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Spider Monkey (UK)
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Cleopatra
Cleopatra
by Stacy Schiff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cleopatra, 10 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Cleopatra (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`Cleopatra: A Life' is an in-depth and fascinating look at that enigmatic Egyptian Queen from the Pulitzer prize winning Stacy Schiff. In its pages we come across beauty and luxuries, cowardice and bravery, great civilisations and their crippling wars, extreme loyalty and equally as extreme betrayal and all set amidst the atmospheric locations of Roman Europe and Egypt.

In these pages the author manages to strip back some of the misconceptions and myths surrounding Cleopatra and by the end you feel that the Hollywood character and Shakespearean heroine has been made to shine more clearly. This book manages to show us the life (as far as one can research it) and the times of this entrancing historical figure.

In detailed and descriptive prose we see how she rose to power, the politics she had to work with and the love affairs she had with both Caesar and Mark Antony which shaped her empire, life and her legacy.

This book has two colour plate sections which show some statues and artists impressions of some aspects, locations and people mentioned in this book which add to the overall enjoyment and understanding of this topic.

I will admit I found certain passages and sections of this book a touch dry to read through, but not excessively so and pretty soon I was back in the grip of this intriguing woman's life and revelling in every detail and story of her life.

All in all this seems to be a well researched book (which is well notated and referenced in the back for those who need that type of thing) and I enjoyed reading more about Cleopatra and the times she lived in. It made for a fascinating and gripping read and I can heartily recommend it if you have an interest in this period of history.

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Extreme Insects
Extreme Insects
by Richard Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Extreme Insects, 24 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Extreme Insects (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`Extreme Insects' is an attractive book that kind of acts like a Guiness book of records of insect facts and feats.

Each entry looks at a different aspect of insect life like `smallest egg' or `Best Dancer' and then proceeds to explain the particular topic in greater depth, with stunning imagery as accompaniment.

This is perfect to dip in and out of, but I found that I became so engrossed in the topics discussed that I'd read many entries in one hit without being aware of the time passed. It really is fascinating stuff. I feel this would make for wonderful coffee table material and there should be something in here to interest most passing readers and if you have a specific interest in insects then this would make for required reading for the photographs alone.

For those of a more scientific leaning this does also include Latin names and locations where the insects can be found worldwide.

All in all this makes for an interesting and attractive book and if you have an interest in natural history then this would be a good addition to your bookshelf.

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Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy)
Titus Groan (Gormenghast Trilogy)
by Mervyn Peake
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Titus Groan, 22 Sept. 2011
`Titus Groan' is the first book in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy and it opens with the birth of Titus, the heir to the imposing Gormenghast castle. It then proceeds to unfold into a story of intrigue, betrayal and Machiavellian manoeuvring like any good fantasy book should.

This has some wonderful characters that are hard to fully like, but all of which will keep you fascinated and amused throughout. There is the insect like man-servant Mr Flay and his nemesis the overbearing and overweight chef Swelter. An ambitious and ruthless young man called Steerpike who twists all knowledge and people to his own ends. The aloof countess who talks to birds and is followed about by white cats. Two twin sisters who are simple and easy to manipulate and who hate the countess with a passion. A doctor and his sister who come to the administrations of the various castle inhabitants, the Dr is the one who provides some of the only sound advice and reason in the book. An aged librarian who struggles to keep the rituals the castle has become fixated upon. A rather annoying but well meaning nanny who is often accompanied by Fuschia, the free spirited daughter of the lord and Lord Sepulchrave, the Earl of Gormenghast himself, who is detached and only truly loves his books. As you can see and intriguing and eclectic mix.

The book is exceptionally well written and apart from the odd long winded passage, it flows remarkably well and kept me eagerly turning the pages to find out what would happen next. There are some descriptions and images that are almost poetic and I was surprised at just how beautifully Peake wrote, I was expecting more simple fare for what is essentially a fantasy novel.

This is one of those books where it seems like not a lot happens, but by the end a great deal has occurred. You are rapidly enveloped into it's world and live and breathe the events along with the characters for the duration of reading. Like I said it is stunningly written and made for compelling reading. I can understand some of the ambivalence towards this due to it's aimless story at times and no clear plot and drive, but when a book is as well written as this is and the story it weaves is so engaging I can overlook these aspects and soak up every glorious sentence.

