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Castlelioness (Sussex, UK)

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The Bed Sitting Room
The Bed Sitting Room
Dvd
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars I am amazed that this exists, 8 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Bed Sitting Room (DVD)
Maybe this doesn't actually deserve 5 stars but I'm just so pleased it exists that, in my head, it's achieved its own weird perfect status. It's a surreal post-apocalyptic tale following a group of individuals navigating their way through the remains of London, but the fact that the film became relatively obscure means that, even though it contains the absurdist humour and satire you'd expect from its creators and cast, watching it still feels kind of astonishing.

It's a self-aware and darkly subversive distillation of 1960s British culture – sometimes even seeming to poke fun at the bawdy Carry On humour or kitchen sink drama that was around at the time – but its sheer silliness and detached, nonsensical tone stop it from being annoyingly knowing. Also, the fragmented landscape and the awkward behaviour of its confused inhabitants often have a surprising poignancy to them so that, even when things are at their most ridiculous, the story remains compelling. The production design is great too – it’s not surprising that China Mieville and Evan Calder Williams used it as an ideal example of their “Salvagepunk” aesthetic.

But yeah, The Bed Sitting Room is not really sort of thing that can be judged objectively… just have fun watching it and marvelling that it got made (and then largely forgotten about). God save Mrs Ethel Shroake!


Beguilement: 1 (Sharing Knife)
Beguilement: 1 (Sharing Knife)
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading but not as good as I'd hoped, 5 July 2007
Having loved the author's Chalion series, I couldn't wait to read this book. I did enjoy it but couldn't help being a little disappointed by it...

I feel I should start by saying that the fantasy element of the book is interesting but doesn't feature much in it. This is particularly true of the second half which largely consists of domestic family scenes. It would almost be more accurate to call this book a romance story with a bit of fantasy in the background than a romantic fantasy book. I found this refreshing as it is good to see an author trying to take the genre in a new direction, away from all the dragon, wizard, war and prophecy orientated stuff that are around now. I found, however, that the romance was just too sickly and soppy for me. I like a strong romantic element to books (I am a typical girl!), but this one takes it too far in my opinion and I just found it all a bit unbelievable and contrived (the bit with Dag talking about water-lilies was just daft and did she have to call the heroine Fawn?!).

The setting is also refreshingly unconventional for a fantasy book. Most seem to be set in a land resembling medieval Europe, but this world is more like rural America a couple of centuries ago. It is well imagined and described with subtlety.

As with the author's last books, this is written with warmth, wisdom and humour - the dialogue in particular is nice. Unlike the other books though, you pretty much have to read the next book after this one as it only tells half of the story.


The Pinhoe Egg (The Chrestomanci Series, Book 7)
The Pinhoe Egg (The Chrestomanci Series, Book 7)
by Diana Wynne Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and funny continuation of the Chrestomanci Series, 26 Mar. 2007
This book continues on from the storyline in "Charmed Life" so it's probably best to have at least read that book before picking up this one (reading "Mixed Magics" would probably help too but it's not essential).

I can't really go into much detail about the plot here as it may spoil your enjoyment of the book, but the story basically follows Cat Chant from "Charmed Life" and a new character, Marianne Pinhoe, as various strange incidents occur in the villages surrounding Chrestomanci Castle. Of course, Chrestomanci and his family also feature in the story. Also, fans of Diana's "Wizard Derk" books will be pleased at the appearance of a certain magical creature in the story.

Like all of the other books in this series, this book is full of wit, original and unpredictable storylines and brilliantly imagined characters. I think that it has a slightly sweeter, cuter feel than the other books (don't worry though, it's not sickly or anything like that!).

There aren't really any negatives I can think of about this book, I loved it, maybe not quite as much as "Conrad's Fate" but definitely more than the rest of the series.

Basically, if you enjoyed the other Chrestomanci books I cannot think of any reason why you should not enjoy this one.


