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Kings and Queens of England (Readers Digest)
Kings and Queens of England (Readers Digest)
by Brenda Ralph Lewis
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting & Fasacinating Read, 28 Oct 2014
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I thoroughly enjoyed this jolly through our royals from 1066 up until the present.
As you would expect from a `RD' book it is really well illustrated and easy to read. I did though find the early parts of the book a less so, perhaps this was because there were so many changes and related events during this period that it all felt a bit complicated?
Like all history books of this nature it does make you want to expand on certain individuals and events.
The author doesn't hold back on the embarrassing truths of certain royalty and their habits. I had no idea that there were so many gay men & lesbians within our kings and queens, or just how poor some of our royals' hygiene was? Brenda Ralph Lewis writes in a very `Joe Blunt' manner, considering that it's royalty that we are talking about? I quite liked this manner as it adds to the honesty of the book.
Then there's the `Good Time Charleys,' the tyrants and the total incompetents, and that's not to mention the awful tortures and terrible deaths!
Of course some of our nobility did do a great job without any scandal, but that's hardly news worthy now is it? No, this is an excellent read and never less than totally interesting and also a good refresher of the time periods too. I have to say that some of the photographs are just superb - my favourite is the one of the youthful looking Wallis Simpson - it's just lovely.
The only fault I would mention is that my book contained several print errors, though these are easy enough to ignore.

Beethoven : Complete Symphonies
Beethoven : Complete Symphonies
Price: £11.53

4.0 out of 5 stars It Sounds Great to Me!, 27 Oct 2014
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I am not really into classical music and know little about the technical aspects of classical music generally - other than what my ears tell me sounds nice! I therefore cannot give an’ informed’ opinion.
I recently went to see the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in concert. They played several pieces, however, it was the last piece, Beethoven’s 6th symphony – ‘Pastoral,’ that really made me sit up and listen.
I decided I’d like to hear more of Beethoven and so bought this CD, which I am really enjoying. I guess most will say that he 9th symphony is the best and it is a wonderful piece – almost operatic in sound, saying that, the 5th and 6th are also very impressive. I’m sure I’ll be listening to this for many more hours to come. It would seem to me that Beethoven has an exciting vibrancy in his music as well as his soothing softer pieces.

Horrible Histories - Series 1-5 [DVD]
Horrible Histories - Series 1-5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mathew Baynton
Price: £18.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Different & Humorous, Though Scratching the Surface, 27 Oct 2014
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I am now into my early sixties and as I really enjoy history as a subject(and also enjoyed it at school) I thought I would take a chance on this series as it had for some reason passed me by!
Firstly, let me say it's very good value and there's an awful lot to get through - some 12 episodes per series and therefore about 30 hours of sketches in total- no complaints there then.
I can see that short sketches, on different periods of history, spread over just half an hour is an ideal way to keep children focussed? The humour too is quite a pull for a child, as from what I can recall there's not many laughs when you're in class at school!
I've just finished Series One, some 6 hours worth and my only complaints are,
* The constant references to human waste and various assortments of gunge (toilet humour if you like) soon becomes very tiresome to anyone who takes their history even slightly seriously? I'm hoping as the series moves on this will become less and less?
* It's such a pity that there isn't a booklet with the DVDs that has a detailed synopsis - like the one available on Wikipedia?

There are of course many more positives:
* The sketches and props are very good, humorous, and from what I can tell pretty factual.
* The sketches act like bullet points for a child's, or indeed an adult's memory - small doses are much easier to retain.
* The sketches will certainly help the viewer to retain all the various 'periods' in our history and who was a part of that period? The way that this is presented is first class.
It's much easier to retain the facts from the short sketches & songs, such as: The four Georgian Kings, Henry V111 had a penchant for beheading and how complicated the cause of the First World War was for Britain?
Overall, I would say, that now and then, this is a good way to put a bit of fun into one's learning of history, even if the odd sketch is rather throw away!

A Most Wanted Man [DVD]
A Most Wanted Man [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anton Corbijn
Price: £14.50

3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Night's Entertainment, 24 Oct 2014
This review is from: A Most Wanted Man [DVD] (DVD)
I found this an interesting, enjoyable and decent enough watch.It did though remind me of Tinker, Taylor...
I couldn't in all honestly, say that it ever raised my pulse or surprised me. The action was minimalist! The plot though, was pretty good, though not unfortunately anything particularly outstanding! The characters and relationships were the key to this film?
The highlight without doubt was the superb acting all round - top notch and that's what I really enjoyed the most.

Rigoletto: The Wiener Philharmoniker (Chailly) [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Rigoletto: The Wiener Philharmoniker (Chailly) [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Ingvar Wixell
Price: £17.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable From Start to Finish, 17 Oct 2014
This opera has all you could wish for over the two hour piece.
It has an intriguing (though utterly cruel) story line, lovely costumes and sets, some really great warbling, wonderful characters; it's very humorous in places and the acting is also of a very high standard all round. Don't miss Giovanna - Gilda's nurse maid, who's just brilliant in her small but hilarious cameo.
The sound & picture quality are just fab'. As previously mentioned the DVD does not do full screen, but I hardly noticed that as I was so glued to the action and the gorgeous warbling!
Pavarotti plays the lecherous Duke of Mantua who's only aim in life seems to be to charm his way into the local women's beds! As an actor, I must say that I disagree with some on here? I thought he did rather well!
Edita Gruberova, plays the love sick Gilda, daughter of Rigoletto. Her singing is quite something, especially in tandem with others when it's like a choir of Nightingales chortling away! However, the star of the show without doubt is Ingvar Wixells's Rigoletto. Great acting and singing - utterly convincing in every which way, and who wouldn't feel so very gutted for him at the end?
It is so easy to see why this opera is rated as one of the very best. It was wholly enjoyable from start to finish - five stars all the way.

