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R. Weir "pooliealbatross" (Liverpool, UK)

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Ollie (Maisy)
Ollie (Maisy)
by Olivier Dunrea
Edition: Board book

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He's Out! Ollie is a great book for young children., 27 Jun 2005
This review is from: Ollie (Maisy) (Board book)
Ollie doesn't want to come out of his egg. But Gossie and Gertie have been waiting for him for weeks... and they have a plan!
This is a board book that should stand repeated reading, and it's a good job because our experience is that it will need to. It's a wonderful little story that someone bought for us just before our first child arrived - and it gets read to him every night. Despite us both being able to recite it without even looking, we aren't bored with it yet - and neither is our little boy, who now has this as part of his bedtime routine. It's hard-wearing, and the illustrations are nicely done - colourful and bright, but not too cluttered either, ideal for attracting a young child's attention to the focus of the picture and the story. Highly recommended, and we're already looking forward to getting hold of the other books involving Ollie, Gossie and Gertie.

Scott And Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth
Scott And Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth
by Roland Huntford
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.87

10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, but not to be read in isolation, 16 Jan 2004
If you're looking for a book that tells you the story of the race for the pole, this is about as good as it comes - but Huntford's views on the two main protagonaists need to be balanced with those of other accounts.
Scott was a bumbling, self-serving, incompetent who refused to listen to advice; Amundsen was a great leader, professional in approach and clear in his aims. At least, that's what this book seems to portray. And Huntford makes a great case for this, in what must be one of the most readable and well-researched accounts of the two polar missions. Starting with what drove them to Antarctica, he looks at both characters in some detail - including Amundsen's navigating of the North-West Passage, a huge achievement in itself.
Huntford though doesn't condemn outright in the way that some believe he did - often the facts do that for him. Scott put his faith in untested technology and a faith that "Britain knows best" - and he wasn't alone in thinking that. He had both Dogs and Skis, but never really got to grips with either of them. Amundsen however was also taking chances - he camped on an ice shelf and in effect trusted to luck that he wouldn't be cast adrift, and was worried enough that Scott would make it ahead of him that he attempted the journey before conditions allowed and had to turn back.
It's easy to read this and then assume that Scott was an incompetent - and while he made fatal mistakes, that's also in part why I think that it shouldn't be read in isolation. Works such as Cherry-Garrard's "The Worst Journey in the World" and to a lesser degree Susan Solomon's "The Coldest March" show that it's far from an open and shut case against Scott.
Nevertheless, this is a gripping narrative, a remarkable achievement, and possibly the best single book that contains the stories of both of the men involved in the race to the "Last Place on Earth".

The Dolphins Of Pern (The Dragon Books)
The Dolphins Of Pern (The Dragon Books)
by Anne McCaffrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best of Pern, 14 Jan 2004
I'm a fan of Anne McCaffrey, and Pern in particular - but I couldn't help finding this one of the less gripping books in the series. I couldn't help thinking, "Haven't I read this before?"
While it isn't exactly the same, I found too many parallels with "Dragonsong" to really enjoy this. It's not quite as simple as "Readis=Menolly, Dolphins=Fire Lizards", but sometimes it feels like it; at the time I first read this, I thought Pern was finished as a series and began to treat further volumes with a little suspicion. Fortunately I've found "Red Star Rising", "The Skies of Pern" and "Masterharper of Pern" to be a significant improvement.

Shrek [DVD] [2001]
Shrek [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Mike Myers
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 14.16

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too good just for the kids....., 14 Jan 2004
This review is from: Shrek [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
Shrek. It's a kid's film. Except that it's a lot more.....
OK, so the basic plot isn't too complex - Ogre goes on quest, rescues Princess, falls in love, misunderstanding, reconciliation, the bad guy gets what's coming to him and the rest of them live happily ever after - but it's done with verve, wit, and some sections that are simply great film-making - never mind animation.
There's plenty of humour that all ages will enjoy - some great slapstick knockabout stuff, some great crosstalk (especially between Shrek and Donkey), and a sharpness that gives this something extra. John Lithgow is superbly over the top as Farquaad, cultural references (Disney, WWF) abound.
The music is chosen well and wittily. Eels' "My Beloved Monster" gave me a chuckle when I recognised it - but it fits in so well; Smash Mouth's "All Star" helps kick off the film with real attitude; while the section with Fiona preparing for her wedding and Shrek preparing and eating a solitary meal, fading between the two with a rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Alleluia" as the backing is absolutely inspired.
You really need a PC to get the most out of the extras, but as Shakespeare might have said "the film's the thing" - and in this case it's simply wonderful.

Lancashire and Cheshire Walks (Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Guides)
Lancashire and Cheshire Walks (Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Guides)
by John Watney
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but now out of date, 14 Jan 2004
This is now listed as "Limited Availability", but if you do want it - let the buyer beware....
As with the other Pathfinder guides, this contains some very well-described walks complete with a section of the OS Map - which certainly helps keep you on the right course. However, in the years since this was produced there have been a number of changes: one walk, at Styal Country Park, can no longer be completed due to the building of Manchester Airport's second runway, while on one or two others you can no longer follow the exact route.
It's been superceded to a degree by the Lancashire Pathfinder Guide - but with different walks in the two volumes there are still reasons to hunt this down. The Delamere Forest walk is highly recommended. Just be aware that there is every chance that some of the routes in this volume may well have changed - so don't rely solely on this book if you're intending to get out and about!

