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R. Paterson (Hertfordshire, UK)
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Ethel & Ernest
Ethel & Ernest
by Raymond Briggs
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The story of YOUR life, 14 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ethel & Ernest (Paperback)
I've grown up with Raymond Briggs' books and have never read a dull thing by him. Yet "Ethel and Ernest" is something else all together. In telling the story of his parents' lives, and how he entered the picture, he makes their fairly ordinary lives seem extraordinary and makes any reader feel there is part of their life in there somewhere. Indeed, my grandfather's name was Ernest and he looked quite like Ernest Briggs does on the cover.
There's so much to relate to in the book. There's good memories, like when you played games or sang silly songs as a child, went down to the beach or moved up to "big" school. Raymond, it seems, did all those too. Read about how Ethel always fusses over him as mothers always will, while Ernest moderates as fathers always will. Even the hard times, like scolding, embarrassments and arguments, are relatable.
There's another side of the book too. Ethel and Ernest's life together began in the 1920's and ended in the 1970's (you'd have to be made of stone not to be moved by the ending). Follow that life as they (and Raymond) go through enormous changes and end up in a world that was unimaginable at the start of the book. There's WWII of course, the fear of the nuclear shadow, the appearance of television, the moon landing; changes that can be delivered either soberly or humorously. There's a page where Ernest reads in his trusty newspaper that they're going to legalise homosexuality... but he doesn't really know what that is!
So funny, so wonderful, so sad and so much like life. I can't recommend this book highly enough.


The Wolf Gift (The Wolf Gift Chronicles)
The Wolf Gift (The Wolf Gift Chronicles)
by Anne Rice
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best horror novel I've ever read, 20 Jun 2013
I picked up this book for two reasons. First, I had recently visited Anne Rice's home city of New Orleans, a city where the occult is immensely prevalent, and wanted to sample her work. Second, werewolves have always been my favourite monster; fearsome and dangerous, yet thrilling to behold or imagine.

Like the cover explains, it is a werewolf tale, but with some unexpected twists. The story starts in a typical fashion. Young San Francisco journalist Reuben has a tryst with older woman Marchent, which takes an ugly turn when two intruders murder her in her bed. Yet the killers are also struck down by a mysterious beast and, yes, Reuben survives after sustaining a vicious bite from the creature.

Soon, Reuben finds himself transforming into a fierce and powerful wolf man, compelled to seek out prey. Yet the prey he seeks are far from innocent. Soon 'Cisco is ringing to tales of would be rape and murder victims saved by a werewolf. Despite fan accolades, the authorities wish to bring down the Man Wolf. Reuben must fight to control his change, keep his identity secret and unravel the mystery of the Wolf Gift, apparently entwined with Marchent's old house. Most especially, he must protect Laura, the caring young woman who has become Beauty to his Beast.

This book has a beautifully realised and respectable cast, quite apart from the questionable characters that are the staple of many horror novels (hence I don't read many). Reuben's condition is macabre and terrifying, yet at the same time enviable. Anne Rice beautifully paints how the thrill of the hunt intoxicates Reuben even as he fears what he has become, how his inhuman strength and sharpened senses are like a drug he needs in spite of the risks. Perhaps this is why I am fascinated by werewolves and why so many of us are; they represent the spirit of the wild that is all around us in nature and has never truly died within us.

They say Anne Rice has given up writing about vampires, due to a religious rebirth. If that's true, I certainly hope it doesn't stop her writing about werewolves. Thrilling book as delightful to devour as a pastry. Interview With A Vampire, here I come!


The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon)
The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Roll on "Inferno"!, 5 April 2013
Dan Brown's novels are not wholly based on credible facts, "they" say.
I don't give a hoot. They are edge-of-your-seat exciting and better yet, wonderfully believable.
I read this book for two reasons. A, I was about to go on a holiday to the States and thought it would be fun to cast a sceptical eye over some of the places mentioned in the book. B, I had heard nothing but hearsay and half-truths about the Freemasons and hoped this would set the records straight a bit.
Robert Langdon, Harvard historian and symbolist, returns to find himself in the midst of yet another mystery on a visit to Washington DC. The familiar elements of a Robert Langdon adventure are there; archaic symbols leading Langdon on a thrilling chase, an implacable and mysterious foe, overbearing authority figures breathing down Langdon's neck, (very) close brushes with death and a sense that one door is always leading to two more. It's a formula that still works and it is a book I could scarcely put down, it gripped me so wholly. It even succeeded quite well in covering what I had hoped it would. Brown stirs your emotions in just the right way and you follow the characters emotions perfectly. The only real sore spot is that I can't help feeling the familiar formula will tire out after a while.
Another Robert Langdon adventure, "Inferno", comes out soon and I will read it. I just hope something fresh gets injected into it compared to the previous Langdon books.


