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Lady Fancifull "Tinkerbell"
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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Book 1)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Book 1)
Price: £5.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a book for peculiar children, 19 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Ransom Riggs quirky, spooky, YA lit-fic horror crossover, set in Wales, is a sure-fire delight - with this adult, never mind the YAYAs!

Riggs is/was an avid collector of strange photos from long gone times, and began, particularly to be fascinated by faded, peculiar photos of children. Probably they were attempts at trick photography techniques, with the photographer playing around with exposure, framing, shutter time and the like, but he had amassed a steady collection of these from various flea markets and vintage sales, as the afterword to my copy, where an interview with Riggs is include, explains.

So, the photographs and the development of a fabulous story to link them, developed. The central character in this book, 16 year old Jacob, is shown some of these photos by his Polish Jewish grandfather, and then discovers more, and the people and meaning behind them.

Jacob is in many ways a typical adolescent of his kind. Gifted, (though not really initially understanding in what way) intelligent, introspective, a loner, not quite the son his controlling parents might wish for, he is nevertheless extremely close to his grandfather, Abraham, who appears to be retreating into senility, with paranoid stories of monsters. Following his grandfather's death, which damages and fractures Jacob, he becomes determined to try and track down and discover more of Abraham's past as a young boy, leaving his native Poland as the Nazis moved in, and arriving as part of a kindertransport at a school on a remote island off the coast of Wales; that is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

How Peculiar those children were, not to mention the Peculiarities of Miss Peregrine herself, and how Jacob (first person narrative) discovers his own connection to all this is a wonderful journey. It is extremely well-written, twisty, turny, mind-mangling and with some genuine shocks which do not feel gratuitous. And it has also a lightness of touch, Jacob has a self-deprecating, self-mocking sense of humour and is a fine companion for the reader.

And those photos (which made me choose to get the real, rather than eread, version) are most weird and wonderful

Although personally I felt that the inevitable fight between the goodies and the baddies at the end was a bit clichéd, I am aware that such battles are needed, but this was the one section of the book where Riggs did not quite sustain his absolute originality for me, and also, the one area of the book where I realised I was not the intended audience.

Terrific page-turner.


Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz 2010 Wine 75 cl
Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz 2010 Wine 75 cl
Price: £25.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rating which can only climb with maturity (Currently, 4 1/2 if I could!), 19 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was lucky enough to be given a bottle of this big and hearty Australian Shiraz to review. The 2010 Shiraz is sold as `ready now' but would benefit from storage. And I rather concur, but unfortunately Vine reviews must be written within a short time-scale, so this has been opened and enjoyed early.

It's a great big basso profundo with a rasp of a reach. And, I do suggest drinkers follow the advice on the bottle to open and decant and let breathe some. Initially, I don't think I gave the breathing space it needed, as the first taste puckered with tannin and acidity, and this was definitely something, to my taste-buds, that would have benefitted from being allowed perhaps another year to smooth out, and be equally robust, but sing a little more tenderly. Or, at least, something needing to be taken with equally strong and solid food. Not a sipping wine on its own, at all.

But I changed my mind, on subsequent tasting. This may or may not be anathema to a proper oenophile sophisticate, which I'm not, but I resealed the bottle with one of those `pump out the air' devices, and waited a couple of days. And poured out a second glassful, leaving it in the glass for half an hour or so before trying it. And suddenly, here was a different wine. Still big, still strong, but the acidity and the tannin seemed to have calmed down, and other interesting flavours were happening. There was a kind of, well, I can only say, soft, leathery quality, underneath that, a slightly sweet, caramel and.........well it's lovely, warm, mellow but could, if you chose, still bite and roar!


Sony PCK-LM15 Screen Protector for Camera
Sony PCK-LM15 Screen Protector for Camera
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Screen protection for these models DSC- RX1, RX1R, RX10, RX100, RX100M2, RX100M3, 18 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This protects the screen of those oh so precious Sony cameras, and is a breeze, without bubbles, to apply. My only pull back from the final star is because I do think Sony could/should have included the small soft cloth to ensure the screen is grease and dust free before fitting. As instructions properly say 'clean to make sure the screen is free from dust' etc, why not provide the wherewithal. Fortunately, I had a spare, unused at all cloth from another item


Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court (Penguin Modern Classics)
Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £4.35

4.0 out of 5 stars A subtle, tragi-comic tale of a good man undone by adoration, `in darkest Earl's Court', 14 Dec 2014
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Patrick Hamilton is a not-quite-forgotten, admired author, who specialised in getting inside the heads of those who were disaffected, on-the-margins, or even, dangerously psychopathic - he was a stage and film writer, as well as author, and responsible for the highly charged, tightly wound, thrillers of sinister psychopathology, Gaslight, and Rope

Hangover Square was one of his most iconic novels. Set primarily in London on the very edge of, and then just at the start of, the Second World War, this follows the fortunes (pretty well unstoppably downwards) of George Harvey Bone, a not quite impoverished, weak willed man with a severe drinking problem, some undiagnosed dissociative mental health problems, and a dangerous 2 year infatuation with a hard, vicious untalented actress.

