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H. O'Sullivan (Co. Kerry, Ireland)
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Island Summers: Memories of a Norwegian Childhood
Island Summers: Memories of a Norwegian Childhood
by Tilly Culme-Seymour
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.55

3.0 out of 5 stars Failed to connect, 14 April 2014
I had read very favourable reviews of this book and was looking forward to receiving my copy. Unfortunately, I entirely failed to connect with any of the people this book is about, and the island stories depicted therein. To my surprise, I found the description of the various people and events strangely detached, pale, somewhat lifeless. I certainly didn't find myself drawn into the story, neither "captivated" nor "enchanted", as the blurb had promised. The author's language throughout struck me as peculiarly removed, even impersonal. I had the impression that the book had been written by an impassive outsider, instead of a family member, having experienced these island summers. I was astonished at how disappointed I was with my purchase.


Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom: Essays on the BBC Series
Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom: Essays on the BBC Series
by C. B. Harvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 34.50

4.0 out of 5 stars This is serious stuff, 5 Feb 2014
As there is no content description given for this book, here's the blurb from the back cover:
"The critically-acclaimed BBC television series 'Sherlock' (2010-) re-envisions Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective for the digital age, joining participants in the active traditions of Sherlockians/Holmesians and fans from other communities, including science fiction, media, and anime. This collection explores the cultural intersections and fan traditions that converge in 'Sherlock' and its fandoms. Essays focus on the industrial and cultural contexts of 'Sherlock's' critical and popular reception. The volume's multiple perspectives examine Sherlock Holmes as an international transmedia figure with continued cultural impact, offering insight into not only the BBC series itself, but also into its literary source, and with it, the international resonance of the Victorian detective and his sidekick.
Louisa Ellen Stein is an assistant professor of film and media culture at Middlebury College in Vermont. She has written previously on contemporary media culture, including film, television, the Internet and video games.
Kristina Busse teaches at the University of South Alabama and has published a variety of essays on fan fiction and fan culture."

Similar to Lynnette Porter's excellent book 'Benedict Cumberbatch: In Transition', 'Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom' is not a quick read aimed at Sherlock fan girls and boys. This collection of essays is a serious piece of work, written in the style of scientific papers or (albeit individually brief) thesis. Content and vocabulary are mentally demanding, so don't expect this to be lunchtime or a-couple-of-pages-before-bedtime reading.

I found the various essays in this book interesting, well researched and well balanced, with one notable exception: Balaka Basu's unfortunate essay entitled 'Sherlock and the (Re)Invention of Modernity'. Amongst the other essays included in this volume which are well informed and neutral in content and tone, Basu's contribution lets the book down with its almost antagonistic tone, sometimes inappropriate language, and clear lack of understanding of certain characters' motivations. Given the high standard of the other essays chosen for this publication, I'm surprised at Basu's essay's inclusion in this book.

In closing, I wish to comment on a certain 'handicap' this book is subject to, i.e., that its essays were produced after Series One of 'Sherlock', thereby robbing their authors of a deeper understanding of the main characters as enabled by observing their further development in Series 2 and, certainly, 3. This is not intended as criticism, merely an observation.


Loki: Nine Naughty Tales of the Trickster
Loki: Nine Naughty Tales of the Trickster
by Mike Vasich
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.85

1.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe this book is by the same author!, 3 Feb 2014
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I had ordered this slim volume at around the same time as Mike Vasich's entirely enjoyable 'Loki', and I simply can't believe this book is written by the same author. Whereas 'Loki' delighted with beautiful language, entirely suitable to Norse tales, these 'Nine Naughty Tales' are written in colloquial language which - for me - simply doesn't gel with the book's characters. 'Loki' is a lovingly written book, full of carefully constructed sentences and perfectly crafted chapters. The 'Naughty Tales', however, makes a very slap-dash impression on me and I am thoroughly disappointed with it.

Had it been well written, I probably would have enjoyed these nine short stories of Asgardian soft porn, but as it is, I don't even feel like gifting this book to my local charity shop. Pity.


Loki
Loki
by Mike Vasich
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable, 2 Feb 2014
This review is from: Loki (Paperback)
I have just spent a thoroughly enjoyable weekend reading Mike Vasich's 'Loki', and would not hesitate recommending the book to anyone interested in Norse mythology.

Admittedly, I bought this book (and its companion title, 'Loki: Nine Tales of the Naughty Trickster') as I'm still high on Tom Hiddlestone's Loki. I always felt the guy had been wronged, and I'm entirely happy with Mike Vasich's sympathetic interpretation of the much maligned god. Like previous reviewers mentioned, anyone who liked Loki as depicted in the recent Marvel movies, will surely enjoy this book.

