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A. J. Russell-pattison "Tony" (Manchester. U.K.)

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200 Veggie Feasts: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: Over 200 Delicious Recipes and Ideas
200 Veggie Feasts: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: Over 200 Delicious Recipes and Ideas
by Louise Pickford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some have vegetarianism thrust upon them!, 25 Nov. 2011
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hamlyn all colour cookbook: 200 veggie feasts. Louise Pickford.

I am not a "veggie" (and if I was I wouldn't use such a silly contraction and I would use proper capitals in titles, just in case you think I missed the bloody things out of this books title). Vegetarianism, however seems to be stalking me. Work colleagues, friends and now a household member who has adopted it to help with his Diabetes, so reciepe hunting I a go.

This small book (I was dreading the coffee table size which "all colour" frequently denotes. Too heavy to lift, to nice to use in the kitchen, in short, no use!) is one of a series featuring niche recipes from barbecue to wok and everything in between.
Divided into meal sections (breakfast/starters/mains etc.) each recipe has its own page and as promised, a full colour picture of the completed dish. These pictures do not exactly mirror what the dishes I have tried look like when I tried them, but I suspect that is partially my fault and partially the fault of the sinister art of the photographer. All the recipes are relatively straightforward and easy to follow although some require those exotic ingredients beloved of vegetarian cuisine once you get beyond the salad and backed potato stage such as taleggio cheese and vincotto among others. The introduction does provide advice on where to source these esoteric items and how to use them. The phrase "specialist shops" however normally gets me reaching for the nearest alternative available at the local supermarket. This may not be ideal but it has never failed me disastrously. The desert section felt a bit like a con as even I, with due care about animal binding agents, can work out how to make fruit dishes meet free and so would have preferred more recipes in the other sections. I suppose it s OK but just felt odd.

Indexing is always a touchy issue. Personally I would have preferred each section to be indexed as they began, instead of the full index at the back, but that may be a personal whim.

In summary. Small, practical, easy to follow and so far the handful of dishes I have tried have gone down well with my vegetarian loved ones who have thanked me with smiles as I have tucked into my bacon buttie! Good but not good enough to get me to give up my treats!

Old Harry's Game: The Christmas Specials 2010 (BBC Audio)
Old Harry's Game: The Christmas Specials 2010 (BBC Audio)
by Andy Hamilton
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Moments of Mirth (many of them), 13 Nov. 2011
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Old Harry's Game: The Christmas Specials 2010

I have been a fan of Radio 4 comedy programmes for some time and this was how I came across Old Harry's Game. Thus this is a confession that I was a fan long before I heard this CD.

The series follows the doings of Satan (played with beautiful sarcasm by Andy Hamilton) his less than committed or bright assistant, Scumspawn (Robert Duncan) and various inmates of the fiery realm. In these two particular episodes the inmates being Jimmy Mulville and the incomparable Annette Crosbie playing the mendacious Thomas and the wearily resigned Edith respectively.

In a sense the story lines are not that relevant except to create the subject arena for the delivery of some stunning one liners and jokes, at which the writers excel, but if you really must know...The first episode reveals Satan's loathing of Christmas and the state the souls harvested at the festive time arrive in and so he sets about trying to abolish Christmas (with hilarious consequences, as they say). The second sees a weary Satan persuaded to have a mini break in the Lakes (with more hilarious consequences etc.).
It must be a great irritation for Annette Crosbie that her voice is synonymous with Mrs Meldrew but her acting ability gets round this first impression quite quickly. Short of helium or surgery I cannot see what else she could do. The pace is fast and funny and I can find practically nothing to fault it!

I am a little curious as to why last years Christmas special is out for review. As with all dated specials, who would want to buy last years? You could hardly purchase it as a gift, the question would be, "why didn't you get me this years"? Maybe this is marketing ploy to drum up praise prior to issuing this years special, if so it has definitely worked on me, I will keep an eye out for it.

4 a.m.
4 a.m.
by Nina De La Mer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.31

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Agony and the Ecstasy, 16 Oct. 2011
This review is from: 4 a.m. (Paperback)
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4a.m. by Nina De La Mer.

