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Cat Mac "tagatha" (UK)
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Operation: Endgame [DVD]
Operation: Endgame [DVD]
Dvd ~ Zach Galifianakis
Offered by Helen's Goodies
Price: £3.37

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Operation:Missed Opportunity, 1 April 2011
This review is from: Operation: Endgame [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Don't be fooled by the 'From the makers of Donnie Darko' splashed across the front of the Operation:End Game box - this film is a very distant cousin in that it is far less cerebral, far less niche and much more in your face blood and guts and violence.

The plot is actually deadly simple (pardon the pun) - there is a cell of espionage operatives with all the associated code names, personality nasties, and penchant for ridiculous violence in existence somewhere below LA. When their boss gets killed on the premises the unit goes into lockdown and pretty quickly the agents turn on each other as there seems to be no hope of escape.

There are some very inventive uses of stationary and office furniture as deadly weapons, but for me something was lacking and I think it comes down to a lack of witty dialogue or proper comedy moments. You need something to counter balance the ridiculous levels of gore and although there were parts where the viewer is clearly supposed to laugh they didn't quite hit right. It left me wondering what this script might have been in the hands of a Tarrantino.

But look - its not even 90 minutes long, it features about a dozen faces from your favourite TV shows, and it is pretty well done for a low budget action flick. Stick it on if its a Friday night and you're not going out.


Stop Worrying: Get your life back on track with CBT
Stop Worrying: Get your life back on track with CBT
by Ad Kerkhof
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worry, Worry, Worry..., 16 Feb. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hmmm...Methinks there's something I'm just not getting about "Stop Worrying - Get your life back on track with CBT".

I certainly qualify as the target market, for as long as I can remember I've been a class A worrier, not just about my life but other people's too, and recently as my stress levels have amped up due to 'a series of unfortunate events' I've found that my worry levels have also increased. So, I thought this book might be worth a go, even if I don't traditionally believe in self-help books.

First thing is, its written by a Dutch Psychologist and his team and I think some stuff has gotten lost in translation. In my experience the Dutch have a way of being very direct, blunt and to the point and in print it sometimes doesn't carry over what is actually meant. So just bear that in mind if you read it and find yourself thinking 'What?'.

The main meat of the book is a 4 week course of twice daily exercises designed to help you worry less - but here's the kicker - it seems to be based on you being able to turn your worrying on and off like a light switch e.g. "Let yourself worry intensely for 5 minutes, and then say to yourself 'not now, later!'"....I don't know about other people but it seems to be that worrying isn't a conscious decision, and if it were as easy as turning it on and off, we wouldn't need a book that is supposed to help us stop it altogether! The exercises are repeated a lot over the 4 weeks, which is fine, but they are based on a mixture of meditative techniques, breathing techniques, positive fantasising etc all of which you could find in any 'Reduce Stress' booklet or webpage.

So after using the book I don't feel any less worried about the things I was worried about before, and I won't be continuing the exercises, but it may prove useful for some who are perhaps more able to put their finger on a specific thing that is causing them to worry rather than my myriad of reasons!


Fall Girl
Fall Girl
by Toni Jordan
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falls Over, 19 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Fall Girl (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At first glance 'Fall Girl' by Toni Jordan screams 'ChickLit', and for the most part that supposition is right. Here we have a tale of a young woman who, despite being part of a family of successful confidence tricksters, has led a really sheltered life. That is, until she meets her next mark, who also happens to be her match.

That part of the plot is all as predictable as one would want from it, and doesn't fail to deliver (albeit with one or two bordering-on-the-Mills-and-Boon paragraphs that the delicate reader may need warning of!), but the kicker for me is that there is so much more potential in the subplot that fails to be explored properly.

Jordan clearly has a mind for creating elaborate cons, such as the description of how the Heroine pulls off a fake office inside a prestigious university where she has no business being, however this sadly gets marginalised as the book goes on and we dedicate ourselves to the inevitable romance. Even the failing health/turn of tide against her father is only touched upon with no real conviction.

All in all, a little disappointed.


