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T. Bobley "Tibley Bobley" (UK)

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Madam Crowl's Ghost and Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
Madam Crowl's Ghost and Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
by Sheridan Le Fanu
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Twelve of Le Fanu's shorter short stories, 31 Dec 2006
The twelve tales in this collection are mainly ghost stories but there's one fairy tale; three quarters of them take place in Ireland and the rest in England. Two of the titles are actually not single short stories but include several very short stories so it's more like a collection of ten short stories and another eight very short stories. The most terrifying (and therefore my favourites) are the ghost story, "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" and the fairy tale, "The Child that went with the Fairies". Both of these are Irish and, for anyone with a properly functioning imagination, very chilling. I enjoyed all the stories to varying degrees. Sheridan Le Fanu was a master of supernatural story telling - very popular in his day - and his work was admired by such well known writers as Henry James and M R James (who edited this collection). For any reader who is able to suspend their disbelief and give free rein to their imagination, there's several nights worth of spine-tingling pleasure in this book. And that's a bargain.

On Royalty
On Royalty
by Jeremy Paxman
Edition: Audio CD

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Royalty: what is it good for?, 30 Dec 2006
This review is from: On Royalty (Audio CD)
Jeremy Paxman reads this abridged audiobook version of his book, On Royalty (4 CDs, running time just over 4 hours). I've never been much interested in royalty but always enjoy Newsnight when Mr Paxman presents it - although, I often wonder if his prey (the interviewee) might say something worth hearing if they were ever allowed to complete a sentence. It's a bit like a sort of vegetarian blood sport. It comes as no surprise to me that he's written an interesting book on this subject that had not previously held my attention with any but the weakest grip, or that he reads it in such a way that I feel entertained as well as informed. Royalty in general is examined, with our own royal family getting a particularly hard and searching scrutiny. It's a funny old set-up and much of the mystery (such as might perplex the ordinary British tax-payer for example) is cleared up in these chapters. Light is shed on those perennial questions: why do we put up with them? and why do they put up with us? I must say that I have a much more sympathetic view of them after listening to this - especially that poor so an so, Charles. Even though it seems a pretty rum sort of "firm" and I still believe it could use some hard pruning back, taking out all the messy, useless, trailing edges, I wouldn't be keen to get rid of the core members of our royal family. No more attractive system suggests itself. There definitely seem to be a number of far worse alternatives. I feel ever so slightly converted after listening to this excellent audiobook.

The Polar Express [2004] [DVD]
The Polar Express [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 4.23

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very pretty, 28 Dec 2006
A beautiful, old-fashioned steam train, hurtles through town and country on Christmas eve, picking up children who are just reaching that age where they start to doubt the existence of Santa. They are taken on a fantastic trip to the North Pole and presented with an enormous amount of solid evidence for Santa's reality - far more than would be required to convince Richard Dawkins of the profitability of hanging up his stocking on the most magical night of the year. It's a delightful film to watch just because it's so very pretty - a perfect white Christmas with large, gently falling snow flakes blanketing a glittering white landscape, cosy chocolate box houses hung with icicles, colourfully decorated twinkling Christmas trees, perfectly wrapped parcels -even soaring eagles and flying reindeer. I don't care if it is soppy. It's charming.

Fargo (Special Edition) [1996] [DVD]
Fargo (Special Edition) [1996] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Frances McDormand
Offered by Quality Media Supplies Ltd.
Price: 19.25

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous idiots make a mess in Minnesota, 26 Dec 2006
A harmless prat hires a couple of malefactors to kidnap his wife. He bears her no ill-will - it just seems like a good way to get some money for a business project out of his rich, tight-fisted father-in-law. Nobody is meant to get hurt. The half-dozen or so deaths just seem to happen by bad luck, temporary loss of self-control, stupidity etc. It could all have gone quite smoothly but instead, one thing lead to another and it turned into one of those unfortunate murder-escalators. Something similar happened in that other excellent Coen film: The Man Who Wasn't There.