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All The Devils Are Here: Unmasking the Men Who Bankrupted the World
All The Devils Are Here: Unmasking the Men Who Bankrupted the World
by Bethany McLean
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars All the Devils are Here, 13 Sept. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`All the Devils are Here' is a book that explores how the financial industry brought the world economy crashing down during the credit crunch of 2008 and exposes the people at the heart of the crisis.

In a book packed full of detail we are taken through the rise and over exploitation of subprime mortgage debt by some of the biggest names on Wall Street. I gained a greater understanding of how the subprime market rose and became so pervasive, how the various banks made money from the debt it bought and traded and the depth and level of risk undertaken during the period explored and why it all eventually came tumbling down.

I agree with other reviewers that this book has quite a lot of jargon, but to be fair most of it is explained and you just need to keep these explanations in mind to fully grasp what this book has to offer. There is also a list of the people involved at the start, as well as a glossary of the various financial abbreviations to make everything a touch clearer. There are also two photo plate sections with photo's of the key players in the crisis and it's resolution, although I just skimmed this once or twice and feel it didn't really add a great deal to the book.

I would've liked some graphs, charts or other images to clarify some of the points raised and I think this would have made the book a lot easier to grasp for the general reader.

It pays to be aware that this mainly mentions the crisis from an American point of view and the UK economy is only briefly touched upon at a few moments where the stories meet. But as the crisis originated in America and then spread globally this stands to reason. But, if you want a look at the crisis from a UK, or global, point of view you should look elsewhere.

All in all this was an fascinating, if slightly heavy going read and I learnt a great deal that left me shocked and staggered at the greed and risk taken with other peoples money. Be prepared for an in-depth and testing read that won't dumb things down or insult your intelligence and you should be fine.

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Splice (Double Play Blu-ray + DVD)
Splice (Double Play Blu-ray + DVD)
Dvd ~ Adrien Brody
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £3.37

3.0 out of 5 stars Splice, 10 Sept. 2011
`Splice' is an average sci-fi horror film about what happens when two scientists start playing around with genes and nature and the dire consequences.

Clive and Elsa are two scientists who splice DNA from different animals to make proteins for the medical industry. When they secretly splice human DNA into the mix the result is a weird hybrid, who grows at an alarming rate and has unique characteristics that are at first intriguing and which quickly become more alarming.

The special effects in this film are reasonable and the plot, whilst predictable and clichéd is entertaining enough. The acting leaves a lot to be desired and I have seen Brody act a lot better than what he offers us in this film.

This film feels a bit flat to be honest. It's not the worst film I've ever seen, but it doesn't offer anything new and it plods along without any real zest or flair. It feels like it is a `sci-fi by-numbers' film and the director doesn't try to do anything new or original with the concept.

Never-the-less it is worth a viewing if you can catch it on TV for free or as part of a rental package. It isn't quite as bad as some people have said, but it's not far off!

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Micmacs [Blu-ray]
Micmacs [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Dany Boon
Price: £6.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Micmacs, 3 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Micmacs [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
`Micmacs' is a quirky and yet strangely beautiful French film.

Following a group of homeless people with a variety of unusual skills, we see them plan and carry out their own unique brand of revenge on a pair of arms manufacturers with often hilarious results.

As others have mentioned this film is shot with soft light and it is also infused with a certain sense of humour. I love the little touches like when a car drives by the exact same scene was portrayed on a billboard above them as an advert. Small and silly, but it shows the attention to detail.

The plot is relatively simple, but completely engaging and everyone acts their roles very well. It does feel VERY French at times and if you enjoy French film then this should be right up your street.

This has quite a gentle pace to it and I found it enjoyable enough and whilst it isn't as amazing as some 5 star reviews make out, it isn't nearly as dire as others have said either. It is a stylised piece of film making, with a decent story and decent acting and made for an entertaining evenings viewing. I'd say it's at least worth a go.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.


Shrek Forever After: The Final Chapter - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)
Shrek Forever After: The Final Chapter - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)
Dvd ~ Mike Myers
Offered by You Love a Bargain
Price: £2.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shrek: Forever After, 1 Sept. 2011
`Shrek: Forever After' is the last instalment of this great animated series and I am glad to say it doesn't disappoint.