The Cry of the Icemark
The Cry of the Icemark
by Stuart Hill
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice but very simple, 6 Mar. 2007
This review is from: The Cry of the Icemark (Paperback)
This is the story of a young princess, Thirrin, who must defend her tiny kingdom against a massive and seemingly unstoppable foreign army. Thirrin decides that the only way she has any hope of winning the war is by looking for alliances within the strange, dark and magical lands neighbouring hers.

The thing I liked most about this book was that, despite its often harsh and bloody settings, it still has a strong warmth to it which comes from its witty and original but subtle sense of humour and its moral messages. The whole story seems written to show the importance of friendship between individuals and between different cultures, even those that have had a difficult history. The story also features musings on the right way to look at science and how we should approach things that we do not understand. This could easily have turned out to be patronising, but I think that the author handles all of these moral issues well. In fact, I think that the book would have been pretty shallow if these moral issues hadn't been explored.

Another thing that gives this story a nice feel is the fact that the author's affection for his main characters comes across really clearly. I would say, however, that I don't think that he always succeeds in portraying these characters as realistic people. I've no doubt that they were well-developed in his mind, but there often seems to be a lack of skill in showing this to the reader.

One main thing which annoyed me about this book was the simplicity of the plot, I found it quite predictable compared to other books for this age group, there was never anything unexpected or surprising in it (although it really doesn't help that much of the story is given away on the back cover!). I also think the that the battle scenes appeared too simple and like something from a bad computer game, rather than believable events. This doesn't seem to be down to bad research, but because of the distant perspective of the battles that the reader is given, which is a real shame.

I was also a little disappointed by the unoriginality of most of the races and cultures in this book, but at least they are well-described. The Snow Leopards were a wonderful creation though, showing that the author can be bold and inventive.

This book is lovely in many ways and I did enjoy reading it, but I would be lying if I said that I thought it one of the best young adult fantasy books around. This is no great criticism though, as there are so many about now and I'd still say that this book is far better than average and a worthwhile read (I'd give it 3½ /5 if I could). The teaser chapter for the next book in the series looks really promising as it seems that the author has tried to create more complex characters for it. I hope that this next book and its successors will enable him to show off the huge potential that he clearly demonstrates in The Cry of the Icemark.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2010 11:46 PM GMT


Okami (PS2)
Okami (PS2)
Offered by APE-GAMES
Price: £10.99

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 20 Feb. 2007
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Okami (PS2) (Video Game)
This is undoubtedly the most fun PS2 game I have ever played (We Love Katamari comes a close second though). Yes, the graphics are stunning, but they are most certainly not the only thing about this game that makes it so special.

For a start, unlike some other games, it actually has a proper, structured story, filled with lots of surprising twists and turns. The plot centres around a lupine sun goddess, Amaterasu, who has been brought back to life to fight a mysterious enemy who has engulfed the land of Nippon in an evil curse. You play as the wolf and have to restore the land to its former glory with the aid of a celestial brush - a magical paintbrush that enables you to change the world around you with various techniques which you learn as the story progresses. You also have a bug-like thing called Issun to help you in your quest. He helps you to solve puzzles and he talks to characters on your behalf, since Amaterasu cannot speak. The many characters that you meet through the story are all brilliantly imagined and memorable, even the minor ones. I won't go into any more detail about the plot because part of this game's appeal, for me at least, is the fact that the story constantly surprised me. Some of the quests you end up being sent on are so deliciously surreal that to mention them here would spoil part of the game's delight.

The gameplay is fun and varied. There are combat, platforming and puzzle-solving elements and mini-games such as fishing and mining (more fun than they sound!) and you can also carry out tasks, such as feeding animals, to upgrade your energy gauge or other powers. I suppose it is probably a little too easy as there are loads of things to stop you dying or getting stuck, but I guess it does make it more accessible to some and it means that the game progresses quite quickly.

The dialogue takes the form of subtitled nonsense-speak which doesn't bother me, but I know that others feel differently. It is well translated and witty, but Issun's lewd comments regarding some of the many beautiful women that you encounter got on my nerves after a while.

The other thing I should mention is that the music is brilliant and complements the game perfectly as it is distinctive without being overwhelming.