Gone Girl [DVD] [2014]
Gone Girl [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Ben Affleck
Price: £13.50

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So Nearly a Classic, 16 Oct 2014
This review is from: Gone Girl [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
There's been so much written about the ending to this film that I'd just like to say that for the first two hours of this film, this was right up there with some of the better films that I've seen!
It was undeniably a great plot. I was totally engrossed, even though I don't particularly like anything that goes on much over two hours!
OK... the finale? Maybe in the book, (which I haven't read) it works better, but I have to say that in a film like this, certainly for me, it doesn't, for me it was stretching the imagination a bit too far?
Let me put it this way? How did the ending of `Basic Instinct' leave you feeling? I'll tell you how I felt... Absolutely engaged, it was a real `Oh my God' moment!
This film left me with... What! Are you kidding me? Look, I understand that that some will easily accept this ending, some will even love this ending I suppose... but not, no... Never!
This really could have been as good as the likes of the aforementioned `Basic Instinct'. - Now, that's how you should finish a great film. So for me this film will never be in the `premier league.'
Yes, I hear all you film buffs saying, "Christ mate, just deal with it why don't you and get on with your life!
Finally, at the end of this film, the cinema that I was in, fell into a deathly silence - there was no buzz of excitement, more like pure disbelief?

Greatest Hits
Greatest Hits

4.0 out of 5 stars A Quality Warbler, 16 Oct 2014
This review is from: Greatest Hits (Audio CD)
Rita Coolidge must have one of the clearest and strongest voices amongst her warbling piers. Hers is a voice that you would never get tired of listening to.
Her success came mainly in the 70's. This album (1980) failed to reach the top 100 in the USA, I'm not too sure if I was even released here at the time? Her best-selling album was `Anytime Anywhere,' which reached No6, in the USA in 1977. She did have a number one album in the country charts with Kris Kristofferson.
Her best singles entry in the US was `Your Love is Taking Me Higher,' which reached No2. Here in the UK, `We're All Alone,' a great track, reached No6 & No7 in the US.

There are definitely four or five top tracks on here, with 16 overall. The album contains mainly fine tunes, with plenty of old standards - Rita was not a song writer. She still tours, even though she's fast approaching 70.
A clear sign then, that quality always persists.

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rita Coolidge
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rita Coolidge
Price: £5.36

3.0 out of 5 stars A Really Nice Album But Not Outstanding, 14 Oct 2014
Most people relate to Rita Coolidge with her hits, `Were All Alone' and `Loving Arms,' a duet with Kris Kristofferson, whom she went on to marry.
All of her chart success came in the 70's; she's now 69. She also had a hit with `All Time High' which was the theme tune for the Bond film, Octopussy.
This album consists of those and mainly very popular covers. I found the album very pleasant to listen to; the voice is strong, distinctive and very clear. She has an unusual Scottish and Cherokee ancestry. Her style can be a little understated at times but the covers are all very well done I have to say. The album is good but not outstanding IMHO.

Verdi: La Traviata -- Royal Opera House [DVD] [NTSC] [2001]
Verdi: La Traviata -- Royal Opera House [DVD] [NTSC] [2001]
Dvd ~ Angela Gheorghiu
Offered by Windmill Books UK
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Lead Performance & Fine Opera, 14 Oct 2014
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It's very easy to see why this is one of the most popular operas. Even to those new to opera, such as myself, can easily relate to it.
The storyline is very simple, the sets are very pleasant on the eye and there's plenty of passion and attraction to feel and view.
The highlight of course is the performance of Angela Georghia - who plays the initially hard-hearted Violetta - a high class prostitute, well known and socially accepted by the local gentry.
Her `warbling' at the end of Act 1 is quite remarkable and she never lets up during a very memorable performance. The two male leads do a thoroughly good job, but are simply 'ordinary' in comparison to the lovely nightingale. This is very much her opera and she brings the house down.
I liked the cabaret of gipsies and matadors, again - something that was pleasing on the eye.
Perhaps the final act was milked a bit, but you have to give these luvies a bit of license I suppose! Yes, I really enjoyed it, not the sort of thing you're likely to forget in a hurry! Definitely recommended.

The Great Composers: The Lives and Music of the Great Classical Composers - Book and CD
The Great Composers: The Lives and Music of the Great Classical Composers - Book and CD
by Jeremy Nicholas
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A First Class Reference Manual, 9 Oct 2014
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This really is a superb book for those (like me) who would like to know a little more or refresh their knowledge on the great composers. Each composer has four or five pages (including an excellent portrait) donated to their brief life story & their most popular music. It covers some 50 composers over a 500 year period, starting with the earliest - Palestrina - 1525 - 94, and ending with Benjamin Britten - 1913 - 76
For those who do not wish to plough through 300 plus pages of a biography, then this book is perfect. For the price the all-round quality is of a very high standard.
There is also a CD of some of the composers' best known music - the listings are on the disc and the inside cover of the book. However, note that the 'computer playlist' is incorrect and seems to be for a CD of Mozart! Nevertheless, I found this to be a very good listen too!
I am really pleased with this book which is a first class reference manual.

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