Bone is an unlikely subject to capture a reader's compassionate interest, yet he does, because despite the fact that he is someone of a definite wasted life, a bit of a bumbling, naïve and pathetic character, he is nevertheless like a lost and vulnerable puppy, possessed of great sweetness of temperament, despite his irritating flaccidity of purpose

Netta, the object of his adoration, is a beautiful and completely amoral, woman, without any charm, wit, intelligence, talent or likeability. Her one asset is her extraordinary beauty, which is clearly barely even skin-deep. Whereas Bone is a marshmallow, ineffectual, likeable drunk, Netta, and her closest crony, louche, spiteful Peter, are hard, aggressive, deeply unpleasant drunks.

The trajectory of the story is George Bone's worsening mental health problems, and the hopeless infatuation with Netta, who is completely uninterested in George, in any way, except as someone to sponge money from, and exploit.

This should be an unbearably depressing book, but instead, there is a kind of gentle humour in George, a puppyish enthusiasm and a potential for excitement and joy which carries the reader along, despite the awareness of the grim background of war on the horizon, the predictable and nasty leanings towards Fascist sympathies espoused by Netta and Peter, and George's inability to free himself from the nest of vipers he can, in some ways, clearly see.

Perhaps Hamilton's ability to make us feel George from the inside, and care about him, too, comes in part from what must have been a certain self-identification in the writer, as Hamilton himself had a disastrous relationship with alcohol, child of an alcoholic father, he died in 1962 of liver cirrhosis. He was a writer who definitely identified with the underdog, the marginalised, and the powerless in society.

J.B. Priestley in his introduction to the the Penguin Classics edition of Hangover Square, describes Hamilton as one of the best `minor novelists' writing in the interwar and beyond years. And lest that seems like damning with faint praise, it is I think fair, admiring praise.

However.........I should caution anyone who gets this edition, with the Priestley introduction to AVOID reading that introduction if you have never read Hangover Square, as foolishly, in the closing paragraph of his otherwise pertinent and interesting introduction, he reveals one of the major spoilers.


Honeydew
Honeydew
by Edith Pearlman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Somehow, unmemorable., 14 Dec 2014
This review is from: Honeydew (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found these, I have to say it, `nicely-written' stories were curiously unengaging. They are well-crafted, nicely (there is that damning word again), observed, correctly put together, but they somehow lack the bite and the edge that a short story needs, if it is to be a concentrated, memorable nugget providing satisfactory food for thought once the story is over.

My problem with these, was I had no real sense of why the writer had been moved to use this medium. And, more worryingly, within a very short time after reading any of the stories I could barely remember what it had been about, (narrative, characters) or what the writer was saying with the story.

In part, I suspect this was just down to an authorial voice that felt somehow too blurred, too fiddly to hold me.

As an example of her style :

"The house had an old black stove in its kitchen - an inconvenient appliance you had to light with a sparker. Someday, Chris swore, he would provide his family with a house of his own making - wooden, of course, for wood was his business; porched, the better to admire the flowers outside; a second floor as wide as the first; and, in back, a shed for his tools, now rammed behind the furnace. And a real downstairs bathroom, not just a toilet on the other side of the little room off the kitchen, a room called Useless. Useless had a single high window and a sink in one corner. You could wash one handkerchief in that useless sink. Someday, yes, a new house."

Very unfair to compare one writer's take on the short-story with another's, but my most recent foray into the medium was Hilary Mantel's The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. And Mantel is incisive, sharp, sour, and not at all nice. But she manages the writing of a short story with scalpel like brilliance and precision

I'm most sorry to say, I couldn't finish Pearlman's stories, wanting something of more flavour. And I couldn't really understand the comparison to Chekhov and Alice Munro, in the publisher blurb

I wouldn't normally review something I hadn't completed, but the Amazon Vine programme insists reviewers do review everything.