The Coen brothers' films press all the right buttons for me. I really enjoyed this film and watched it through twice in two days. The music was the first thing that grabbed me, then the bleak winter landscape with nothing but flat white snow in every direction. Perhaps the fact that I watched it at Christmas, mourning the fact that it's not a white Christmas and may never be white again in my life-time, added to my enjoyment of this chilling scene. The actors did a fine job. Steve Buscemi sometimes plays a good character and sometimes a bad but, a bit like Brian Blessed's characters, they all come out very similar (which doesn't detract from them at all because they're all very entertaining). Here he's a bad man and his bad partner is played by Peter Stormare. I've only seen Peter Stormare playing bad characters and again, they're all very similar. He does a very convincing laconic psycho. Frances McDormand, on the other hand, who plays the police chief in this film, always plays very different characters. Here, she's a steady, quietly clever, unpretentious, heavily-pregnant lady who interprets the clues and tracks down the foul felons with minimal fuss. Without the least hint of slapstick, it's grimly funny. A lot of the smiles depend on a sort of affectionate mickey-take of the fastidiously polite folk of Minnesota and their interesting accent. It's where the Coen brothers hail from apparently, so they'd know the vulnerable spots to tickle.

Not everybody shares the Coen sense of humour. It's a bit dark. If you do share it, you should enjoy this film.

In a Glass Darkly (Wordsworth Classics)
In a Glass Darkly (Wordsworth Classics)
by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Edition: Paperback

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five of Le Fanu's longer short stories, 23 Dec 2006
'In a Glass Darkly' is a collection of hair-raising tales selected from those recorded by Dr Martin Hesselius during the many years he spent working to understand and explain the seemingly supernatural incidents that came to his attention. The stories are:

1) 'Green Tea' - a clergyman believes himself persecuted by a malevolent monkey.

2) 'The Familiar' - an ex-naval captain is threatened by an aggrieved ghost from his past.

3) 'Mr Justice Harbottle' - a respectable gentleman is driven from his lodgings by the activity of a mean old judge who has been dead for some years.

4) 'The Room in Le Dragon Volant' - a rich English man on tour becomes enmeshed in an extraordinary scam whilst travelling from Brussels to Paris.

5) 'Carmilla' - the daughter of an English father, living in a schloss in Styria, is befriended by a young lady who has unusually needle-sharp teeth.

As Henry James quite rightly suggested, Le Fanu's stories are the ideal reading material after the chimes of midnight. These five stories provide a wonderful chill before snuggling down to sleep. They are longer than the tales in Le Fanu's 'Madam Crowl's Ghost' collection, where the stories are between 10 and 25 pages in length. The tales in this collection vary in length between about 30 and 100 pages.

I recommend 'In a Glass Darkly' to anyone who enjoys old-fashioned ghost stories.

Gogs: Volume 1/Volume 2/Gogwana [DVD]
Gogs: Volume 1/Volume 2/Gogwana [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gillian Elisa

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the ancestors, 22 Dec 2006
The two series of short animations and one fairly short animated film are included on this disc and the total running time is almost one and a half hours. I watched the shorts when they were shown by the BBC a few years ago and I taped them. Wore the tape out and looked for a DVD version. The DVD cost quite a lot for quite a long time so I waited and watched my increasingly grainy tape. Now the price is very reasonable indeed and the DVD has the film (which I hadn't seen previously) as well as the two series. All very hilarious. I'm surprised that there aren't a couple of dozen reviews here, as there are for the Wallace and Gromit - 3 Cracking Adventures DVD. It really should be very much more popular than it seems to be. The Gogs are undeniably more crude and earthy (in a toilet rather than a bedroom sort of way) than W & G, so might be thought unsuitable for impressionable children - or at least those who should not be encouraged when it comes to nose-picking and loudly passing wind. But for anyone who enjoys this sort of animation and doesn't mind some added "yuk" factor, it's an absolute treasure. All communication is in grunts, roars, screams and other non-language specific form (punches, blows with a club, pokes with a broom etc) so anyone at all will be able to understand it. And it's made in Wales. Excellent.