Manny and Cal are two serious party people. Squaddies based in Germany they relieve the military life by necking E's/speed/coke at an alarming rate and dancing the night away, occasionally forfeiting the next day much to the Army's chagrin. There story is tolled in duet. The story of their cookhouse, square bashing existence on the base and their drugged up adventures elsewhere. Inevitably, given the drugs theme much of the narrative rotates round acquiring drugs, taking them, experiencing them and having adventures, some of a sexual intimate nature. The outcome for both is very different. Does it all end in tears? Not completely, this is no moralist tale about the evils of drugs in fact it makes a fair plea for their acceptance but in doing so it covers a realistic picture where there is both a sort of redemption and a definite condemnation. The achievement of either of these states is not simplistically dumped at the door of drug use; the author weaves a narrative that acknowledges the many factors that lead to either. But, drugs do feature BIG!
From my limited experience (and recall!) of ecstasy and raving the author gives a good shot at describing the drug experience. This is always going to be subjective and if I recall correctly would be like describing a rainbow without using any words for colour. Its sort of indescribable (at least to me) but fair dos to Nina for trying.

Cal is from Glasgow. Nina decided to write his text in authentic (I presume) Glaswegian dialect. This can not have been easy and for me made reading it less than easy too. A personal gripe but I hate reading text in dialect. Just tell me where they are from and write in English!

There is a good story here and it held my interest but I can't really rave (pun intended) about it!

Brothers' Lot, The
Brothers' Lot, The
by Kevin Holohan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.97

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grim humour anyone?, 7 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Brothers' Lot, The (Paperback)
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The Brothers' Lot by Kevin Holohan

This story of a fictional (but all too imaginable) order of brothers who preside over a school in Dublin utilising fear, abuse and terror to supposedly educate their young charges is difficult to review. Firstly because the author intimates that, at least to some degree, his own childhood education in Ireland shared some facets of this abusive system. This then must underpin the theme in the book of abuse described, endured and finally overcome. Overcome with humour, miracles and much ado. The depictions of abuse in power are compelling and like all who suffered abuse at the hands of religious orders in Ireland (or anywhere) so graphically recently revealed, the authors' courage in allowing us access to this grim reality is to be lauded. It does not, however, make the book any easier to review!

The second problem is that, for me, the cover blurbs over hype the book so much. To describe this book as a comic satire is fair enough and having been a good catholic Irish boy who was taught by religious orders until escaping at sixteen and who lived in Dublin, I get most of the allusions and some of the characters and constructs are quite funny. What they are not, I am afraid is "hilarious" or "screamingly funny" as the cover promises. If anything, the mild and witty humour is far over shadowed for me by the grim bits and in this manner they cancel each other out.

That said the book is interesting, readable and grimly but mildly humorous. Some small sections are written with such grace and skill that I found myself sighing with delight, but these are high points in an otherwise solid story background. The "laughing through the tears" approach didn't work for me but I don't regret having read it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2011 10:43 PM GMT

by Jacqueline Yallop
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Silken Road to Tragedy, 12 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Obedience (Hardcover)
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Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop

Sister Bernard has not had an easy life but is has been long. Now she is one of only three Sisters of her order left and her convent is to be closed. Her Sisters will leave her and so will her God, if that's what he was.

In almost alternating chapters we access Sr. Bernard's memories of her French convent life under Nazi occupation and her returning to these memories as, in old age, her convent closes and she is placed in a retirement home. Her convent sister's relationships gone we see her tracing or finding the sub relationships of her life. Sub but serious in every sense. The rapist she grew to love, the son adrift, and the granddaughter engulfed but lost. It would be easy to sketch out the details more obviously but that would rob you of the chance to taste the, somehow very French, silky and subtle (if a little slow at first) style of this talented author.

The slight mundanity of the opening chapters' styles (despite their quite startling content) could be a put off for some; however it provides a base for a steady almost seedy incline in passion and interest. The central character, Sr. Bernard is, is both stupid and naive or touched by God (in either the divine sense or the sense of madness). She is certainly unsympathetic in the sense that you don't really connect with her. This for me was like watching the passion of others, wrapped in its meaning but not embedded and encumbered by personal attachment to the participants. This lulled me along so that the sleek turns of emotion and plot were not too obvious to me. It enhanced the experience.

A melancholy tragedy of worth. Well worth a read.

Rory's Boys
Rory's Boys
by Alan Clark
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am not one to gush, 1 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Rory's Boys (Paperback)
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What follows is an e-mail I sent to all my friends on completing this book. Enough said!

I am not one to gush..No seriously. However if I find something to gush about, gush I must.

I have just finished a book called Rory's Boys by Alan Clark (pub 2011). Amazon sent it to me to review. A good job really as if I had seen the really naff cover on a book shop shelf with its terribly anodyne blurb on the front I would have sniffed and walked by. Marketeers are not what they used to be!

The fiction (for it is such) centres around the establishment of the first gay retirement home in the UK. Oh but what a fiction! Skilfully written with pathos and wit it has, as I am assured they say in theatrical circles, a bit of everything, laughter, tears etc. Added to this the author has a real talent for well placed one liners. The result, I laughed out loud more times than for any other novel in the last ten years and cried an appreciably similar amount of times. The characters are, well really characters. The plot is outlandish but feasible if you are or have known/loved someone who is gay and of a "certain age". It's been a while since anything made me feel proud to be an ageing fairy in a world obsessed with youth but this book did it.

