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Cold_Water (Birmingham)

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The Prince of Wales (Highgate) Quiz Book
The Prince of Wales (Highgate) Quiz Book
by Marcus Berkmann
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, faultless spread of questions, 15 April 2015
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This is one of the best quiz books I have ever read. The questions are varied, interesting and absolutely rock-hard. My friends and I are keen quizzers and it kept us entertained for ages when stuck in a traffic jam.

One of the great things about the book is it had a number of questions that you could work out the answer to from associated knowledge, because of the way the questions were phrased. The fact that the quizzes within it were written by a number of different people also changed the tone and type of questions, which is always good. (I also enjoyed the little bios of the writers and the info on how they came up with the questions).

I wouldn't give this book to a newby to the quizzing world but if you feel bored of your local pub quiz and fancy a bit of a challenge, read this and then weep that you cannot attend regular events at the Prince of Wales!


Standing in Another Man's Grave (A Rebus Novel)
Standing in Another Man's Grave (A Rebus Novel)
by Ian Rankin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Like a visit from a (grumpy) old friend, 15 April 2015
Before I start, I will state: This is not Rankin's strongest Rebus novel but I still enjoyed it. Mainly I was just glad to see Rebus and the usual supporting cast again (including the ongoing menance that is Big Ger). I felt the style was slightly different from the earlier books with chapters being very short and punchy and insights into a few more of the supporting characters, but I don't think this detracted from the book. The biggest problem with the thing was the plot and, more specifically, the ending because it felt very rushed and kind of tacked on. As a whole it kept moving though and has far better pacing than a number of mystery/detective-based novels I have read recently. Rankin's problem is that he has a very high bar to meet and when he doesn't it can feel like a let-down. However, because I had just read the lametable 'Lamentations' by Sansom and a Sherlock Holmes thing by Laurie R King that basically had no plot and no pace this was a joy and delight. As said, this isn't one of the top titles in the canon but it was still enjoyable and kept my interest throughout.


Lamentation (The Shardlake Series)
Lamentation (The Shardlake Series)
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just not great, or even that good, 13 April 2015
Having read all the Shardlake novels I looked forward to the latest instalment. I enjoyed Dissolution and Revelation the most out of the earlier series but felt that Heartstone was a bit of a deviation from form. I was hoping that Lamentation would lift the set back to its previous high-achieving self. Unfortunately I was very disappointed. I was surprised to see how many others gave this five-star reviews because I think this is the weakest of the series by far. There were a number of problems with the book, not least that if you have any interest in the history of this period it means that you know what the outcome is going to be, which completely removes the majority of the tension. It needs a chunk of heavy editing and the supporting characters (with one or two minor exceptions) feel dull, laboured and pretty one-dimensional (honestly, it couldn’t have been highlighted more than it was that, ‘young William Cecil might be a man to watch in the future’). Sansom took time and care to build Guy and Tamasin as characters and they are basically ignored for most of this novel in favour of new characters with prior mentioned development flaws. I appreciate for any series to evolve you have to bring new ideas and characters into it but this has to be done in the right way or it doesn’t work. As well as the main ‘mystery’ theme of the book we had the ongoing religious divide to contend with, played out with accusations against Shardlake himself. Again these were a bit of an anti-climax, occurring about half-way through the book, meaning that they were resolved quickly to allow the sleuthing to carry on. I found it a labour to get through this book; if I enjoy something I can read it in a couple of days – I read this over three weeks because I wasn’t that interested in where it was going or the inevitable outcome. Perhaps now there is regime change in historic setting if there is another book it will be a return to form, but I will be reading that based on the other books in the series, not this boring, flat and over-long tome.


Apartment 16
Apartment 16
by Adam Nevill
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful, 27 May 2014
This review is from: Apartment 16 (Paperback)
I am a big fan of the horror genre, with Stephen King being my favourite writer within it, but also having enjoyed a number of other authors both modern and classic (including Lovecraft and M.R. James). I am also someone who hates to put a book down before finishing it. However, this book was so awful that I got half-way and gave up. I hated it to the extent that instead of chucking it in the charity shop pile I put it in the recycling bin as I didn't want to inflict it on another unsuspecting person.
I enjoyed the prologue and thought is showed a lot of promise but as the book went along it was hampered by characters I didn't care about, very uneven plot pacing and quite a few stereotypes. Also, I like suspense in my horror - I like the flesh to creep for invisible and unknown threat, not my stomach to churn because of very detailed and disgusting invention that gets quite repetitive. Being horrified and being made to feel physically sick are not the same things. Nothing is left to the imagination and the grotesques that are drawn in absolute detail aren't actually frightening but just, well, gross. Combine them with the truly dull protagonists and really all you want is for the whole thing to get sucked into some netherworld and never bother you again.


