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lilysmum "lilysmum65" (uk)
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The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life
The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life
by Andy Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars The finest book about books ever written; amusing, audacious and useful., 21 July 2014
I am grieving, because I have finished reading this book. The irony (or contradictoriality) of this fact is that I wouldn't even have bought it, had I not picked it up in the rather fine independent bookseller, Broadhursts of Southport, on an impulse. I had read about Andy Miller's work of staggering genius on the internet, and clearly not recognised it as such, because I had made the decision not to buy it, based solely on the fact that the books the author asserted he needed to read were not those which I have read myself (unless I lie about what I've read, which, unlike the author of this book, I don't).
I opened the book in the bookshop and read the first couple of pages, and saw this quote from Homer Simpson: "What's the point of going out? We're just going to wind up back here anyway," and I knew I was hooked.
I haven't read a lot of the books Miller talks about, such as: The Master and Margarita, Post Office, The Sea, The Sea, Moby Dick, A Confederacy of Dunces, or The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, but if you haven't either, don't let that stop you buying this book.
Miller talks so very engagingly about all the books, and his life, and his family, that I was captivated, to the extent that I begrudged every moment I spent away from the book. I bought it on Saturday afternoon, and I finished it this afternoon (Monday).
As well as talking about the books which Miller thinks he *should* have read, as he reads them, he also muses on philosophical questions such as the value of literature, and the whole life vs. art thing, and reading groups, and working in bookshops, and being an editor, and music, and painting, and more. It's kind of like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Whilst at first glance it appears to be a chirpy and humorous tale of a forty something chap catching up with some reading, in actual fact, it's about much more than that - art, philosophy, science, life, history. It's deeply thought out but deftly written with a lightness of touch.
I don't think I will read a better book this year, and I already feel like I am going to have to read it again.
This year, I have tried an experiment of my own, on a much smaller and less ambitious scale than Miller. I have been trying to follow Mr Gove's advice to school pupils to "read a book a week". It's the end of July and I am on book number 26 of 2014. Miller attempts something far more interesting - to read 50 great books (and a Dan Brown) in a year.
I think it's clear I am a huge fan, Mr Miller, and I'm writing this in frank admiration.
The only error I spotted was the misspelling of the Groke in the passage about the Moomin books (a childhood favourite of mine), which for some reason was spelled "Groak" in the book. Or, was this a deliberate error?
I am going to have to read some of the books on the list, starting with, I think, Michel Houellebecq's Atomised.
If I could give this six stars, I would. Reader, I could marry him.


Hate
Hate
by Alan Gibbons
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.19

5.0 out of 5 stars "I hope it does Sophie justice.", 16 July 2014
This review is from: Hate (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very moving and powerful book. It's based loosely on the murder of Sophie Lancaster and is set in and around the North West of England. Preston, Manchester, Ingleton Falls, and more places get a mention, though the setting of the murder, Brierley, and Cartmel Park are clearly fictional.
The story is about a girl called Eve, whose sister, Rosie, was killed by some youths in a park for looking different, at the age of 20. There are some well written passages meditating on Rosie's death and what it means to the different members of her family.
At the start of the book Eve is horrified by the arrival of Anthony Broad at her school. It becomes evident that Anthony was there on the night Rosie was killed, that he was a bystander, that he did nothing to intervene or to try and prevent her death. Eve decides to keep away from Anthony, but her mum doesn't. Still grieving her daughter's loss, Eve's mum goes round to Anthony's house to confront his mother and try to persuade her to make Anthony give evidence in court, evidence his mother insists he is unable to give because he didn't see a single blow struck.
Eve's best friend Jess fancies Anthony, and this makes life complicated for Jess and Eve. Jess' big brother Oli has a struggle of his own going on, which comes to light when the school debate takes as its topic "Has political correctness gone too far?"
As the book goes on, the tension rises and you begin to sense there might be an act of violence to rival the one in which Rosie got killed. Bigotry and prejudice are explored in all their ugliness.
I would recommend this book, and I think it is a useful book as a classroom read for classes who are studying hate crime or prejudice. It ticks a lot of SMSC boxes (spiritual, moral, social, cultural). More importantly, Alan Gibbons says in his forward, "I hope it does Sophie justice." I think it does.


Valentino's Chocolate Pizza 10" Milk Chocolate Pizza
Valentino's Chocolate Pizza 10" Milk Chocolate Pizza

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone I have bought these pizzas for has loved them. L-O-V-E-D them, 13 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Ah, what can I say? Everyone I have bought these pizzas for has loved them. L-O-V-E-D them. They make great gifts or sometimes we just buy one if we are off on holiday and we want to treat ourselves. Fabulous. 5 star chocolate treat. If you have never had one, you have to get one. You won't regret it.
Love, the Chocoholic x


Black Heart Blue
Black Heart Blue
by Louisa Reid
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, redemptive, grown-up story of a dysfunctional childhood, 13 July 2014
This review is from: Black Heart Blue (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Gosh, well, where to start giving you an idea of what this story is about. It's got some quite adult themes and I would guess it's suitable for those teen readers who are looking for more adult books to read. It's very powerful and dramatic and I liked it an awful lot.

