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M. J. Holland (England)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful toy. Just ask my grandson !, 3 Aug. 2007
Just to say that if you are pondering whether to buy this toy, then your money will be extremely well spent. My grandson has 5 of the boxes from the construction series and absolutely loves them. They provide hours of imaginative play that involve either of his grandparents designated to humble supporting roles as the vehicles and figures are marshalled across the carpet. Typically like Brio, Plan and Lego this is yet another continental toy that puts to shame some of the horrible plastic junk that adorns the shelves of our supermarkets and toy shops. Do your children or grandchildren a favour and invest in some of these Woody Click toys.

Sacred Games
Sacred Games
by Vikram Chandra
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.78

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book. READ THIS BOOK !!, 3 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Sacred Games (Paperback)
I have just finished this wonderful novel and agree totally with one of the quotes on the book jacket about finishing the novel with regret.
As I have virtually no knowledge about India and especially Mumbai,which is perhaps the book's main character, I cannot say how accurate this portrait is. This did not devalue the reading experience one iota. It is quite simply an enthralling read, facilitated by the author's graceful and flowing prose.
947 pages could indicate a slow, tedious read, but nothing could be further from the truth. The plot unfolds beautifully and the novel is rounded off unexpectedly and in a most satisfying manner by the two moving Inset chapters before we return for the final chapter to Sartaj Singh, the Sikh policeman at the heart of the story.
This book teems with life, and the sounds, smells and sights of India bombard you from all sides. Is it realistic ? Who cares ? And don't be put off by thinking it's a detective novel, because it isn't. We should just be grateful that Vikram Chandra has provided us readers with such a treat. Do yourself a favour. Buy, beg or borrow a copy of this novel and prepare yourself for a great reading experience.

Pocoyo & Friends: Series 1 - Episodes 1-13 [DVD]
Pocoyo & Friends: Series 1 - Episodes 1-13 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Pocoyo

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top of the class ! A view from Grandad !, 21 May 2007
My grandson has opened up a whole new world to me, one that I didn't know existed. That's the world, of course, of television programmes and dvds aimed at the very young. From what I've seen so far two programmes stand head and shoulders above the rest and they are Pocoyo and Pingu.( I'm a big fan of Little Princess, but I think it appeals to me more than it does to [...]grandson ! )Anyway back to the two Ps and I cannot believe there isn't an adult or child that could fail to be entranced by these wonderful programmes. I would absolutely recommend Pocoyo to everyone. Buy it ! You won't be disppointed.

The Culture of the Europeans
The Culture of the Europeans
by Donald Sassoon
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give it a go ! You'll be surprised. Honestly !!, 26 April 2007
As no-one has reviewed this book and I have just finished reading it I thought I would try to encourage others to buy this masterful book.

Let's not beat about the bush,this is a long book. A very long book. It has nearly 1400 pages of text without a single picture or illustration to hurry you along. As an aside, the hardbook edition falls into that uncomfortably too heavy to hold variety and I ended up reading this book propped up on the dining room table.

And I'm glad I did, because I found the book fascinating. This fascination was greatly facilitated by Sassoon's easy and fluent style. I won't say the pages flew by, it's not that kind of book, but it was never a book where three quarters of the way down the page I struggled to recall what I'd just been reading about. I think we all know those books.

So why read it ? Well if you have just a fleeting interest in the development of the European novel,newspapers,magazines,cinema,television, radio,clasical music and popular music then it is hard to conceive of a better place to start than this book. The detail is quite stunning. The major players in this narrative are initially the French and British with the shadow of the USA looming large over more or less the whole of the twentieth century. Along the way developments in Germany,Italy, Spain and Russia in particular are frequently aired. I didn't check but I'd imagine that most,if not all, European countries pop into the flow somewhere, but if you have a specialist interest in say the modern Latvian novel then obviously this is not the book for you. There had to be limits to what Sassoon could reasonably cover ! A great strength of the book is that all the time you come up against the fact that although some great artists transcend borders ( think Hugo, Beethoven, Agatha Christie ! ) there are always distinct national preferences at play and what makes it big in England doesn't necessarily do well in Italy. And, of course, vice versa. Sadly one of the recurrent themes of the book is how insular the English speaking countries are to the written cultures of other languages. This continues to this day where the UK and USA translate a minute amount of literature compared to other countries and similarily pop groups all over the world have had to sing in English if they want to gain international recognition.

