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News from No Man's Land: Reporting the World
News from No Man's Land: Reporting the World
by John Simpson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Favourite Simpson, 3 Jan 2012
This is by far my favourite John Simpson book, and I've read them all now. He uses the various things that happen to him during the Afghan war to not only inform about this, but as a springboard to talk about other subjects, sometimes past exploits sometimes issues he considers important, such as teamwork and the various people who put up with him.Personally, I find this book inspiring because of the accounts about the other people he works with, professionals or locals. All of this is told in a friendly almost conversational style which makes it easy to read and connect with, a great feat given I have never been in war torn country. He is self deprecating and often tells his tales with humour, although I would not like to be between him and a story as he comes across as quite ruthless at times (necessary in his profession I suppose).

Most of the people who did not enjoy this book were concerned about the frequent mentions of the BBC. It is true that there are many mentions, not always positive. This seems reasonable to me given that he has worked most of his life for them. I liked all the beeb talk as it gave some interesting insights and a side of the long standing debate that I have not previously heard, but I can understand that it would irritate others. Perhaps the problem is that this book is not exactly autobiography, like a couple of his others, but nor is it a straightforward text on the Afghan war. Essentially this book is a loose collection personal reflections and opinions bound together by the over arcing narrative of his experience of the Afghan war.


Collected Ghost Stories
Collected Ghost Stories
Price: 5.98

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best read out loud, 29 Dec 2011
I bought this after going to a reading of the stories at Christmas. They were very spooky, and lingered in my mind. Read from the book they are a bit less powerful, but nevertheless well written and enjoyable. He conveys a sense of dread, and the stories are at their best when you aren't quite sure what is going on.

These stories are not for people who like their scares obvious and blood stained, and it must be said they are very much of the time and place they were written and I think this may put some off.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys less obvious horror/ ghost fiction, and advise them to read aloud with only a candle for company...


Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter Novels)
Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter Novels)
by Nalini Singh
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flight on the dark side, 27 Sep 2011
I feel very torn about this book. On the one hand I love the author's writing style and the relationship between the the leads is beautiful and pulls you right in. I won't dwell on this aspect as it has been well reviewed by the others and I agree with what they say for the most part.

Despite this, I can only give the book 3 stars. All of the archangel books have had a level of violence (as do the psy/ changeling books to a lesser extent) but this book really ramped it up, and at times I found it hard to read. This suprised me because I often read violent crime or horror books, but I think it was the way the violence was justified and essentially permitted. I accept that in this fictional world there is some need for the brutal behaviour of the male leads, but in the previous books Elena thought about these issues more, giving me a 'way in'. I appreciate that Dmitri had a hard time but I found him quite repulsive on occasion and this is not made okay by some loyalty to a friend and being unwilling to hurt children. There does have to be something about suspending belief when you read, but if you ever met Dmitri, or were on the wrong end of him, I doubt that romance would be on your mind. Perhaps all of this lends more of a realism to a genre which often skims over unpleasant aspects, but for me it was too much with no meaningful acknowlegement this behaviour is morally questionable. Honor seems to make much of the fact that Dmitri would never harm her, but there are passages that suggest that he has been involved in sexual situations with unwilling partners, which I would find impossible to accept in a partner (which is a shame as I was fascinated by Dmitri from the get go!).

I'm aware that many will disagree with my concerns, but this bothered me significantly and I wanted to highlight it for others who may have similar reservations.


A Dog's Heart: An Appalling Story (Penguin Classics)
A Dog's Heart: An Appalling Story (Penguin Classics)
by Mikhail Bulgakov
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.79

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biting satire, 4 Aug 2011
A stray dog is scalded by boiling water thrown by an angry cook in the middle of Moscow. He waits to die, but is found and fed by a pre eminent surgeon who takes him back to his own flat. The dog is named Sharik, and quickly finds himself a 'gentleman's dog'. Once he has fully recovered the the surgeon implants a pituitary gland and testicles from an alcoholic criminal. Thus Sharik slowly becomes Sharikov. Sadly for the surgeon and his assistant, Sharikov is not exactly the breakthrough they had imagined, refusing to learn manners or behave as they wish. Events come to a head one night when the lights in the apartment are on for many hours after dark...

