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Bluecashmere. (Scotland)
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LEGO City Great Vehicles 60055: Monster Truck
LEGO City Great Vehicles 60055: Monster Truck

5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun and great value., 10 Sep 2014
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Warmly appreciated by young boy. It is, as expected, well made and finished and offers huge amounts of fun. In addition it is excellent value and mixes easily with all manner of other Lego vehicles and constructions.


Ghostman
Ghostman
by Roger Hobbs
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.50

4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful first novel., 9 Sep 2014
This review is from: Ghostman (Paperback)
It was only after I had finished reading this book that I discovered that it was a first novel, written by a 25 year old. Quite apart from my surprise at this information, I had already decided that it was a fine achievement. I was gripped throughout by the mounting suspense and the powerful evocation of incidental detail.

The novel belongs more or less to the hard-boiled school of predominantly American crime writing. In the past I have found that the weakness of this approach is that after a while a numbing effect sets in. Here, Hobbs seems to me to escape that charge via subtle shifts in pace and tone, as well as twists in the plot. It is true, as other reviewers are not slow to point out, that the central character lacks the frailties and vulnerabilities that would make him entirely credible. This is undeniable. However, is this any less true of more established heroes of the genre? Overall I found this compulsive reading and look forward to what Mr Hobbs has to offer us in the future.


Vengeance: Quirke Mysteries Book 5
Vengeance: Quirke Mysteries Book 5
by Benjamin Black
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another triumph for Black., 8 Sep 2014
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This, the fifth in the Quirke series, more than lives up to the virtues of its predecessors. In fact, I think it is my favourite so far. Certainly, there is no sign of Black running out of steam yet.

Here, the action centres on a family feud and business rivalry, but once again it is less a burning sense of suspense than the texture of the writing and the lives of the three central, permanent characters that rivet attention. Against the background of 1950s Dublin – the time if not perhaps the place – is sharply realised, and becomes almost an additional character. The plot is skilfully handled, but our attention is every bit as much focused on the lives and relationships of Quirke, himself, his daughter Phoebe and his foil, the phlegmatic but sharp Inspector Hackett.

As I write I think I have only one novel in this series left to read. I savour the prospect and hope that Black is hard at work on the seventh. I find Quirke one of the most engaging of crime novel detectives.


Instant Table Tennis
Instant Table Tennis
Price: £17.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but disappointed., 6 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Instant Table Tennis (Toy)
I’m at a bit of a loss here. This seems to me an extremely well made device, unlike so many it retains tension in the net. It is also sturdy and likely to withstand a great deal of use. In addition it is finished well and looks good and arrived fast and well packed. So, why the hesitation? Well, unfortunately we are unable to use it because the depth of the table is too great to fit into the clamps. I’m reluctant to return it since there is hope that perhaps a table of standard size can be found to accommodate it. However, it would be useful were this measurement included in the product specifications.


SINGLE BED DUVET COVER & 1 PILLOW CASE SET WOODLAND CREATURES, OWLS, FOX, FLOWERS / TREES, BROWN, ORANGE, GREEN
SINGLE BED DUVET COVER & 1 PILLOW CASE SET WOODLAND CREATURES, OWLS, FOX, FLOWERS / TREES, BROWN, ORANGE, GREEN
Offered by Price-Right-Home
Price: £12.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Great value., 6 Sep 2014
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Well, as one all too far removed from childhood, I am delighted with this duvet cover. It has charm and colour and if not of the very highest quality material is soundly made and more than serviceable. The cat seems to approve, too.


The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism
The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism
by Professor A. C. Grayling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sanity and Hope., 6 Sep 2014
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This book should be required reading in every higher education establishment and beyond, even if we have to acknowledge that minds that are firmly closed will resist even the most powerful of intellectual crow bars.

In the beautifully lucid opening chapters Professor Grayling exposes the delusions involved in religious faith and the enormous damage caused by those in power who have used these delusions to gull, manipulate, torture and kill huge numbers of people throughout the centuries. By no means does he deny the extraordinary contributions to art, nor the psychological comforts that religion has afforded. Simply, he sets these against the price that has been paid and offers us the higher value of truth. Much of what is argued may not, in itself be new, but it cannot be said too often and Professor Grayling argues his case with style and conviction. The case against religion is incontrovertible. Here the author sweeps away the lame arguments that are still advanced to defend the indefensible. It is indeed a “boxing match with jelly”, but Grayling cuts through the amorphous with razor sharp logic.

The second section of the book, where Grayling takes on the ontological and cosmological arguments is denser, rather more of a challenge for the reader not trained in, or familiar with, the terminology and methods of academic philosophy. It is though well worth the effort, and here again the emphasis is on practical implications and not devoted to theoretical issues removed from our lives in the real world. We are still not far from the fire-breathing dragon in the garage and Twain’s maxim that “faith is believing what you know aint so”.

Education is a major area of attention, from the dangerous and anachronistic faith schools, for which politicians are responsible and for which we may all pay a heavy price, to the equally dangerous infiltration into schools of creationist/ID theory. There are, indeed, the most disturbing movements afoot back towards the pre-scientific world of superstition.

Equally lucid and cogent is Professor Grayling’s presentation of Humanism, a morality based not on unknowable hypotheses but on the simple recognition of the needs of others. In short on the value of kindness, not treating others as we would wish them to treat us but as individuals with their own separate and distinct needs. This is all the very antithesis of “I don’t like it therefore you are not allowed to do it”, so often the attitude of the religious establishment, particularly with regard to such issues as sex, pornography, drugs, all of which in the eyes and words of the religious seem to dominate moral indignation rather than landmines and torture, famine and the profits from the international arms trade.