I found Mr.Sassoon to be a very sympathetic and even-handed guide. There is no ranking of writers or composers here, but an attempt to explain what and who was popular in its day. Many of the names were unknown to me, which obviously makes you ponder as to the longevity of today's superstars. If they follow the pattern of so many examples in this book they will be consigned to the dustbin of history, to be resurrected no doubt someday by a twenty second century Sassoon-alike. I daresay we all have our favourites that we would willingly shove into the proverbial bin this very second !

The book finishes, as it should, with a consideration of the impact of modern technology.Here for instance,I was stunned to read that the computer game Grand Theft Auto grossed in the UK more than the latest Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films in 2004.As someone who has hardly ever played computer games I found this statistic incredible. Thankfully develoments on the net are too recent for Sassoon to stun us with similar data, but he does ponder the likely influence it might have in the future on our culture. So obviously the book deserves a review employing this most modern means of communication. And yes he does mention the influence of home reviewers ! So I just hope Mr.Sassoon enjoys this review.

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East
The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East
by Robert Fisk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.90

172 of 193 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe Me,You Really Should Read This Book., 30 Jan. 2007
I'll begin with a little true story. A very good friend of mine, best man at my wedding in fact, was working as a teacher in Lebanon a few years ago. He loved working there until the day he nearly died. That was when he almost became collateral damage, as it's quaintly known, when the block of flats he was living in was attacked by some, no doubt, highly sophisticated rocket fired from an Israeli helicopter. Apparently some wanted PLO man was supposed to be in the building and it was just tough luck that he happened to be around when the missile was launched.

Anyway he lived to tell the tale, but headed home in order to extend his life expectancy. Now it seems to me that this is what a lot of Fisk's magnum opus is all about. How innocent people are randomly slaughtered for no particular good reason at all and the problem is that the number of such people is vast. By dipping backwards and forwards over the last 150 years or so Fisk very convincingly makes the points that history repeats itself and then that few, if any lessons, seemed to have been learnt from the mistakes made in the past. His father is repeatedly used as a touchstone throughout the book,because he took part in the senseless mass slaughter of World War 1.

And so we come to today and strangely many of the really efficient mass killers over the last 50 years, who invade other countries and destroy homes and the means to live and maybe even steal the land too( and we all know who they are don't we ? ) are the GOOD GUYS !!! Well that's if you look at most newspapers or watch television.One thing that Fisk forces you to face up to is the fact that the, ahem, free world is, for the most part, shackled to a truly supine and mendacious media.

All I know is that if anyone can read this book and not feel shocked and deeply ashamed at the conduct of the supposedly great powers then he or she must possess a blunted moral sensibility. Going back to my bombed-out friend for a moment, you might be interested to know that his interview with either Sky or CNN or Fox etc,you know the plucky if not to say lucky western survivor was never aired. He was convinced this was because he refused to accept the line being fed to him that it must be truly scary living in Lebanon and instead replied that he loved being there, found the people delightful and was extremely angry to have enjoyed a near death experience courtesy of peace-loving Israel. As Fisk repeatedly says in his book, victims of such attacks wherever they take place are either, obviously terrorists or terrorist sympathisers or merely collateral damage. The fact that by far the greatest proportion of the victims in such attacks are totally innocent is conveniently passed over by the perpetrators, since they are, of course, peace loving democrats, who just happen to have sufficient armaments to destroy the world a few times over. Needless to say,this situation is diametrically reversed, when even one or two of the good guys die. These people have usually been killed by evil men etc etc and although we are god-fearing folk our revenge will be swift and terrible. It happens time and time again.

