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A. P. Walton "tonywalton" (Selby. England)
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The Woman who Went to Bed for a Year
The Woman who Went to Bed for a Year
by Sue Townsend
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 1970s sitcom plotlines are not dead, 19 Mar 2014
Sitcoms in the 1970s were full of situations that in the real world simply couldn't happen ("Jasper has had a 10 foot high garden gnome delivered by mistake. He lives in mortal fear of his boss, who hates garden gnomes. His boss is coming to dinner. How will Jasper conceal the gnome?"). This book has similarly flawed premises ("Eva decides to stay in bed for a year for reasons undisclosed. Everybody goes along with it, despite her increasingly irrational and potentially suicidal behaviour. She is allowed to almost starve herself to death. In the end she doesn't".)

Sue Townsend can do, and has done, better. Her irritable snipings at the NHS are managed by the use of very stock characters (the bumbling and uninterested doctors, the sadistic community nurse), her limp attempts at satirising academia are, once agan, stock characters and her "not so torrid affair" subplot is poor in the extreme.

All in all the characters are from the literary equivalent of Getty Images and the plotting would be poor if this were a first novel by someone fresh from a creative writing course done by correspondence.

Don't waste your money on this one.


The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project
Price: £2.99

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Enough Asperger's, already, 6 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Rosie Project (Kindle Edition)
Mark Hadden's "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night" started the craze. It was a fine book, funny, interesting and thought-provoking, Thre was also Belinda Bauer's "Rubbernecker", an interesting whodunnit written from the perspective of someone with Asperger's.

Gavin Extence followed up with "The Universe against Alex Woods", where the protagonist never explicitly is on the autistic spectrum but very much appears to be.

Now we have yet another "laugh along with the autistic, who are just as we are but see the world differently" work. Our Hero Don is never explicitly placed on the autistic spectrum, but the word "Asperger's" appears in the second paragraph of the book as a not-so-subtle clue that yes, we have yet another case of "I see the world differently".

Surely the craze is over? Can we get back to characters who (like, say, Jack Reacher) refuse to relate to the world on a voluntary basis rather than due to a medically-diagnosed syndrome?

This gets two stars as my criterion for one star is "haven't thrown it at the wall yet" and I'm still ploughing through it.


I Am Pilgrim
I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I've read worse, but not much worse, 13 Jan 2014
This review is from: I Am Pilgrim (Hardcover)
This isn't as bad as some of the poor reviews in here say, but the "the only thriller you need to read this year" tag certainly is pure advertising puff. The book certainly needs editing; some scenes (such as the one where Our Hero returns to his childhood home) could be excised completely. This edition's 700 pages long and could easily come down to 500. The plot's fairly silly, but hey, it's a shoot-em-up thriller so nobody should expect Chekhov. The layered flashbacks quickly become annoying, as do the repeated cliffhangers ("I didn't notice the whatever it was but I soon would come to regret that - probably in the next very short chapter"). For someone who's supposed to be the best intelligence officer who's ever lived he does spend an awful lot of time not noticing things that later turn out to be important.

I have a problem with the author's extreme xenophobia. He manages to insult just about every nation on Earth. Turkey is corrupt and incompetent, Switzerland is a nest of Nazi-aiders, Italy is corrupt, and crazy, Saudis are corrupt barbarians, all Muslims irrespective of nationality are superstitious murderers, the list goes on... The only nations worth anything are the USA and Australia (the author is British-born but grew up in Australia, which may explain this). He does appear to avoid insulting the Trobriand Islanders, but I'm sure this is merely an oversight on the author's part.

Some of his research is kind of suspect as well. For example we have "...neither my ribs nor my kneecap were broken, Fractured, maybe..." Two minutes with a dictionary or 30 seconds with Google would have shown that "break" and "fracture" are synonyms. Sloppy stuff like this might be OK down the Dog and Duck but an author is supposed to know about words.

To sum up: needs editing, needs more subtle characterisation, needs a lighter touch, needs leaving in the remainder bin.