I love this book and feel it is something of an ignored masterpiece. Much like `Animal farm' it can be read as straight forward fiction (magical realism) and works well as such. On the other hand it can be read as stinging social satire of Communist aspirations to create a new kind of person, and perhaps more widely on eugenics movements as a whole. As in the author's other works (and indeed many Russian writers of the time), names are very important.

I have seen other reviews commenting that the plot is rather thin, but I find it to be so full of ideas and nuanced that the relatively simple plot is not an issue. It opens and closes written from the point of view of the dog, with a more 3rd person narrative in the middle which allows for a real build of tension as the reader has to piece together what has occurred and draw their own conclusions.

Be aware that this is a novella rather than a full length work like `The Master and Margarita'.

Highly recommended.


Bone Gods (Black London Novels)
Bone Gods (Black London Novels)
by Caitlin Kittredge
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Conflicted, 2 Aug 2011
Pete Caldecott is trying to survive in Black London without Jack Winter, her teacher and closest friend. After Jack was turned into a demon, he went to live far out of reach...in hell. But for Pete, surviving is no easy matter. The Black is rife with turf wars between mages and necromancers, the witch-hunting Order of the Malleus has resurfaced, and the gods themselves seem to be at each other's throats. Then Jack reappears, as the head of hell's army, and Pete has to choose between Jack, and her duties as a Weir--which demand she kill him to save the world from certain destruction...

*****

In the last installment of Black London Jack Winter (who is one of my favourite UF characters)died... sort of. In the meantime Pete has been moving on and trying to come to terms with her power as a weir. So far so good. What I loved about the last two books were the novel plots (which had both action and consequence) and truly original and dark lead characters and their dynamic. Unfortunately in the first 2/3 Jack and Pete lose pretty much all the ground they'd gained in previous books and their characters felt flat and repetitive (how many times do we need to be told that Pete is petite?). I found that the usual tight and nuanced plot now consisted of Pete bulling through most of her problems and the addition of a previously absent mother did little to add emotional tension. It felt like the problems and baddies were just being thrown at her with little rhyme or reason, which, whilst it may be true of real life, makes for an irritating read. I was hugely frustrated having waited months for this book and loving the previous two.

Having said all that, the dialogue and previously unconvincing 'Brit speak' were much improved and the last 1/3, especially the last couple of chapters (which brings the two back together with a new complication), hooked me right back into this series and I will be buying the next book, Devil's business, as soon as it comes out.

Overall I would suggest that fans of the previous two borrow this from their local library and hope for a return to form in the next book, which promises a lot of drama.


Geisha: A Unique World of Tradition, Elegance and Art
Geisha: A Unique World of Tradition, Elegance and Art
by John Gallagher
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Images from the flower and willow world, 2 Aug 2011
I have read pretty much all the books I can get my hands on about geisha as I find them beautiful and intriguing. I had avoided buying one of these bigger 'coffee table' books as I was worried that it would be all filler, but this is a very worthy addition. The pictures are perfect and span many decades, showing how the world of the geisha has changed with lots of interesting written information. A particular favourite was a couple of sections which consisted of tracing paper like material that layered up clothing from underwear to full regalia which really explained the complexity and gave me a new understanding of the role of the dresser.

I recommend this to anyone who is interested in geisha, and the price is also very competitive when compared to similar books.


The Kinshield Legacy (The Kinshield Saga)
The Kinshield Legacy (The Kinshield Saga)
Price: 0.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed fantasy, 1 Aug 2011
I found this book somewhat frustrating, as I felt that it had four star potential. Good ideas and some interesting characters were held back by occasionally below average writing.

The main protagonist, Gavin, is a man in conflict in addition to being a mix of many male characters from recent fantasy books. He is destined to be king, but is trying to avoid said fate. Sadly for him, this is not to be and he soon finds himself rescuing people, getting an enchanted sword and trading barbs with the requisite beautiful but unavailable woman (Daia). I liked the magic elements, the little quips and found Tyr (one of the baddies) very interesting. The ending set the next book up nicely and we have a suitable band of characters to support Gavin on his way to the throne.