The Negotiator
The Negotiator
by Frederick Forsyth
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At first glance a Cold War dinosaur, but oddly prescient, 5 April 2013
Frederick Forsyth is one of those authors I keep coming back to. His early novels remain his best ("Jackal" and "Odessa" in particular), but this one comes in close behind them.
The kidnapping of the US president's son overlays a burgeoning crisis in fuel supplies on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Prominent Russian commanders and wealthy US oil traders are both trying to secretly force the hands of their governments towards seizing land in the Middle East. Onto the scene comes Quinn, a veteran soldier and ace hostage negotiator, charged with uncovering the hostage takers and returning the President's son to him. He has no idea just how far and how dark his journey will be before it's all over.
This novel was written in the late 1980's, just as Gorbachev was making steps to reform his nation and end the Cold War. Ronald Reagan is not his counterpart, rather it is the fictional President Cormack, ensuring that there is no conjecture about the key figures in the drama. This time is long past, and yet it has echoes of the Allies' response to 9/11 and the protest chant "no blood for oil", which followed more than ten years later.
The characters in the novel are well-developed, even if most of them are somewhat typical for this sort of fare. Quinn is the standout character; determined, mysterious, intelligent and very much his own man. Funnily enough the nastier characters are the ones who are most convincing, particularly an aged Texan oil mogul who claims his orders come from God and bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain Mr Ewing. Twists in the plot are Frederick Forsyth's trademark and in this novel there are several. The emotions are (mostly) believable and as is often the case in Forsyth's novels, the pace of events seems like an oncoming train wreck that it seems only a miracle can stop. But stop they do.
I'm sure adventure and espionage fans will enjoy it, but it would be best to start with The Odessa File if you're new to Forsyth.


Mulan (2 Disc Special Edition) [1998] [DVD]
Mulan (2 Disc Special Edition) [1998] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ming-Na
Offered by rightpricediscs
Price: 9.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not just for children, 1 July 2012
Mulan was a movie I had misgivings about before I saw it. It seemed to be entering territory that Disney had never gone into before, having a historical Far Eastern setting and involving the emotionally burdened subject of a well-meaning woman, Fa Mulan, disguising herself as a young man in order to join the army. In the end, I was very pleasantly surprised.
The movie is by turns exciting, powerful and wonderfully funny. Mulan herself is captivating not only because she has many qualities that a heroine should possess - beauty, courage, resourcefulness, loyalty - and yet she is still so humanly fallible. That makes her much more relatable than the average Disney heroine.
She's not the only well-formed character; Mulan's capable trainer Captain Shang works his new troops hard as well he should, but never loses your respect. The Hun leader Shen Yu stands as a credible threat, being a ferocious and resourceful commander and willing to (almost literally) stab his enemies in the back. The Emperor of China is like his opposite; softly spoken, contemplative and fond of parables.
There are also a few funny characters in the mix (it is Disney, isn't it?) who are also a delight to watch. Mulan's grandmother is one such character, almost constantly smiling and coming up with wry turns of phrase. Then, of course, there is Eddie Murphy's sharp-talking dragon Mushu, the least favourite of Mulan's family guardians. He basically tricks his way through the movie, putting down pretty much everyone he encounters along the way, particularly Mulan's horse. His introductory scene alongside Mulan's ancestors is definitely my favourite scene of the movie.
The movie makes no secret of the gender issues being addressed; terms such as "cross-dresser" and "drag act" are dropped in with abandon. The scene in the river is particularly cheeky, especially for a U-rated movie! Parents, watch it with your children, then watch it alone. You'll have plenty to chat about on both occasions!


London: a Novel
London: a Novel
by Edward Rutherfurd
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 6.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Who'd have thought it?, 30 Jun 2012
There are so many great cities across the world, old and new. There are the exciting ones; New York, Paris, Chicago, Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro. There are those of great historical interest too; Cairo, Beijing, St Petersburg, Venice, Rome, Istanbul and Baghdad (don't judge it for recent events). There are even a few that have passed into history but are still revered, like Carthage and Babylon. Yet in this epic novel, Edward Rutherfurd exposes the remarkable history of my old home city, London.
This book sat on my shelf for a long time. Being some 1300 pages long, I imagined it would take me months to finish. Yet by breaking the book up into particular sections, each set in a particular historical period, it felt like reading a series of short stories, not one long one. As such, I skipped through it in just three weeks, and a very enjoyable three weeks it was.
The stories each take a snapshot of a particular point in London's history, from pre-Roman times until the modern age. They do this by focusing on the lives of the members of several families who live in the area through most of the past two thousand years. This makes "London" both a thoroughly enjoyable and informative history book and a very human story. It shows how history builds up like the layers of an onion and that this can be seen both in London itself and British culture. You might know someone whose surname is Turner; were you aware, for example, that their name was originally the name of a carpenter skilled at turning wood on a lathe? Anyone who has seen the Savoy Hotel might be surprised to know that it was once the site of a royal palace. You may have heard of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; that name comes from the middle ages when a special checkerboard was used to manage the finances of Britain. Blackfriars station sits where there used to be a friary whose monks wore black robes. The Old Kent Road dates back more than 1000 years, to Saxon times. The list is endless.
Rutherfurd has selected some very exciting moments in British history to take snapshots of too. The second story is set at the time of the Roman conquest, when Londinium was first founded. Later stories occur at the time of the Norman Conquest (up goes the Tower of London!), the Crusades, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Civil War, the Great Plague the Great Fire, the construction of St Paul's and the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. I remember being particularly drawn in by the story "Gin Lane", which seemed to encapsulate the London that Dickens pictured in his novels. The modern age then trickles in, with the introduction of railways, the Underground and at last motor cars. Finally, when you're talking the history of London, what else could the penultimate chapter be but a story set at the time of the Blitz?
The last chapter is set at an archaeological dig in modern times, where the financier sees and even touches London's history first hand . Having lived in London for part of my life, I could be biased (there's a very amusing song all about that, of course), but I am keen to read more of Edward Rutherfurd's books to see if he is just as compelling writing about other aspects of history.


