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The Mammy
The Mammy
by Brendan O'Carroll
Edition: Paperback

88 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Without Qualification, Flawless, 27 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Mammy (Paperback)
The photograph on the cover of this book is spectacular, and everything Mr. Brendon O'Carroll includes within is wonderful! This Irish tale is unlike any other I have read. The book is not cluttered with Irish cliché's, which even if true to one degree or another, can nonetheless become tiresome. It has often been said that there are no happy endings in an Irish tale, and while this is the first installment of three, it would take multiple disasters to change the overall mood of this Family and Friends.

The story is about two female friends, the joy they share, their everyday lives, and the pain that all relationships eventually suffer. However this friendship is not subject to damage or limitation. The dialogue is a riotous tear from beginning to end. Your own laughter will continually interrupt your page turning, but the intrusions are part of the fun. The characters laugh until they hold their sides, and you will be as well as Mr. O'Carroll's dialogue is brilliant. There is a scene when a driving lesson is to take place. If I have read better humor I cannot remember what it was.

The wonderful part of the laughter in this book is that it is not only for covering the pain of daily life. The lives you encounter are far from consistently ideal, but the laughter and joy these women share and spread is genuine, not dark, and not meant as emotional misdirection.

This is a brief work; however the Author managed to include so much more than emotional extremes. The 15-year-old eldest son of Agnes meets a man who offers him money for a job that makes no sense to the boy. Think of every negative direction this opening can take and then forget them all. Mr. O'Carroll takes this vignette within, "Mammy", and shows so much of what Humanity could be. The beauty of this mini-tale is that it is not the naÔve thoughts of wide-eyed youth. It is a look at how people should treat each other, what should be important when we meet someone, and most importantly how foolish our normal reactions routinely are.

This is one very talented man with a pen.

Glory [DVD] [2000]
Glory [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Matthew Broderick
Price: £3.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Film, 27 Jan. 2003
This review is from: Glory [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
"Glory", is a historically-based film about the formation of the all-black 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during this nation's Civil War. The film draws on a variety of sources but it should not be taken as historically perfect, and for serious students of The Civil War the film will be less satisfying. A quick example is the engagement at Antietam. This battle of the war was the single bloodiest in this nation's history; the film gives no information that will leave you better informed about this fact than prior to your viewing it. Antietam was also what many view as a missed opportunity for shortening the war, and if it is to be used in a film it is too important too be used lightly.
The story of the volunteer 54th Regiment from Massachusetts is a remarkable one, for all who were a part of this group took additional risks above and beyond that of other soldiers. The Confederacy made its view clear on what would happen to blacks fighting in uniform, and equally clear as to what fate awaited the white soldiers that were part of the regiment as well.
The movie is filled with great performances by Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick, and Denzel Washington, who won an Academy Award for his performance as Best Supporting Actor. The list of additional solid performances is lengthy and ensures the longevity of this film's popularity.
It would be the better part of a century before the armed forces of this nation would finally be integrated, and this would only come after non-white soldiers had fought with the same level of pride, determination and distinction as their white counterparts. Certain groups, like The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame, would set performance standards that were the envy of any combat flying force in history. And yet as they flew and died for their country, the same country allowed German prisoners of war more freedom, and more respect and privileges than it did these brave men.
About 50% of the 54th died in a single engagement in South Carolina during an attempt to take Fort Wagner. The assault could reasonably be called one of calculated suicide, and the 50% dead validates that idea. As another author termed it, "One Gallant Rush", demonstrated not only what type of men these were, but that whether they were black or white they took upon themselves a frontal assault of the fort, and fought and died together. It was a historical event, but their place in history was affirmed before they made that final attack as a group.

