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D. Brown "Blogging at Tweedling, avid reader with an expensive audiobook habit..." (West Yorkshire, UK)

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Stephen Fry on the Phone
Stephen Fry on the Phone
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.25

5.0 out of 5 stars 75 minutes of pure listening pleasure, 13 Feb 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I love Stephen Fry. Whether it's the comedic antics of Fry and Laurie, his excellent approach as quiz-master of QI or his various documentaries and programmes on language, knowledge and - in this case - mobile phones, I always find him utterly charming. This month I had the opportunity to listen to two radio show series with Fry: Stephen Fry Does The Knowledge and Stephen Fry on the Phone.

As the description suggests, this is something of a potted history of the mobile phone. It's relatively short so it needs to be concise, tracing its conception to its current-day, almost obsessive, necessity in our very modern society in just 75 minutes. In and amongst the technological histories are various anecdotes and snippets from Fry himself as well as several people who were key players in the industry or were simply around to witness these rapid changes.

Who would have thought that the text messaging would take off? Well, apparently, less people than you'd imagine. I still chuckle at the thought that nobody expected people to have the patience to send anything more than a stock message (`Be home late' or `On way now'). Sigh - if they could see us now. But wait - they can! This technology has advanced remarkably quickly and this is a fun and informative summary of how and why.

It was no surprise to me that Fry was an adept presenter of this programme and this was a wonderful listen. 75 minutes of pure pleasure and the chance to bask if the glow of Stephen Fry - a master, it seems, of whatever he turns his hand to.

Gods and Fathers
Gods and Fathers
Price: £5.14

4.0 out of 5 stars A fast-paced thriller, 7 Feb 2012
This review is from: Gods and Fathers (Kindle Edition)
Gods and Fathers starts with Matt DeMarco trying his first ever murder case: successfully, as it turns out. Fast-forward 16 years and this slick attorney with his high profile boss has ticked all the boxes professionally but his personal life is a mess.

It's about to get much worse.

When Matt DeMarco's son is arrested for murder the void between the two makes it practically impossible for DeMarco to offer the emotional support to the young man that he'd like to. Instead, he has to fight hard behind the scenes to do everything he can to prevent his son from going to jail. For that, he's willing to risk his reputation, his career and even his life.

Gods and Fathers is a fast-paced thriller with aspects of law, politics and international affairs thrown in. LePore writes well, delivering a riveting book with flawed but ultimately `human' characters. They might not make the best decisions, they may not always come across as very nice but you are rooting for them to make it in the end.

As books with a twist go, this had one that I really didn't see coming. It's a little frustrating that I can't share my thoughts without giving much away but let's just say that the complexities of the novel and the intricacies of the relationships involved may just prevent you from seeing what's right under your nose. And that's all I'll say on the subject!

As a lover of John Grisham novels I'm always thrilled to find a talented legal/political thriller author and I have certainly found that in James LePore. I now look forward to reading all his past and future novels.

**I received a copy in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All views are my own.**

A Brief History of Mathematics (BBC Audio)
A Brief History of Mathematics (BBC Audio)
by Marcus Du Sautoy
Edition: Audio CD

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating, 6 Feb 2012
I am not a mathematician. I am not a scientist. I have studied a little of both but by and large my interest is a layman's one. I am, however, fascinated with history in all its forms, including the history of science, technology, medicine and - of course - mathematics.

'Beauty', 'elegance' and 'charm' are not words you would necessarily associate with this discipline but Marcus du Sautoy uses all of them and with great enthusiasm. I've thought of numbers and theories as many things but I'm not sure I'd ever considered that to a mathematician or scientist they could be beautiful. Yet I found it almost impossible not to get swept away on his love of numbers and how they can be used, manipulated and worked to bring almost miraculous advantages to our lives.

This was an excellent history of mathematics - short enough to remain fascinating to readers who don't want to explore the complexities of this area and simple enough for a layman to understand, without denigrating the hard work of the many talented and awe-inspiring geniuses mentioned within.

The Unwilling Bride
The Unwilling Bride
Price: £1.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All the hallmarks of a proper romance underscored with a lovely splash of history!, 5 Feb 2012
First of all, let me be completely upfront about my reservations about The Unwilling Bride: it does rank highly under Religious/Christian Fiction on Amazon and as an atheist I really wasn't convinced it would sit well with me. I voiced my reservations to the author and she reassured me that the religious aspect of the novel is quite minor, compared to everything else that goes on. I must admit that whilst there was a tad more religion in the book than in titles I would normally go for I was able, for the most part, to accept it as I would any other characterisation aspect within a novel. For many, it won't matter at all - for some it will and that's why I felt I needed to lay that straight out there.

Caitlin Gallagher is a feisty female - strong-willed, independent and utterly determined to stick to her principles: even if that's not always the best thing to do! Enter Dillon Cade, the other half in her arranged marriage and - to put it mildly - she goes pretty spare. It's up to Dillon to try and win her round and protect her from the family secrets her parents have hidden so well up to now.