Overall, I think that this is a game that all PS2 owners should try, whatever their age or gender. There is so much in it that it could probably delight and amuse absolutely anyone who gives it a chance.


The Hallowed Hunt
The Hallowed Hunt
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - better than the last two, 4 Feb. 2007
This book is a wonderful example of how a fantasy book should be. It is a beautiful combination of magic, mystery, romance and political intrigue with a bit of horror thrown in as well.

The story centres around Ingrey kin Wolfcliff (NOT Wilfcliff as the back cover stupidly proclaims!), a lord sent to escort the body of a prince to its rightful burial place in the capital city of Easthome. He soon discovers that the events which caused the prince's death are far from simple and involved dangerous ancient magic which has been forbidden for centuries. Ingrey comes to sympathize with Prince Boleso's killer, Lady Ijada, and they both end up realising that their experiences with this dark, necromantic magic have only just begun...

Overall, this book combines the complex politics from The Curse of Chalion and the necromantic spirit-magic from Paladin of Souls. In my opinion, this helps to make it the best book of the series. The use of language shows off the author's talent beautifully; both the descriptive prose and the dialogue are, in my opinion, exceptional. I particularly enjoyed reading the tense conversations between Ingrey and the various possible enemies he deals with.

As with its predecessors, The Hallowed Hunt has a very well written and original main character. Ingrey is an engaging character because he manages to get through the tangle of perilous situations that his calculating foes have trapped him in, mostly using nothing more than his sharp intelligence and his dry sense of humour. I have found that too many heroes in fantasy are either really smug and annoying (e.g. Richard Cypher), or seem to only get through trouble through luck or coincidence, but this doesn't happen with Ingrey.

One of the main things I found interesting about this book was the fact that many of the characters often had more horrific fates than death to fear. This helped to give Ingrey and Ijada's story a real sense of threat and desperation which meant that I genuinely feared for them all the way through. In fact, at times I thought that, if it wasn't for the light relief provided by the brilliant cast of secondary characters, the sinister spirit-magic elements could have made this book too dark to be enjoyable.

There is only one very small negative point I can make about this book (apart from the previously mentioned typing error!); I've read way too many fantasy novels involving wolves, and leopards (this may sound like a random animal to appear in so many books but I have read of were-leopards, daemon leopards and giant talking snow leopards recently! What is wrong with other big cats!) and both of these animals feature strongly in it. Of course, this will not bother you if you have not read as many of these books as I have, but I was slightly disappointed that the author chose to use such cliché fantasy animals.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy written with subtlety and intelligence. Reading the previous books would definitely help your understanding of this book, but is not essential.


The Dalemark Quartet, Volume 1: Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet
The Dalemark Quartet, Volume 1: Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet
by Diana Wynne Jones
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourites, 28 Jan. 2007
The first story in this volume, Cart and Cwidder, follows a family of travelling musicians who carry messages through the war-torn land of Dalemark. It focuses on Moril, a withdrawn boy who is learning how to play the mysterious cwidder (a lute-like instrument) which has been passed down through his family.

I wasn't all that impressed with this story at first as I have read other, similar books and was hoping for something more original. However, the way in which the tale is continued throughout the rest of the books more than makes up for this. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it's probably best to read the first three books in the series before judging it. Each book in the quartet adds something new and unexpected to the overall story, giving it many different dimensions as it goes through.

The second story follows Mitt before and after he attempts to assassinate the Earl who rules his city and who Mitt belives is responsible for all of his troubles.

One of Diana Wynne Jones' greatest talents is being able to get inside the heads of her young characters. She really seems to understand and remember what it is like to be a child/teenager, unlike many other authors who write for young adults. These two books illustrate this perfectly; Moril, Mitt, Hildy and Ynen are all totally believable.

Also, the author is not afraid to portray family relationships as they often are. Far too many children's authors either have sweet, too-perfect families, or don't bother with them at all and make the young hero/heroine an orphan. I think that this is really brave of her and she pulls it off brilliantly.

I should probably say that this edition of the book is American, so British readers should be warned about the spelling.

