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Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom)

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John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme: Series 2 (Audiogo)
John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme: Series 2 (Audiogo)
by John Finnemore
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 11.44

4.0 out of 5 stars More of Finnemore, 27 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Any sketch show format stretched to over 6 30 minute shows is going to struggle to maintain quality, and this is no exception. There are some great gags here. I loved the wisdom of Solomon put to the test, a meeting of moths with a vexed agenda, an irate, sarcastic man berating a bar woman on her use of the word 'awesome' and a telephone cashier on her request for a security code, amongst others. But there are also laboured gags where the conceit is very clever, it's just not funny. This is where the writers are trying hard to make a point on e.g. the illogicality of religion but forget to be amusing.

On the whole though this is above average, intelligent comedy that scores enough goals to make it well worth your while.

Farming Manager (PC DVD)
Farming Manager (PC DVD)
Offered by The GameMonkey
Price: 4.97

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amoooosing game, 23 Nov 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Farming Manager (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an immersive, gorgeously textured and detailed management/simulation game that puts you in charge of restoring the fortunes of your Grandpa's old farm. An old guy with (I think) a Welsh accent pops up in the bottom left of the screen to welcome you and set the scene and tutor you in agricultural ways of righteousness. This sets up a helpful learning curve which quickly helps you get to grips with the basics and then slowly lets go as you start to juggle finances, vehicle maintenance, staffing issues, animal health and so on. There are a series of tasks which continue the story of the slightly dodgy legacy your grandpa has left you, including debts and strange things buried in fields.
Unlike some management games and sim's the interfaces and menus are accessible and easy to navigate. Finding your way around your farm and it's surrounding a landscape is a pleasure, with a richly drawn and rendered countryside which has flocks of birds and bird song, weather and passing seasons, each with their own challenge. Zooming in and out and scrolling around is a smooth and enjoyable process. Set your tractor to work ploughing or sowing or fertilising a field and then zoom in and watch it work in convincing detail.
The game is undoubtedly educational in an enjoyable way. You'll play for an hour so and then realise you've learnt more about farming processes then you may have thought possible. The longevity is incredible, with a lot of scope for expanding and developing your farm.
One of the best releases from Excalibur so far, it deserves to be widely played.

Jedi Academy
Jedi Academy
by Jeffrey Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 3.50

3.0 out of 5 stars 'Must try harder' for Star Wars Diary of a Wimpy Kid, 17 Nov 2013
This review is from: Jedi Academy (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I got this for my 8 year old son who, so far, has not really made much of an effort with it. He flicked through it, said "it doesn't look very exciting," and that was that.
So I read it through to see if it was worth reading with him. It's a mix of journal entries, letters, doodles, comic strip entries, report cards, pages from the school newspaper and comic strip. It tells the story of Roan, a young lad from Tatooine who aches to be a star pilot but is turned down for pilot school entry, but is succesful with Jedi Academy. The comic strip is monochrome and on first glance dull which is a shame, as this is Star Wars. But there is a neat range of expression there, and characterisation that works, if you persist.
On the whole though it is a pretty disappointing, unimaginative transposition of middle school tropes and anxieties into the Star Wars Universe. There is nothing to challenge, it is not funny enough or thrilling enough. It ambles along, is mildly diverting, but won't cause any disturbances in the force.
But, I'll still read it with my son to see if there is a spark for younger readers I'm missing.

Journey Through the Solar System: The Wonderful World of Simon Abbott
Journey Through the Solar System: The Wonderful World of Simon Abbott
by Simon Abbott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bright and fascinating junior Star Trek, 23 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My first reaction on seeing the book was that the cartoonish illustrations would detract from the awe and wonder that thinking about our Solar System can provide. Why have simple cartoons when there are no shortage of fantastic images available?

I started to read with my 8 year old son and we were both instantly hooked. The bright illustrations and snappy facts are aimed to grab your attention, and they do. Some facts have a 'Wow' caption which is very apposite.

Simon Abbott takes us from a map of the Solar system and then from the Sun to Neptune, passing through the asteroid belt on the way. I learnt stuff! I hadn't realised Pluto had been downgraded from a Planet to a Dwarf planet so now there are only 8 not 9 Planets, as I was taught when 8, considered to be part of our Solar System.

Also, that Neptune is covered in howling storms and has a giant white cloud called Scooter!

So Father and Son are left with a restless desire to find out more, which I am sure was the aim of this bright and fun book.

Alan Partridge - Partrimilgrimage: The Specials [DVD]
Alan Partridge - Partrimilgrimage: The Specials [DVD]
Dvd ~ Steve Coogan
Price: 7.75

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Partridge fails to soar, 19 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I love Steve Coogan's classic and very funny creation, and I very much wanted to enjoy this, which I did, but I was also saddled with a heavy sense of disappointment.

There are two shows here. In 'Welcome to the places of my life' Alan tours his beloved Norwich, visiting stamping grounds old and new. In 'Open Books' Alan is on a tv studio book show to promote "We need to talk about Alan."