The Murder of Gonzago (Country House Crime 7)
The Murder of Gonzago (Country House Crime 7)
by R. T. Raichev
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.25

2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get away with this one, 25 Dec 2013
Funny, but I just couldn't enjoy this one, to the extent that I gave up around page 90. I'm normally a great advocate of Raichev's mysteries; I tell people to read them and enthuse about his mastery of the flavour and context of Golden Age mystery writing. In this one I just couldn't get a handle on it. The characters seemed flat, I kept having to turn back to see who was who and in some cases to see who was actually speaking. Two five star reviews prior to this one say that maybe it was just me. So maybe I'll try it again after a while, but until then I'd have to say "don't read this one first".


Poirot and Me
Poirot and Me
by David Suchet
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My word!, 30 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Poirot and Me (Hardcover)
I borrowed this from my local library just after "Curtain" (the last Poirot) was shown on ITV. I've ended up buying it for my mother for Christmas.

It's an excellent read, and an excellent swansong for the character that Suchet has created. Though Hercule Poirot was (obviously) written by someone else David Suchet's has become the definitive Poirot, knocking depictions by talented actors such as Ustinov and Finney into a cocked hat, and this book explains how. Suchet explains his motivation, which was to remain true in every detail to the Poirot written by Christie, down to the way he brushes his hat or the way he eats toast. Suchet's list of Poirot's characteristics is in itself fascinating.

More than this, though, he goes into the mechanics of playing Poirot while remaining a respected actor playing other parts. Who knew, for instance, that most of the time Suchet didn't know whether another Poirot series would be scheduled and would have to decide on very short notice whether to commit to another Poirot series or take other stage work?

A very minor criticism is that though Suchet says he's not a "luvvie" (and in general he appears not to be) every other actor he mentions is always "talented", "great", "marvellous"... Mr Suchet, surely there's *somebody* you feel at least ambivalent about? I'm also disappointed about Poirot's eyes. The books often mention his "cat-like green eyes", and the list of characteristics also says "Green eyes". I suppose expecting Suchet to wear green contact lenses for 70-odd episodes might have been a bit much, but was it really never discussed? Ah well - Poirot still 'as a leetle mystery, mes amis.

Regarding delivery: I placed the order early in the morning on 28th November and it was delivered (giftwrapped - thanks, Amazon) on 29th. The price isn't bad, either. At £20 RRP Amazon's £10.68 plus delivery isn't to be sneezed at.


Micro
Micro
Price: £2.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A sad way to remember a good author, 15 Nov 2013
This review is from: Micro (Kindle Edition)
This novel has picked up a few bad reviews on here along the lines of "It's a shame Crichton published this" and "he wouldn't have got away with it if he'd not been famous". Cut Mr Crichton some slack, people - Micro was published in April 2012 (in the UK, 2011 US) and Crichton died from lymphoma in November 2008. Micro (and Pirate Latitudes) were unfinished at the time of his death and his publishers decided to complete them.

It might have been better if they hadn't bothered, in this case. This is a rework of Jurassic Park but with wasps instead of dinosaurs (but see below). The plot is exceptionally thin - I'd like to think that MC, had he lived to complete it, would have written something that was more than just a plot outline, and some character sketches, both existing only as a framework on which to hang some fairly wooly ecological/ethical jottings, some rudimentary scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo about magnetic fields and a lot of very good, though gory, details about insect and arachnid feeding and fighting habits.

For what it's worth the storyline (people shrunk to microminiature size, but for a limited time; Bad Guys; international ramifications) goes back more to 1966 and a film called Fantastic Voyage than to Jurassic Park. (Asimov's novelization was actually written after the film, but published before the film was released). Fantastic Voyage has the advantage of starring Raquel Welch, of course.

Two stars for the potential inherent in being even a little bit by Michael Crichton (RIP)


The Bite of a Mad Dog: A Country Parson's Curious Tale (Julius Falconer Series)
The Bite of a Mad Dog: A Country Parson's Curious Tale (Julius Falconer Series)
by Julius Falconer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.30

2.0 out of 5 stars Neither one thing nor another, 23 Oct 2013
I read this as a copy was in Tadcaster library; Tadcaster is only a few miles from Sherburn, the village in which the book is set. The author's geography is spot on, unfortunately his history often slips. His characters frequently forget they're meant to be set in 1728 - the parson's wife, for example, refers to a "mole" meaning an undercover agent (a very modern usage); the parson himself talks of a "third degree" interrogation (more 20th century-speak) and so on. The whole thing just doesn't ring true, either as an honest attempt at a period novel or as humorous pastiche. Granted, I didn't expect the whole thing to read like Tristram Shandy (Wordsworth Classics) but the occasional mention of a sum of money as (for example) "1li. 11s. 2d." and a few "ecclesiastical" Latin tags do not a period novel make.


