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Poldy "Paul" (Darwen, Lancashire)

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Death Comes for the Poets
Death Comes for the Poets
by Matthew Sweeney
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.97

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Pen Isn't Always Mightier, 26 April 2013
Someone is killing the poets of the British Isles in ways which mirror their work. The widow of one victim calls in Victor Priest, a specialist in art-related crime. As his investigation continues, he finds he needs to employ a partner to help with his endeavours. Meanwhile, the list of victims increases.

The two writers, Matthew Sweeney and John Hartley Williams, are themselves poets, and very fine ones, too. Thus, it's easy to imagine that the characters in the novel, with their back-stabbing and infighting, could well be more than fiction. This is a well-written, witty story, but I found the identity of the culprit far too easy to work out before even half the story had unfolded. The plot was tight enough to induce me to continue reading, but I found very little interest in so doing.


Boxer, Beetle
Boxer, Beetle
by Ned Beauman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and Dramatic First Novel, 24 April 2013
This review is from: Boxer, Beetle (Paperback)
A murder-mystery that moves from the 1930s to the present day, taking in East End Jews, boxing, beetles, a sinister Welsh hitman, an upper class family, Nazi memorabilia, and even a letter from the Fuhrer himself. Protagonist Kevin, sufferer of a rare medical condition who conducts most of his social life on-line, is compelled literally at gun-point to investigate what really happened to a thuggish East End Jewish boxer in the 1930s.

A bizarre mix of characters populate this hilarious and witty first novel, including Fascists, both dedicated and half-hearted, entomologists, ruthless property-developers and on-line memorabilia collectors. I can see that this won't be for everyone, but I found it hilarious and very well-written.


Doctor Who: The Androids Of Tara (Classic Audio Original)
Doctor Who: The Androids Of Tara (Classic Audio Original)
by David Fisher
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.25

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruritanian Classic, 29 July 2012
In their search for the fourth segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on Tara, a pseudo-medieval planet with androids and electrical weapons. Prince Reynart is about to be crowned King of Tara, but only if he makes it to the ceremony. The wicked Count Grendel of Gracht is intent on seizing the throne for himself, and he has one major advantage: languishing in his dungeons is the Prince's beloved, the Princess Strella, an exact double of Romana.

"The Androids of Tara" was writer David Fisher's second script for the Key to Time season, following "The Stones of Blood", which is also available in a new audio novelisation. In the nineteen-seventies, when Target books were publishing novelisations of the stories, Fisher himself wasn't offered the opportunity of novelising his story, and it became one of the weaker efforts from the prolific Terrence Dicks. Now, following the success of "The Stones of Blood", Fisher has once again been given the opportunity of producing an entirely new version for the audio books range, and it's an opportunity he seizes with both hands, clearly relishing the chance to flesh-out the story. The world of Tara, a curious mix of the medieval and the technological, is presented in much more detail than was possible on screen, and Fisher makes the most of the opportunity to provide some background to the world. The differences in behaviour between `real' characters and their android duplicates are cleverly presented.

The story is essentially a rerun of the Ruritanian classic, "The Prisoner of Zenda", and here, as in the TV version, Fisher has fun playing with, and subverting, the expected tropes of the swashbuckling genre, particularly the charming, witty villain, Count Grendel, who, beneath his debonair exterior, is totally ruthless. The lesser characters aren't forgotten, though, and there is time to show the unrequited love of Grendel's technician, Madam Lamia. This is a particularly good story for the companion, Romana, who gets much more to do here than is usually the case. This is signposted right at the start when, upon arrival, the Doctor sends Romana to locate the segment of the Key to Time, while he takes the opportunity for some fishing. "The Androids of Tara" also marks the first real hint of "Star Wars" in the Doctor Who universe, its electrical swords recalling the flashier light sabres.

John Leeson, on TV the voice of K9, has an ideal voice for audio recordings, and breathes life into the story, carefully differentiating between the different characters. The music and sound-effects, while still over-literal and often unnecessary, aren't as intrusive as on some other releases. "The Androids of Tara" is a first-rate addition to the growing collection of Target audio readings.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2015 8:37 AM GMT


A Prefect's Uncle (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
A Prefect's Uncle (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cheerful Column of Concentrated Cheek, 28 July 2012
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The ostensible plot of this, Wodehouse's second novel, published in 1903, concerns Farnie, the uncle of the title, who is actually younger than his nephew, the prefect Gethryn, set in authority over him. Wodehouse uses this framework to hang a tapestry of public-school life of the sort he and countless others had experienced. It is a life of rugby and cricket, of Houses and Housemasters, of poetry prizes, of ragging and fagging and midnight feasts.