Rebecca and Hepzibah are twins. You can tell by their Biblical names that their parents are religious, and indeed they are. Dad, Roderick, is a pastor and his wife is a cipher, a trodden-down woman who appears to hate her own daughters. Hepzibah seems to get all the luck, she gets the boyfriend and the parties and nights out, and Rebecca is the unlucky twin, but it's worse than that. Rebecca has Treacher Collins syndrome, which means her facial bones are malformed and she is also hard of hearing. Her hearing was made worse when her dad hit her. Dad seems to be using Rebecca as the scapegoat of the family and he takes out his frustrations on her, and makes both girls live a life of abstention and self denial - they are not allowed to bath, for example, or go shopping, or have new clothes. They have to get what they can from charity bags and Hepzibah shoplifts make-up from the local chemist. Meanwhile Rebecca reads voraciously, though she's never allowed to visit the library, and she implies that she has compared herself at one point to Mary Shelley's Creature in Frankenstein.
You guess very early on that the family is severely dysfunctional, and that all the problems in the family can be traced back to Dad, but it takes the whole story to realise why and how. In the first few pages we are told that Hepzibah is dead and I soon formed a suspicion about how it came to happen. However, I was wrong, and just kept turning the pages as the clues gradually led to the truth.
This isn't a story with violence and abuse for gratuitous reasons, though. It's a story with a heart. Both twins care for each other and protect each other, so you care about them both, even though at first Hepzibah seems to have all the luck on her side. At the end you realise that Rebecca has shown real courage and learned to love herself. If it sounds like a grim read, well, yes, it is, but lots of what happens is about triumphing over disaster and learning to live life and be positive. There are lots of themes that would give teen readers food for thought - disability and equality, love, parents, religion, rules, the value of education. That makes it sound like a worthy book, but it isn't, it's down to earth and gritty, moving and heartening, and finally, life-affirming. Oh, and it has a touch of magical realism too, which I loved.
An excellent read overall, highly recommended!


Colgate A1500 ProClinical Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Colgate A1500 ProClinical Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Price: 117.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good buy., 25 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This replaces my old Philips Sonicare which I had used for about three years. I find the Colgate easier to use. The Philips head is a lot larger than the Colgate, so the Colgate is much easier to manoeuvre inside the mouth. The brush is much lighter. It has an anti slip handle which is easy to grip. With the Philips I found it slipped in my hand if I didn't keep tight hold of it.
The Colgate does clean my teeth more effectively. I'm learning how to keep my head upright. If you lean over the basin, it can miscalculate the angle and therefore the speed of brushing. (It has 3 auto speeds). I wasn't sure if the different speeds were a gimmick but having got used to the brush I can see how it's meant to work. You tilt the brush at 45' to clean your gums and then horizontally on the tooth surfaces it cleans faster.
I like the carry case and the charger unit. I can see me travelling with the Colgate whereas the Phililps was always too heavy and bulky to travel with.
I would recommend this brush. The other big positive in it's favour is that replacement heads are about 40% cheaper than Philips.


The Murder Bag
The Murder Bag
by Tony Parsons
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best crime novel I have ever read, 7 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Murder Bag (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really loved this book from start to finish. I don't normally read much crime fiction, although I like Ruth Rendell, and I heard Tony Parsons interviewed on Simon Mayo and also on the Guardian pod cast and I just thought his book sounded a bit different to the normal run of the mill crime novel.
Max Wolfe is the narrator, and he is Tony Parsons' creation; a fictional detective. He lives with his small daughter, Scout, and his dog, Stan. Max does the school run. He also works as a detective investigating a series of murders of rich, ex-public school boys.
Something connects the murders and it seems to be the manner of their deaths - which is that they are gruesomely killed with a fighting knife in a very particular way. They are also connected by the fact that they all appear in a photograph taken while they were at school. The book follows Max's efforts to find the killer.
What set this book apart for me was the way that Tony Parsons seamlessly weaves in all sorts of details about police work and methods of killing as well as all sorts of other interesting facts about, for example, boxing (Max is a member of a boxing club where he goes to get rid of the adrenaline he builds up at work).
I really felt for Max as he gets himself into one or two sticky situations during the hunt for the killer. It's tremendously well written and I will definitely look out for his second novel. I am a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Sometimes crime novels have too much blood and gore for me (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, for example), and this book has some gruesome murders in, but they are so well written that you find yourself caught up in the story and you just can't stop turning the pages.
Highly recommended. I don't think you will be disappointed by this book.