One of the most potent sections of Professor Grayling’s book concerns the arguments for and against euthanasia. I find this one of the most eloquent - indeed moving - statements anywhere against the institutionalised cruelty of placing the so-called sanctity of human life – a sanctity given precious little importance in other contexts, such as war and punishment – above the quality of human life. Once more Grayling identifies the hypocrisy and deceit in the different moral attitudes to passive and active euthanasia.

If there is one area that I would like the author to have taken on, it is the vital threat of political correctness. What emerged from warm, liberal sympathies and a sense of righting much of the unfairness of modern society has become a very real threat to the liberties we have valued as free, democratic societies. When we reach a situation in which people may be imprisoned for giving expression to ideas that may offend or affront others, we have taken a sinister step down the Stalinist path. This concern seems to me a very real challenge to the humanism Professor Grayling espouses and to the public square to which he alludes more than once in his opening. A caveat, albeit, I think, a crucial one.

That apart, I cannot find words to give sufficient emphasis to the quality and importance of this book.


The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (Penguin Classics)
The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (Penguin Classics)
by Various contributors
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive anthology., 2 Sep 2014
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There is no shortage of anthologies of WW1 poetry; “Up the Line to Death” and “Men who March Away” are just two that deserve note. Why then another? Well, George Walter’s edited Penguin Classics anthology has a number of distinctive qualities, not least a most thoughtful and accessible introduction. Its range of reference to not only the poets themselves, to other writers and to critics such as Stead and historians such as A. J. P. Taylor, is genuinely illuminating and offers within a short space some fresh perspectives on well-trodden ground. Mr Walter combines scholarship with a lucid, available style that offers much to established and new readers.

What most marks out this splendid anthology is the selection of poems. The major poets are well-represented and Walter is not afraid to include the familiar, including Brooke’s “The Soldier” an extraordinarily beautiful poem for all that has been said of it. Rosenberg, Hardy, Sassoon, Owen et al all have their rightful places. I suppose it is where Walter moves away from the well known that gives the anthology its more distinctive feel. The surprises are not just names unrecognised; Pound is not the first name one would expect to find here and Vera Brittain is generally better known for her diaries than her poems. Many are in the vernacular of the time and this together with the thoughtful arrangement of the poems gives the anthology a freshness and immediacy, not that easy to achieve on this subject.The notes are clear, helpful and of equal use to student and “lay” reader.

The few words above do much less than justice to this admirable achievement, but please don’t pass it by; the words, so many concerning death, leap from the pages with vibrant life.


Panic
Panic
by Lauren Oliver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment., 2 Sep 2014
This review is from: Panic (Paperback)
Occasionally I try a book at random with little or no knowledge of its contents, perhaps attracted by no more than its cover, a recommendation from a respected reviewer or curiosity aroused by the opening pages. Sometimes I’m lucky and hit on an author who becomes a real favourite. It seems to me a good way to move out into the unknown and to explore fresh writing.

For me, this one was a flop. It starts with an idea that seems full of promise. However, the writing is flat and ordinary and the multiple points of view don’t really work. All seems rather repetitive and the story lacks any real direction or tension. Perhaps it would have taken hold if the characters had been more distinctive; like the plot they are rather predictable and ordinary. Some readers seem to have found the novel satisfying but I’m afraid it left me cold.


Entry Island
Entry Island
by Peter May
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Almost a major success., 1 Sep 2014
This review is from: Entry Island (Paperback)
I was moved to read this novel by my enjoyment of the Lewes trilogy of books. The same powerful sense of place informs the writing here. While I am inclined to acclaim the novel as something of a tour de force, it is much longer and more ambitious than the trilogy, I have some reservations, and for me these prevent the book earning the unqualified praise that many have heaped upon it.

Sime McKenzie is a compelling figure. Indeed the book would not work were he not as all the events are filtered through his experience and consciousness. His relationship with his fellow officers is convincingly done and I think that to describe his growing fascination with Kirsty Cowell as the stuff of Mills and Boon is gratuitously insulting. For the most part I find the relationship well-handled .

What concerns me more is the structural device on which the whole book rests - the connection between the present police enquiry and events that occurred generations earlier. A large portion of the novel is concerned with what happened in the early and middle nineteenth century and incresingly the burden of this connection bears down on the conclusion, for me the least satisfactory part of the proceedings, sadly perfunctory in the light of the build up. While May succeeds in achieving a strong sense of social reality in his description of that world and the events he describes, I have to confess to an impatience that we return to the more pressing current situation. It is, perhaps, asking a lot that the two aspects of the novel should seamlessly dovetail into a single whole, but in the last analysis I have to say that while this may be the raison d'etre for the plot, it doesn't quite come off.

All that said by way of criticism, I still found myself gripped and indeed completed the novel in its entirety in not much more than forty eight hours, some kind of tribute I suppose. I had not realised just how prolific a writer May is. There is bound to be some unevenness and yes, there are occasional lapses in style, but not such as to take away the often enthralling experience the author offers us here.


The Odyssey
The Odyssey
by Gillian Cross
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional book., 31 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Odyssey (Hardcover)
This book is sheer delight.

I bought it for my eight year old grand-daughter, who has been captivated throughout. It is simply and beautifully written, without a hint of patronising, filled with original and striking illustrations and the episodes are just the right length to hold attention and whet the appetite for what follows. Many an older child, indeed many an adult, would be enchanted by the contents of a book that from beginning to end speaks of quality.

Very highly recommended.


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