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Meeow (UK)

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The Door into Summer (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
The Door into Summer (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Price: £4.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Light wrapping of science fiction around whingefest (I gave up), 14 Jun. 2016
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The years hang heavy on this classic. I braced myself for "hard SF" and instead ran into an impenetrable wall of whingeing about a relationship / business break down. Yes really. On and on it goes, crawling through every "and then they did THAT to me!" The science and the imagination are a light wrapping. I gave up so I've no idea how the story ends and I don't care.

Red 2
Red 2
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the first one, 9 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Red 2 (Amazon Video)
Better than the first one. More jeopardy, more skills, and such a relief to see personalities not just smash-'em-shoot-'em robots. Grittier than Bond but with similar glossy panache. Zeta-Jones is the only one who doesn't seem to inhabit the role (as they say) which is a shame because she certainly can do this sort of thing. Enjoyed the rapport between Moses (Willis) and his girl - she is a quirky, unconventional number and it's a pleasure to see a slightly more realistic looking actress. Very cool work from the ensemble - as you'd expect, all that experience in the craft really shows. Don't watch it if you can't cope with realistic violence, but it is of course strangely (uncomfortably) funny. This is one of those films I'll use to cheer myself up on wet November afternoons.

Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island
Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for 8 year olds and convalescents, otherwise irritating, 2 April 2014
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When textspeak - 'Journey 2...' instead of 'Journey To...' - gets into film titles, I get suspicious. This good looking film mashes together ingredients from the magnificent Jules Verne books, adds a politely dysfunctional family, a dash of teen romance and hey presto! An adventure in which cliché blunders relentlessly into cliché.

You'd do very much better to * read * the * books * !

All credit to the actors for looking as if they were having a good time. All the way to the bank, probably.

The pace is brisk, the special effects are tidy - except for the mini elephant which should have been much more interactive, given the length of that sequence - the monsters look impressive and no living creature is seen to bleed. (They're all going to be incinerated or drowned by the disintegrating island, of course, but that's tastefully kept off screen...)

I did rather shout at the screen when the completely impossible escape route came along. I don't care how splendid the electric eel is, the idea of 200+ year old technology crosses the line between fantasy and sheer irritating dumb stupidity.

If you're aged 8 - 11 and can't handle nasty things happening, or you're recovering from stress or illness, this is a pleasantly mind numbing film. Otherwise the only fun for adults is counting the visual nods to films such as Avatar and Lord of the Rings.

Too sweet for my taste.

Jack Absolute: The 007 of the 1770s
Jack Absolute: The 007 of the 1770s
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Too many ribbons, not enough swashed buckles, 24 Mar. 2014
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I fell in love with Jack Absolute during his first adventures, as he swashed his buckles (or is that buckled his swashes?) all round the colonial wilderness. This tale sees Jack ensnared in a love intrigue among the beribboned and manicured fashionistas of Bath - and I didn't much like it. Eventually everyone's cover is blown and, in the heat and dust of Spain, appropriate blood is shed.

In his author's note, C C Humphreys freely confesses that he's working from the plot of Sheridan's play; a technique that I know from my own storymaking experience is a fascinating challenge which throws up creative twists you might never normally dream of. It just seemed to me improbable that a likely lad such as Jack would fall for the blatant scam, let alone accept for weeks on end the constraints of a 'romantic' dalliance!

Humphreys is at his best writing the outdoors, action scenes and rollicking but troubled (male) characters. I look forward to more of this in the next adventure.

The Lost Origin
The Lost Origin
Price: £4.19

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indiana Jones meets Iron Man (but no flying suit...), 19 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: The Lost Origin (Kindle Edition)
What a strange, engaging story! Now, I was in the mood to read long sentences and complex steps in an exotic 21st century 'treasure hunt' but if you're not, it won't do for you at all.

From the computer stuffed haven of an old underground metro carriage under Barcelona, a trio of thoroughly modern geeks must set out on a fantastical quest through reams of crazy information about lost tribes and hypnotic language (magic?!) that takes them literally off the map into the heart of the Amazon jungle. It's a matter of life and death: the main character's brother, a talented but struggling academic, is suffering from a South American 'curse' or spell - that's left him convinced he's dead!
(...See? I like long sentences!)

The 'voice' of the narrator Arnau seems to be what I believe is called high functioning autistic: so we follow the chisel sharp step by step of a computer nerd who admits he has no social skills - but has built a computer programming company so lucrative that he lives in a high tech house like a Catalan cousin of Whatsisname Stark/Iron Man!

Arnau's friends and family bring warmth to the story. Family and (professional) community are shown in ways that makes it easy to like a lot of people in this book. Even the scary professor turns out to be surprising!

Long sections of this novel do read like a documentary. You might have the patience to follow up all the historical references; I didn't (yet). Still, I'll bet my next whisky that much of the information quoted is correct. I'm certainly aware of the long skull remains and the legend of the Inca's bearded deity. Without these research sections, however, the story can't work - and at least the 'info dumps' are done unashamedly, as part of the characters' need to identify what's happened to the afflicted brother.