The Black Rose Of Florence (Michele Ferrara)
The Black Rose Of Florence (Michele Ferrara)
by Michele Giuttari
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 24 Jun. 2013
This book was a random airport purchase and it was entirely disappointing.

I don't know whether it was the translation or whether the writer was having an off-day but there was no 'flow' to this novel. The chapters were short and jarring and coupling this with a large number of characters meant that it was easy to forget who was who and difficult to build up any sympathy to people or care about what they were doing.

I had been excited to read something set in Florence as it is a city that I have enjoyed visiting but the stilted translation/description did not engage me.

The plot eventually made its way to Masons, the occult and general conspiracy theories and that was the point I gave up. This was about a third of the way through so I don't know whether the book improved going forward but I was so bored and disinterested by it that I didn't think it was worth spending any more of my time on.

I had not read any of this series before and this volume did nothing to encourage me to read any of Ferrara's earlier works.


The Group (VMC)
The Group (VMC)
by Mary McCarthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different but worth it, 1 Mar. 2012
This review is from: The Group (VMC) (Paperback)
Whilst I love the classics (Dickens, Orwell, Dumas) I have never really considered this book. In terms of modern fiction I never read what is rather harshly called `chick lit' (detective thrillers being my guilty pleasure in the book world) but I have to say I really enjoyed this book and read it in the space of four days.

Whilst it did have a large cast of characters and there was the occasional moment where I found myself flipping backwards to check that I had recalled who I was reading about correctly I think the book benefited from this. It allowed a large range of issues to be addressed and brought out a number of different characters. Despite being set in the past a number of the issues raised were scarily contemporary (work v family, the role of women, sexual freedoms) and this made it easy to relate to. The women involved are sympathetic to a greater or lesser degree and I think everyone will find someone to relate to. In one instance I found myself not really liking Kay but still felt some sympathy for the situation she found herself in and this was down to the way the book is written. The majority of the men in the book come across pretty badly but none of them ever seem less than human or a caricature of what they are meant to be so whilst the author could have been a bit more lenient on the male gender she doesn't turn them into complete monsters.

I also agree with the idea that both the chapters and the paragraphs are very long. This could make reading them at first appear like an effort but I found the writing carried me along so I don't think it detracted from the book at all. The style also helped to conjure up the setting of thirties New York and it was easy to be drawn into the world that had been created, despite the idea of clubs, servants, and private planes being foreign to me. The book is also structured fairly well in terms of moving time on and the beginning came full-circle to the end, which I liked.

I think the comparison to Sex and the City to be rather unfair and probably a bit misleading. That this could be considered a for-runner of SatC is fair enough but if you expect it to be pretty much the same you will be disappointed. This book requires more effort than any episode of the television show (which I did enjoy) but I think it gives you more in return as well.


Following the Drum - The Lives of Army Wives and Daughters, Past and Present
Following the Drum - The Lives of Army Wives and Daughters, Past and Present
by Annabel Venning
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read, 9 Dec. 2005
Curious about what it is to be an army wife I picked up this book. Although I was hoping for more modern insights to the army I enjoyed this book nonetheless.
The book documents the lives of army women from the time that good written records were kept and the army was in the kind of form we know it today. She acknowledges that this is a slight limitation but it means she can cover this period (from about 1600 onwards) in greater depth than if she tried to look at soldiering from the year dot onwards.
The book is split into chapters that deal with different aspects of being a woman following a soldier husband into war. The most obvious topics are there, such as what it was like to wait on the edge of the battlefield, but there were also subjects that I hadn't really considered, like being captured. There are a large range of topics; apart from the above there are mentions of raising children, the social life in the army, and even women who dressed and enlisted as men to find their husbands.
Because of the wide range of time and subject involved sometimes there was a feeling of just skimming the surface of the topic. With a with the wide range this was bound to happen, however, and you still get enough information about each period for it to be interesting and if there are certain areas or times you are more keen on than others it will inspire you to go and find out more.
Some of the stories in this book were quite moving and it was very interesting to see the human side of very famous events. For example there during the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea there are accounts of woman watching, knowing what's coming but powerless to stop it. The brutality and shortness of life on and around the battlefield in general is brought to life and you get a sense of the misery people had to live through.
Reading about incidents in the modern army was very interesting to me and seeing how different it was from being married to a civilian.
Overall, this was a good book. Four stars were given rather than five for occasionally feeling like too much was trying to be crammed in but it is readable, interesting, and got me enthused about a subject I hadn't really considered before.