The whole has a feel of relying too much on the goodwill and love we have for this creation, resting on some well deserved laurels and coasting along without much fresh energy or fun being brought to the table.
There are some laughs. The 'sugar tits' line as Alan tries his hand at market selling, the recreation by Alan of a parking debate at Norwich Council, and in the 'Open Books' segment a troubling member of the audience (as Alan would say 'I thought he was a bit simple') is 'disappeared.' And some of the minor character support is very good. The car salesman does not have to open his mouth to be funny, and the bemused market trader is very good. The presenter of Open Books is also spot on in his BBC 4 earnestness. But there is a hell of a lot of wry but not funny enough padding.

Am hoping for better things from 'Mid Morning Matters' and of course 'Alpha Papa.'

Doctor Who and the Cybermen
Doctor Who and the Cybermen
by Gerry Davis
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Cybermen moon about, 19 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This BBC Book edition lovingly restores the feel of those old Target editions of Doctor Who. In the 70's they were my and many others only route to past Doctors and their adventures, beyond rare tv repeats. This fragile connection is touched on by Gareth Roberts in his introduction to this edition of Doctor Who and the Cybermen (keeping the Target novelisation's title for the tv adventure `The Moonbase'). This fragility, and the attendant value of the Target novelisations, is largely lost today with our dvd and digital restorations (although I am no luddite and am grateful for these restorations as well).
This book is a pacy and exciting read. Gerry Davis, co-creator wit Kit Pedler of the Cybermen, knows how to bring the second Doctor and his companions to life, conjures up a claustrophobic and memorable setting with the Graviton centred Moon-base, and paints the Cybermen as a truly scary foe, both keeping to the shadows with sneak attacks, and showing an implacable military force and threat with wave after wave of Cybermen marching across the lunar landscape.
The Graviton, a device piloted on the base by a multi-national crew to control the weather on Earth, is a concept that has not dated too badly, but then going with the flow of out-dated visualisations of the future in older sci-fi and fantasy is part of the fun, as long as it has a reasonably coherent central logic and integrity as an idea, which this does.
As stated, this copies the Target original, with its title, cover design, and illustrations. The latter provided a further valuable bridge to 70's readers like me in reimagining these old adventures, and the ones here are a superb addition to the text. Standouts for me are a Cyberman in shadow looming over a terrified man, and the Cybermen in free-fall from the Lunar landscape when the Graviton is turned against them.
This edition also has some great `dvd extras' in a short `between the lines' section at the end, pointing out key behind the scenes differences, including changes made from the screenplay and screen when writing the novel, and background information on the Cybermen and their creators.

Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
by Thomas Frank
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Your mortgage is not my problem...., 13 Oct 2013 reads the placard of a Tea Party protestor in full flow. It sums up the brazen, in your face attitude of the resurgent right, of which Mr Frank writes in this splendid but unsettling book.
He contrasts the reactions of the US and the world to the 1920's depression to that of the credit crunch of 2008. After the 20's there was a realisation that belief in the free markets to steer society had failed, that another way must be found, and the anger of the people is directed towards the banks and the capitalist system. We also get FDR's New Deal as an attempt to find another way, through tougher regulation and government stimulus packages and programmes.
In contrast, post credit crunch, we get a deliberate channelling of public anger by the right, away from investment bankers and high finance fraud, to liberalism and liberal government, including government regulation. In other words, the last bubble burst not because markets weren't regulated enough, but because they have been too regulated. Free markets have not been given enough rein. The political double think, the atrocities against history, reason and logic, is all traced with verve and wit by the writer. Centrally, the conceits that the resurgent right is on the side of everyman and the little person, perfectly typified in the right's eyes as small business, and is the righteous bearer of anger against big business, big banking and cronyism in government, these Thomas Frank shows, are lynch-pins holding down the Tea Party tent.
Frank outlines a series of grotesques and grotesque posturing, most notably Glenn Beck, and has great fun at their expense, but not without slow burn anger. He traces the root of the new right thinking, for example the political philosophy in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." And he ends with a rebuke to the Democrats in the "evil triumphs when good men do nothing" mould, outlining how Obama's crew have not espoused any coherent political philosophy to counter the values that caused the recent crash, and have occupied a mushy centre ground where they are careful not to upset high finance or big banking, leaving a vacuum all too effectively filled by a resurgent political right.
This is a clear, funny and angry read, tighter and more accessible than the work of e.g. Michael Moore, where a more in depth knowledge of US political personalities is often presumed. It's also a very important read for our times.

Me To You 4-inch Tiny Tatty Teddy Cutest Little Girl Soft Toy Sits
Me To You 4-inch Tiny Tatty Teddy Cutest Little Girl Soft Toy Sits
Price: 7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Shy and silly!, 12 Oct 2013
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Here's my 3 year old's review of this toy, presented as dialogue.

Me: "Lizzie!" (for that is her name)

Lizzie (not moving, still staring at tv): "What?"