The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back on form and getting better, 14 Jan 2004
I started reading "A Series of Unfortunate Events" after they were recommended to me - however, after "The Wide Window" and "The Miserable Mill" I was starting to worry that they were becoming a bit samey - Baudelaires sent somewhere new, Olaf turns up in disguise, nobody believes them when they say it's him, then a combination of Violet's ideas, Klaus's research skills and Sunny's teeth save the day.
"The Austere Academy" though showed me that this was far from being an unchanging formula. The introduction of the Quagmires, and the subsequent developments, give the underlying plot a big kick forwards, and especially for us bigger kids (or adults as we sometimes call ourselves) it becomes a lot more entertaining. I'm now well and truly hooked again!

A Plague On Both Your Houses: 1: The First Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew (Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)
A Plague On Both Your Houses: 1: The First Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew (Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew)
by Susanna Gregory
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good start to a great series, 14 Jan 2004
Having read all the Margery Allingham books I could lay my hands on, and finished all of the Ellis Peters (Cadfael) novels, I was looking around for something new to try. "A Plague on Both Your Houses" attracted my attention; and I'm very glad it did.
Bartholomew is a teacher and physician at odds with his times. He believes more in clean water than astrology for example. A physician turned murder investigator in medieval England? Are you thinking Cadfael? There are similarities, but also many differences.... Matthew is not held in high regard by many of his colleagues, even considered heretical by some, and as a member of a University College in a town deeply suspicious of the scholars in it's midst he finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place in a way that Cadfael often isn't. Also, Cadfael is a much more wordly-wise character than the sometimes hopelessly naive Bartholomew.
When I first started reading this, I got to about halfway and almost stopped. It seemed too cut and dried, too easy to spot the murderer. However, I persisted and was rewarded with the discovery that the plot is much more intricate, and in fact my guesses that I was so sure of were far from the actuality. It's considerably deeper than many mystery novels, and when set against a background of an intriguing period of history - the plague years - there's plenty to keep you entertained.
While this book does a good job of introducing Bartholomew and some of the main characters of the series, it also suffers somewhat because of this. The other books in the series that I've read often seem much tighter, in part because some of the past history is already assumed - though like Cadfael and Campion, it's never forgotten. This, coupled with a sometimes slow start, prevent me from giving this novel the top rating. However, I still recommend this book - and indeed the whole series - to anyone that enjoys mystery writing, and especially to those who are looking for something a bit more weighty than Cadfael, Miss Marple and the like sometimes achieve.

The Book of Heroic Failures (Penguin Readers: Level 3)
The Book of Heroic Failures (Penguin Readers: Level 3)
by Stephen Pile
Edition: Paperback

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hysterical - all the more so because it's all true, 24 Mar 2003
This book - and it's sequel, the Return of Heroic Failures - are two of the most thumbed books in my (considerable) collection.
The material itself is funny: the Worst Phrasebook ("To Craunch a Marmoset"), the worst lines of poetry, and the worst Opera Programme Notes are amongst my personal favourites. What lifts this above a simple compilation though is Pile's somewhat whimsical approach and the deliberate attempt to not just report the disasters, but to celebrate them. As a result, you often feel you are laughing with the unfortunates, a much more rewarding feeling than laughing at them.
When you're feeling a bit low, these books are ideal to give you a bit of a lift: and to remind you that there's always someone worse off than yourself. After all, you could be called "Depressed Cupboard Cheesecake".....

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
by Tony Hawks
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No fridge, less humour, but more interesting in some ways, 24 Mar 2003
After going round Ireland with a Fridge, Tony Hawks' next bet was to beat the entire Moldovan Football Team at Tennis.
Heading off to Moldova with a round plastic table, Hawks found less to be humourous about, but instead has managed to paint a picture of life in a former Soviet State that is at times disturbing and at others heartwarming. His encounter with a local mobster, and the descriptions of the state of the medical system (his Doctor host at one point is paid with a freshly-caught fish) help you understand how different - and often difficult - life is over there. The fact that Hawks has since started a Charity to take medical supplies over there speaks volumes - and that comes across in the book too.
The twist that happens in Israel helps set the book up for a rousing climax that would see a man standing trouserless in a London Street trying to sing the Moldovan National Anthem: but it's the descriptions of life in Chisnau that will stay with you the longest.
If you're expecting a no-holds barred funny account of another drunken bet - this is not for you. If however you appreciate some well-written travelogue with a twist, I recommend this highly.

The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition
The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition
by Susan Solomon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

18 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but not overly convinced, 15 Mar 2003
As someone who has read several books on the early polar explorers, I found this an interesting but ultimately less than inspiring read. Solomon does a good job of addressing the most frequently repeated criticisms of Scott, while at the same time admitting he made mistakes.
However I didn't find the brief introduction to each chapter - written from the viewpoint of a modern-day Antarctican - did very much to draw me in to the subject, and the overall quality of the writing showed it to be the product of a scientist playing author rather than a professional writer. This is where the books by the likes of Cherry-Garrard, Huntford and Shackleton score: not only do they provide a lot of information, but they are also books that inspire and make you want to visit the places described.
Solomon also fails to probe some of the deeper reasons that the expedition failed: notably, the British tendency to assume that they knew better than anyone else, and the thinness of the safety margin that Scott - and for that matter Shackleton - operated on. I feel that a deeper analysis of these issues would have made this book much more of a contribution to Antarctic literature.
As it is, "The Coldest March" falls somewhat short of being a book for serious students of the subject of Scott, while not being sufficiently well written to be a popular introduction to the whole Scott controversy.
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