Before I Go To Sleep
Before I Go To Sleep
by S J Watson
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crying out to be made into a film, 8 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Before I Go To Sleep (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For me, the thing that tipped me off that I was going to like this book was the fact that on the front cover there is a quote from Tess Gerritsen (whom I think is the Queen of the thriller genre) saying "Quite simply the best debut novel I've ever read". Bearing in mind that this is indeed a debut novel, I don't think she's far wrong with that statement.

'Before I go to sleep' is the story of Christine, a woman who has suffered brain injuries that mean her memory is restricted to her childhood, and then anything she experiences during the day she wakes up in. As soon as she goes to sleep that day is wiped from her memory and she has to learn who she is and why she's a middle aged woman over and over again when she wakes up each day. This concept on its own gives S.J Watson the driving force behind the plot for the book, as Christine starts to keep a journal and slowly begins to realise that not everything she is being told everyday is completely true. As the book rattles on through her discoveries and false memories, we get to the reasons why Christine is actually like this, and how much danger she is really in.

One thing that may irk you is that the supposed 'journal entries' are actually written as prose, with dialogue written as such, which I'm not sure would be the case for most journals! Once you turn off the voice in your head that says "Well, that's not exactly right", and just enjoy the story, you will find the book gets glued to your hand for the day until you've finished it. It is intense in places, and you can forgive a couple of plot holes just for the fact that it's a good old yarn. As I say in the title, it's absolutely crying out to be put on the screen - at first I thought ITV drama, but I read in the back of the book that Ridley Scott's production company has bought the rights to turn it into a film. I'm not surprised as I think it will translate really well onto the screen, but I'd recommend reading the book first, just so you can be one of those smug people in the cinema queue who says "Have you read the book?" ;-)


Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations
by Mark Ribowsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Detroit Spinning, 27 Nov. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The trick to writing a decent biography about pop culture icons starts and ends with your subject matter. That's why almost any biography about a troubled and triumphant Johnny Cash will be a top selling page turner, whereas a biography of a clean living and ultra conservative Cliff Richard may not be. So - with the Temptations, Mark Ribowsky has ample material to fill this biography about one of Soul and Pop music's favourite groups.

Despite being a soul music fan, I must admit I had no idea just how much (and how quickly) the line up of the Tempts changed over the years, with it's one stalwart being Otis Williams. It's worth bearing this in mind as you begin the book and there is a lengthy introduction explaining that most of the book was based on the recollections and account of Otis Williams as the only surviving original Tempt. This, for the cynical amongst us, might give warning that the book is overly biased on one point of view - but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that Otis, despite being the only survivor, is probably the only one who would be able to recall anything clearly anyway. Plus it also becomes clear that he was the driving force behind a group that would have otherwise folded at several points in their history.

As for Ribowsky, his evangelising about the Tempts is only matched by his loathing of Berry Gordy. He never misses an opportunity in the book to trot out stories of Gordy's megalomania, his pursuit of Diana Ross (who Ribowsky is also scathing about), and his dodgy deals when it came to royalties and Motown contracts. Justified or not, it becomes a little bit of a repetative axe grinding ever present in the 300 pages of the book!

For the structure, as it is written in chronological order, it is almost as if Ribowsky has started with the Discography and just fleshed it out with stories of debauchery, drugs, drink and dance moves. Aside from real Billboard Buffs, I venture that there would be many readers who would start to skip over the paragraphs about chart positions (with the R&B chart position also being quoted incessantly), especially for the lesser known singles and albums, which seem not to make too much of a dent anyway.

There are some hairy stories contained within, but I must say that I went back and listened to those classic David Ruffin fronted singles (My Girl, Ain't too proud) with a new appreciation for the ravaged man behind the voice. This book is an interesting read for anyone who wants to be interested, but might be a tad too much and too drawn out for your average common or garden pop music fan.


The Empty Family: Stories
The Empty Family: Stories
by Colm Tóibín
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Empty feeling, 13 Nov. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I think I was expecting a lot more from the collection of stories from Colm Toibin. As I have said in previous reviews of short stories, my idea of the perfect short story is one that leaves you wanting to contact the author immediately and demand the fully realised 300 page novel. Instead of that feeling, when reading 'The Empty Family', I felt like something was missing. What we have here 9 stories, that to give the author his due, are pretty nicely written - but they do all appear to be rehashing the same story in a way. There are obvious links (location, discovery, loss, sexuality), but even the main protagonist in each appears to be the same person.