Overall, this is a wonderful read for anyone over the age of eight. It lacks much of the humour of some of the author's other books, but it is still brilliant. If you enjoy it, you really should try some of Diana Wynne Jones's other books as they are all fantastic.


Field Guide to the Animals of Britain (Nature Lover's Library)
Field Guide to the Animals of Britain (Nature Lover's Library)
by Reader's Digest
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully presented guide to British animals, 23 Jan. 2007
I discovered this book when I was a child and it really helped to nourish the interest in animals and the natural world that I still have today.

It is filled with beautiful illustrations which actually do look like the animals they're supposed to portray, unlike many other wildlife guides I've seen.

Each wild animal has a double page dedicated to it with descriptions, illustrations and a colour photograph showing its behaviour and the creature itself. There is also a section on farm animals in which there is a brief description and an illustration of the various farm breeds you might see in Britain.

There is a also a section to help you to understand the basic physiology of some animals, a guide to fieldcraft and information on how to go out and watch animals for yourself.

I have found this a really useful book over the years and I think that anyone, young or older, with an interest in wildlife should consider adding it to their bookshelf.


The Gift (Pellinor Trilogy)
The Gift (Pellinor Trilogy)
by Alison Croggon
Edition: Paperback

14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A book I wanted to like but couldn't......., 23 Jan. 2007
I'll start with the positive; the use of language is much better than most young adult fantasy books (I read A LOT of fantasy!). The decriptions and dialogue are really well written and give the book the kind of atmosphere that you hope for when you pick up this sort of book. This is not really surprising, I suppose, as the author is also a poet.

However, I thought that the flaws of the book seriously overshadowed the rest of it. The main thing which struck me as I read this book was that it bears a ridiculous number of similarities to other, older fantasy books. Loads of the characters, magical concepts and locations seem almost to have been lifted straight from two books in particular - The Lord of the Rings and Le Guin's Earthsea Quartet. As a huge fan of both of these I was at first dismayed by this, but then I actually found it kind of funny and tried to spot all of the similarities. I can't really mention them here as you may not agree with me and I could spoil your enjoyment of the book - but be warned if you are a fan of either of the books mentioned.

The other thing I didn't really like is nowhere near as big an issue and probably won't bother a lot of people. I found that I couldn't really believe in Maerad's character because she just came across too perfect, especially considering her difficult life before she meets Cadvan. I don't like characters to be really flawed or anything, but she didn't seem realistic to me and I couldn't relate to her a lot of the time. This also meant that I never really cared if she was in a difficult situation as I knew she'd get through it and probably end up stronger for it.

Even though I didn't like this book, my mum did and she loves the Lord of the Rings as much as I do. She told me that its unoriginality didn't bother her much and that she didn't want it to end as she loved its atmosphere. I thought I should say this as you may end up agreeing with her and not me.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 16, 2011 2:27 AM BST


The Pinhoe Egg (The Chrestomanci Series, Book 7)
The Pinhoe Egg (The Chrestomanci Series, Book 7)
by Diana Wynne Jones
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really sweet and funny continuation of the Chrestomanci series, 21 Jan. 2007
This book continues on from the storyline in "Charmed Life" so it's probably best to have at least read that book before picking up this one (reading "Mixed Magics" would probably help too but it's not essential).

I can't really go into much detail about the plot here as it may spoil your enjoyment of the book, but the story basically follows Cat Chant from "Charmed Life" and a new character, Marianne Pinhoe, as various strange incidents occur in the villages surrounding Chrestomanci Castle. Of course, Chrestomanci and his family also feature in the story.

Like all of the other books in this series, this book is full of wit, original and unpredictable storylines and brilliantly imagined characters. I think that it has a slightly sweeter, cuter feel than the other books (don't worry though, it's not sickly or anything like that!).

There aren't really any negatives I can think of about this book, I loved it, maybe not quite as much as "Conrad's Fate" but definitely more than the rest of the series.

Basically, if you enjoyed the other Chrestomanci books I cannot think of any reason why you should not enjoy this one.


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