The Complete John Silence Stories (Dover Horror Classics)
The Complete John Silence Stories (Dover Horror Classics)
by Algernon Blackwood
Edition: Paperback

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six supernatural spell-binders, 9 Dec 2006
Algernon Blackwood is right at the top of the class when it comes to spinning supernatural yarns. His style is quiet, subtle and articulate. Anyone who enjoys ghost stories and tales of other-worldly unease should enjoy this collection enormously. These six stories concern the most interesting cases of the 'psychic doctor', John Silence. They are:

1) 'A Psychical Invasion', where an author inadvertently opens himself to malignant spiritual influences by taking too large a dose of a certain (currently) popular drug. Doctor Silence employs the services of a dog and cat from his own household in order to help him detect and confront the evil assailant.

2) 'Ancient Sorceries', in which a quiet and unassuming gentleman is ensnared by the shape-shifting shadows of a past life, as he returns from a holiday in France. Doctor Silence diagnoses his condition but has doubts as to whether the man will have the strength to resist the pull of an old love.

3) 'The Nemesis of Fire' involves a terrifying, incendiary phenomenon that haunts the home of a retired military man and his sister. John Silence must discover how and why the problem started and what must be done to defuse the situation.

4) 'Secret Worship', where a businessman pays a visit to his old school in Germany, only to find that things have changed horribly. He could be lost, body and soul, but John Silence happens to be in the neighbourhood, so he may have a chance ...

5) 'The Camp of the Dog' is a romance - but the least slushy romance in the wildest and most beautiful surroundings imaginable. Doctor Silence makes an emergency call on the wilderness to deal with a mysterious dog.

6) 'A Victim of Higher Space' involves an unfortunate man who has studied to know and understand dimensions beyond those familiar to ordinary humans. He succeeds just well enough to achieve the unhappy ability to keep slipping uncontrollably into a rather disturbing one. Doctor Silence helps him to get to the next stage of understanding.

If you suspect you might enjoy this book, I suggest you snap it up. I've been trying to get hold of this and other Algernon Blackwood books for ages. I've found and ordered them, but they've never been delivered - just apologetic emails saying it hasn't been possible to obtain a copy. I know this really is available now because a copy actually arrived by post. I've read it, absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it and will, before long, read it again. Amazon has them in stock as I'm writing this review. I hope they'll still have some as you're reading it.

Beowulf (Poetry)
Beowulf (Poetry)
by Crawford Logan
Edition: Audio CD

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale to stir the blood, 3 Dec 2006
This review is from: Beowulf (Poetry) (Audio CD)
Beowulf was a Scandinavian prince and a hero of his people who went with a party of warriors to the aid of an old friend of his father in Denmark when the old man's kingdom was scourged by the monster, Grendel. He vanquished Grendel in a great hand-to-hand battle but, after feast and celebration, Grendel's mother attacked the king's hall and it seemed the grief would be renewed. Again Beowulf saved the day, tracking the monstrous demon-mother to her under-water lair and giving battle. Then he returned to his own people where he eventually became king and in his old age, when his own land was under attack by a ferocious dragon, he had to fight another super-human battle in which he was the mortally wounded victor.

This epic poem was written down about 1000 years ago in the old English (Anglo-Saxon) language by a monk of the Christian church who was recording events, already legend, that happened somewhere around the 600 AD. We should be grateful to that scribe for preserving some small segment of what might have become part of England's mythology if the new, middle-eastern religion had not swept the land and buried it in the first millennium. The poem is marbled with a strange mix of the old northern European culture and the religion of its documentor. There are many obvious small comments and references to the new, middle-eastern religion that the monk added as he wrote down the tale, presumably to make it palatable for or to claim it for Christianity. In any case, he made a fine job of it and the old culture shines through. And this translation by Benedict Flynn, read by Crawford Logan is wonderfully moving. I've read and enjoyed other translations but this is the one that has really stirred the emotions. Excellent. Highly recommended.
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The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 12.59