Me: "Lizzie! Come here..."

Lizzie: [sighs] "ok then...." approaches with foot dragging, weary gait

Me (showing toy): "do you like this toy?"

Lizzie: "No"

Me: "Why not sweetheart?"

Lizzie: "'cos it's shy"

Me: "What?"

Lizzie: "It's shy."

Me: "What?"

Lizzie: "It's shy..."

Me: "Why's it shy?" (justified question I thought)

Lizzie: "'cos it's silly" (walks away, signifying the interview is at an end)

So a tad unfair, I thought. the item is cute enough. It's small, it fits in your hand like a (strangely shaped) Hamster, so with small children is likely to be misplaced. But the texture is silky and soft like real fur. The patch on the head and eyebrows raised in constant bemusement lend it an air of heart piercing pathos. And the 'cutest little Girl' t-shirt is, well, cute.

The Last Day of JFK (BBC Audio)
The Last Day of JFK (BBC Audio)
by BBC
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 7.92

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dying of the light, 12 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A young charismatic president, promising to pass the torch to a new generation, and imbued with Camelot charisma and mystique is snuffed out suddenly and brutally by a sad, loner drifter, a scruffy, prissy failure who made a grotesque grab at the pages of history. It should not be, it is, in the strongest sense of the word, an outrage. No wonder people took shelter in conspiracy theories.
Then there are the horrors of the second act, a Policeman gunned down in cold blood by the fleeing Oswald. That not enough for you? Then consider the third act, Oswald himself gunned down by yet another inadequate loser, Ruby, so preventing real justice to be done forever. If it were fiction, you would not believe it. Too much, you would say.
Conspiracy theories are in my view an understandable but mistaken attempt to try and put things back in their order, and to account for the coincidences. A President such as Kennedy is worthy of death by cabal, not a lone nut. But such theories have only distorted history and besmirched and trivialised the people who were there, making them pawns not people of integrity. Hearing the first hand testimonies of Nellie Connally (ex-First Lady of Texas), Jim Leavelle (ex-Dallas detective), Jim Ewell and Hugh Aynesworth (ex Dallas Morning News correspondents), Aubry Rike (ambulance driver/witness) and Ken Dowe of Dallas radio station KLIF, this is really brought home with some force. The combination of the un-sensationalistic presentation of Alan Thompson, the vivid and lived testimonies of the above people and the fascinating archive footage (radio broadcasts mainly) make this an unforgettable listen and slice of history. The stand out moments for me were Nellie Connally recalling the terrible second by second trauma of the 3 gunshots, the 1st seconds after the President smiled at being told Dallas loved him, and the 3rd covering Nellie in what she then could not identify, but we now know to be the President's brains. Then there's Alan Thompson following the motorcade route in his own car, creating a kind of bridge between past and present, and Jim Leavelle calling the notion that Ruby was smuggled into the underground to kill Oswald as "BS." The radio broadcast that covers live Oswald being led to his death is particularly chilling, with car horns blaring in the background like some kind of alarm or warning, and the terrible chaos of the shooting.
The second programme on this cd is Alistair Cooke's "Letter from America" first broadcast 24 November 1963, horribly soon after the assassination. The rawness of the trauma is felt in Alistair's grave and sad delivery, mourning the obscene incongruity and suddenness of the shooting, and the promise betrayed. The sense he portrays of a nation in shock is palpable. And at his final recitation of "rage, rage rage, against the dying of the light," the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

The Dark Need (Dead Man Book 20)
The Dark Need (Dead Man Book 20)
Price: 0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A fast blast of horror pulp, 28 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Matt Cahill is a man with a mission. After being buried alive in a skiing accident, he resurrects in a hospital ward next to a grinning demon, Mr Dark, who makes it clear that he will be messing with Matt's destiny from now on. There then follows, in each instalment of this series, Matt travelling across America, fighting the evil of Mr Dark where he finds it. To help him, he has his faithful woodman's axe from his previous blue-collar existence. He can also tell those who Mr Dark has touched, as they exhibit symptoms of corruption and decomposition that only he can see, including gangrene, maggots, stinking fluids and pus. Those that Mr Dark touches go on to spread evil and corruption, and it's Matt's job to undo or prevent as much of this as he can.
This is a pulp horror series with no pretensions other than being a pulp horror series. Different writers bring fresh perspectives and visions to the series. Here, Stant Litore, who has given us the wonderful `Zombie Bible' series, pens a tale of Matt pursuit of a shape shifting serial killer that he has tracked to a frozen, remote Landscape. He is helped by the mysterious `Bernadette' who is similarly intent on finding the killer, although it is clear she has a deep and hidden agenda of her own.
This is a quick blast of horror fantasy that will please current fans of the series, as well as providing a good jumping on point for new followers. Mr Litore knows how to write fast moving visceral horror, but these are riptide currents on the surface of a far more profound and unsettling vision of humanity, hinted at here, but explored much more fully in his other works, which I urge you to explore.

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