The main failings of this book are the first few chapters which I found confusing (could just be me), the black and whiteness of the world (the bad guys are BAD, no ambiguity), some clunky dialogue and repetitive themes e.g. constantly pointing out how non noble Gavin can be (his eating does sound awful).

Others have found this book complex and multi layered, which I have to disagree with; this is a fun yarn with some ideas that keep it interesting but it is pretty straight forward.

Despite these problems, I will probably read the sequel but from the library.


Ghost Story: A Dresden Files novel
Ghost Story: A Dresden Files novel
by Jim Butcher
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original Dresden, 1 Aug 2011
I've loved this series from the beginning, with one of my favourite elements being the way that the characters grow and develop in believable ways. Despite this I found 9 and 10 a bit lacklustre (comparatively) and although I enjoyed 11, about 2/3 of the way through I started to wonder how Harry could top this, and yearned somewhat for the days of the wizard relying on his wits and slightly less end of the world scenarios. The ending of 11 shocked me, and I was nervous about 'Ghost Story', knowing that Harry wasn't about to go into the light but at the same time not wanting a quick fix solution.

My anxieties were all for naught; I loved this book. It reminded me of early Dresden in terms of style and plot, but with the maturity that has been so hard earned. In some ways this book did feel like a pause, time for Harry to reflect on the consequences of his actions over the last few years and his personal direction, which I really appreciated. Unfortunately, this did spill into the plot somewhat, as the whole 'who killed Harry' storyline and the book's Big Baddie (a surprise pop up from a previous story) felt like a vehicle for said reflections at times and somewhat irrelevant which some readers may find annoying. At the same time this was essential to move onto the next story arc yet remain true to who Harry's overall good guy persona.

I was also pleased to get a bit more of Harry's 'back story' with his original mentor, Justin, but did miss some of the regular characters, and felt that some of the issues that Harry was previously wrestling with were ignored e.g. his grandfather. I also found the ghostly visits just before the ending slightly cheesy, and found the Thomas scene very irritating as a huge issue which spanned many book was tied up in about one page. These problems combined with the plot issue mentioned above account for the four not five stars.

Overall, Ghost Story is well written and entirely consistent with previous books, deepens Harry's character and sets the scene for upcoming books and is therefore thoroughly recommended for followers of the series. Be warned, however, you could not just jump into this book as far more than the others it does not stand alone and requires prior knowledge.


White Witch, Black Curse (Rachel Morgan 7)
White Witch, Black Curse (Rachel Morgan 7)
by Kim Harrison
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great addition, 26 May 2009
I really enjoy this series as Rachel learns lessons and develops as a character as a result, which opens up more avenues and prevents me from wanting to rip the book up in frustration.

In this installation, we go back to Kisten which makes me very happy as I found the fact that his death didn't seem to cause much of a ripple very disconcerting.

This book is not as strongly plotted as some of the others, I was still waiting for the `main action' to kick in when I realised I was two thirds of the way through the book. I think is because of the number of sub plots and loose ends that were being tied up. Despite this all of our favourite guys are back, although I can't help but feel that the Trent character has changed; disdain of Rachel's actions is spot on, but fear? Hmmm. The banter is as sharp as ever, and I note that one or two phrases (`my face went numb/ cold' for example) that used to irritate me with their frequency have mysteriously disappeared.

I haven't read all of the anthology contributions, so I didn't know who Pierce was... and can't help but feel that he is a little forced. Okay, so I don't like the character, but I do feel that his intro is clumsy and that his sub plot is pretty irrelevant, further distracting us.

So- a lot of complaints, but still five stars. Why? I still ripped through the book ridiculously fast and enjoyed every second.


10 Minute Solution - Kickbox Bootcamp [DVD]
10 Minute Solution - Kickbox Bootcamp [DVD]
Dvd ~ 10 Minute Solution
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good (for the slightly less fit), 26 May 2009
Really worked me into a sweat and blew off some steam. Also enjoyed the toning section, which I normally hate. I own several exercise DVDs and this is my favourite. However, I wouldn't recommend it to the fitter people out there as I think the 10 minute structure would hold you back and not provide enough of a challenge.


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