The Comfort Of Strangers
The Comfort Of Strangers
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Second Novel by Ian McEwan, 26 Jan. 2003
I would guess like many readers I came upon this writer's work when he began receiving international acclaim for his work, "Amsterdam", in 1998 when the novel won The Booker Prize. I have read his work that has been published after that tale, and now have been going back to his earlier work, a decision that can be very rewarding, or quite the opposite. I suppose expecting earlier work to be less mature or skillful is reasonable, but there are also writers that appear with an initial work that is very good or even excellent, and they manage, with some exceptions, to keep the quality of work very high. Other writers peak with their first book, there are no rules.
"The Comfort Of Strangers" is the second novel that Mr. McEwan published, and it would be fair to call it more of a short story. I don't know what divides a short story from a novella from a novel; it appears publishers use the terms interchangeably at times. From the two earlier works I have read, this book along with, "The Innocent", Mr. McEwan to date, sits in the category of writers who get better as they hone their craft. This may appear to be the normal course of a writer's development, but we all have read otherwise.
My primary complaint with this book is that the author worked around the fringes of what many would consider taboo conduct, darts in for a moment or two of detail, but does not fully explore the issues he touches upon, nor does he complete his tale. Another author that I am a great admirer of is Penelope Fitzgerald who said she never let her characters decide where they would go in a story, she decided their every move. Now again this may sound obvious, who controls their characters if not the author, but she was speaking of having a plan for her players from opening page to closing paragraph. Mr. McEwan does not manage the detail of his characters here, he asks the reader to fill in the detail or in some cases the blanks. In this book I do not like the decision he made, but for admirers of his work that wish to go back to his earlier published material, this is a quick and interesting read of an author that has gone on to be internationally recognized.

Prince of Lost Places
Prince of Lost Places
by Kathy Hepinstall
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Idea That Deserved More Time, 24 Jan. 2003
This review is from: Prince of Lost Places (Hardcover)
However, it is the idea for the book that interested me, and is largely what the stars are for. The previous work of this writer I have read was better, more complete, and had more breadth and depth. The theme hooked me, and it will likely hook you as well.
"Prince Of Lost Places", is the third book offered by Kathy Hepinstall and the second of her works that I have read. The other novel I read was, "The Absence of Nectar". I think the idea for this book was very good, unfortunately I thought what could have been a more patiently explored, and very difficult issue should have been given more time. This is more of an extended short story or novelette depending on your preference for terms. What it most definitely does do is explore what one possible reaction might be to a type of event that has become far too common, not only in The United States, but to a lesser extent in other nations as well. For my comments I do not include acts of terrorism that are motivated by a particular interpretation of religion, or an act catalyzed by political zealotry.
Violence that strikes at the most unlikely places, areas viewed as almost safe havens are events that we all have read about. Often those that commit the violence are as young as or younger than their victims. What happens to those that are left behind, whether they suffered an irrevocable loss or by pure luck were among those spared, or who had those they cared so deeply for spared? News organizations will swoop in for the 15 minutes of horror until something more shocking comes about, but what happens when the cameras have left, and the people that are left must continue the portions of their lives not taken from them?
I did not focus on the characters and their depth or lack thereof. I did not delve in to the role of alcohol in the life of one character. I was absorbed by the book's primary event that caused the rest of the tale to take place. Could a person react as this protagonist did, my guess would be yes. Did the author take this book as far as she has taken her past work, she did not. And in the end that is unfortunate, for Kathy Hepinstall had a much larger work waiting for her to complete

The School of Fear (Star Wars: Jedi Quest): 5
The School of Fear (Star Wars: Jedi Quest): 5
by Jude Watson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Envy and Fear, 24 Jan. 2003
The good news is that the gap since the last Star Wars book is over, there are more coming almost every month in the near future, and this book, "Jedi Quest #5 The School Of Fear", is a pretty informative, if not a great read.
Anakin is now 16 and getting closer in age to Episode II. His personal conduct and his abilities continue to develop in expected and troubling ways as well. Envy is the new emotion that Anakin recognizes within himself, and fear is what Obi-Wan feels when he sees the actions that Anakin takes and the results they produce. The fear is for Anakin's future, for even as his skills grow faster and beyond that of any other student, and approaches that of full Knights, his emotions are not what they should be. His emotions continue to make decisions; his extraordinary abilities allow him to extricate himself from the results of those decisions. This time out the consequences that come so close to taking place are some of the direst that have been shared about Anakin's development, and as we all know matters will continue to get worse.
The only complaint I have is that these books are too brief and all seem to run within 10 pages of length of one another. It would seem more appropriate that the tales be told in their entirety, or specifically explained in parts and not stopped between 135, and 145 pages.
In any event, there are more brand new stories (from a variety of Star Wars storylines) coming in February, March, May, July, October, and November of 2003. There are also going to be 2 new electronic books amongst these other books I mention as well.