Is it a great literary work? No, thank God, it's much more fun than that. I read it in two sittings. It is however a great first novel and will, given the chance bring much pleasure to many. Why not give it the chance? It's worth it!

Available from Amazon.

No I do not know or sleep with the author or any members of staff connected with the publishers.

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
by Richard Rohr
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I was, to say the least, an unappealing teenager!, 27 July 2011
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Falling Upward: A Spirituality of Two Halves of Life. Richard Rohr

I was, to say the least, an unappealing teenager. I was certain. I was right. I was a fundamentalist Roman Catholic. I cringe when I recall my pontificating. Now I approach my 50th birthday and I am less and less sure of more and more things. My teenage self would have quaked in the fear of uncertainty, my older self finds the spirit of God in the tension and paradox of faith and doubt held close to my heart. It turns out that God does, indeed, move in mysterious ways.

Fr. Rohr's book is therefore ripe for a man such as I. His thesis is that life has two distinct but non chronological halves in which different diets feed the soul. In the first half, structure, rules and the building of a container for the soul. The second, filling said container without the constraints of rigid construction and with distinct grace.
This man, who references his own experience as soul friend and pastor, Franciscan and frustrated but loyal son of Rome, garners the works of many, an obviously well read and considered soul. He writes for an American readership. The pleas, all too specific, to the parish of the USA and indeed the style appropriate for that readership is often difficult for the rest of us (the style is very conversational...conversational gobbets in brackets are really quite distracting).

This "pond" difference makes claims like "I know that this is not the current version of what is psychologically `correct' because we all seem to think we need nothing but unconditional love" a bit jarring. Few who have heard or cared about developmental psychology in the U.K. would still hold the "free love" style of parenting as ideal, let alone desirable.

At one point the author seeks forgiveness for citing Jesus Christ so much. While not anally retentive enough to actually do a count, it would seem to me that, in order of perceived frequency, the writer mentions Homer, Jung, Christ and Francis in that order. Spiral Dynamics applied to the humanities and theology creates an interesting and palatable fare, but is it palatable as in honest fare or just tasty?

My heart responded to Fr. Rohr's thesis and its siren, chatty call, but it is possible we always respond to what we want to hear. This is not to suggest that the author is in any way disingenuous, his heart inspired discourse is always genuine in tone and he may be right, who am I to say? Who is he? He is a priest and soul seeker of many years and elder by his own definition and so deserves to be heard and measured. No man could ask for more and "everyman" (generic) would benefit from listening.
This is my first Rohr book, although all his others were on my "wish list" before I read this one. I will move on to read those next. No small recommendation.

On the dull prosaic bit. The book is very short (198 small size pages excluding notes and references). Size does not mater, as common wisdom proclaims in many contexts, but actually it does if you are paying for inspiration by the page. This is patently not the authors but the publishers fault. The paperback at a considerably lower cost (let's wait and see) would represent excellent value.

Thank you Richard for your work.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2013 2:07 PM BST

The Crusade of Darkness
The Crusade of Darkness
by Giulio Leoni
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.87

3.0 out of 5 stars Not that thrilled, 16 July 2011
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The Crusade of Darkness: Giulio Leoni (translated by Shaun Whiteside)

The cover of this book proudly proclaims it "a medieval murder mystery" and so it proves to be. Our main man and medieval sleuth is non other than Dante Alighieri of "Inferno" and "The Divine Comedy" fame; famous Florentine and sometime lover of Beatrice. The outline of the plot being that Florence sends Dante to Rome to bargain with Pope Boniface (while leaving behind a city in civil war mode between two factions). En route Dante meets a poor family whose daughter has been gruesomely murdered, city functionaries loyal to the shady but bright Senator Spada , the same senators rather weird and exotic daughter and all too briefly, the inquisition, Pope and sundry others. To the poor family he pledges justice and his help. The senator and his daughter with the aid of their muscle man attempt to recruit Dante to a new crusade to free the Holy Land supposedly supported by all and sundry including the Pope, but all is not as it seems. The murder and the mystery are inexorably linked and our sleuth spends the novel unravelling the connection and its consequences. So far, so mysterious and I have no intention of spoiling your read by letting any cats, medieval or otherwise, out of any bags.