Like his first novel, The Pothunters, this is not so much a novel as a collection of scenes. Farnie marks the first embryonic appearance of the classic Wodehouse buzzer, a character who displays great ability as a fast-talker, not allowing himself to be cowed by those who believe themselves superior. Although not on a par with Wodehouse's best work, there are already indications of future genius: the wit, the elegant turn of phrase, the elegiac sense of a world at peace under a sun that will never set. It is a world which, like all of Wodehouse's fictional worlds, never really existed, but one which is always worth visiting.


FIGHTING CHESS WITH M.CARLSEN (Progress in Chess)
FIGHTING CHESS WITH M.CARLSEN (Progress in Chess)
by Adrian Mikhalchishin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wonderboy Grows Up, 21 July 2012
Magnus Carlsen was born on 30 November 1990 and, in January 2010, at the age of just nineteen, he became the youngest world number one chess player in history. His early life and career were documented in "Wonderboy" by his former trainer, Simen Agdestein, in 2004. At that point, Magnus's future greatness was clear. A few years on, he is the world number one, with a rating of 2837, the second highest rating ever recorded and just a few points shy of Gary Kasparov's record, and has a string of impressive victories to his credit. He is a megastar in his native Norway, and the face of Burberry in their ad campaign.

Agdestein's book included photographs of Magnus and his family as well as plenty of detail about his home-life and playing schedule, making it clear that, far from exploiting the young prodigy in the family, his parents actually had to reign in his enthusiasm and limit the number of tournaments in which he played. It was clear that Magnus retained his essential qualities of humility and humour in the face of great success and fame, as his behaviour both on and off the board makes very clear. I concluded my review of Agdestein's book by saying that a marvellous career awaited the young wunderkind. Now, less than six years later, that career is in full flow, and this book, a much more serious, in-depth examination of his games, as befits one of the best chess-players in history, is an account of that record-breaking career so far. The book highlights the depth of Carlsen's natural understanding of chess, as well as demonstrating the amount of preparation that has to be carried out by a modern chess-player. Also highlighted is Carlsen's pragmatism at the board, and his ability, like Karpov, to exploit small advantages in simplified positions. Carlsen is one of the greatest players of the computer age, making effective use of chess engines to deepen and refine his natural understanding of the game. In addition, he has benefitted from close collaboration with the greatest player of all, Gary Kasparov.

The book contains sixty-four of Carlsen's best games, with annotations and diagrams. The production is well-up to Edition Olms's usual high standards, although it would have benefitted from better proof-reading, as a few misprints and omissions have crept in. This very minor caveat aside, however, this is a first-rate chess book offering an insight, not just into one of the best chess-players in history, but into the game of chess at it is played and understood in the modern era.


A Pelican at Blandings: (Blandings Castle)
A Pelican at Blandings: (Blandings Castle)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Farewell to Blandings, 27 May 2012
Lord Emsworth's fearsome sister, Lady Constance, is once more in residence at Blandings Castle, Shropshire's foremost pile. The terrible Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, has invited himself to stay at the Castle once again, this time with his niece, Linda, who is in love with Johnny Halliday, one of Sir Galahad Threepwood's many god-sons. Linda is a ward of court and cannot marry without the Duke's consent. As so often in Wodehouse, there has been a row between the young lovers, and the sundered hearts need to be brought together once more. The Duke is still under the impression that Lord Emsworth is potty, and decides to call in the eminent brain specialist Sir Roderick Glossop to observe him. Sir Roderick not being available, who better to take the job than his junior partner? And what better way for Johnny to get into the Castle, to be near his beloved and repair their rift, than to pretend to be this non-existent specialist? Who else can Lord Emsworth call on to sort out the tangles but his ever-resourceful brother, last survivor of the celebrated Pelican club, the Hon Galahad Threepwood? With the usual mix of young lovers, fearsome sisters, and overbearing Dukes, as well as a roster of villains and imposters, all the ingredients are there for another classic farce in the great Wodehouse tradition.

