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Amazonian "Badger" (Yorkshire, England)

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A Famine of Horses: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery (Sir Robert Carey Series Book 1)
A Famine of Horses: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery (Sir Robert Carey Series Book 1)
Price: 1.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Easy and enjoyable read, 4 Aug 2014
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An easy and enjoyable read, more of a light-hearted adventure than a serious mystery novel.It's true that the central character, Sir Robert Carey, does set out to find the murderer of a border riever (basically a marauding cattle/horse thief), but most of the book is more about his arrival in Carlisle and finding his feet in his new role than it is about this investigation. He faces up to corruption in the castle garrison, licks his own troops into shape and takes on the local brigands.

The book is full of likeable characters and the story is kept light with many humorous touches. Indeed, at times I think it's a little too light and is in danger of becoming a bit of a jolly romp rather than anything else. My other criticism is the same as for some other historical novels I've read recently, ie.the too frequent use of archaic words for which there is no translation in a standard dictionary - is it really necessary when the historical setting is perfectly well conveyed in other ways?.

Two minor criticisms of an otherwise enjoyable book and I look forward to reading the sequels.


Hue and Cry: A Hew Cullen Mystery: Book 1
Hue and Cry: A Hew Cullen Mystery: Book 1
Price: 0.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Hard work!, 29 July 2014
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Despite a decent plot (involving murder, witchcraft, "unnatural" lusts and adultery), a novel (no pun intended) setting and likeable central characters, I had a real struggle finishing this book.

Firstly, presumably for the sake of providing a sense of authenticity, the author has the characters speaking in a kind of Shakespearean style language, the more so as the book progressed (or perhaps I only noticed it the further into the book I got). For me, this is completely unnecessary (we know when the story is set and a feel of authenticity is given by frequent reference to the lifestyles and worldviews of the characters in the story) and simply makes the book difficult to read.

Secondly, and most noticeably (and presumably as part of the search for authenticity), the author uses a lot of archaic Scottish words many of which are not in the Kindle dictionary, so you have to guess their meaning from the context. This makes the book even more difficult to read.

Lastly, apart from the specific criticisms raised above, I found the author's style heavy-handed. At times it felt to me like she thought she was writing great literature, using quite poetical language or imagery to describe settings or scenes, which actually made it quite difficult to picture what she was actually trying to describe.

An author's style is very much a matter of personal taste, but I struggled with this book despite it having a good storyline and despite the fact that I read quite a bit of historical crime fiction. I was torn between two stars (style) and three stars (content) but in the end content won over style.


All Father Brown Mysteries - Complete edition
All Father Brown Mysteries - Complete edition
Price: 0.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 22 July 2014
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I bought this book as I like crime/mystery stories and at the moment I am reading a lot of this genre set in this period. If you like Father Brown then this is the book for you as it seems to be well produced and has all the Father Brown stories.

However, I must confess myself disappointed in them, especially since they are so well known and, I thought, well regarded by crime fiction buffs. Personally, I think Father Brown comes over as somewhat smug and rather self-satisfied and the stories themselves seem very bland to me. I have read half a dozen of them and that's enough for me. As regards short stories, I much prefer R Austin Freeman's "Dr. Thorne" or even Jacques Futrelle's "Thinking Machine". As for crime fiction in general, there is so much from this period that I would rather read - so this book is heading for the reject pile.

If you still want to give Father Brown a try, the price of this collection is hardly outrageous, but you will find many of his individual collections of short stories free on kindle.


Ravensburger Country Cottage Collection Wisteria Cottage Jigsaw Puzzle (1000 Piece)
Ravensburger Country Cottage Collection Wisteria Cottage Jigsaw Puzzle (1000 Piece)
Price: 10.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Colourful, high quality jigsaw, 18 July 2014
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I bought this for my mother as one of her birthday presents as she enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles as a break from reading or watching TV. She gets through quite a lot of jigsaws during the course of a year, different makes and subjects, but these are her favourites. Ravensburger are without doubt the best quality jigsaws she has come across with the pieces having a quality feel and a good fit. The Country Cottage Collection has vibrant colours and she loves them all.