After the lack lustre `Shrek the Third' I was worried the format was getting a little tired, but thankfully this film is a worthy addition to the franchise.

This film sees Shrek, after he is tricked by Rumplestiltskin and he loses Fiona, try to correct his mistakes and make his life is own again. We see more of his kids and what life is like as an ogre parent and this continues to poke fun at the whole fairytale genre as we have come to expect and love.

This still provides the excellent voice-over talents of Cameron Diaz, Mike Myers, Antonio Banderas and Eddie Murphy and we also get introduced to new characters like the Pied Piper, Rumplestiltskin and a host of witches.

There are plenty of jokes for the kids and enough for the adults to make this an enjoyable film for all involved. It isn't as snappy or edgy as the first 2 films, but it is still an entertaining way to spend an evening. All in all I'd say add it to your Shrek collection, you shouldn't be disappointed.

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Gulliver's Travels [Blu-ray]
Gulliver's Travels [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Jack Black
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £6.08

2.0 out of 5 stars Gulliver's Travels, 1 Sept. 2011
I am sorry to start by saying that `Gulliver's Travels' was quite a disappointing film.

This follows Gulliver, played by Jack Black, after he gets lost at sea and wakes up in the land of Lilliput surrounded by people a fraction of his size. He uses his size and strength to assist them and becomes an integral part of their lives.

The premise is sound enough, but the execution is sadly lacking. Jack Black plays the role as he has numerous roles before and you can see he isn't stretched or tested in any way. You can only watch so many film where he gurns and plays air guitar before it wears a bit thin. The rest of the cast, which includes some great British names, are all rather wooden and the dialogue is atrocious.

Thankfully the effects are reasonable and this also has a decent soundtrack which helps redeem it.

I guess this film is aimed more towards a child audience and they may well enjoy it more than my wife and I did. We were glad it was just under 90 minutes and whilst it isn't the worst film I've ever seen, it isn't a good film either. You can quite happily watch it and not be overly offended, but I'm guessing this isn't a film that warrants repeat viewings.

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Kokoro (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works)
Kokoro (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works)
by Natsume Soseki
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.66

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kokoro, 1 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
`Kokoro' is a beautifully written book with a deep underlying sadness running throughout it.

This is the story of a young man (the narrator) who befriends an older man, who he calls Sensei. There is a mystery and sadness about Sensei that intrigues the narrator which only comes to light after he goes home to care for his dying father and he receives a letter of Sensei's life story.

Like I mentioned, this has a sadness running throughout it and whist some passages and sentences stand out for their beauty and structure, overall it is the melancholy aspect of this book that I was left with.

The story is quite slow paced and whilst I found it intriguing, I will admit I found it hard to motivate myself to continue with it at times. The translation from Japanese can make it feel a touch stilted at times, but all in all it was a good read.

There is also an introduction exploring the themes of the book which is worth a read, but only after you have finished as it includes some spoilers.

I have read other Japanese literature that I have enjoyed more (notably the work of Yukio Mishima) but this is still a worthy addition to your Japanese literature bookshelf and worth a read at some point.

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Chico And Rita [Blu-ray]
Chico And Rita [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Javier Mariscal
Price: £7.34

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chico and Rita, 19 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Chico And Rita [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
`Chico and Rita' is a wonderful animation mainly set in Havana, Cuba, but also taking in New York, Paris and Las Vegas. It follows a piano player (Chico) and a singer (Rita) who have an impassioned and stormy relationship. You see how they meet and fall in love, how they perform together and how their paths divide and cross again throughout their lives.

The animation is very stylised and at the same time beautiful. It has some great effects where it seems almost 3D (for example when they ride a motorbike down the street) and whilst it may seem simple I would contend that this is deceptive.

As this is based around music you would be right in thinking this is a key aspect to the film and I adored the laid back Cuban jazz on offer. I am slightly biased as I am a fan of this type of music anyway, but it is especially good here.

The plot is good enough to keep you interested and although my wife found it rather slow in places, I personally enjoyed the story it weaved.

Overall this is a very stylish and entertaining film. You will love it if you have been to Cuba and you can quite happily spend the film `spotting' places you have been to, but the story and music really elevates this above other run-of-the-mill animated films out there. Well worth checking out at some point.

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