The Black Stars of Ghana
The Black Stars of Ghana
by Alan Whelan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.03

5.0 out of 5 stars It Take No Time, 16 May 2014
This book was a great read, very entertaining and easy to read, and I read it in one sitting.
At the end of the book, Alan Whelan says, "I came to Ghana to disprove the suggestion that giving African colonies independence in the 1950s would be like giving a child a latch-key, a bank account and a shot gun." "But now," he says, "the country has plenty to teach the West: its ingenuity, perseverance and the ability to keep in plain sight the important aspects of life." Whelan travels across Ghana by motorbike, stopping off to watch the World Cup Football matches that Ghana plays in 2010.
This book is all about giving the general reader snapshots of life in Ghana today, and what to expect if you travel there. It's a feel good book that makes you want to go to Ghana and it makes you understand why Whelan wanted to sell a lot of his possessions when he returned - the things you don't need as you travel through life. The people of Ghana are presented as full of hope, humour, and hospitality. Whelan admires them for the way they naturally come to each others' help, and tries to emulate that - for example, by allowing a man whose motorbike has broken down to catch hold of his arm and be towed along (up hill and down hill) to the next town!
I really liked the inscrutable names of taxis and shops: The It Take No Time vehicle repair shop, the Be A Man bar, the Don't Mind Your Wife bar, the Messiah hotel ("a glimpse of Heaven"), the Don't Go There taxi, and so on.
There's lots of humour in the book, the food is plentiful but sometimes surprising (when he asks for chicken, he is given pork), and he visits some really interesting places, exploring the history of slavery and the Gold Coast as well as schools, homes, and all sorts of boarding houses and hotels.
This book reminded me in some ways of Tim Butcher's Blood River, which I also enjoyed, but this is a lighter read. It has less political background in it, so if you were keenly interested in the history of Ghana, you might want to find another book, but if you want an idea of what travel to Ghana is like for the everyday tourist, or you are planning a trip there, I think this book would be a perfect read.


Monarch [DVD]
Monarch [DVD]
Dvd ~ TP McKenna
Price: 11.03

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A diverting TV film., 17 April 2014
This review is from: Monarch [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I think this would be a good film for a television buff who likes looking back at the way they used to make programmes. If you are keen on modern film making techniques, you will think this very dated.
It tells the story of an ageing King Henry VIII who ends up in a country house after an accident which makes him vulnerable to the sort of powerful men who would want to see him overthrown. He lies ill for several days during which time he is delerious and hallucinates about the past and his queens.
I did enjoy the performances and the script was good - I recognised Jean Marsh of Upstairs Downstairs. The things I found surprising were the mistakes. The most glaring one I noticed was that the men tuck into Granny Smiths apples which are a modern variety and were only grown from the end of the 1800s. I doubt they would make such an error nowadays. And some of the costumes looked a little amateurish. But, having said that, it was still entertaining, and does cover a supposedly true event in Henry's life that I had not known about before seeing the film. That was what made it really interesting and worth a watch.


The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.56

4.0 out of 5 stars A great read for bibliophiles, 29 Mar 2014
If you're a bookaholic I think you would love this book. It tells the story of a bookshop owner who lives on an island. He is a quirky character, a little bit stand offish at the start of the book, and he's visited by a publisher's rep who brings a list of books with her that I immediately started to look for on Amazon. Some of the books she talks about are real, some aren't.
Fikry slowly falls in love with the rep, and simultaneously adopts a small child who has been abandoned in his bookshop. Maya soon builds his sales by marching up to customers and thrusting books into their hands, even though she is only tiny.
The book meanders along, stopping along the way to discuss reading habits and various books, such as The Book Thief, which one of Fikry's customers has the temerity not to like! She asks for a refund! (Cheek!)
I found the end of the book a little unsatisfying as the way it ends was, I felt, a little forced. I felt that there was one event which appeared to be used as a plot device and it made the book a little creaky at the end, but I am still glad I read it. An entertaining light read.


Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar for GCSE - Digital Tester and Handbook
Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar for GCSE - Digital Tester and Handbook
by CGP Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.11

3.0 out of 5 stars Useful revision tool, 29 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book and CD Rom are intended to help students prepare for GCSE English exams and other exams where punctuation spelling and grammar are marked.
I liked the idea of a CD that students can work through, picking out the sections that they feel they need most.
There are sections for each subject with key vocabulary. I did not think the English words were the ones I would have chosen for my students to learn. Some were useful but I highlighted the ones I wanted them to learn and left the others. What candidates who need spelling practice need is the words that are commonly misspelled such as embarrassment and favourite.
I lent the resource to a student to see what she thought of it, but she said her computer at home would not run it. I had no problems running it on my machine, so whether this was a problem with her machine or the resource I don't know.
I do highly rate CGP stuff, and I have bought loads of it in the past, so this was a tiny bit of a disappointment, to be honest. I think there are probably better guides out there.


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