The Long Earth
The Long Earth
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's a shame, 26 May 2013
This review is from: The Long Earth (Paperback)
Terry Pratchett has made no secret of the fact that he was diagnosed with dementia in late 2007. Hopefully this book isn't a sign that he's unable to carry on writing on his own. The Long Earth lacks both Pratchett's humour, insight and engaging characters and Baxter's energy (if you want to read some decent Baxter, try Stone Spring. If you want to read some decent Pratchett, read anything else he's written). By page 100 I was bored. By page 200 I'd given up. I frankly couldn't care less what happens next to these flat characters (probably more of the same; it had already been going on unabated for 200 pages with no sign of surcease, after all). This "parallel worlds" concept is far from new (and, as a previous reviewer said, has a lot in common with PJ Farmer's Riverworld, though that's a lot more lively and multilayered than this, frankly dull, piece of work). Apparently there's to be a sequel in June. I shan't be reading it; I have no desire to remember Pterry's effervescent genius in this way.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [DVD + UV Copy] [2013]
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [DVD + UV Copy] [2013]
Dvd ~ Hugo Weaving
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £10.17

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short book - long movie(s) (possible spoilers), 20 May 2013
I was extremely surprised that "The Hobbit" (TH), a fairly short book, was being made as three movies. I was even more surprised that the first movie lasted an immense 163 minutes (getting on for three hours is immense for a part work covering a short book). Having seen it I'm no longer surprised; they've simply padded things out.

The initial setup is good - presenting it as flashback from the start of Lord of the Rings (LotR) works well, but action starts to drag and it's obvious that long action sequences are being used to fill in time. The worst sequence for this in my view is the escape from the goblin king. The sequence is good, is well-made, is scary, but ultimately just stalls the plot. It's a bit like a musical in that regard - things are happening then everything stops so the cast can warble on for ten minutes about life on the farm. Also perhaps too much emphasis is placed on Bilbo's finding the Ring. The whole point in the book is that this episode in TH is pretty much "by the way" with no inkling that this is, in fact, the most important event in the Third Age. And falling back on "based on The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien" isn't enough. It's either a film treatment of the books or it isn't.

By the way as far as I remember there were no "orcs" in "The Hobbit" as written by Tolkien; he called them "goblins", and only in LotR did they become "orcs". This is a fairly cheap attempt to tie in LotR fans to TH. In fact it's only too obvious that The Hobbit was written first and should have been filmed first.


The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a "must-read", 23 Feb 2013
I was bought this for Christmas. It's by a Swede, it's in translation, so I've been putting off reading it until now (February). My previous experience of novels written by Swedes has been that they're full of characters marinading in self-doubt, who live deeply depressing lives and the translation sucks what life there ever was out of the novel. And yes, I do mean Wallander. And those tedious "Tattooed girl who set fire to the hornet's smörgåsbord" (or whatever) crime novels.

Big mistake on my part. This book is simply excellent. I've frequently fallen about laughing when reading it. The characters (not just the main character, Allan Karlsson) show not one jot of self-doubt and the translation is just perfect (presumably; I don't read Swedish but I'm guessing that the dry humour of the English version is a reflection of the original: "[Allan smacks a thug over the head with a plank and knocks him unconscious] No blood, no groaning, nothing. He just lay there, with his eyes closed. 'Good one', said Julius. 'Thanks,' said Allan, 'now where's that dessert you promised?'".

The interweaving of the "now" plot (involving a suitcase, some less-than-intelligent criminals, an elephant and more) with Allan's previous life (where he wanders in and out of world events, meeting historical figures like President Truman, Oppenheimer and Chiang Kai-Shek's wife Soong May-ling) is simply excellent.

Three words: read this book.


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