Lavazza A Modo Mio Cremosamente Dek, Pack of 5, 5 x 16 Capsules
Lavazza A Modo Mio Cremosamente Dek, Pack of 5, 5 x 16 Capsules
Offered by StormBrew
Price: 20.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the evening, 18 July 2014
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I bought these for my wife so she could have a cup of coffee in the evening without being concerned about caffeine keeping her awake at bedtime. They go with the AEG Lavazza A Modo Mio coffee machine and produce a consistently good cup of coffee. Although nominally this is an espresso pod, with the AEG you can add as much water as you wish and since my wife doesn't like her coffee strong she usually makes it as a longish drink. It still has a good flavour even so.

Recommended for all those (with the appropriate machine) who like a decent cup of coffee in the evening but are wary of the effects of caffeine.


Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover, Honey (will only fit Kindle Paperwhite)
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover, Honey (will only fit Kindle Paperwhite)
Price: 29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential and worthwhile accessory for Kindle Paperwhite, 17 July 2014
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This cover, while expensive, is worth every penny:

- it looks great (I bought the Honey coloured cover to avoid sitting on it since our sofa is predominantly black!)

- it feels good (solid but with a slight give in the leather)

- it fits the Kindle Paperwhite perfectly (there is no movement or rattling around)

- it turns your Kindle off when you close it to conserve energy

- it allows you to charge your Kindle without removing the cover

- it makes your Kindle feel more like a conventional book when open in your hand while reading (although you can fold the front flap back behind your Kindle if you prefer)

Highly recommended


Inspector Alleyn 3-Book Collection 1: A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer, The Nursing Home Murder (The Ngaio Marsh Collection)
Inspector Alleyn 3-Book Collection 1: A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer, The Nursing Home Murder (The Ngaio Marsh Collection)
Price: 4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars OK but not Christie or Sayers, 17 July 2014
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I'm basing this rating on the first novel in this collection "A Man Lay Dead". In a brief introduction the author explains how she came to write the novel on a miserable, rainy day in London. Basically, having just read a whodunnit (she can't remember if it was Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers) she wondered if she could produce a similar effort and so, having bought a pencil, a sharpener and six exercise books, she set to work!

I have to say it seems to me that this rather deliberate attempt at writing a crime story (she doesn't hint at any desire to write anything before this) shows in the sense that it is all rather wooden and a little flimsy in terms of the plot. Her detective (Detective Chief Inspector Alleyn) is a bland and unsympathetic fellow and sadly lacking regarding the prerequisite sidekick (he comes along in a later book; in this book his role is filled by a young reporter, Nigel Bathgate), the story couldn't be a more conventional one for whodunnit (a middle class house party) and the dialogue is often stilted.

The story is fairly short - she doesn't seem to have much of a clue as to how the police would go about investigating a murder and doesn't even have her detective interviewing each of the suspects in any great depth. As a result we don't really get a feel for the suspects, nor do we really get a feel for the setting; despite the classic house party setting there is little atmosphere. Instead the story is eked out by the introduction of a revolutionary themed sub-plot which involves one of the guests (a frankly completely unconvincing Russian doctor) and which necessitates a trip to London for Alleyn. In the end Alleyn has virtually no evidence and so re-enacts the crime to bring the killer out into the light. This denouement is, like the rest of the book, pretty weak.

The book is readable and even ok. Hopefully, the stories will get better as the author learns how to write crime fiction - they must get better or she would never have become as successful as she did!?


The Man in the Snow (John Shakespeare Elizabethan Mystery Series)
The Man in the Snow (John Shakespeare Elizabethan Mystery Series)
Price: 0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Bland, 17 July 2014
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I will point out first of all that this is a novella (a little over 100 pages) in case you haven't noticed this detail in the product information (I hadn't) and for me it is neither fish nor fowl. I quite like a short story that is well written, takes a few minutes to read and makes me smile although personally I prefer a full length novel which draws me in and keeps me entertained for a few days.
This is neither. It is too long to be quick and punchy and far too short to draw you in. The story is flimsy and at times it feels rushed, as if the author just wants to get it out of the way.

I'm not sure if I'll give John Shakespeare another go - as a character he seems a bit bland to me. Presumably this author's full length novels must be considerably better for one reviewer to compare him to C J Sansom.


