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T. SMEDLEY "terrysmedley" (Taunton UK)
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200 Easy Suppers: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: Over 200 Delicious Recipes and Ideas
200 Easy Suppers: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: Over 200 Delicious Recipes and Ideas
by Jo McAuley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.57

4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful little cookbook, easy yet tasty recipes, 20 Jun 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This cookbook is great, nice and relatively simple meals, sensible ingredients and cooking times and very handy to have around the kitchen. Just at the right level for someone who likes to cook but doesn't consider themselves the next Heston Blumenthal. I've got several cookbooks and in the short space of time I've had this one I think I must have tried more recipes from this than any other on my shelf.

I particularly like the fish section as I feel the need to eat more fish than I do and actually made the pan-fried haddock tonight, which was very tasty. The book is well laid out with a good, informative introduction and useful index section and the photography nicely done, really enhancing the recipes. There are sections for: meat, poultry, fish, vegetarian and deserts and most I would be willing to give a go. Could you have a higher recommendation than that?


What Dies in Summer
What Dies in Summer
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.51

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the year for me so far..., 20 Jun 2012
This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This has got to be one of the best books I've read so far this year and it came right out of nowhere. I was quickly drawn in to the heat-hazed world of Jim (or Biscuit if you prefer) and L.A. and their slightly quirky world where everything is slightly out of true. The spell this book weaves around the reader is quite ethereal and nothing that takes place within these pages, no matter how strange or shocking, seems wrong or out of place. It really is that good.

Our two heroes are at that age just on the cusp of adulthood where anything seems possible, yet terrifying at the same time. Writing about people at this age can either be contrived or enchanting and here it is spot on. Despite a few skeletons in their familial closet, some of which are pretty large it has to be said, their lives seem fairly ordinary, or maybe that's just their way of looking at things. Their gran (known as Gram), who they both live with is an enigmatic, wise woman and beautifully drawn by the author.

I won't give any of the story away as this one deserves to gently unfold to each reader as the author intended, but we have aspects of the supernatural - whether you actually believe it's real or not is up to you, dark humour, horror and some genuinely touching scenes, particularly between Jim and his girlfriend Diana. Short, choppy chapters keep the pace moving well as we accompany these two troubled souls on the way to adulthood and the quest they must undertake one hot summer...


The Champion
The Champion
by Tim Binding
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, yet sad and poignant, great novel, 25 April 2012
This review is from: The Champion (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The concept of this book struck me as a little odd at first and the narrative covers quite a long time period, but it is basically the story of the relationship between Charles Pemberton and Clark Rossiter (or Charlie and Large if you prefer). We first encounter our protagonists as Large's family moves to Charles's safe, predictable Middle-English town, he is the new boy at school and promptly upsets the status quo. We all knew someone like Large at school, the one who had the natural charm and charisma, was effortlessly good at sports and always got the stunning girls us mere mortals could only dream of.

Large leaves a wake of destruction in his path, all with a grin on his face, until he ups and leaves for London and life settles back to something approaching normality. Charles is a complex character, all tradition and stiff upper lip, yet torn up inside and the section which deals with his father's financial losses in the Lloyds affair and their family's descent into poverty and despair are as much a modern social commentary as anything. This theme permeates the novel, the importance we place on money and perceived wealth and success in modern society and all it brings.

The story really picks up again when Large moves back to the town with the alluring Sophie yet again in tow and we are never clear really what circumstances and events brought this about. The implication is that he failed to make the same impact in London, so returns to the town of his past glories and sets about empire building. Yet again, his presence upsets the lives of all our protagonists and his relationship with Charles is complexly drawn from this point onwards, they seem to need each other yet at the same time resent this and it's what is not said between them that carries the real weight.

The relationships between all the other supporting characters, Tommy and Lyn, Katie and both Charles' and Large's parents are constantly developing. There are revelations and hidden secrets uncovered, some historic and some current and this keeps the story flying along and as Charles develops further into his own path of wilful self-destruction, we really are on the edge of our seats and waiting to see what happens next. This is a cracking read, very funny and yet one with the depth to make you think of the wider picture outside the story.


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 (Adrian Mole 1)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 (Adrian Mole 1)
by Sue Townsend
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Blast From The Past, 27 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I must have read this book a couple of years after it was published, probably when I was around 13 and 3/4 myself. It was recommended to me by my older sister who had read and loved it and we then both read the second book (Growing Pains) which followed shortly after. I've also read the some of the further entries in the series as the years have passed, probably missing out a few here and there, but have found Adrian consistently amusing and strangely endearing.

When this book was re-released (as a 30th anniversary edition - makes me feel old!) I couldn't resist and I have to admit it's every bit as funny as I remember. Reading it as an adult, it is a lot more poignant than I remember and there is a whole sub-text which runs through it which I missed as a child. It's still laugh-out-loud funny, very quick and dry in its humour, but also very sad in places.

