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J. Scott-mandeville "jackie veronica" (UK)
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Hot Sweats and Other Perspirations
Hot Sweats and Other Perspirations
by Adrian Appleby
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars perspiring dreams, 4 July 2010
Adrian Appleby's idiosyncratic and quirky verse is finely honed in his second volume of poems. From whimsical (Fairy Realms) to jocular (The Saga of Meryl and Sam); from pastoral (Countryside) to spectral (Vampires); Adrian develops his inimitable style with a wide range of subjects. Sometimes sentimental, sometimes cynical, the quatrains offer amusing, often capricious, even wanton, reflections of the world seen through Adrian's individual eye. Take this one for instance:

To feast upon your warm baguette
That morning back in June
Has made my mind almost forget
You hit me with your spoon.

As with Bad Tidings and Other Shivers, Adrian's love of his own countryside is explored in a section which mixes placid pastoral with witty persiflage. Contrast

A warm summer's day brings joy to the heart
As the towpath stretches ahead
A heron flies down, as quick as a dart,
With a fish to take back to its bed.

with

Down Westbury Way on Salisbury Plain
I rode upon my horse
I galloped on through wind and rain
But it was chalk, of course.

(But I wish the possessive adjective `its' had not been printed as `it's')

The most intriguing and inventive section is Vampires. Such inspired lines as

I brought my love to the blue lagoon
It made her skin much younger
I remember that it was in June
And my blood did quench her hunger.

evoke shivers of sensuous and titillating horror.

The last two sections, Pop Music and MPs' Expenses Scandal, show Adrian's virtuosity and clever cynicism at its best but I prefer the caustic strains of the latter (A house for a boat? Now that's absurd! It must be a duck-house surely! If not a duck some other bird Owned by an MP for Crawley.) to the sarcasm of the former (At Christmas time Cliff Richard sings But is it pleasure that he brings? Would it be better to be less grand And stick his head in a bucket of sand.).


Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
by Rebecca Wells
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Divinely southern, dahlin', 26 Feb 2010
This tale of Louisiana women and the ups and downs of privileged plantation life from the 1930s to the 1990s is both uplifting and exasperating.

Uplifting, because Rebecca Wells is a lively writer, knowledgeable about her period, accurate in historical reference, wearing that knowledge lightly. She tells an exuberant tale of wayward women, who are nevertheless constrained by their traditions and upbringings, and the patriarchal, racist world of the Deep South, so much so that the central character, the narrator's mother Vivi (Vivi dahlin'), dashing, extrovert, loving life, is driven to alcoholism and nervous breakdown by those constraints. The feminist sub-text, the difficulties of mother-daughter relationships, the strength, yet weakness, of women in southern states, is subtly explored through the deceptively effervescent writing.

Exasperating, because there are too many words: Wells states the obvious, repeats herself, pay too much attention to detail, and is unable to precis and edit her story to a more manageable length. It ends up a bit of a ramble.

But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed these feisty Ya-Ya women and their southern ways, their handling of their lives to get as much as they could from what was on offer. I liked the frequent allusions to music, habits, cars and material things of each period of these lives which gave a sense of truth - a feeling that the book was semi-autobiographical (which it might be). But the last section rather let the story down. It was too contrived, too pat, too 'happy ending', resolving the difficulties between mother and daughter rather too simplistically.

Written in the 1990s it is very much a novel of the 20th century and as such is already dated. But I would recommend it to anyone who loves stories of the South - Steel Magnolias in a readable form.


The Last Bear
The Last Bear
by Mandy Haggith
Edition: Paperback

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairy bears and fey Fionas, 26 Feb 2010
This review is from: The Last Bear (Paperback)
The Last Bear is half-fairy tale, half historical novel, a tale of the far north - in this case, the north-west highlands of Scotland - set in early medieval times when Gaelic legends still abounded, people's belief in the world of faerie was still strong. Catholic Christianity was new to the ancient, forest-bound communities, and the sophisticated world of courtly romance combined with strict adherence to priestly doctrine and Christian prayer practices, clashed heavily with the earthly world of the forest folk and their mother-earth wisdom and belief in the spirits of the woods and the bears.

The tale, like a tapestry, weaves in and out of the two cultures, and tries hard to capture a romantic past. Unfortunately, Mandy Haggith infuses the story with polemic which spoils the interesting exploration of the conflicts between beliefs, the stresses of the old ways giving way to the new, the challenges posed by Christianity against paganism. She lets her feminist bias and anti-Christian views pervade the book and the Catholic church is represented as evil where the pagan belief in a bear mating with a woman and passing the spirit of nature through its matriarchal line is given spurious legitimacy.

There is a feeling that here is a radical woman, seeing Christian tradition as patriarchal dominance over the earth mother epitomised by the central character Brigid in the story, who is lamenting the loss of natural knowledge through the metaphor of the loss of the last bear in Scotland. Although the story is well-written, a poetry of pretty language shining through the darkness of the book's tale of death and woe and the decline of the Viking/Celtic world of the olden days, it makes no secret of the view that Christianity meant murder and destruction.

I have met women with views like Mandy Haggith who reject the modern world, the Christian religion, and hark back to days when people lived in harmony with nature and spoke with the spirits of the earth and trees and living creatures, rather than a spiritual, incandescent, God. It is a pity that the author's own bias is so strongly felt all through the book - it could have been a lovely read, but in the end it was like tarnished silver, and left a metallic taste of dissatisfaction and disappointment. Instead of regretting the loss of the bear I was just relieved that we have moved on from such limited learning and have been given the grace to rise above our human selves to be aware of more heavenly aspirations.