The title of the review is not strictly accurate. Wodehouse returned to Blandings once more a few years later, but sadly that novel was left incomplete at his death, although it has been published under the title "Sunset at Blandings". This is the tenth Blandings novel, and was published in 1969, when Wodehouse was eight-eight, and not surprisingly, there are signs that the master's powers are on the wane. The writing is much sparser than previously, much of the plot thin and rushed. Yet there is still more than a trace of the old Wodehouse touch, still many of those moments of sheer delight in language of which Wodehouse was such a master. It is the perfect conclusion to a glorious saga, an autumnal final look at a paradise from which man has never been expelled. If this is not first-rate Wodehouse, it is certainly a joyous coda. There is an elegiac conclusion, with brothers, Lord Emsworth, and the Hon. Galahad Threepwood, quietly eating their dinner of good English fare, including a well-jammed roly-poly, while Voules, the chauffer, softly plays his harmonica. The novel's last words have the great Gally raising a glass and toasting his woolly-headed brother. "God bless you, Clarence," he says. God bless Gally, too. And God bless Wodehouse, who gave us so much joy.


Galahad at Blandings (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
Galahad at Blandings (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Galahad at Large, 25 May 2012
Now that Lord Emsworth's fearsome sister Connie is safely married to a millionaire and living in America, another even more domineering sister rules the Blandings roost: Lady Hermione Wedge, who looks like a cook - sometimes a cook pleased with her soufflé, sometimes a cook about to give notice, but always a cook. She has instructed her daughter, the cloth-headed Veronica, to break-off her engagement to another American millionaire, Tipton Plimsoll, in the mistaken belief that he has lost all his money in a stock-market crash. Hermione is also trying to manoeuvre Lord Emsworth into marrying another overbearing female, Dame Daphne Winkworth. As if this weren't enough to cope with, Lord Emsworth has yet another new secretary, Sandy Callender, who is loved by Sam Bagshot, although their relationship has hit a rough patch. Who better to unite the sundered lovers, and extricate Lord Emsworth from a fate worse than death with Dame Daphne, than Lord Emsworth's brother, The Hon. Galahad Threepwood. With Gally in charge, the stage is set for another of Wodehouse's classic farces involving pigs, domineering sisters, and imposters, all under the disapproving eye of Beach, the Butler.

This is the ninth novel in the Blandings series, published in 1965 when Wodehouse was already eighty-three. Despite his age, and although there are echoes of earlier books, and even entire phrases lifted verbatim, Wodehouse is still master of his craft, and the old magic is still very much in evidence. The plot is as complicated as anything he ever wrote, and it runs along nicely in its accustomed groove. Wodehouse was a master, not just of comic writing, but of the English language, and his prose style is one of the most beautiful in the whole of literature. The novel contains many of those verbal felicities Wodehouse devotees have come to love. This is another of those supreme farces set in Wodehouse's perfect idyll, Blandings Castle.


Service with a Smile: (Blandings Castle)
Service with a Smile: (Blandings Castle)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last of Uncle Fred, 25 May 2012
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We're back at Blandings and, as usual, things aren't going well for woolly-headed peer Lord Emsworth. He has Wellbeloved back as pig-man, but he also has a domineering secretary, Lavender Briggs, who needs five-hundred pounds to set up her own secretarial bureau, and isn't above arranging the kidnapping of Lord Emsworth's prize pig, Empress of Blandings, to get it. He also has to cope with the domineering Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, who has once again invited himself to Blandings, and who is still under the impression that his pig-obsessed host is dotty, and is still determined to get said pig away from him, especially now that he has a buyer willing to pay good money for it. Meanwhile, Myra Schoonmaker, daughter of a rich American businessman, has been removed to Blandings by Lord Emsworth's formidable sister, Lady Constance, to keep her away from the man she loves, penniless curate Cuthbert "Bill" Bailey. Lady Constance hopes Myra will fall in love with Dunstable's nephew Archie. As if all this weren't enough, Lord Emsworth has to cope with the Church Lads' Brigade, who are camped en mass on the Castle grounds. Lucky, then, that, while on an enforced visit to London for the opening of Parliament, Lord Emsworth should encounter his fellow Earl, the irrepressible Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham, who agrees to travel back to Blandings with Lord Emsworth to help sort out the tangle and spread sweetness and light the way only he can.