I have since passed this to my 13 year old daughter who also devoured it and is now on book 3 of the series so it's nice to see things going full cycle. If you have never read this book then you're in for a treat and if you're anything like me you should fly through it in one or two sittings as it's incredibly compulsive!


Me Before You
Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Not just one for the girls..., 7 Mar 2012
This review is from: Me Before You (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Reading through the other review of this book here on Amazon, it seems the majority of readers are women and from the cover art, it'd be safe to assume this book is primarily aimed at the female market. This is a shame, as I found this book equally absorbing, funny and moving as the majority of female readers seem to have. Hence I thought I'd give it a male perspective, as this is far more than just chick-lit...

Despite the weighty moral and ethical topics dealt with in this book, it is very funny in some parts, heartbreakingly sad in others and the interplay between Lou and Will is superbly portrayed. We are quickly drawn into all the character's lives: Louisa's high achieving sister Katrina who had an ill-timed child, their salt-of-the-earth, working class parents who would do anything for their daughters, Lou's fitness fanatic boyfriend Patrick; then there's Will's wealthy, upper class parents who have their own set of problems and his relatively absent sister, who seems to care little for anyone except herself.

It's safe to say Will is very angry, having had a privileged and successful life cruelly snatched away from him and finding himself a quadriplegic whose prospects are only to deteriorate into increasingly ill health. Meanwhile, Lou is happy just to drift through her safe, insular life; living at home with her parents with a remote and self-obsessed boyfriend and quiet job in a cafe. When she loses her job and applies for the post of Will's carer, his mother's ulterior motives come into play and surprisingly she gets it. Nathan is also great as Will's nurse, taking care of his medical needs and is a rock to Lou in the early days while she is finding her feet.

I won't spoil any of the plot from here on in, suffice to say their relationship develops into friendship and beyond, far more than that of carer and patient. This is handled very tactfully and sensitively by the author, and this is where the real strength of the book lies, it doesn't become cloying or sentimental and the effect each has on the other's lives in a wider sense is something they will have forever. I've seen a few reviews bizarrely comparing this to One Day and have to say, having read that book also, this is the far superior novel and much more moving and affecting.


Brodmaw Bay
Brodmaw Bay
by F.G. Cottam
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rivetting and genuinely scary British horror, 19 Feb 2012
This review is from: Brodmaw Bay (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Despite considering myself a big fan of horror fiction, I haven't come across this author before and I believe this is his fifth or sixth novel. This book is pure, classic British horror in the James Herbert vein and I was gripped from the start. Our successful, middle class and wealthy London family are placed into a life-changing and all too common modern-day situation of urban violence and therefore feel the need to leave the city for a more idyllic setting, an idea they have been toying with for years.

Our story picks up at this point and the Cornish seaside village of Brodmaw Bay begins its supernatural calling to the Greers, at first in subtle and easily explained ways. Unexplainable events are merely shrugged off; the family are in white flight mode and want to escape a number of issues so are effectively blinded by this. Then the ghost of a young girl and other demonic entities put in an appearance and I found these sections deliciously creepy and very effective, this is the first book to have made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck in a good few years.

Why does the quiet fishing village want the Greers, what actually goes on in this seemingly perfect setting that time seems to have forgotten? The way in which the supernatural forces permeate their lives and those of the people around them, firstly in London and then once they move to Brodmaw, is very effective. The book is paced very well, things drop into place at just the right time to keep the tension flowing and the connections between the increasingly creepy villagers and the Greer family gradually become apparent as we move nearer to the conclusion.

The realisation that all is not as it should be does gradually come, but events are underway to make escape impossible. The conclusion is a classic race against time affair, with all the usual barriers, both supernatural and tangible, standing in the way of our hero. Will James make it back in time to save his family, who will survive and what will the consequences be? It may sound contrived and pretty standard stuff, but this book does not fall into the old clichés and draws you in completely, making it essential reading for any fan of horror or the supernatural.


The Silence [DVD]
The Silence [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ulrich Thomsen
Price: 5.38

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak but powerful film and beautifully shot, 19 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Silence [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very well shot film, the direction and pacing is top notch and the shots of the German countryside, all wheatfields, woods and moving cloudy skies are mesmerising and provide moments of light relief in what is otherwise a pretty hard-going film. The subject matter is fairly bleak and has been covered by other reviewers, but the story is well told and acting superb throughout.

I'm not adverse to subtitled foreign films by any means; I'm a big fan of Italian and Spanish horror and found the original 'Let The Right One In' mesmerising. There are parts in this film though where the subtitles are barely legible due to what is going on behind and I often found myself distracted by action on screen and missed sections of dialogue as a result.