Yes the book is long, but Fisk is never less than highly literate and anyone who enjoys reading will fly through this book. It's not a tough read at all. It is however a devastating one and I would implore anyone with even an ounce of interest in the modern world to read this book. You will be rewarded many times over.
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My Sister's Keeper
My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
Edition: Paperback

12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A sentimental page turner but no more., 22 April 2005
This review is from: My Sister's Keeper (Paperback)
Some backgound. I had never heard of Picoult when I picked up this book.Why did I read it ? Because I thought I'd read the 10 books nominated for the Richard and Judy Best Read Award 2005. The experience was mostly enjoyable, but this, I thought, was one of 3 sub-standard books in the Top Ten.
On the plus side I would concede that Picoult has a simple and readable style.To that extent the book is a real page turner and won't occupy too much of your time.She employs a multiple narrative style in the book and that too works well and the story is easy to follow.
Put simply the novel is all about the relationship of Anna,who is 13 years old to her older sister Kate, who has leukaemia. Without Anna, Kate would die and in fact Anna was "conceived" in order to help her sister live. The story begins when Anna takes her parents to court over her right to decide for herself if she wants to be a donor for her sister anymore.The next operation on the horizon is a kidney transplant.
I don't want to reveal any details of the plot development but this novel descends into bathos, with a hand-wringingly sentimental conclusion.The way that all the loose ends are tidied up is most unfortunate, especially the plot line concerning Jesse, who is the older brother of the two girls at the centre of the plot. I could just see this novel being turned into a ghastly Hollywood film and perhaps Picoult could to.
The novel also features a large sub-plot concerning Anna's lawyer Campbell and her legal guardian,Julia. This sub-plot is a stereotypical soppy romance which is linked to Anna and her sister's dilemma in the most ridiculous manner. Frankly it detracts from the original story line and I'm at a loss to understand why Picoult felt it necessary to develop it.
So I'm sorry all you Picoult fans, this book did nothing for me, even though I have 2 daughters ! I couldn't help feeling all along that this novel had been written simply to exploit a dramatic medical and moral problem and I can't help feeling that this kind of motivation is very unlikely to produce good literature.

The American Boy
The American Boy
by Andrew Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

150 of 155 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 500 pages of escapism bliss ! Buy it !, 20 April 2005
This review is from: The American Boy (Paperback)
Here's another book I only read because it was on the list of 10 books nominated for a Best Read Award on Richard and Judy. The author was new to me and I was also not in the habit of reading historical fiction. So this book was a wonderful surprise and having read it I could fully understand all the praise heaped upon it.
Once I began it was hard to put the book down.This is almost 500 pages of escapism bliss as Taylor's beautifully told tale slowly unfolds. It's a hybrid of historical and crime fiction that is incredibly atmospheric of nineteenth century London. The novel it most reminds me of,if you want a pointer, is Wilkie Collins' "Woman in White" and the fact that I compare it to that great classic shows how highly I think of this book.If you like Wilkie Collins or maybe even Charles Dickens you will love this book.
I see no point in revealing any details of the intricate plot as I'm sure any literate reader will be quickly gripped by Thomas Shield's quest.I will,however,say that I was pleased with the conclusion of the book, which is not one of those banal denouements where all the loose ends are miraculously tidied up and everyone lives happily ever after.
If you are looking for an engrossing and pleasurable read you cannot possibly go wrong with this book. I can guarantee that you will be enthralled and perhaps a bit sad that it isn't even longer !

Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson
Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson
by Paula Byrne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Richard and Judy Pick A Winner., 11 April 2005
I'll confess I would never have looked at this book if it hadn't been for the fact that I decided to read the 10 nominations for Richard and Judy's Best Read 2005.This book has been the biggest pleasant surprise of the lot,because, to be honest, I was not really looking forward to it.
How wrong could I be ? This is a dazzling story of a fascinating woman. I am afraid to say the other biography in the Richard and Judy list,"Feel" by Chris Heath comes off a very poor second when compared to this volume. Sadly of course there's no doubt which book will sell more.I wish all Robbie Williams fans would read this book and find out that maybe their hero's exploits are not so special when compared to what the heroine of this biography got up to.
Mary Robinson, whose nickname was Perdita, was married at 15 and her marriage was something of a disaster and included spending some time in prison with her husband. She then made herself into one of London's most celebrated actresses and was a friend of the outstanding theatrical figures of the day.She became a leading figure in the glamorous high society of the city, reputedly being the most beautiful woman in Britain.She voluntarily gave up her theatrical career to become the mistress of the Prince of Wales, thus heightening her celebrity even further. Reading about this time of her life it appears that she was just as famous or infamous as any contemporary celebrity.Maybe more so.There are many obvious similarities.
In the second half of the book the plot changes almost completely as Mary, after being ditched by her royal lover, re-invents herself as a writer. She is so successful in this enterprise that she becomes one of the leading lady literary figures of the era. She is primarily a poetess, but also writes plays, novels and political tracts and she becomes friendly with both leading political and cultural figures.
It is an absolutely fascinating tale, made more moving perhaps by the fact that she was not lucky in love, suffered a debilitating illness for many years and finally died young at the age of 43.
All this is retold in an easy and entertaining way by Paula Byrne and I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone.Thank you Richard and Judy !

The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

72 of 107 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Words Fail Me !, 8 April 2005
I know this is a subjective viewpoint but I believe this book to be one of the worst novels I have ever read. Why did I read it ? Simply because I set myself the mildly diverting task of reading this year's Richard and Judy shortlist of 10 books, contesting the Best Read award.
I'm nearly through now and have really enjoyed most of the books, especially "The Promise of Happiness","Cloud Atlas", The Shadow of the Wind" and "An American Boy" all of which I'd happily recommend. This book, however, I only read to the end out of a sense of duty.
The plot uses the device of time travel, which of course is hardly a startling innovation. Time travel here is used to define a relationship between Henry and Clare, with Henry apparently being the only time traveller in the world. The plot is very repetitious and I for one, found it boring.It endlessly uses the pattern of Henry disappearing, leaving a pile of clothes, only for him to pop up naked elsewhere. I'm sure a horse and cart could be driven through the logic of the plot, which to my mind is manipulated for emotional effect.
Henry and Clare are scarcely believable as characters. Neither ever seems to work in the commonly accepted meaning of the word, especially Henry, who manages to hold a job down in a prestigious library while constantly disappearing or running around the stacks naked. The two are, of course, prodigiously blessed people. Clare's family is very rich, while Henry's parents are world class musicians and on top of that the two protagonists are clearly superior people as they bat quotes from famous writers back and forth in whatever language they happened to write in. I found it all deeply unconvincing, both the characterisation and the world Henry and Clare are supposed to inhabit. The sense of real people living real lives is completely absent from this novel.
I won't go into any details about the final third of the book except to say that it inevitably descends into bathos and I found the emotion both forced and false. I feel I am perhaps the wrong person to review this book, since maybe you need a background in women's romantic literature to enjoy it. If this is considered a good example of the genre, then I can only add that I am pleased it is not one I am familiar with. I know a lot of people seem to love this book, which of course, is not necessarily the same thing as saying it must be a good novel, but presumably it is possible to hold a different opinion. Not a book I'd recommend to anyone.

The Shadow Of The Wind
The Shadow Of The Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Edition: Paperback

10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compulsive page turner ? You'd better believe it !, 5 April 2005
This review is from: The Shadow Of The Wind (Paperback)
I stagger on with this year's Richard and Judy nominations and after the dreadful "Time Traveler's Wife" it was a real pleasure to give myself over to this gorgeously realized novel. Now I don't know a thing about Barcelona, so whether the setting is accurate or not I don't know, but for me the world of the book was perfectly believable and surely that's all that counts in a work of fiction.
It is a genuine page turner, with the whole book full of surprises, suspense and humour and you are hooked very early on in the reading of it.Daniel's adventure as he tries to unravel the mystery of Julian Carax is part thriller, part adventure and part love story. It's an absorbing, atmospheric story that I'm sure would delight the most jaded of palates.
Lastly I'd just like to say that I'm in no position to judge as to whether this is a good translation of the original Spanish. All I will say is that the book reads very easily, which perhaps might be seen as evidence of a good translation. Read it. You won't regret it.

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