Because of the similarities, I almost wish that Toibin has strung them together into a proper novel in an obtuse way, maybe linking together stories by featuring characters from another story, almost like a LOST flashback. This might have made the book slightly more interesting anyway. As it stands, I think the appropriate comparison would be buying an album where all 9 tracks follow the same chord progression, and the lyrics are all about the same thing, and the tempo never slips from 4/4.

Disappointing.


A Tiny Bit Marvellous
A Tiny Bit Marvellous
by Dawn French
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trading on the name, 1 Nov. 2010
This review is from: A Tiny Bit Marvellous (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'll admit, had this book not been written by Dawn French, I probably wouldn't have a)read it, and b)given it four stars. What is in essence a run-of-the-mill kitchen sink drama is given an extra bit of something 'marvellous' by the way Ms. French uses the different view points of her characters - all of them have a comedic element as you would expect, but there is some serious stuff going on here people.

The jacket blurb gives you a run down of who is who and what they do, so we'll not waste time with that here, but suffice to say you will clearly hear Dawn French reading this to you in your very own head, like some sort of virtual earworm book on tape. Her flawless use of phrasing and comic timing is also transported to the page and she seems to have particularly grasped the female teen-speak which is rolled out hilariously page after page.

There is a serious heart to the book, and you do wonder if everything is going to take a nasty turn somewhere south of page 250, but everything gets resolved nicely and you can leave the book behind without it bothering your head too much afterwards.

An extrememly consumable, quirky and humourous read, whose author is more than a tiny bit marvellous.


Samsung R0JCB 8GB MP4 Player With 2.6 Inch Screen - Black
Samsung R0JCB 8GB MP4 Player With 2.6 Inch Screen - Black

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comparing pears with apples, 29 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At my first cursory glance of this offering from Samsung, I assumed it had been launched as a competitor to the 8Gb iPod Nano -it's the same amount of gig-age, roughly the same size although not quite as thin, and has that large screen going on. However, being as the Samsung ROJCB (snappy title by the way boys) is an MP4 player, that large 2.6 inch screen is there to play back video files in stunning resolution - hoorah!

Samsung have sort of stuck to what they're best at here - their camera phone technology has always seemed to be that step ahead in my experience - and upped the ante on the picture display for both movies and still photos. It honestly is really, really good...but I'm a wee bit puzzled as to why one would want to store photos on an MP4 player that does not have the capacity to also take photos...but then I don't really understand taking photos on phones anyway!

So, to the music player, which is the reason I would really buy a device like this. First off, the earphones provided are awful, they have some sort of weird extension to the normal earpiece that sits in your actual ear canal and that, quite frankly, scares me! They also have really insubstantial wires which are bound to get damaged when the player is stuffed into a pocket or bag. The playback quality of the music files is pretty good, although the volume control is not at all obvious. Samsung have taken to the Sony habit of putting manuals online so that when you get your shiny new goods out of the box and try to work them, you end up making your ears bleed before you give up and go and look at the manual online. Now, here is the really, really important thing for me, and it's where the ROJCB loses a lot of marks - there doesn't appear to be a shuffle/random play function! When you load your files onto the device they store in alphabetical order, and unless you have the time to set up a myriad of playlists to cover all 8GB of music files in another sort of order, then that's the way they play through. To me, that's a bit rubbish. If you're going to be listening to music on the go, surely you just want a random selection of songs from your collection without having to think about it? Apologies if there is a shuffle function, but I can't find it, and I can't find it in the manual, so it's not obvious if there is one!

The radio is the best one I've come across on phone or mp3 player device so far though, and picks up a lot of channels with good reception.

What it boils down to is this - the ROJCB is about half the price of the Nano, and you need to take that into account if you purchase it. Plus points are that you can drag and drop files straight from your computer without having to use any branded software if you don't want to, you can play video files if that's your thing (I can imagine this would be perfect for 6th form students with time to kill between lectures or whilst waiting for the bus), you can listen to the radio, you can store pictures of your latest holiday to whip out and taunt people with, and you can play music...albeit in alphabetical order. It ain't apple, but it ain't all bad.

