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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly charming road (by foot) trip, 6 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
One morning Harold Fry opens a letter from an old work colleague, Queenie, informing him that she is dying of cancer in a hospital in Berwick Upon Tweed.

He hastily scribbles a reply and then goes out to post it. Following a chance encounter with a young girl in a service station he decides rather than post the letter he needs to walk to Berwick Upon Tweed and deliver the letter by hand. And so walk he does, all 627 miles and 87 days of it.

Along the way he has a lot of time to ponder his relationship with his somewhat stereotypical house wife Maureen, his failure to bring his son David up in the way he wanted, his father's Alzheimer disease and the way he let down Queenie all those years ago.

Along the way he meets a huge range of people, experiences kindness and disdain, and somehow becomes a media sensation.

This book is like chocolate to read, Joyce has a lovely authorial voice, and I devoured this in a couple of sittings.

Easy to read, but not shy of confronting some big issues; the collapse of a marriage, failures of parenthood and of course death. But all done with a delicate hand and in an ultimately uplifting manner.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry sits somewhere between literary fiction and good commercial women's fiction and is an utterly charming read.


Belkin Wireless N600 Dualband Router DSL (Cable Line)
Belkin Wireless N600 Dualband Router DSL (Cable Line)
Offered by BESTBUYIT
Price: £37.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quick, powerful and easy to set up, 6 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First thing to say in this review, so that people don't get caught out is that this is a router only. You still need your modem for it to work. I know it does just describe itself as a Router, but it would be very easy to buy this by accident not realising that you still need a modem.

Right, that's out of the way.

This is a powerful and very easy to set up Router. It took me literally ten minutes to get the whole thing up and running, including a system update and I'm not a particularly technical person.

To be honest there wasn't much wrong with my wi-fi previously, but this made an obvious difference to the performance of the network.

We run quite a lot through the network; two laptops, two smart phones and a tablet and our previous set up did slow down sometimes, particularly if I was streaming music on my laptop.

According to a tech guy at work it apparently cleverly increase the speed of 5 GHz bandwidth devices nearby, while allowing other wireless devices such as smartphones to operate on the slower rate 2.4 GHz. If that's how it does it, great, but for simpletons like me it's just enough that it works, and does so quickly.

It's certainly good value for money and I haven't been tempted to go back to my old router.

One thing though, it all looks and feels a bit plasticy. Small complaint though, particularly when it's small enough to hide behind a printer.


A Land More Kind Than Home
A Land More Kind Than Home
by Wiley Cash
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.32

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished and impressive debut novel, 6 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In a small American town a young, mute, autistic boy is killed during a healing at his local church.

The pastor Carson Chambliss holds the town in his grip, conducting increasingly dangerous sermons, where he asks people to test their faith by plunging their hands into boxes of venomous snakes or holding fire. He is charismatic and mesmerising. And when 'Stump' is suffocated during a misguided attempt to heal him of his autism, the town is divided in his attempts to cover it up.

The story is told from three points of view; firstly Stump's brother Jess Hall, who viewed the death through the window of the church. Secondly, Clem Barefield, Sheriff of Madison County. Clem has been sheriff for 25 years, nearing retirement, but as he wasn't born in the area he is still considered an outsider. And finally, Adelaide Lyle, an old lady, who runs the Sunday School, and maybe the only person in the town who actively stands up to Carson Chambliss.

Considering this is his first novel Wiley Cash is a remarkably accomplished writer. The book is extremely readable. The three narrators have distinct and endearing voices. The tone of writing is wry and atmospheric, with a near perfect depiction of time and place.

If I had to be picky I would say that the ending is a little too signposted, and I would really like to have heard more about Carson Chambliss. But this is being picky for the sake of it and this is an accomplished and impressive debut novel that I would recommend to anyone
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2012 9:04 PM BST


No Title Available

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not as good as they should be, 6 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really rate Sennheiser products. They provide excellent quality and design and affordable prices. I've owned their headphones for a number of years and have always been really pleased with them, so was looking forward to trying these out.

First impressions were good. The HD429 are undeniably stylish. They are ergonomically designed, look great and fit comfortably over the head. The ear pieces fit over the ears snuggly and cut out all external noise effectively. They adjust enough to fit most heads and are light and easy to wear.

The fact that the cord only attaches on one ear is a welcome design addition and makes them easier to use.

The wire itself though is thin and the jack plug doesn't feel very robust.

Sound quality was a little disappointing though. It's crisp and the treble is really well defined, but the bass, despite being described as powerful, is actually pretty weedy. They also not loud enough.