Unicorn Being a Jerk
Unicorn Being a Jerk
by C. W. Moss
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny at first, 22 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Unicorn Being a Jerk (Paperback)
I first discovered this book in a bookstore in Australia. I laughed pretty hard; the humour was of a wry sort I really like, although some of the jokes are seriously questionable. When I ordered it and studied it more closely, however, I started to find it less enjoyable than before. Perhaps it was because I wasn't enjoying it with others, or perhaps it was because all the jokes are pretty much the same. However, the best humour is humour that's true to life, and some examples of Unicorn's jerkiness have probably been visited on you once or twice before. You might even have been guilty of some of these things yourself! I would especially hate it if someone tore the last page out of a library book, particularly a mystery novel!


Eagle Strike (Alex Rider)
Eagle Strike (Alex Rider)
by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars If Elton John was Goldfinger..., 13 Feb 2012
The Alex Rider books are aimed at teenagers, but I can say from experience that grown adults can enjoy them just as much. (Lots of adults read Harry Potter didn't they?) This was the book that got me into the wonderful world of this remarkable teenage spy, and I have yet to come out.

Having already foiled the release of a lethal biological weapon and two attempted coups, Alex wants to relax. But then an attack on his girlfriend's father takes him back into the duplicitous world of spying. When his warning is ignored by his superiors, he takes matters into his own hands. Yet he has no idea just what thoughtless evil he is set to encounter...

Damian Cray has to be the worst villain yet in the Alex Rider series; a man who is willing to do unthinkable evil in the name of good. There's the standard tense fights, emotional trauma and last-minute races to prevent disaster, not to mention some brilliant new gadgetry. Finally, there is a revelation that sets up the next adventure very nicely.

The book's a bit to far fetched for the more cynical adults, but it's light relief for people who have read adult action novels, which take themselves more seriously. I say buy them for your kids if they're the right age, then enjoy them yourselves!


comin 2 gt u
comin 2 gt u
by Simon Packham
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read it, not just the kids, 9 Feb 2012
This review is from: comin 2 gt u (Paperback)
Despite being a frequent, if not fervent Internet user, I've never myself known much about the issue of "cyber-bullying" that's being talked about a lot in recent times. The Internet and mobile phones were only just becoming popular when I left school, and there was no broadband. That means while there were jerks who picked on me, there was no electronic media to back it up.
Then, a few months back, some old family friends put me on to this book and my eyes were gently opened. I was gripped from the start, feeling a kindered spirit in the lead character and sympathising with his dreadful reversal in social fortunes. True, this is a work of fiction; the whodunnit plotline leaves us in no doubt of that. However, I can't say enough about Packham's appreciation of how electronic media can be used to perpetuate bullies' sardonic messages and how that can exacerbate these messages among children who wish to tag along with them. I think this is an important book for anyone above the age of 10 to read, whether or not they are a parent and/or work with children. It is an encapsulation of a relevant and growing social problem among teenagers that needs to be addressed.


The Spear
The Spear
by James Herbert
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Not as detestible as its villains, 31 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Spear (Paperback)
This is the first of several James Herberts I've read, and will certainly not be the last. However, it's certainly not the best. It's an interesting book in that it's classed as horror, like most Herberts, but it's not pure horror. It's mostly adventure or intrigue, with some supernatural elements. It's also something of a time capsule, given that it's written in the late 70's, when WWII was more recent history. However, it's not a blockbuster. You'll enjoy it if action is your thing, as it's genuinely exciting and the lines between good and evil are starkly drawn, but I doubt you'll like it if horror is your thing. It's certainly not for general readers. People who favour Nick Hornby or Sophie Kinsella will certainly not respect a book featuring zombie Nazis...


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