesn't detract from the design of the phone at all.


Cross Bailey Black Lacquer Ball Point Pen
Cross Bailey Black Lacquer Ball Point Pen
Offered by Europens
Price: £32.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, smart, great quality pen, 19 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Lovely pen and excellent value. Feels like a pen twice the price. I have the matching fountain pen and I love using them both.

It's a nice weight and fits my hand perfectly - I don't like pens that are too slimline, but an overly fat pen isn't comfortable for me to hold, and this is somewhere in between which is just ideal for me. It's a really smart, classy design.


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