Clearly, Pearlman's voice HAS been appreciated by several reviewers, and, no doubt, once published prospective buyers will be able to make their own minds up about whether she speaks to them or not, via `Look Inside'


The Rabbit Back Literature Society
The Rabbit Back Literature Society
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most weird, wondrous, playful, dark and fantastical tale. Beware of writers bearing gifts., 12 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Finnish writer Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen has written a creepily seductive, thought provoking, alluring and wickedly mischievous book, which might have special appeal for writers, since writers, aspiring and world famous, and the nature of fiction itself, is the subject matter.

Books have started to mysteriously change in Rabbit Back, a small town in Finland. Rabbit Back is also home to a world famous children's writer, Laura White, who writes children's' books about a dark and mysteriously peopled world. Inevitably, being a world famous Finnish children's' author writing about invented, strange creatures which have a fascination for adults as well as children, there are obvious possible parallels that Tove Jansson may have been the initial inspiration for Jaaskelainen.

Laura White, it transpires, gathered around her a group of children, with the aim of grooming them into becoming writers. All are now grown, and famous authors in their own right.

However...there was a dark mystery behind Laura White's creation of the Rabbit Back Literature Society, and its small, select recruited members. And the group also have an arcane, and somewhat deadly practice - The Game, which has evolved over the years, and exists for a set purpose of furthering the craft, practice and ritual of writing itself.

The membership of the society has been restricted to 9, for many decades. Until a young teacher, with a recently published story, is invited by White to become the tenth member. Ella Milana, as well as becoming the newest member of the Society, is a keen literary researcher, and has discovered the strange changes appearing in classic texts.

Milana has agendas of her own to pursue when something cataclysmic happens at the party which secretive, revered, Laura White gives, to introduce Milana as the tenth member, to the other nine, and to the wider, glittering celebrity world who accord White some kind of literary goddess status.

And this is Finland, where a belief in dark elementals may be more widespread. Snow, and the Far North, do weird and wonderful things to imagination

So, we have some strange conglomerate of a David Lynch Twin Peaks type clever weirdness, a crime investigation, an arcane, cultish group of highly intelligent, ruthlessly ambitious-in-the-pursuit-of-their-craft writers, Folkloric background, and a wonderful, wickedly dark and playful imagination. Not to mention a clear love of literature, and its power, and many reflections on just why writers write, who they are, how they do it, and how and why we read.

"Everybody comes to the library naked. That's why they come here-to dress themselves in books"

It's a joy. It's a gem. It's dark, spooky, not completely explained by reason. And I want more from Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen. There seem to be a couple of short stories translated into English, but not, at the moment, any second novel. Keep writing Pasi Ilmari, keep writing.

The translation must also be commended (I assume, not knowing Finnish!) because I had no sense of the clunky, as happens when translation is done by those who are too literal, and miss some kind of `writerly sensibilities. So I hope Lola M. Rogers is also making sure that Pasi Ilmari is steadily working on another book, which she will translate

"Reality was a game board for all of humanity to play on, formed from all human interaction. You could in principle make it up out of anything you wished, provided you all agreed on it. But it was easiest if everyone used square pieces, because they would all fit together and form a seamless whole"


The Pierced Heart
The Pierced Heart
by Lynn Shepherd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, alluring, disciplined, properly disturbing Gothic. Shepherd does The Undead proud!, 11 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Pierced Heart (Hardcover)
I am not, by any means, a fan of the vampire genre, which seems to have drowned in a sea of its own overdone gore.

However.............when a writer whose work I admire happens to write a book which features the pointy teethed, sanguinary creatures, that might well draw me in. The writer, not the genre.

Lynn Shepherd is a writer with a wonderful feel for nineteenth century literary fiction, primarily using classics of that period, as springboards to twist and skew and refocus, into detective novels, with her running detective, Charles Maddox (actually, there are two of them, a great-uncle, and his great-nephew)

Having already stated I do not find the vampire genre appealing, I must also say I avoid `pastiches' like the plague, because generally the original does the whatever so much better. The exception, is where something is written which is substantially different, substantially true to itself, and where acquaintance with the original can only delight and enhance reading of the new work - which, however, could PROPERLY be enjoyed on his own substantial merits, without any prior knowledge of `the original.

And, I must say, that knowing Shepherd had used the Bram Stoker novel, and her love of nineteenth century literature, and her understanding of place, time, culture and language of the period, and a kind of ability to inhabit the world of the original, I bought this book eagerly, knowing I would not be disappointed.

And I wasn't, I absolutely wasn't. It becomes the fourth `vampire' book I can read - and re-read - Stoker himself, Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Marcus Sedgewick's rather more scientific imagining A Love Like Blood and, now what Shepherd has done.