I own a pair of Sennheiser HD 202 - Mark II Closed Back On-ear Stereo Headphone and they are much louder and have a much better bass response. They're not quite as comfortable, or look quite as good, but they're less than half the price of the HD429.

So, I would certainly recommend a pair of Sennheiser headphones, just not this model,
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 15, 2012 11:53 PM BST


Hope: A Tragedy
Hope: A Tragedy
by Shalom Auslander
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Controversial, challenging and funny, 6 Mar 2012
This review is from: Hope: A Tragedy (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In Hope Shalom Auslander presents a book that does for me what all good literature does; challenge the reader. It is a premise that could offend. It probably will offend. But if you open the pages with an open mind and an appreciation for what he is trying to do you will find this a very rewarding read.

The plot is simple. But that doesn't matter, this is a book of characters and ideas. Solomon Kugel moves into a farmhouse in a rural town, ostensibly to escape the rat race. With he has his wife, his neurotic mother, an ungrateful lodger, and for parts his constantly copulating sister and brother in law.

Nothing is working out as he plans though. His dying mother is convinced she lived through the holocaust (she didn't). His lodger is threatening with legal action over Kugel over promising when renting out the room. Someone is burning down local farmhouses. The house smells of something horrible. And then he finds Anne Frank alive and well in his attic, working on the follow up to her diary.

As novel concepts go this is pretty brave. And yes, highly likely to offend. Particularly as the elderly Anne Frank is hideously deformed, foul mouthed and has horrible house manners.

The thing is, it's all approached with such skill and acerbic wit that somehow Auslander avoids offence and reaches a kind of ironic pathos. The book is very, very funny and Auslander is a very fine writer. There is something of the Vonnegut in his writing style. The way the train of thought narrative jumps all over the place.

Of course, as any book about the Holocaust should, this addresses some serious issues and does so with no small level of success.

The characters are hugely compelling, even the somewhat pathetic Kugel and the older Anne Frank in particular is a brilliant creation.

As I said, this is probably not to everyone's taste, but if you're after a challenging and intelligent read you can't go far wrong with this.


The Devil's Beat
The Devil's Beat
by Robert Edric
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.43

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cold and meandering tale about alleged witchcraft in Nottinghamshire, 6 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Devil's Beat (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Turn of the century Nottinghamshire. Four girls announce to their village that they have seen the Devil in the woods near there home. Merritt, under orders from the Chief Constable, joins a panel of 3 men, a doctor, a minister and a magistrate, in order to get to the bottom of their story.

One by one they interview the girls and try to find the truth behind the girl's report. Arcane symbols appear on house walls. The press flock to the scene. The villagers are suspicious.

It should be a gripping tale. I envisaged something in the ilk of The Crucible or The Caucasian Chalk Circle. It should be full of paranoia and intrigue. It should be a meditation on the industrial world meeting the superstiious past.

Unfortunately it's not.

There were a couple of problems for me.

Firstly, on a technical level, because the novel is primarily a court room drama, not set in a courtroom it relies heavily on dialogue and reported speech to move the drama on. And it does so at a snails pace. There is a feeling this would work better as a play or a film.

Secondly, one of credibility. From the minute Merritt arrives in the village it is very clear that no-one believes the girls. Which begs the question, why would they go to the trouble of convening the investigation at all? Surely the villagers would just tell the girls off and move on?

I hoped a lot from this book, it is an interesting premise, for me though it just didn't deliver


The Hunters [DVD]
The Hunters [DVD]
Dvd ~ Steven Waddington
Price: £6.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars utterly awful, 3 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Hunters [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This film is truly, truly awful.

I wasted an hour and a half of my life on it and the best review I can give is to warn you all not to do the same.

Terrible acting, terrible script, gratituous and stupid.

Please take my advice and don't watch. You'll regret it


Pyg
Pyg
by Russell Potter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and diverting, but not a lot more than that, 18 Jan 2012
This review is from: Pyg (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Pyg is the memoir of Toby, the first pig in the world to be able read. Born on a farm in Salford in 1800's he escaped and became part of a travelling show where he was taught to communicate using boards with the letters of the alphabet written on them. Accompanied by the son of his previous owner, Sam, he toured England performing in villages and towns on the way.

Unknown to the public who flocked to see his feats Sam had actually taught Toby to read and they could hold intelligent conversations using the boards. As Toby's fame grew he came to the attention of a number of notable scholars and again escaped his circumstances to move in the exalted literary circles of the age.

The book is presented as a memoir in Toby's own words, edited by Russell Potter, and is true to its type, both in language and layout. As many Canongate books this is a beautifully presented item, in text and packaging.