The overall experience of the read I will discuss. While there is certainly a story here and its pace is fair, the style of writing is odd. This could well be something that arises from the translation of the book from its original Italian, I don't know, but most characters, including the hero seem ill defined and very two dimensional. The action does not so much flow as feature vignettes of Dante interacting with characters for specific parts of the plot who then disappear until when and if they are required again. For example, Dante during this adventure is also in the process of writing his poem "inferno". This, unsurprisingly brings him to the attention of the Inquisition (after all Virgil, famous Greek poet and pre Christian, is his guide for the afterlife, this is likely to upset rabid Dominicans hell bent on Christian orthodoxy). The vignette featuring this encounter is short, a little dreary and so easily resolved it seems laughable almost as though this was just a section to inch in references to Dante's poem.

This disconnectedness and poor character colouring is a pity because there is intrigue enough here to drag my rating to "it's O.K." on the Amazon scale. The evocation of the Rome of the period is quite good and interesting to those of us who have visited the city a few times, but as professor of Italian literature and history and resident of Rome it would be very sad if the author had not managed this. The translator appends three and a half pages of notes at the end of the book which fill in many gaps in characters and context. Given that the notes are so short, why on earth were these details absent from the novel in the first place? The translator even helpfully says that the notes will allow the reader to "understand" the novel. An accurate assessment made invalid by putting the notes at the end of the book and not at the beginning! It's O.K. about sums it up, I am afraid I will not be rushing to read any further Leoni books.

Torchwood: Department X (BBC Audio)
Torchwood: Department X (BBC Audio)
by James Goss
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £12.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Vocals not visuals, 9 July 2011
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Torchwood: Department X (audio story. Run time 2 hours)

For those who have lived isolated in a box for some years. First there was Doctor Who on the telly and in one recently aired episode the origin of the Torchwood Institute was revealed as Queen Victoria inaugurated it to defend the empire from alien powers. Torchwood became the telly spin off from Doctor Who featuring the (literally) indestructible Captain Jack Harkness and his team based in Cardiff fending off said aliens with gusto and wit. I have enjoyed both televisual serial delights, if anything enjoying Torchwood more, largely because it doesn't rotate around one central character (The Doctor) but features team interactions which seem to give more scope for the plot lines. If you only remember Doctor Who from the 60's with clunky scenery and ham acting you should stay in more and catch a current episode of both Doctor Who and Torchwood, both have sumptuous visual effects and are now very slick.

The visual delights of these two, now great, sci-fi series are undoubtable but how good are the stories without the visuals? I confess I have never had the desire to read any of the available book adventures so it was with some trepidation that I approached "Torchwood: Department X" on CD. Written by James Goss and read by Kai Owen (Gwen's husband in the series) it is a well crafted and somewhat spooky story of the alien incursions into our plain of existence as manifested in the fading glories of a Cardiff department store. As Queen Victoria must have hoped alien incursion equals arrival of Torchwood and in this case an intriguing addition of another organisation vying for the prize of sorting the situation out. The promotional blurb gives more of the story than I am willing to; I hate spoilers!

After the initial (and completely unreasonable) irritation that the story was read in only one voice and not with the voices of all the cast members (remember this is a first for me) I settled into the story well. Kai Owens voice with its melodious (and pertinent to the plot)Welsh accent is soothing, he reads well and although a Welsh man attempting transatlantic accents grates at first by then you are so into the story that you let it drift by. Only the evil alien's voice (featuring the special sound effect) is difficult to hear as the special effect makes it indistinct, a pity seeing as we approaching the denouement point when this voice arrives.

The story is fast moving and engrossing. The descriptions of the fading Cardiff store are particularly good and conjured for me all those great stores of your youth or at least mine that now appear as comic as Grace Brothers in "Are you being served". As always, the touching relationships of Gwen with her Husband and Jack with his lover Ianto are well played, the later being gently done and not over played. Evident too is the humour and wit which gives so much warmth to the characters and the story lines in all episodes I have seen on TV.

I was engrossed. My mind added the visuals while I listened and ironed (ironing while listening is obviously optional) and yes I would purchase and listen to other Torchwood stories. Enough said.

mc PRETTY BUTTERFLY BOOKMARK Art Deco Style Enamelled & Jewelled Pewter Book Mark in Giftbox - Ideal Mothers Day Gift Idea
mc PRETTY BUTTERFLY BOOKMARK Art Deco Style Enamelled & Jewelled Pewter Book Mark in Giftbox - Ideal Mothers Day Gift Idea
Offered by YGL
Price: £4.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little gift, 25 Jun. 2011
I got two of these charming book marks (in different colours) for wedding gifts for the mother of the bride and grandmother of the bride. They are pleasant, sparkly and affordable. Some might consider them a little gauche but I found them to be a perfect gift for the occassion.

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