The Innocent
The Innocent
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From Innocent to Darkly Experienced, 22 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Innocent (Paperback)
Until this book, "The Innocent", written in 1989, I had only read more recent works by author Ian McEwan. He has been widely honored both in prizes that he had been nominated for, and in prizes he has won such as The Booker Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award. If you are only familiar with his more recent work you may find yourself puzzled and disappointed as I was with this novel.
The kernel this book is built around is based on true historical events. There was a major intelligence gathering tunnel built to tap Soviet communication lines that was begun around 1953 and was abandoned when discovered by the Soviets in April of 1956. The novel begins as a Cold War spy genre book, adds a love story, and then veers off wildly in a direction worthy of a Quentin Tarantino film. Until the point I mention, I thought the book was a reasonably good read; however when the bizarre turn of events came about I only finished the book as I was close to the end and I was curious how the author would bring the whole novel to a close.
The author wrapped up his tale, again using a piece of history, but he did so in a manner that was as outlandish as the acts spawned by the final decisions of the protagonist, and made this portion of the book funny, even silly.
I have greatly enjoyed other work by Mr. McEwan and I will continue to read his new books and continue my way back through his earlier published tales. From my experience with what I have previously read, this is an anomaly for him, and I would not suggest it as a first venture in to this author's work.

The Grasshopper Trap
The Grasshopper Trap
by Patrick F McManus
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.24

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange Encounters of the Bird Kind, 21 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Grasshopper Trap (Paperback)
The title of these comments is from one of the tales in this third collection of short stories I have read by Mr. Patrick F. McManus. The author has been writing the yarns and his versions of his childhood "true" stories for decades, and has now produced 12 collections of these essays in book form. Many of the stories are about being outdoors and failing miserably as a hunter and fisherman, but one gets the impression that to the extent he fails, he does with seeming intent. It's the outdoors he loves, not harming it or its inhabitants. When he does speak of a successful outing with his friends he complains so much about the "success" that again you can tell coming home empty handed is his real goal. A collection of stories is what he is after.
The best stories here range from his childhood when speaking of why an 8 year old is perfectly competent to own his first knife, while even one day short of the 8th anniversary would be nothing less than a felony were a knife to be given to such an infant. He goes on at length as to how men delude themselves in to their thinking they have convinced their wives how their gun collections multiply without a single purchase. And in a story entitled, "A Hunker Is Not A Squat", he explains how with the correct posture, a stick and a dirt floor, The United Nations would be unnecessary, and world conflicts would end.
Mr. McManus writes for everyone who enjoys a good laugh, uncontrived humor, and just simple observations about human nature. He does not preach about the solutions to world problems, claim a cure for the common cold, or how to get rich. He just gives the reader the gift of laughter, an invaluable gift.

Dangerous Liaisons [1988] [DVD]
Dangerous Liaisons [1988] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Glenn Close
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.44

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mutually Assured Destruction, 21 Jan. 2003
Glenn Close, who portrays the Marquise De Merteuil, and John Malkovich as the Viscomte De Valmont, place on the screen two of the more evil characters to appear in the cinema. There are not evil as in starting a World War, but absolutely bereft of humanity as they live for the amusement found by falsely gaining and then destroying the affection, confidence and the love of others. Their motivation is as simple as why a person may climb a mountain, "because it is there". The same thinking is used to embark upon the dismantling of another on a whim, or due to an elaborately perceived slight. Their wealth and position allow them their evil games and they use these to full advantage.
The transfer from film to DVD is poor and unworthy of such a visually stunning film, especially one awarded for the visual spectacle the director and costumers created. The Chateau locations and their grounds are spectacular but they are hampered by a poor transfer. The film deserves better treatment and hopefully a better product combined with featurettes of the film's making will also find their way to a new disc.
The balance of the cast includes even more familiar names including Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman, Keanu Reeves, and Swoosie Kurtz. And while virtually all of these characters are harmed by the two primary practitioners of evil, they are not the same people who will suffer mortally, be it physical or social. And while not playing traditional roles, the spectacular homes, the period dress, and the elaborate ritual involved in 18th Century French Aristocratic living creates a visual treat.
The only reason I leave off the 5th star is because the transfer to DVD is so poor. This film was honored with many awards and has remained a favorite of viewers since 1989. As this is the case is deserves better treatment and the technology to do so is easily at hand.