Butchers Broom
Butchers Broom
by Neil Miller Gunn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars History as fiction, 22 Feb 2010
This review is from: Butchers Broom (Paperback)
Butchers Broom is a long-winded and rather turgidly written novel about the tragic clearances in the Highlands. Well-meaning, it attempts to fictionalise the 19th-century lives of Highlanders, of which the author, Neil Gunn, is well informed, but his out-of-date language, his laboured style, his efforts to make descriptions poetic, all fail to convince or enrapture.

In fact I gave up on this novel, and although it was probably well-received and well considered when it was published, I think this kind of book has had its day and I would rather read a straightforward history of the clearances than a characterless novel.


I Am a Camera [DVD] [1955]
I Am a Camera [DVD] [1955]
Dvd ~ Julie Harris
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 4.96

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a cabaret, 26 Sep 2009
This review is from: I Am a Camera [DVD] [1955] (DVD)
I am a Camera is the original of the later adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's classic drama of the decadent 1920s into 1930s Germany, and takes itself seriously. Whereas Cabaret lightens the tone, but effectively uses the awful development of Nazism as a backdrop to the vagaries of Sally Bowles' blighted cabaret career, I am a Camera is heavier, and focuses on Sally and her relationship with the Englishman (Laurence Harvey) rather than the wider context which pervades the better film of Cabaret.

Julie Harris is very good as Sally and far outshines Laurence Harvey playing Isherwood, as the author of the original autobiographical story. Harvey seems uncomfortable in this role and plays it with a wooden spoon. However, he is amply compensated for by Harris, and the film, while dreary compared to its remake as a musical, is nevertheless well worth seeing. It is probably a more accurate picture of the seedy cabaret life of the time, which the
later Cabaret in some ways, romanticises.


About Time: Growing Old Disgracefully
About Time: Growing Old Disgracefully
by Irma Kurtz
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gracefully disgraceful, 26 Sep 2009
Irma Kurtz writes with wit and intelligence, perception and emotion, summing up so many of the little idiosyncrasies of old age, and revelling in the advantages of not being under 60 any more. Her Jewish background informs and entertains the more generalised whole, and the pace of book never falters. A great read for the over 60s which I can thoroughly recommend for winter evenings, holiday relaxation, easy reading for travelling, in fact any time. You won't be disappointed. Irma Kurtz had a light approach, choosing her words accurately and carefully, which has one nodding in agreement and empathy right the way through.

Younger readers take note that you may not be familiar with all those things that happened when your parents/grandparents were young but this book might be quite educational in the nicest way about some of the lighter aspects of the previous generations.


A Foreign Field [DVD] [1993]
A Foreign Field [DVD] [1993]
Dvd ~ Alec Guinness
Offered by RCDiscs.
Price: 26.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Par excellence, 26 Sep 2009
This review is from: A Foreign Field [DVD] [1993] (DVD)
A Foreign Field brings together a marvellous ensemble of top class actors - Alec Guinness, Lauren Bacall, Leo McKern, and last, but by no means least, the fabulous Jeanne Moreau. A trip down a nostalgic memory lane for war veterans, this play is also a superb vignette of oldies coming to terms with what the war did to them. One of the most memorable, heart-tearing moments, and one of the loveliest, is Jeanne Moreau singing 'La Vie en Rose'. Nuff said.


Worrisome Heart
Worrisome Heart
Price: 7.12

5.0 out of 5 stars Musical melody, 24 May 2009
This review is from: Worrisome Heart (Audio CD)
An excellent album from a welcome new youngster to the range of wonderful women singing jazz. With time, she may compete successfully with the likes of Stacey Kent and Diana Krall. Not yet - her voice and delivery need maturing - but she's got huge potential. I recommend this album.


The Road Home
The Road Home
by Rose Tremain
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars This road is paved with thorns but edged with gilt, 24 May 2009
This review is from: The Road Home (Paperback)
Rose Tremain deserved her prize for this excellent novel of the trials, tribulations, but ultimate triumph of an immigration experience. Lev, Polish immigrant in London, wends a thorn-strewn way through the morass of mediocre work opportunities and a mish-mash of new acquaintances and friends. His character is carefully drawn out in spare description, thoughts, and processes by the author, as are the myriad others trooping through the story. The background is touching, the present evocative, the future hopeful and Rose Tremain keeps the tale spinning through Lev's life's vicissitudes until he finally redeems his efforts. Eventually Lev's Road Home is gilt-edged. Any more information would spoil the story for new readers, but I thoroughly recommend this book as a Good Read. You won't be disappointed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2009 10:31 PM BST


Sings The Songs Of Robert Burns - Expanded
Sings The Songs Of Robert Burns - Expanded
Offered by concordemusic
Price: 11.95

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eddi is my darlin', 24 May 2009
Eddi Reader gives a top-notch performance on this album, with a varied ensemble of songs to capture the imagination. The inclusion of Charlie is Me Darlin' is an inspiration, even if it does clash a little with the more sonorous notes of the more Celtic range of Burns's poems. Ae Fond Kiss is particularly beautiful. A lovely album ideal for repeat listening and learning the words.


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