I liked Caitlin. I thought she showed great character and spirit and stood up for her beliefs and what was important to her, even as those things changed throughout the book. I actually thought that as a character she was stronger than Dillon but as a pair they worked wonderfully.

There are some very touching scenes in the book and this is a romance where the affection and caring is very much at the centre of it (but don't worry - there's still a little bit of steamy - but respectable... ish - passion in there). Candy Little writes well, keeping the pace of the novel moving steadily at all times. I'm no historian but the details regarding the activities, clothing and furnishings all seemed to add a layer of authenticity to the novel.

This is a very touching and charming read with all the hallmarks of a proper romance underscored with a lovely splash of history!

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation and all views are my own.**

Penelope and The Birthday Curse
Penelope and The Birthday Curse
by Ron D. Voigts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.96

4.0 out of 5 stars A light-hearted and fun read, 5 Feb 2012
For Penelope Armour and, indeed, one of her guests, it's going to be a birthday to remember. Sadly, it won't be in a good way. As the blurb suggests, the birthday brings together an array of guests with the purpose of celebrating Penelope's birthday but it all goes a bit awry.

Penelope has to face the bumbling ineptitude of the adults around her as she proves herself to be a far more logical thinker than any of her grown up relatives. She takes it upon herself to find the murderer and follow the clues in a sensible direction, despite constant distractions from those around her.

As Penelope is a relatively young heroine you would perhaps expect this book to be a little childish in its execution. Not so! In fact, Penelope is a mature, spunky character - it's easy to forget that she's actually a child. Accordingly, it's easy to enjoy this book as an adult and simply be swept along by the mix of mystery and humour; however, I can certainly appreciate that this would be a very fun read for a younger audience too.

Despite a dark subject matter, this is a light-hearted and fun read that put me in mind of The Pineville Heist and was certainly as good. This was a quick two sitting read, perfect for chilly winter afternoons. Voigts spins a good yarn - the novel is quite short but the length of the story is perfectly reasonable. It doesn't drag on but nor is it abrupt: instead, it fits quite comfortably in its 186 pages and still delivers a charming tale.

This is the first in the Penelope Mysteries, with subsequent titles Penelope and the Ghost's Treasure and Penelope and the Christmas Spirit also available.

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All reviews are my own.**

Happily Ever After
Happily Ever After
by Harriet Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely heartwarmer, 21 Jan 2012
This review is from: Happily Ever After (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I love Harriet Evans. Ever since I read 'A Hopeless Romantic' (and pretty much grinned all the way through it) I have kept an eye on her writing. So when I had the opportunity to review Happily Ever After, I was pretty thrilled.

Eleanor Bee wants to work with books and when she lands a job working at a publishing house, she gets her wish. She also gets some other things that she didn't bargain for, including an affair with her boss, the man of her dreams. Sadly, Rory isn't quite the man she thought he was. Or perhaps it's fairer to say that he is the man she thought he was - but hoped he wasn't.

I don't like spoilers so I'll try not to give too much way. Suffice to say that given that this is romantic fiction, there's a certain amount of prescriptive plotting: the misunderstandings, the rows that could so easily be averted, the 'one' who isn't the one, the 'one' who is the one but at the wrong time.

While Happily Ever After didn't leave me quite so gushing and warm inside as 'A Hopeless Romantic', nonetheless it was a wonderful read. At one point I really wasn't sure how it was going to end and wondered if I'd totally misread the cues. Thankfully I was left with the happily ever after that I wanted, albeit with a slightly more adult tinge than the fairy tales. Evans writes 'real life' romance at its best. It's gritty, not always straightforward, not always easy reading but always, always with something to make your heart flutter.

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All opinions are my own.**

The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters
The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters
Price: £8.81

4.0 out of 5 stars A touching book with real warmth, 16 Jan 2012
I often read non-fiction but mostly current affairs or history, so I'm not sure what possessed me to request to take part in Crazy Book Tour's virtual book tour for The Magic Room. I suppose all I can say is that every now and again a book `speaks' to you and cries out to be read (much like the cookies that - ahem - cry out to be eaten).

The Magic Room was one such book. I was intrigued by the description and the idea of a book that examined such a wide range of relationships: the relationship between marriage and the modern world. The relationship between mothers or fathers and daughters. The relationship between the bridal dream and the fiscal reality.

Jeffrey Zaslow chose to set his book about "the Love We Wish for Our Daughters" in a bridal shop and I think doing so was a masterstroke. In that one decision he opened up boundless possibilities and the book embraces many of them fully. The Magic Room is a wonderful mix of anecdotes, family history, economic history and statistics. The book is related with warmth and humour, with touching stories interspersed with tongue-in-cheek media story mentions or interesting cultural references. It is neither preachy nor too touchy-feely but instead is a wonderful balance of all the things a marriage is: some ups, downs, worries, good times, cross words, touching speeches, advice, memories and, perhaps most importantly, hope.