Her research into historical events (The Great Exhibition, scientific investigations, thinking, and inventions) not to mention her inhabitation of Stoker's text, is prodigious - but lightly handled. I was swept up feverishly turning pages, and it was only in the pauses between reading that I thought about that research, that plotting, that characterisation, those little embroiders of the text that are sly nods to the original.

Inevitably, there IS gore (well, it is within the subject matter) and, yes, it is rather shocking and horrid, but, she really doesn't luridly indulge the X-rated aspects. And the violence is also plausible, (sadly) in its manner

It's quite a short book - 233 pages, and is - magnificent.

What I particularly love, love with Shepherd, is her delectable, precise use of language, her structure is beautifully measured, there is a real craft here, which does remind me so much of the more formal language of nineteenth century literature

"I found it hard to believe so great a tempest could be coming, seeing the white mares'tails high in the pearly blue sky and the wide sweep of sea barely rippling in the breeze, but the man had some knowledge that I did not possess, for by sunset the clouds had amassed into great heaving battlements of every colour -red, violet, orange, and green, flaming at the west in the dying sun, and darkening behind us as the storm gathered pace. We could see far ahead in the distance, the lights of the little town my father told me was our destination, and as the wind began to rise the captain rigged the ship as high as he dared, desperate to outrun the storm and make port before nightfall. But there was no time. There was a moment of deathly stillness, when the wind seemed to die in the sails.........I could hear sea-birds wailing like lost spirits above our heads"

Yes, that is right, it's the arrival, in an unholy storm, by sea, to Whitby

There are several stories going on here. Charles Maddox, like Jonathan Harker, visits the `Dracula character' in his castle home in the Austro-Hungarian empire. And the bulk of the novel is written through the voice of the omnipotent author, describing Maddox's thoughts and actions.

There is also a parallel story involving `Lucy' the daughter of a kind of stage magician, performing magical acts, and capitalising on the growing success and fashion for spiritualism, in the wake of the American Fox Sisters. Lucy's story is told in her journal, and is in the first person (from which you can deduce, Lucy's is the arrival in the storm)

There is also the omnipotent authorial voice revealing herself to be the self-conscious writer of this book, occasionally making mentions of scientific and social advances which will come in time. This is not in any way intrusive (well, not to me, anyway) and adds another layer, reminding us that this is a referential piece, springing from an established literary heritage, and that writing itself has a history, and that there are cultural fashions in writing.

Shepherd is playful, and she plays well; I like the way she teased me into actively thinking about what I was reading, even whilst my heart was in my mouth and I was being swept along by the `what-next, what-next' of narrative. I needed to be slowed down, to appreciate the detail

There is an afterword, which also explains how her springboard for this book was not only Bram Stoker's text, but some real history.

There is, also a genuine shocker of a climax. One which is ultimately most satisfying


Kindle Voyage, 6" High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Adaptive Built-in Light, PagePress Sensors, Wi-Fi
Kindle Voyage, 6" High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Adaptive Built-in Light, PagePress Sensors, Wi-Fi
Price: £169.00

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh brave new world of pressed page turn AND touch screen, 8 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I kept doggedly on with my Kindle Keyboard, which worked absolutely fine as a reader, and missed the Touch and The Paperwhite 1 and 2 because I had become happy with pressing the page to turn, and wanted to avoid my often grubby fingers endlessly greasing the screen.

But where the KK was too frustrating to stay with, was the ponderous underlining, note-making and Go To Searching with the 4 way button.

So...........the Voyage got some good, very detailed early reviews, particularly from the first spotlit one by Mr G. whose review was enormously helpful, and make me take the plunge.

I was prepared for the month long delay while Amazon were waiting new stock, as their return policy is so much better than anyone else's, so just in case the Voyage didn't please me as much as I hoped it would, it seemed a better idea than getting it immediately from another retailer who would only allow return of faulty goods.

Well, the month long delay raised my expectations higher and higher, and I'm pleased to say I haven't been disappointed.

However, reading the reviews it is clear that there IS a fault on some of them, as several reviewers have complained about variable light on the screen, bottom to top. I'm a lucky one without this annoyance.

Yes it is a big price jump, from Paperwhite to this, but for me, the page press, the adaptive (and adjustable) built in light, the sharp sharp sharp resolution, the good choice of personalisation (pressure sensitivity, touch feedback, lighting level, choice of fonts, sizes, landscape or portrait reading, margins on page etc) are spiffy. I think some of these were also included in Paperwhite, but not all. One very happy reader with her reader


The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner: A Novel
The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner: A Novel
by Giles Waterfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.66

4.0 out of 5 stars A waspish, witty romp Behind The Scenes At The Museum, 8 Dec 2014
This is a lovely comedy piece set within the Art and Culture World.