This is the eighth Blandings novel, and the last of four to feature that most delightful of Wodehouse creations, the Earl of Ickenham, better known as Uncle Fred. Although Wodehouse was eighty-one when he wrote this novel, there is no sign of his powers failing. This is a charming light novel which runs along beautifully in a well-worn groove, full of those verbal felicities for which Wodehouse is so loved. Few writers have been better than Wodehouse at plotting, and here as so often he draws a tangled skein of plots and weaves everything together with the firm hand of a master. Everything is for the best in the best of all worlds, the world of Blandings, a paradise from which there has been no fall. The only sad note is that this is the last time we will encounter Uncle Fred, but we can take heart, as he would himself, that in this final appearance he spreads much sweetness and light in his own inimitable fashion.


Pigs Have Wings: (Blandings Castle)
Pigs Have Wings: (Blandings Castle)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Wodehouse's Finest Books, 25 May 2012
Clarence, Earl of Emsworth, as vague and woollen-headed as ever, is set on his pig, Empress of Blandings, winning First Prize in the fat pigs section of the Shropshire Agricultural Show for the third year in succession. So is his brother, that effervescent beau sabreur, Sir Galahad Threepwood, who stands to win a large sum should the Empress triumph a third time. The fly in the ointment is neighbour Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, who has bought a new pig to exhibit in the show, going against the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules. Not only that, but Lord Emsworth's new pig-keeper is a young woman who is not only totally unsuitable for the post, but is also Sir Gregory's cousin. Naturally, Lord Emsworth and the ever-resourceful Gally, are on the alert for any attempt by Sir Gregory to nobble their pig, and as everyone knows, the best form of defence is attack.

"Pigs Have Wings" is the seventh Blandings novel, published in 1952 when Wodehouse was seventy-one. Although he had already published seventy books, he was still at the height of his powers and the plot rolls neatly along in its well-worn groove. All the great Blandings cast are here: Lord Emsworth, as hare-brained as ever; Gally, the beau sabreur; their sister, the domineering Lady Constance; and Beach the Butler, always ready, however reluctantly, to be pressed into service for the good of his employer, before taking solace in a refined glass of Port. The residents are augmented by the usual group of young - and not-so-young - lovers and nefarious villains. The plot, as always with Wodehouse, becomes ever more tangled as the story unfolds, but few writers have been better at complicating, then resolving, their plots. This is one of Wodehouse's best novels, and a highlight in the Blandings saga. No lover of fine comic writing will want to miss this visit to Wodehouse's eternal paradise of Blandings Castle.


Cocktail Time (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
Cocktail Time (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Wodehouse, 21 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This, the third of four novels to feature Wodehouse's delightful creation Frederick Altamont Cornwallis, fifth Earl of Ickenham, better known as Uncle Fred, begins with a catapult and a brazil nut. The target of this appalling assault is his wife's half-brother, barrister and stuffed-shirt, Sir Raymond Bastable. Under the impression that the assault was carried out by a member of the debauched younger generation, Sir Raymond begins to ruminate on this modern scourge, and sets out to denounce the modern feckless youth in the form of a novel, "Cocktail Time", which becomes a huge success. Fearing the scandal that might ensue if its true provenance were known, however, he has the book published under the name of Cosmo, his nephew. A letter revealing the true authorship is sought by one of Wodehouse's cast of villains, Oily Carlisle. In order to spread his customary sweetness and light, Uncle Fred must ensure it doesn't fall into Oily's hands, while also ensuring that the right couples end up together: the happiness of his godson, Jimmy, depends upon this, as does that of both Sir Raymond himself, and his butler, Peasemarch.

Written in 1958, when Wodehouse was seventy-seven, "Cocktail Time" finds Wodehouse still at the height of his powers. As well as being the third appearance in his novels of this chirpiest of Wodehouse creations, Uncle Fred, we also meet some more old friends. Peasemarch, now a butler, was previously a ship's steward in "The Luck of the Bodkins", and the criminal double-act of Oily and Sweetie Carlisle previously appeared in "Hot Water". Uncle Fred, like Psmith before him, is one of Wodehouse's most glorious creations, and this is a fine, witty novel with all the verbal dexterity and rich plot-twists that all Wodehouse fans have grown to love.


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