I find the subject area fascinating therefore the book was a page turner for me.
There are a few misprints and clunks in the translation - somebody was working to a tight deadline? - overall the translation is very rich, with what I sense as a distinctive and very enjoyable flavour of the original.

Tongues of Serpents (The Temeraire Series, Book 6)
Tongues of Serpents (The Temeraire Series, Book 6)
Price: £6.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Crushed in Australia: conveyed too well?!, 26 Feb. 2013
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Talk about mixed reviews! I came to Book 6 floating on a glow of contentment from the first five - which I devoured in the course of a weekend (and not much sleep!) Only in retrospect and nudged by the negative reviews does it occur to me that Book 6 is slightly off the pace. Could be Naomi, could be me...

For those of you dropping in at random, 'Tongues of Serpents' is Naomi Novik's sixth in her series about the intelligent dragon Temeraire, in an alternative world history where the British Navy defends against Napoleon's invasion with the help of a draconic Aerial Corps. It's a crazy idea - but it's worked superbly for five books. Ms Novik adroitly captures 18thC manners, speech and military environments. It might not be real history but it 'feels' right; and if you like Hornblower stories or some of the grand old Hollywood naval epics then this series is likely to appeal.

Other reviewers mark Book 6 down as 'boring'. My response is that we're seeing poor demoted Laurence (oh how deliciously serious! oh how swashbuckling!) and his magnificent dragon companion Temeraire at a very low ebb. Having your career and all hope crushed is NOT exciting. It's dreary and draining. No doubt the mismanaged convict colony was an appalling place to fetch up. Instead of naval and military efficiency, instead of devoted and honourable colleagues, Laurence and Temeraire are surrounded by crass, venal stupidity and brutishness. Horrible contrasts, compounded by screaming unfairness. With their lives in tatters, L and T battle to remain true to themselves. Tough on readers, perhaps. Is Ms Novik guilty of conveying her lead characters' downturn of fortune too well?!

Having glimpsed the Australian outback decades ago, I enjoyed the travelling sections with their atmosphere of heavy heat and lurking menace. I'd heard of bunyips but had no idea how they operate - great stuff! Temeraire's moment of danger was vivid to me (if not to others reviewing here); a powerful dragon mired in swamp is full of irony and epic heroism.

I do question the dragon's anatomical structure as suggested in the new hatched, disabled dragon. Dragon characters remain strong and very enjoyable. And suddenly we have trained sea serpents!

I like the linking to Laurence's previous adventures in imperial China: showing us a new aspect to those encounters, showing us the strain on Laurence and Temeraire's bond, showing us how both are thinking more and more independently.

Yes, I agree it's a bit of a stepping stone book. So? We're on a long journey with these two fine heroes. Keep up!
...Now where the blue blazes is Book 7 for Kindle?!!

The Mongoliad (The Mongoliad Cycle Book 1)
The Mongoliad (The Mongoliad Cycle Book 1)
Price: £3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, flawed and downright intriguing, 22 Feb. 2013
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In the time of the Golden Horde, a band of European knights - remnants of a failed religious warrior order - struggle to keep their lives let alone their principles. A strange young woman from an exotic, secret messenger sect brings a warning: triggering a suicide mission to strike at the invaders' heart.

You can perhaps imagine that I bought this book [for Kindle] against my better judgement. Usual thing: dip into the sample, count the pennies, wonder how excruciating it could be - written, after all, by committee! But I was snowed in to the cottage and desperate to read rather than burn out my eyes watching the UK's now deeply crass public service television...

To my astonishment, The Mongoliad is captivating. Yes, you can detect the meandering caused by multiple authorship. Yes, there's a decided paint-by-numbers aspect to the cast of warrior heroes; as an ex LARP-er I can detect the imaginations of geeks in chainmail... AND YET the characters are drawn in so much detail, they're so warm, flawed and downright intriguing that I was enchanted. Even the stereotypical drunken Khan is a powerfully tragic figure.

The blurb vaunts the fight scenes, which are exceptionally detailed and probably correct in every detail, if that's what floats your boat. Frankly I skipped through them - after all, it's the emotion and the outcome that matter, not the exact path of a blade.
Nevertheless, this is all part of the intensely vivid depiction of a world that, to most of us, is unimaginable. This book engages all your senses - from the Khan's melancholic rage to the screeching violence of combat, to blundering around river mud - and quite stunningly puts you in the middle of the action.

For men, I suppose this is an epic adventure of combat, strategy and mental toughness. As a female reader who has had the privilege of friendship with a band of loveable rogues that all acted like protective older brothers, for me this was a magical journey into fantasy mixed with memory.

Put your LARP cloak on, pour yourself something to quaff, and prepare to be swept away...