I was not surprised to find out in the Author's Note, that Mike Vasich actually teaches English. I had found delight in his truly well written story as all too many titles nowadays present us with badly constructed sentences, bad grammar or punctuation, or all of the above. Not so in this volume (except for the annoying American spelling of certain words).

I now look forward to start reading Vasich's second book about Loki's exploits. If it's anything like this one, I will not be disappointed.


Unusuals: Complete Series [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Unusuals: Complete Series [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Amber Tamblyn
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 9.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, 9 Dec 2013
I, too, bought this DVD as I very much enjoy Jeremy Renner's work. I, too, had never heard of this TV series before as it has not been aired in Ireland or the UK. I, too, am very sorry that the series never entered a second season as I found it very enjoyable and I would love to follow the cops of Precint 2 for more than the ten episodes that were made.

Jeremy Renner gives an excellent performance, being his wry, gorgeous self. However, as previous reviewers remarked upon, he happily slots into a cast of several actors well worth their salt. Although I was primarily watching this series because of Renner, I also happily followed the (mis)adventures of his police colleagues.

Although in principle not unlike other cop shows, the characters and situations shown in those ten episodes are, if you excuse the lame pun, more unusual than typically seen on telly. Wackiness and fun, however, comes carefully tempered by some strong drama, resulting in some - in my opinion - great viewing.


Martin Freeman
Martin Freeman
by Nick Johnstone
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.72

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lazy, sloppy - a missed opportunity, 8 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Martin Freeman (Hardcover)
I guess I should've known better than to order this book. It's well known that Martin Freeman values his privacy, and it was to be anticipated that neither he nor his family and close friends would have granted the author of this book any interviews or insights into Martin's early years and private life. However, as a sucker for all things Freeman, I had pre-ordered this book and am, promptly, thoroughly disappointed with it and sorry to have spent the money. This book's cover should not read "The Biography", instead it should read "A biography - sort of, when you're squinting".

The first couple of chapters clearly prepare the reader for what this book is about: The author has obviously written it from the comfort of his desk, by simply googling his way through `Martin Freeman' hits and accumulating the text for his book from the information found. All facts he lists are available to the public, on that magical thing called the Internet. He has not bothered to go and speak to people who were involved in Martin's private or even professional life, such as former drama teachers, directors, co-stars etc.

In a, seemingly desperate, attempt to fill the pages and justify the publication of a 272 page book, the author resorts to giving us geo- and demographic details about Martin Freeman's various places of residence (if I'm interested to learn the names of all counties neighbouring Hampshire, or the history of the town of Aldershot, it is not this book I would buy!); tells us which other well-known personalities share Martin's birthday (Alfred Jarry, anyone?); listing the highest grossing films of the year 1971, and so on. In order to bulk up this book's pages, the author lists, for instance, every single song title on Martin's brother's CD, the titles and air dates of all episodes of various TV series Martin's been involved with, and gives us, amongst much other completely irrelevant detail, five lines listing the filmography of a co-star in a 7 minute short film Martin's starred in.

Nick Johnstone, in his desperation, also considered it necessary to give us multi-page narrations of Martin's numerous short films. Whilst these films are excellent and clearly a labour of love for Martin and therefore important to us admirers of his work, they can all be seen on YouTube and a simple reference to that, plus a brief plot summary, would have completely sufficed.

What this book is sorely missing, and what marks a genuine, good biography is (as mentioned above), interviews, interesting background information about the films, TV series, theatre plays etc that Martin's worked on, analysis of his work and so on. Even from his cosy desk chair, Nick Johnstone could have made more of an effort by watching interviews on YouTube or bonus features on DVDs and son on. He doesn't even mention Martin's radio work, which he enjoys, such as filling in for Stephen Merchant on his show (in its entirety on YouTube, Nick!). The huge success that is `Sherlock' only warrants a handful of pages in this peculiar book, as does `The Hobbit'. The author therefore dedicates more pages to short films and productions in which Martin has one minute cameos, than the (so far) two biggest successes of his career. Go figure.

Not only lazy but also sloppy, the author - and his editor - allowed this book to go to print with innumerable spelling mistakes, some really dodgy punctuation, lots of missing words, and - indeed - some good few superfluous words. He even manages to call Martin's partner Amanda, "Abby" on one occasion, and even spells Tolkien's name wrong.

Dear Reader, save your money and yourself a lot of irritation and disappointment, and DO NOT purchase this train wreck of a book. In my opinion, it is better to not own a biography of Martin Freeman than to curse one's way through this terrible book.

Mr Johnstone, I strongly suggest you go back to writer's school, and take your editor with you!

Oh, one good thing about the book: It shows a lovely cover photograph of Martin...


Princess Diana A Life to Remember [DVD]
Princess Diana A Life to Remember [DVD]
Price: 12.11

2.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly disappointing, 6 Nov 2013
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I'm so glad I didn't buy this DVD at full price. Not only, that the documentary is only 42 minutes short, but mainly, because the blurb on the DVD's front cover, promising "the true story of an amazing life", is rather misleading.