The narrative is charming and Toby is an endearing protagonist, particularly as he comes into contact with great figures such as Samuel Johnson. It is light however, and serves a a pleasant divertion rather than anything greater.


All That I Am
All That I Am
by Anna Funder
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extensively researched, beautifully written of betrayal and the cruelties of war, 18 Jan 2012
This review is from: All That I Am (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In 'All That I Am' Anna Funder returns to a subject that she knows well. Her non-fiction book 'Stasiland' told of the everyday people who suffered at the hands of the GDR in East Germany, here she again focusses on the individual, but this time in the build up to the second world war. And this time she has produced a novel, albeit one based around the experiences of real people.

She has chosen historical figures to tell the story of the people who fought in vain to stop Hitler from gaining power, focussing her narrative around her friend Ruth Blatt and the writer Ernest Toller. Toller was a World War one veteran, but was outspoken against the Hitler regime and found himself criminalised and his work burnt. Ruth, her husband Hans and cousin Dora were all vocal in their horror at what was happening to their country and they too found themselves targets of the regime.

The book is narrated in part by Toller, writing his memoirs exiled in America in 1939, and in part by Ruth looking back in old age having received Toller's manuscript through the post.

It tells of their struggle to make the world realise the threat that Hitler posed, having escaped to England and silenced by a British government keen to remain neutral. This is a part of history we often forget, it is very easy for us to look back in hindsight and write Hitler off as a monster that we united against, but as the book progresses you really do get a sense of the injustices committed by our government against the refugees from the Reich.

Despite the restrictions placed on them by their visas, Ruth and particularly her cousin Dora, worked in a clandestine and tireless manner to bring to light the atrocities being committed in their homeland.

Firstly I have to say Anna Funder can write. Boy, can she write. Some of the prose is just exquisite. And when she concentrates on the smaller details of the protagonists lives the book is a great success. The novel is at it's most successful when it is intimately focussed, rather than looking a the broad political story. I appreciate that it needs to encompass larger events and that parts of the political landscape needs to be spelled out as the majority of readers won't have an exhaustive knowledge of the time period running up to the outbreak of the second world war, however the sections of the novel that recount large tracts of the historical fact tend to jerk you out of the narrative.

As it progresses and Ruth drifts more into her memories I found myself questioning why the story needs to be told from the present looking back, in many ways it weakens the narrative as you know she survived and this surety steals some of the drama format the story.

Also, Toller and Ruth's narrative voices are too similar, so I found myself f having to check the name at the start of the chapter, and realising that I'd been reading a section thinking it was one, when it was in fact the other.

That said, there is enough drama and intrigue to pull you through and the fact that these are real events, happening to real people adds a weight to the book that makes it compelling.


Finders Keepers
Finders Keepers
by Belinda Bauer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.69

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Law of diminishing returns, 14 Dec 2011
This review is from: Finders Keepers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Whilst it is nice to see a series of gritty crime novels set on Exmoor, the place could have been designed for this sort of novel, the impression I had on finishing Finders Keepers is one of diminishing returns.

Bauer burst onto the scene with Blacklands, the story of a young boy who begins a dangerous pen pal association with the serial killer who murdered his uncle. It was a fresh, scary and original book. She followed it up with Dark Side, again set on Exmoor and again a well crafted character focussed crime thriller. This Bauer's third novel returns to Exmoor and two of the characters fro the first 2 novels; Stephen Lamb the boy from Blacklands and Jonas Holly, the tortured Policeman from Dark Side.

It is summer on Exmoor and children are being taken from parked cars. In their place is a simple note saying 'you don't love him.' As more children go missing and no ransom demands are made the police are stumped. Jonas must face his own past and put aside the horrors of his own past to get into the mind of the kidnapper and find the missing children. At the same time Stephen still scared by his mistreatment by the killer Avery (from Blacklands) suspects that Jonas has more to do with it than he is letting on.

There is no doubt that Bauer can spin a good yarn. Her prose is sharp and the storyline is taut and well composed. In places it is genuinely chilling, but it left me feeling that she had taken the setting and the characters one step too far, that she had tried to shoe horn a storyline onto these people that could have worked better elsewhere. I found my credulity stretched a little too far and rather than being swept along with by the story I was wondering 'how much bad luck can one family have?'

Also, whilst she only briefly mentions the events of Blacklands and Finders Keepers could work as a stand alone book, she does return too much to Dark Side for it to truly work on its own.

So, well written, with a strong authorial voice, but I think it is time for Bauer to turn away from Exmoor and try her hand at some other setting. She certainly has the talent.


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