Faces in the Pool (A Lovejoy Novel)
Faces in the Pool (A Lovejoy Novel)
Price: £4.68

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent muddle, 7 Feb. 2013
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I have huge respect for Jonathan Gash as the author of Lovejoy. The books give the characters more bite, more murkiness - more reality - than the tv series ever managed; although of course like many people I found and was (ahem) seduced by Lovejoy through the small screen.

Having read my omnibus collection of early LJ tales to tatters, I thought it was time to see what else happened to our favourite dodgy antiques dealer in print. And lo, Kindle editions were available! So, facing an embarrassment of choices, I took the most recently published.

The glamour is still there (I use the word with its older meaning). The extraordinary writing of LJ's divvy sense - the physical pain - is vivid; over the years LJ seems to have been ill served by this uncanny whatever it is, which now clobbers him with vicious migraines. (They seem infused with direct experience, b t w, but I don't know if this is the case.) Likewise he continues to adore females, including those of less than conventional attractions - bravo, Mr Gash!

And there the happiness ends. This particular story wallows in far fetched mysteriousness. Even outright insanity couldn't explain some of the killings. And even now I couldn't explain to you what was going on except that it involved an ancient cult of displaced ex-pats (various nationalities), a plot to take over the antiques world, and the connivance and slaughter of friends and old flames... Now, really, LJ has enough experience really not to be so gormless; he shambles through the narrative missing clue after clue - for goodness' sake, he reads people well, that lad, and it is not to be credited that he fails so comprehensively to put anything together for so long; migraines are not an excuse.

Mr Gash's writing is strong enough to keep you reading, but something is adrift and it's a bit worrying.

The Winter Palace (A novel of the young Catherine the Great)
The Winter Palace (A novel of the young Catherine the Great)
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A soap opera with furs and imperial madness, 28 Jan. 2013
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After an engaging start, unfolding the worlds of artisan and royalty in pre revolution Russia, the narrative somehow goes stale. Well, this is the risk with a central character whose life is mercilessly prey to disappointment. I can't assess the historical accuracy of detail - the rats scurrying behind the gilded splendours - but the claustrophobic, oppressive and indeed deadly palace environment is vividly depicted. About half way through, strangely, I found myself not caring any more what happened to any of them: the story turns into a soap opera with furs and imperial madness. This might well say more about my failings than any of the book, so you should go find out for yourself.

Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies: Two-Book Edition
Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies: Two-Book Edition
Price: £11.49

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Richly detailed world and characters weakened by style gimmicks, 22 Nov. 2012
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Promos for these books, and a BBC interview with the author, spurred me to buy both Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. They follow the life and intrigues of Thomas Cromwell, 'fixer' for Henry Tudor, the 8th English King Henry, notorious in Britain's history for his shifting passions and failure to produce an official male heir. The novels takes us through the triumph, fall and execution of Anne Boleyn and the elevation of Jane Seymour.

The violence, disease and barbaric cruelty of the age are vivid. It was a time when holding the 'wrong' religious views in England led to death by burning at the stake - Mantel makes her otherwise quite diplomatic descriptions of these events perfectly grisly by noting how, if the wind blew the wrong way, it took the victim even longer to die. I didn't exactly have nightmares but there are tough moments in reading!

In counterbalance: Thomas Cromwell's egalitarian household - he takes care of his people and offers opportunity where he can. There are glimpses of his early career on the continent that suggest reasons for his generosity. Assorted royal hangers-on and their dependents and servants are portrayed with engaging foibles, viciousness, humour and fears.

You can tell that vast amounts of research - and empathy - have been poured into these books. It's desperately difficult for the historical writer to avoid 'look what I know' info dumps... Mantel certainly depicts a richly detailed, complex world.

...I wouldn't have been quite so jarred by the 'masterly technique' (really you shouldn't have to notice it...) were it not for some tricks of style that alienated me.

- I don't enjoy narratives that flick between present events and flashback. That's just my taste. You might judge that Thomas' situation prompts his memory. That the drip feed of background about Thomas' earlier career adds to the interest and tension of where we see him. I suppose that was the intention. To me, these sections are muddling and get in the way of the story.

- I absolutely loathe the use of 'he' and 'him' when Cromwell's name or some other title should be re-stated. So many sentences - with paragraph layout contributing to the confusion - use 'he' when it's simply not clear if that means Cromwell or another character. Sometimes the author is obliged to write 'he, Cromwell...' which is just plain bad. Meant presumably as a distinctive twist of style, it fails. Clunky!

And those two things really spoiled my enjoyment of these otherwise good books. I can only speculate that Mantel wanted a way to distinguish her work from other good historical novels. Instead, I can't honestly say I think Wolf Hall or Bring Up The Bodies are better than other serious contenders in the genre, and I do think they're badly weakened by gimmicks.

Will I buy the much vaunted third book? Possibly. But I'll have to be in the right mood to tackle it.

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