Delphi Complete Works of Caravaggio (Illustrated) (Masters of Art Book 6)
Delphi Complete Works of Caravaggio (Illustrated) (Masters of Art Book 6)
Price: 1.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent catalogue of artist's work, 17 July 2014
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This is a great introduction to the works of Caravaggio and almost exactly what I wanted. It is laid out very clearly and almost exactly as described in the product information.

There is an introductory section of the artist's more important works, each with a brief introduction and several additional images highlighting details of each painting; the introductions sometimes give brief biographical details associated with the featured painting (eg. it might be his first known work or first religious painting) as well as discussing various aspects of the subject matter (eg. the artist's techniques or simply some background to the image).

There is then a complete catalogue of Caravaggio's works in chronological order followed by an alphabetical index so you can easily find any specific painting. Each painting has brief details about it - date, medium, size and current location. This section is followed by a very brief and badly written biography - it has numerous typos and reads like a bad translation from another language. The book does not include the letters of Caravaggio as is claimed in the product info.

I have browsed through the entire book on my Samsung 8.9" tablet and the images are certainly clear enough to enjoy his work and to appreciate his skill, although some of the images seem much crisper than others and cope much better with being enlarged for viewing in greater detail (the extra, detailed images in the introductory section are a great help in this respect). Also, some of the images are difficult to see clearly simply because they are so dark, this being an integral part of the artist's technique.

Personally, I would have liked a slightly fuller and better written biography, placing Caravaggio within the context of his peers - who influenced him and whom did he influence? Some of this is covered in the introductory section but the information is scattered about and it would have been nice to have had it gathered together in one place.As it is, the biographer gives us only the bare bones of his life and seems somewhat disparaging about this great artist.

This is a fabulous book at a bargain price and I would recommend it to anyone who loves great art.


The Philo Vance Megapack: 12 Classic Mysteries - The Complete Series
The Philo Vance Megapack: 12 Classic Mysteries - The Complete Series
Price: 0.37

5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute steal, 11 July 2014
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I've just finished the first story in this megapack and I loved it. I'd never heard of Philo Vance until very recently but apparently he was extremely popular in the 1920s and '30s.

Philo Vance is a man of independent means, a lover of fine art and a dandy. He has a brilliant mind, a remarkable memory, is very widely read, speaks numerous languages and is something of an expert on psychology. Having spent some years in England he speaks with an affected British upper class accent and has a valet. He now (1920s and 1930s) lives in New York where he seemingly devotes himself to his art collecting.

His involvement in criminal investigations begins with "The Benson Murder Case" in which he is invited by his close friend, the District Attorney, to accompany him to the scene of a murder (Vance had previously expressed an interest in the DA's work). In a nutshell, Vance knows who committed the crime within five minutes of his arrival at the crime scene although, of course, he doesn't share his opinion with the DA (or on what basis he reached his conclusion) until the end of the book. So we are treated to a succession of suspects who are considered and rejected on various grounds with Vance intervening at numerous points either to nudge his friend in the right direction or to prevent him from making a fool of himself by arresting the wrong person. It probably sounds a bit corny but it is actually a decent whodunnit, with the eccentric amateur sleuth adding a touch of mystery and humour to the proceedings. His method, by the way, is psychological; he assesses the nature of the crime and divines who, among the suspects, has the right psychological make up to have committed it. However, he still has to consider such mundane issues as motive, means and opportunity for the sake of his friend, the DA, even though Vance himself has little regard for these factors.

Vance reminds me of Lord Peter Whimsey more than anyone else in the detective genre although he is not so self effacing as Whimsey; indeed he could easily be considered arrogant and condescending. Also the book can be quite heavy going at times because the author uses footnotes to lend authenticity to his account and his amateur detective, being learned and speaking numerous languages, frequently makes reference to historical, mythological and other literary figures (eg. Erasmus, Leander, Don Quixote) as well as liberally sprinkling his conversation with quotes in foreign languages (Latin, French, German), without the translations!

I have to confess that although I loved the book and look forward to reading more of the same, I do need a break from Philo right now and cannot imagine reading the stories one after the other without a break.. However, at 37 pence for 12 full length novels this megapack is an absolute steal. I highly recommend it for all fans of early crime fiction.


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