The film deals with child rape/murders, so is not one for the faint-hearted or easily offended, but this is treated in a respectful way and is not gratuitous by any means. The perpetrators are seemingly normal men leading normal lives, which is perhaps what is most chilling in this movie and the jaded, desperate police officers on their trail always seem to be one step behind.

The pain of the families involved is convincingly portrayed and each and every person in this film goes through their own personal journey with varying moral dilemmas and conclusions to draw. It's up to each viewer to decide if justice has been done and what you take from this film may vary greatly from the next viewer, but isn't that what good cinema is all about?


Before the Storm
Before the Storm
by Diane Chamberlain
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping stuff, a very real real page turner, 27 Jan 2012
This review is from: Before the Storm (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I haven't read any other books by this author or Jodi Picoult who she is seemingly compared to, but I found the writing style very natural and fluid, chapters seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and once I got within 100 pages of the end, I simply couldn't put the book down. The story moves at a natural, easy pace which allows you to slowly become wrapped up in the events taking place in the present, whilst filling in the back-story of the main characters.

This novel deals with a number of weighty issues; Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, infidelity, alcoholism, underage sex and arson to name but a few! Despite this, the book wasn't heavy-going or at all preachy, the characters came across as normal people dealing with a plausible, tragic event and are people with the usual skeletons in the cupboard (and who hasn't got some of those?) The strength of this book is in the way we relate to each of the lead characters, their actions and motivations.

We gradually learn the back story of the three principal adults, Lauren, Jamie and Marcus in a series of flashbacks, all the while in conjunction with what the teenage Maggie and Andy are dealing with in the present day. All are portrayed as rounded individuals and we get chapters told from their various viewpoints, sometimes of the same event; revelations are made, people react in real ways and there was a natural inevitability to parts of the story. The relevance of supporting characters such as Sara, Nigel and Ben is also woven in and enriches the whole.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel, I was perhaps expecting something overwrought and dramatic if I'm to be honest, but was more than pleasantly surprised to find a real empathy to all the main characters. I would therefore recommend this book most highly as it has a kind of gentle charm and is simply gripping from start to finish.


The Water Children
The Water Children
by Anne Berry
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic, gripping book, beatifully told, 10 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Water Children (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My mother was pregnant with me during the long, hot summer of 1976 (and I'm sure she still bears a grudge), so this book had a kind of resonance with me. It is essentially a story about four people and how tragic water-related events in their early lives shaped the adults they have become and also how they deal with the realisation that adult life can be full of disappointment and the fading dreams of the young. They meet in various ways and situations in London during the heat wave of '76 and none of them emerge the same, if indeed they are to survive at all.

Our characters are wonderfully drawn, Naomi/Mara is a troubled woman and has seemingly moved through life from one disappointing relationship to the next, including both lovers and parents, and inevitably bears the scars. We then have Owen who bears the guilt of a tragic accident which occurred when he was a boy and for which he blames himself and only wants for someone to love him. Catherine is possibly the most complex character, withdrawn and essentially alone and finally we have Sean, who yearns for so much more from life than his rural upbringing in Ireland could give him, but whose dreams are destined to fail.

The writing style is both relaxed and luxuriously descriptive; this is an easy book to read, but you can also take a lot from it. The setting of the novel in a city swamped by heat gives the book a sultry, oppressive and extremely atmospheric feel; you can almost see and smell the tarmac melting. The elements of back-story and brief sojourn to Tuscany give break to these long, hot periods and the contrast is clearly emphasized in the writing. When events ultimately reach a head near the end of the novel, it coincides with the breaking of the weather and the inevitable thunderstorms are both literal and metaphorical.


The Terror of Living
The Terror of Living
by Urban Waite
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.73

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining enough, but not exceptional, 20 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Terror of Living (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I did enjoy this book, though can't imagine it will linger for long in my memory and I'd probably think twice before reading another of this writer's novels. The real strengths to this book are the setting, which is vividly described by the author and the pacing, which refreshingly isn't a non-stop rollercoaster and lets the story unfold at a more natural pace.

I found the character's names surprisingly confusing, maybe it was the use of only their surnames, as I often found myself thinking 'which one is Hunt again, is he the smuggler/sheriff/hit man?' at the start of a chapter. The characters are rather two dimensional and not really developed past a certain point, I didn't feel a great deal of empathy for either Hunt or Drake when things got tough, despite their respective wives trying to give a more human aspect to their characters.

The story itself is well paced and not too over-the-top, Grady's character is well portrayed and he adds a certain something to the scenes which feature him, whilst the Vietnamese overlords are also satisfyingly sinister and cold-blooded. The book jumps around between a number of set-pieces, though I found the conclusion to be the right one and wraps the story up well. Overall then an entertaining read, but probably not one of my top ten for this year.


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