The documentary features only very brief and few 'moving pictures' of Diana. Much that is shown is stills of magazines or newspapers. Even when Diana is quoted from interviews she's given (for instance, the famous Panorama interview with Martin Bashir), one of the narrators reads out the quote, instead of showing the relevant excerpt from that interview. Clearly, the makers of this DVD didn't bother buying the rights to any great amount of media footage of Diana, making this documentary 'on the cheap'.

Such narrators, so-called 'people in the know', take up the vast majority of screen time. I found this DVD thoroughly disappointing and will donate it to my local charity shop.


Two Pints
Two Pints
by Roddy Doyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too much bad language, 30 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Two Pints (Hardcover)
I was so looking forward to reading Roddy Doyle's latest book and it's left me so disappointed! The idea behind this book is nothing short of brilliant and yes, the pub conversations are utterly realistic (disregarding the annoyingly far-fetched tales about Young Damien's series of pets). Some of them were truly funny, more of them were not as good as, I feel, they could've been given Roddy Doyle's usual genius.

What really apalls me is the amount of bad language used in this book. This is despite me living in Ireland and being well-used to liberal usage of the f-word, and not unknown for using it myself if the occasion warrants it. Indeed, pub talk between Dubliners would come across as unrealistic if bad language would be absent. However, for some unfathomable reason Roddy Doyle considered it necessary to litter the mere 89 pages of this very handy-sized book with no less than 319 variations of the f-word. I may even have missed a few when counting. I won't even get into usage of the c-word. This has really, really spoilt this book for me and I will donate it to the local charity shop tomorrow. I had originally planned on buying it as a Christmas present for a couple of friends, but this is now, sadly, completely out of the question.

It hurts me, giving a Roddy Doyle book only two stars, but with this book, he had it coming!


Join the Club
Join the Club

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant debut album, 28 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Join the Club (Audio CD)
I, too, had pre-ordered Lucy's album as I was very impressed with her on the X Factor. I was disappointed that it had taken the powers that be so long to finally publish Lucy's CD, but the wait was completely worthwhile. This is the best album I have bought all year and it is amazing that Lucy has written all songs featured on her album.
It was, of course, to be expected that Lucy's songs would be "popified" (love the word!); presumably to make them more radio friendly (duh!). I am glad though, that her excellent delivery has not been spoilt (expect for: yes, the dodgy backing singers on the beautiful Tea & Toast).
To me, this is one of the few albums where it is worth my while to just quietly sit and listen to all of Lucy's lyrics because this girl does have so much to say. We've all known since X Factor that Tea & Toast and Last Night (Beer Fear) are nothing short of brilliant, but it is songs like Someone and the terrifyingly realistic, horribly fantastic You're Too Young which will see me give Lucy's album as a Christmas present to quite a few youngsters I know, hoping it will bring the respective messages of those songs across to them in the nicest possible way.
I've been entirely delighted with Lucy Spraggan's Join The Club and would recommend it to anyone interested in intelligent, poignant, touching and, of course, often funny lyrics.


Inside Malta and Gozo
Inside Malta and Gozo
by Geoffrey Aquiline Ross
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than generic tourist fare, 8 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Inside Malta and Gozo (Paperback)
The one line product description in this listing for this book (borrowed from the book's subtitle) does it no justice at all. We all know the generic 'pictorial guides' one encounters at the souvenir stalls when abroad. They give you pretty much the same pictures, accompanied by pretty much the same captions.

I've had the opportunity to read the book at the Gozitan guest house I'm currently staying at and have ordered the book on Amazon in order to avoid adding it to my luggage when returning home.

What you get when you buy this book is a decent paperback, A4 sized and quite heavy in weight. The text on its inside sleeve describes this book much better when it reads: "[...] Inside Malta encompasses the flavour of Maltese life - like the food that features on a traditional Maltese menu, the production of olive oil and sea salt that has its roots in Roman times and the charming gilded clocks that have become collectors' pieces internationally. Inside Malta is not a guide book, but a record of what makes the islands unique." I entirely agree. Of course the book tells you about the islands' architectural and historic highlights. However, I bought it for the lovingly written contributions about the Maltese bread and Pastizzi, the old wind mills and farm houses, local fish and cheese and capers, salt harvesting, Maltese clocks, and a visitor's charming recollection of a village Festa.

Like the publisher says, this book is not a guide book. Instead, it very much compliments any guide book by providing the intended visitor to the Maltese islands with additional information, giving a better understanding of what he/she is about to see and enjoy. For regular visitors like myself, it makes for a lovely reminder of what one loves and looks forward to seeing again, during the time away from Malta and Gozo. It's a well produced book which I know I will pick up again and again.


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