It's now coming up to two years since I got married. I ordered my gown via the internet and decided to forego the full bridal experience of bridal shop, dress fittings etc. Despite not having had the experience, I can see the magic behind The Magic Room (in terms of both the book itself and the `magic' room within the bridal store Beckers) and understand why it is so important to the people that frequent the store, the owners, the community. Don't be lured into thinking this is `just' a tale of a bridal store, though. The history of Beckers is, indeed, fascinating but even beyond that, this is a work that offers so very much more.

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All views are my own.**

Kiwi In Cat City (The Kiwi Series Book 1)
Kiwi In Cat City (The Kiwi Series Book 1)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For kids? For cat lovers too!, 13 Jan 2012
Vickie contacted me about her book (a shamefully long time ago, I must admit), knowing I had a love of cats and I agreed to review it. I have started this book several times and stopped several times - NOT, I hasten to add, because I didn't enjoy it or was finding it hard to get into. Quite the opposite. Instead, I found I loved the book and it has been to my particular chagrin that it has taken me so long to get the real focused time I wanted to spend with this book and nothing else.

Because readers, this is a wonderful story. But then, I had a feeling it would be.

So great was my love of this fun tale of the adventures of Kiwi, that I was even able to overlook the fact that there are two children as central characters. Yes, I know this is a book for children aged 9+ up but I am not a big fan of children in books and films. Believe me, I am not the maternal type! However, Amy and James are written as well mannered children that I'm sure even I could spend an afternoon with (even if they are a bit naughty for trying to go along with Kiwi's adventures instead of going to sleep!). Besides, Kiwi is able to work a little magic to make the children considerably more likeable in my view!

Johnstone is a wonderful writer, able to weave a magical tale. She also has an excellent understanding of the behaviour of cats and injects this knowledge expertly into the tale. Her pace and timing is perfect and despite this being a book made up largely of prose, Johnstone nonetheless manages to make it poetic throughout.

I loved the exploits of Kiwi, Madame Purrfect and Inspector Furrball. Okay, okay - even the antics of James and Amy. This is the first in the series of Kiwi books and I'm roundly convinced that Johnstone will be called upon to write many more volumes. I believe she is currently working on book four and I can see this becoming a series that wouldn't be out of place on the bookshelf of any family home, library or school. Bravo on a superb book!

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any other compensation. All opinions are my own.**

Stories to Enjoy
Stories to Enjoy
Price: £1.96

4.0 out of 5 stars An eclectic mix of interesting fiction, 4 Jan 2012
This review is from: Stories to Enjoy (Kindle Edition)
Stories to Enjoy is an eclectic mix of short stories from Tom Mach, covering everything from the down to earth to the downright other worldly. My favourite story involved a woman who combined telekinesis and fraud to make a great living: by using her abilities she was able to alter old stamps, moving the gum or the franking from one stamp to another so the high value ones ended up in pristine condition. Very ingenious and with quite a twist to the tale (which I won't reveal).

Not all of the stories resonated with me and at times I found it a little difficult to connect with the characters - alas, this is sometimes the downside of the short story - but generally I found the tales to be very engaging. They are `quick reads', allowing you to dip in and out of the volume or perhaps even read it in one sitting, as I did.

Stories to Enjoy is quite a remarkable volume in that it probably has something for everyone. While readers may not enjoy every tale (or they might - who can say?), the chances are that the book will pass from hand to hand and at least one of the stories will engage the recipient. Therefore, it's an excellent choice for a family bookshelf or communal reading room.

I understand Mach is also a novelist and I would be interested to see how his writing talents translate to a fuller arena in which to develop characters and stories. As a short story writer it's clear he's very confident in his genre and able to produce very compelling reads. I would certainly be interested in reading more of his stories in the future.

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation and all opinions are my own.**

Bad Kitty Christmas
Bad Kitty Christmas
by Nick Bruel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely Christmas tale of a BAD Kitty!, 26 Dec 2011
This review is from: Bad Kitty Christmas (Hardcover)
Bad Kitty Christmas is a play on 'The Night Before Christmas' but for cat lovers. Telling the tale of Bad Kitty and the mischief she gets up to on Christmas Eve, this story will have cat lovers nodding sagely as they encounter familiar antics.

It's doubtless a great pick for children but as I don't have any, I read it for myself and really enjoyed it (well, actually I listened to the audio version but more on that later). The kitty is naughty but lovable and the message behind the story is very touching: accept your kitty's naughtiness - it's part of owning cats and you'd miss them terribly if they were gone.

I got the audiobook version from Audible and I must admit if I were rating this on that alone, I probably wouldn't be able to give it more than 3 stars. I just don't think the reading does it justice. However, having looked at the book illustrations and based this review on the merit of the poem itself and the illustrations within the book, I feel fully justified in giving it four stars.

A lovely fun poem for Christmas for pet and cat lovers!

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