It is a Very Important Day at the BRIT Museum, where a sumptuous new exhibition is to be launched. Major deals are also being made by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a Property Magnate desperate for a peerage.

The star piece of the exhibition is a little known work by Gainsborough, which comes with a mysterious curse, and an equally mysterious history

Battle lines are set out between high art and high finance, high art and populism, academia and stylistic soundbites.

"He worries about the Nowness of Now. Such a depressing concept, he reflects, his lip rising with an academic's disdain. Absurd name, too. Nowness will be a celebration of Britain today `reflecting the volcanic dynamism inherent in the twenty-first century2 This breathy tag sometimes runs through his head as he struggles with leaden directives from his paymasters in government."

Think a combination of the slap-stick, magical, sexually confusing world of Midsummer Night's Dream, combined with the wit and social setting of a P.G. Wodehouse novel

Add a touch of histrionics with a very prestigious catering company and a chef desperate to become the latest TV Chef God, a smidgeon of sadism from the Museum's Head Of Security with more than a yen to run the Museum like a Police State, and several sets of potentially confused lovers.

And then there is the alarming prospect of an invasion of 400 escaped lobsters. Not to mention the possibility of near death by drowning in raspberry coulis.

And a dog whose tail just can't make up its mind which way to point

This is a delightful piece of puffery, which nonetheless says some very pertinent things about a society structured on spin, where neither the bread nor the circuses are that much to be celebrated. And where the course of true love never runs smooth......except, sometimes.

The novel fairly zips along, taking place on Midsummer's day 2001, and lasting for 288 pages, with short, fairly bite sized chapters. I read most of it smiling happily and every now and again breaking out into snorts, barks, and yaps of laughter (well, that hound does feature rather importantly)


The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
Price: £3.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, no doubt, but rather too much corn syrup for my taste-buds, 3 Dec 2014
As someone who has long enjoyed the pleasures of solo long distance walking, plus the delights of encounters on the way with others, and their often fascinating stories, I should have been the perfect audience for this book, recommended to me by a friend who has recently discovered solo long distance walks.

Now, Joyce writes.........oh dear, I want to say nicely, rather than beautifully, partly because what I get from this book is rather a shiny eyed niceness, despite the fact that she has ticked a lot of dark `issues to be looked at', it is somehow done in a scratch the surface fashion.

Harold Fry, a retired man from Devon, whose life with his wife for the last twenty years has been sad, and who clearly has ISSUES which will be revealed, gets a letter from someone he hasn't seen for 20 years, a friend, now dying from cancer. Setting out to post her a letter of condolence, he walks past the first post-box, and the next, and well, keeps going, to Berwick on Tweed.

Cute premise.

Along the way, of course, he will meet people, and things will happen. All sorts of ideas can get wrapped up in this - Canterbury Tales, a variety of quirky and humorous encounters, and, hey, a spiritual journey of course, as well as a physical one. Pilgrim's Progress, even. There is a fairy-tale, folk tale, very I HOPE YOU GET IT parable quality to this whole book.. And therein lies part of the problem

The homily quality of fairy-tales (which I love) is acceptable, as is the often two dimensionality of character (`types' rather than uniques). But that is because the fairy tale is SHORT. The problem with Harold Fry is that it takes the quality of fairy-tale and stretches and stretches and stretches it. I guess I enjoyed the first two or three chapters; the writer has a sweet humour, and does nice little character sketches, but then, it just went on, at that level. Yes there were all sorts of other things going on, and we meet nice people with not so nice bits and the odd nasty person with some nice bits, but just about everyone, and every event is some sort of great clunking TYPE encounter. Because no one seemed properly real, I found myself caring less and less and becoming irritated by the whimsy and the quirks and the sweetness.

I couldn't help but compare it (unfavourably) to two other books. One (sweet, very sweet, fizzingly feelgood, charming, quirky, funny) was This is Life, which I read happily, grinning from ear to ear, without ever once feeling drowned in syrup. The other, was very definitely an internal journey, dealing with enormous sadness and loss, but holding on to the light and the sweetness to be found, despite life's sorrows - Colm Toibin's Nora Webster, a book which has a relationship with tragedy, death and dying (as this does) but carries its deep messages with a truly light heart and light touch. Sadly, Harold Fry bashed me round the head with its earnest attempt to get me to see the message, and the little quirks that were meant to see me through just wore me down.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2014 7:21 PM GMT


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