21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Logical, honest, rational and clear, 2 Dec 2006
This review is from: The God Delusion (Audio CD)
Richard Dawkins has abridged his excellent book for this set of 6 audio CDs and it takes him and his wife (Lalla Ward) about 7 hours to read it. It was a great pleasure to listen to an impressive collection of carefully considered arguments, clearly and succinctly stated and accompanied by a torrent of good evidence and examples. I generally read to be entertained and consider it a bonus if I also learn something from the authors I read. I've read most of Richard Dawkins popular science books and found they satisfy both my appetite for entertainment and information. However, I didn't expect to learn much from The God Delusion, having spotted the mismatch between reality and the religious outlook some decades ago. All I wanted was the enjoyment of listening to Dawkins' beautifully constructed arguments, forcefully stated in his own clear voice. Lalla also has a good, clear reading voice. I was not disappointed and, unexpectedly, learned quite a lot. You'd think that someone who had been packed off to Sunday School every week as a child would have a fair idea of the kind of nuttiness involved in the myths used to brain-wash their vulnerable new mind, but actually, I didn't know the half of it. And even the parts of the Bible that had been selected by my brain-washers, as suitable material for modifying/distorting the mind of a child, hadn't struck me with the full force of their real meaning: the murderous intent of a loving father who would wipe out every creature on the planet (with a few exception) using a flood because a few of his wayward children had annoyed him, the sadistic humour of a jealous god who demands the sacrifice of children, visits plagues on his unfaithful followers, calls for genocidal massacres to clear the land for his chosen people and so on. These are just a few of the example given to counter the notion believers harbour that religion is the basis of all moral understanding and behaviour. Extraordinary.

Even for those who already share Dawkins' scepticism, there's still a huge amount of interesting information in The God Delusion - and different ways of looking at things that were planted in your mind when it was so young that you've long since assimilated them and forgotten that they form part of the foundation of your way of seeing the world. Also, there are some hilarious letters from members of what Dawkins calls the "American Taliban", full of the most poisonous bile (the very opposite of Christian charity) and these give considerable insight into the effects habitual irrational ways of thinking can have on people.

Highly recommended.

Realm of The Ring Lords: The Ancient Legacy of the Ring and the Grail
Realm of The Ring Lords: The Ancient Legacy of the Ring and the Grail
by Laurence Gardner
Edition: Paperback

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not good enough, 22 Nov 2006
The book has an attractive cover, a tempting title and the text is nicely laid out with helpful chapter titles and sub-headings, charts, colour plates, illustrations, notes, references, appendices, bibliography and index. This all seems very encouraging and confidence inspiring. However, I purchased the book because of my fondness for Tolkien's tales of Middle Earth and not because I'm interested in grail conjectures. It doesn't take long (page 3) to reach an interesting section headed "Tolkien's Ring". I was dismayed to find no fewer than 12 errors in this short (2-page) section. No doubt I've read 'The Hobbit', 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Silmarillion' more times than seems entirely well balanced and that's why all Mr Laurence Gardner's inaccuracies jumped out at me. I won't bore you by listing them all but I will mention that Mr Gardner is under the impression that Bilbo stole the ring from Gollum, he has The White Council and The Council of Elrond confused, he believes Aragorn was already King of Gondor when the 4 hobbits first met him, that Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli just abandoned their search for Merry and Pippin and made for Gondor instead and met Gandalf on their way there ... and so on. The point is, that if Mr Gardner can't even give an accurate account of a story that's so easily available for checking, how can we trust anything he says regarding the poorly documented and undocumented history, myths and legends of hundreds or thousands of years ago? If he read or consulted the other books in his impressive looking bibliography with the same care and attention he gave to Tolkien's work, is it worth reading his book at all? Personally, I like to keep fact and fiction in separate categories in my mind because that saves a lot of confusion. This book is not presented as a work of fiction but by page 5 I was fully satisfied that its "facts" could not be trusted because the author is clearly a very careless researcher.

Not recommended.

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