The Dante Club
The Dante Club
by Matthew Pearl
Edition: Hardcover

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cochliomyia hominivorax and Dante, 21 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Dante Club (Hardcover)
If, 'The Dante Club", is an indication of what readers may expect from future works by Mr. Matthew Pearl, a great new novelist has arrived. Mr. Pearl has not just taken a great setting and a great tale, but he has added notable historical figures as well as one of the most noted pieces of literature ever written, and molded them in to a wonderful mystery on the streets of Boston in 1865. He also has not hesitated to take venerable institutions to task, regardless of their presumed august positions when they stoop to hypocrisy or other unsavory acts.
The work of Dante was virtually unknown in this period of Boston's history except by the very few and equally few well educated. It was considered modern, controversial, and an affront to the classics that were taught at institutions like Harvard University. And then there is The Dante club whose members include Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and James Russell Lowell who are in the process of bringing out the first English translation of Dante's work for American readers. Powerful forces such as Harvard, amongst others, are against it, nevertheless the group proceeds week by week and level by level through the world of Dante as they prepare their publication. The process is closely guarded with their publisher knowing the full contents of their progress and other confidants having only the knowledge that their work proceeds.
But prior to publication meticulous Dantean murders occur, but knowledge of the translation is not well known, it is not even complete, and yet the murders are carried out with an exactitude that only a scholar of Dante's work would have access to. And just as Dante fits his punishments to a crime of specificity, this murderer too follows the famous work in the most exacting detail.
These are the circumstances that author Matthew Pearl arranges in his debut work, "The Dante Club", and the tour he takes readers upon is literate, well-constructed and erudite. The author was honored in 1998 when he was awarded The Dante Prize for his scholarly work by The Dante Club of America. This is a novelist that has the credentials to effectively combine his formal education in Dante with great skill as a writer of fiction.
There are many new authors that debut every year. There are far fewer who will return a second time, or even if they do will have their subsequent work noticed. I believe Matthew Pearl will be the exception. He is no one trick wonder, and no sophomore jinx awaits him either. He is very bright, as his accomplishments at Harvard and Yale have demonstrated, and he is most capable with a pen as, "The Dante Club" has shown.
Read this young man's first work, you will have the experience of excellent writing, a wonderful use of your reading time, and the pleasure of having discovered this young author on his first venture in to the eye of the public.

No Title Available

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warsaw Chopin and a Miracle, 20 Jan. 2003
I read the book this film was developed from in December of 2001, I enjoyed it a great deal, but I was not aware it was to be made in to a film. Movies more often disappoint when they attempt to bring a book to the screen, but Director Roman Polanski did a brilliant job in changing from the written word to a visual presentation this true tale. Mr. Polanski was a childhood survivor of the Poland of the Nazis, so if there is a director that could bring personal experience to help make this film authentic, he has those experiences.
One of the unfortunate aspects of films like this is that they are not generally vehicles for making money so they do not get placed in very many theaters. This past weekend the film was in a total of 258 cinemas even though it was nominated for a variety of awards and had already won other prestigious recognition. By comparison, though also in relatively few theaters, "Chicago", was available in 557, and "Catch Me If You Can" was in 3,050. I am not suggesting, "The Pianist" should be in thousands of cinemas, but to have it shown in so few keeps the film from many who may want a chance to view it. Unless it gains notoriety at The Academy Awards many will not have a chance to see this film until it is released on DVD.
The story is told in Warsaw as the war begins through the transfer of Jews to the Warsaw Ghetto, the uprisings, and finally the end of World War II. To have been a Jew and to have survived the entire war in Warsaw Poland is by definition a miracle, to do so in the manner that Wladyslaw Szpilman did, is almoat unimaginable. He did so through luck, cunning, and help from the kindness of non-Jews who risked and lost their lives, and finally from the most unlikely savior of all, a German Officer.
Mr. Polanski did a remarkable job of using technology to show just what the final devastation of Warsaw and many other cities of Europe looked like after the war finally ended. I think it was wise that he took the step to use special effects to show just how complete and vast the destruction of Europe's major cities was, as opposed to confining the backdrops to what could be constructed only on sets.
Adrien Brody did a tremendous job of portraying Mr. Wladyslaw Szpilman, I read at one point his weight dropped to 138 pounds prompting the director to have him cease as he feared for the actor's health. It reminded me of some of the massive weight swings that Robert DeNiro has put himself through for some of his films.
The soundtrack is also beautiful and is performed by over a dozen different pianists, and Adrien Brody took lessons to credibly perform on screen as well. The final credits of the film are even a pleasure to view, as they are shown over the keyboard that is being played in front of an orchestra after the horrendous disaster that struck the world had once again been brought to a halt.
I wish I could say to go out and see this film, but it is likely to be difficult to find unless you live near a larger market as defined by the studio that has released the film. If you must wait for the film on video, rest assured it will be well worth the wait and your time once it does arrive. I plan to add the DVD to my collection.

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