Watership Down
Watership Down
by Richard Adams
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 27 Nov. 2005
This review is from: Watership Down (Paperback)
This is billed as a book for children, and it is, but I also enjoyed it immensely when I re-read it (I'm in my 20's).
Richard Adam's does any amazing job with this book of both accurately depiciting rabbit behaviour and at the same time adding a rich and well-thought out mythology to the rabbits that fits in with their behaviour. All this serves to bring the characters he writes about to life.
Having such feeling for his characters really makes you invest in them throughout the book and you get sucked into their world. This makes all the trials they go through all the more tense for the reader because this book is a fantastic adventure story.
It has a terrifying villan in the shape of General Woundwort and two (or three) spectacular heroes in the shape of Hazel and Bigwig. They show bravery and courage in spades to fight against the General and there are two sequences in particular (the escape and the final showdown) where you will not be able to put the book down. The ending is also fantastic.
This is one childhood book that I have been happy to display on my book shelves along with all my history and literature because it is a masterpiece of story-telling, at times uplifting, scary, and heartbreaking.


Cambridge Latin Course, Book 3
Cambridge Latin Course, Book 3

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Continuing Excellence, 31 Oct. 2005
Having been through the first two great course books I took up this one (rather stupidly) in the run-up to my finals. This book has taken me longer to get through than the previous two because of this but I enjoyed it just as much.
The usual format prevails - chapter by chapter we are introduced to a story woven through the books that involves Quintus and Salvius from books one and two. As the book progresses the story gets more involved and is actually quite complicated at times.
With each chapter there is new grammar and vocabulary introduced with little tests and sections to see how well you have understood what has been gone through. Another very helpful feature is that some of these sections refer to grammar from a previous chapter to ensure that you have not just read through the information, done the exersizes and moved on without taking any of it in as the story progresses. At the end of the book every new part of the language is reviewed with some more exersizes and there is a full and complete dictionary for all the vocabulary introduced in the book.
On a more personal note, being at University in Bath I was able to visit the baths which were an integral part of the story and see the items and translations featured in the text. This was pretty amazing and really helped bring the whole thing 'to life,' as it were. This technique of using such available Roman remains to reinforce what is being taught is great as it makes the language seem anything other than dead.
Overall: optimus! Roll on book four.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2012 11:33 AM GMT


The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: And Ninety Nine Other Thought Experiments
The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: And Ninety Nine Other Thought Experiments
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Hardcover

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bite-sized, 31 Oct. 2005
Overall I enjoyed this book. The idea of using a hypothetical scenario as an introduction to a great philosophical idea or problem is a good one as it does not require the reader to have any previous knowledge or understanding of the subject. This means that anyone can pick this book up and immediately be introduced with ease to a subject they previously knew nothing about.
The wide range of scenarios and ideas presented is also useful as it means if you are not interested in one thing on offer there is likely to be something else for you. As well, it also means that if you have read about something before and know a bit about it this book does not feel like re-visited territory. The sceanarios that are linked to each other are referenced at the end of each segment so if you are interested in that specific theme then you can go straight to the next thought experiment without having to read through a load of others first, which is another useful feature.
The only thing about this book I was vaguely dissatisfied with was the because of the huge number of ideas presented here sometimes it felt like you were just being offered a taste of a much larger subject when you wanted to know more about it. Because of the very nature of the book I realise that this should be the way the ideas are presented but occasionally this meant it was slightly unfufilling to read.
However, it has prompted me to go on and read more about those areas I was interested in so perhaps it did a great job after all! If you do not know much about philosophy and are keen to get a broad, easily accessable overview then this book is excellent. However, if you already know what you are interested in and like to learn about in it any great depth this book is not designed for you. Pretty good though - interesting and provoking.


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