-------------------

Edited one day later....I have now found the shuffle function, so it does exist (thankfully) but my comments about it not being an obivous option still hold true!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 6, 2011 1:46 AM BST


Secret Daughter: A Novel
Secret Daughter: A Novel
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.21

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Monsoon Baby, 29 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am suspicious of any novel that announces itself as 'A Novel' in the title. I feel like it is either a case of the author being hyper pretentious (and therefore the book is going to be hyper pretentious), or the author thinks that we, the lowly reader, are all stupid and need to be told that this 300-odd page tome in your hand is called 'A Novel'.

Anyway, my neurosis aside, I actually really wanted to read this book because I find the subject matter interesting. In many parts of the world, and in many cultures, unnatural selection before and after birth is tilting the gender balance quite seriously out of kilter, and producing generations where there are more males than females. China is the one that everyone always thinks of first, but Shilpi Somaya Gowda's book focuses on India. Kavita is a young mother in a rural village who gives birth to a daughter. After the first is taken away by her husband, she secretly takes the next to an orphanage in Mumbai so that the child will have some chance at life.

We follow Kavita's story, as well as the daughter she saved, and the American mother who adopts her. If this was all being told from these 3 viewpoints, I think the story might have been a bit more special, but as a plot device Gowda slips in chapters told from the point of view of the Biological and adoptive fathers too, which unfortunately don't show either in a great light and could have been disposed of. More shameful is that the most interesting character by far in the book is the Indian Grandmother, who appears to be some sort of serene but fearsome matriarch, and we don't hear enough of what she thinks and what motivates her (quite important) actions.

Bottom line is that the story isn't totally unfamiliar, we get the requisite 'journey' and everybody learns and grows by the end, and it's a decent read. It touches on some of the real issues without muddying its feet too much - far less distressing than your average disaster appeal on telly - and this is the problem for me. There is scope within this book to make it say at lot more than it does about cultural practices, poverty, exploitation and many other issues, but it never goes as far as it can.

So give it a read, it won't keep you awake at night, but it should have done.


Richard
Richard
by Ben Myers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Love Us, 3 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Richard (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Once upon a time, if you were a pop/rock/soul/country music star at the peak of your career, it wasn't really a very good idea to go anywhere on an aeroplane.

Then came an age where over indulgence in Drugs seemed to wipe out most of the bright young things in their prime.

And then, the 90's, where suicide was chic. Apart from Kurt Cobain, the most infamous cause of grief to my cohorts was the disappearance of 'Richey Manic' from the Manic Street Preachers. Taking into account that his car was found abandoned near to the Severn Bridge, he had recently spent spells in rehab for alcohol abuse and eating disorders, and he was well known to self harm - most people drew the conclusion that he ended his own life by jumping from the bridge.

However, the fact that his car was only found two weeks after he went missing, plus some reliable eye witnesses who saw him in South Wales in the intervening days, and the fact that his body was never found, lends this mightily sad story a small ray of hope. Maybe he just wanted to get out of the public eye and live a peaceful life away from it all. Ben Myers' novel covers 'what might have happened' and takes us on a road between the two possible outcomes.

I must admit to being a little ambivalent towards Richey as a personality back in the day, there was always a bit too many theatrics for me, not least the infamous carving of '4 Real' into his forearm whilst being interviewed by Steve Lamacq. I also didn't like the fact that he merely posed with a guitar he couldn't play. So - I was really not expecting to feel anything different for the characterisation of Richey that is presented in the book, but Myers has managed to key in to something that doesn't really excuse this behaviour, but at least presents it in a more sympathetic light. I found myself really feeling sorry for the guy, and willing him to make a recovery that I already knew could never happen.

The book is written as short, punchy, 2 or 3 page sections which alternate from Richey's present (immediately following his disappearance) to his past including his childhood and the early days of the band. As they are short sections you could easily dip in and out of the book, but I found myself unable to put it down. It's an absolute roller coaster, even though you *know* how it ends. The ending itself is very well done and avoids the cop out whilst still reminding you that this is only a suggestion of what might have happened.

A must for Manics fans as it's a tasteful exploration of what is a painful time for many of them, plus the band and his family. A good read also for music fans, or anyone else interested in the reasons people chose to run away. Recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2010 8:47 PM BST


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