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G. Heywood (Northamptonshire)

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An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington
An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington
Price: £4.19

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really that funny, 27 April 2012
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I didn't laugh, but I smiled a bit.

If you loved the TV series, you might like it, otherwise, it is an OK book but nothing special. Plenty of jokes about toilets and clearing throats (used a few times, along with the joke about bungalows which was used a couple of times), and you are expected to believe that Karl is an idiot, although he admits to writing books..

Generally, paragraphs go like this:

<Observation with a splash of ignorance>, <concern or misunderstanding by Karl>, followed by <gag based loosely on observation>.

It has a lot of good reviews so obviously a lot of people enjoyed it, but it wasn't really my kind of thing.

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book.. .Really.., 14 Mar. 2012
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When books like this come along, it really makes you realise how much good writing there is to read, in such a small amount of time. Ian Mortimer has a fantastic style of writing that really brings the 1300's to life. The way he describes the period makes you feel like you are there. In fact, it almost makes me wish I was!

There are so many surprises in this book, and it does a great job of drawing you in to their world. When Ian talks about the old streets, you can almost see them. When he describes the food, you can almost taste it. I was fascinated to hear about the different social structures, and the outlook on life of the people at the time. I cringed at the description of medical treatments, felt sorrow at the descriptions of the plague, and laughed at some of the strange beliefs people had. But ultimately, it is hard not to respect the average 14th Century person, and the person who wrote this book!

This really is a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in history, or even current social norms.

Tales of Space and Time
Tales of Space and Time
by Herbert George Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A great collection from HG Wells., 7 Mar. 2012
Tales and Time and Space is a collection of five stories by Wells. These are:

The Crystal Egg
The Star
A Story of the Stone Age
A Story of the Days to Come
The Man Who Could Work Miracles

I won't review each story, but this is a great collection of stories which provide a window into Well's idea's about the development path of civilisation, both into the past, and into the future.

All of these were written before 1900, but even so, A Story of the Day's to Come presents a, really quite incredible, vision of the future. Spelling has changed, the environment has changed, London has changed, everyone now travels on roads similar to our Motorways, and flying is commonplace, just like today. Of course he is not correct about everything, but his vision really is remarkable. Unfortunately, it is a rather depressing picture of the future and in a way, a vein that seems to run through a lot of his futuristic stories. He wasn't much of an optimist.

Similarly, A Story of the Stone Age is a great presentation of life in the stone age. The interesting twist is that early man can communicate much better with the animals. The story follows two tribe members who are driven from their tribe, and need to use their wits to not just evade them, but to stay alive.

The Crystal Egg was a good first story, and reminded me of Stephen King's Needful Things.

All in all, a good collection of stories, and well worth a read.

Empire (In Her Name Book 4)
Empire (In Her Name Book 4)
Price: £0.00

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's OK.., 1 Mar. 2012
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Firstly, it was free, so fantastic for the money :)

This book was perhaps not quite what I was expecting. Maybe more fantasy than sci-fi, the book follows the growing up of a boy called Raza, whose family were murdered by blue reptilian female warrior aliens when he was seven. Aliens who like hand-to-hand combat, live in primitive (almost medieval) conditions at home, but fly around in huge, monstrous, incredibly powerful spaceships.

After the death of his family, Raza finds himself an orphan, stranded in the back-end of nowhere, and largely forgotten and ignored by society. Fate plays her hand though and he once again finds himself in the middle on an invasion. This time though, he is captured and taken to the alien homeworld.

From there, the story is largely about his relationship with his captors, and their desire to know if he has a soul. It certainly borrows heavily from other stories, with Pan'ne-Sharakh being a dead-ringer for Yoda.

What I didn't like though, and this may seem picky, was the constant insistence by the author (by proxy) that humans (or the reptilians) are not animals somehow (which I guess gets around any bestiality concerns). That, and the Christian references (the crucifix, the sacrificial offering, the soul etc), all became a bit off-putting. I have no real problem with religion in Sci-fi (or fantasy), but not the way it was done here.

Overall, I read to the end of the book, and it was somewhat enjoyable, but I would be surprised if I ended up reading any more in the series. It just wasn't for me.

Unfortunately, there are a fair few (although certainly not all) suspect five-star reviews of the book on here too, which is disappointing.

Leviathan Wakes: Book 1 of the Expanse
Leviathan Wakes: Book 1 of the Expanse
Price: £1.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, 23 Feb. 2012
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I owe someone a beer. There was an Amazon thread where someone recommended this as a good sci-fi book. On the look out for a new author and an excuse to read another modern Sci-fi (the last one was The Algebraist, which I found very rewarding), I took the plunge.

The setting is our fairly familiar solar system. Mars, the Moon, and several other moons and asteroids around the Solar System are populated by humanity and there are three major governments (or political entities). Earth (UN), Mars, and The Belt (pretty much most of the rest). I must admit, I had a few pangs of disappointment at reading this as my first thought was that this was going to quite limiting. However it isn't, and in fact, it helps the story move along. I found it quite easy to relate to the people and places and I am certainly no astronomer.

Ultimately though, a book needs more than a setting, it needs characters, it needs a good plot, it needs tension, and crisis... Of course this book has all of that in spades. It really doesn't take long at all to get to know the characters and appreciate their differences as they are whipped along by the fast paced plot. And tension is also abundant throughout the book. Each chapter is done from the POV of a particular character, which works well (and also seemed rather familiar). In fact, the author is an assistant to the writer of Game of Thrones. I found this out after being approximately 10% of the way through the book, and to be honest, I was disappointed (to be fair, I need to give Game of Thrones another go, but it didn't really enthral me). However, I didn't need to be as Carey is his own man and a great writer.

No review could fail to mention the humour too. This isn't intended to be Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and doesn't try to be, but it does mix humour in with a thrilling book.

Leviathan Wakes is a fantastic book. Forget that it is set in space, this book is full of high intensity passages I really struggled to close the kindle app and do something else. It is the type of book where even at work, I found myself discretely just reading "one more page..." while sitting at my desk. I can't wait for the next part to be released.

Salter Disc Electronic Kitchen Scale - Black
Salter Disc Electronic Kitchen Scale - Black
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and functional, 14 Feb. 2012
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We got this at Christmas, and after using it for several weeks, it is pretty impressive. Stylish, robust, simple interface, and seems accurate enough.

One of the best things about it is the size. The form factor makes it easy to store away in a cupboard where it is easily accessible. I would certainly buy again.

Hunted Down: the detective stories of Charles Dickens
Hunted Down: the detective stories of Charles Dickens

1.0 out of 5 stars How can it have more than one star?, 12 Feb. 2012
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Most of the book is missing, as there is only one story contained here. Either the title needs to be changed, or the rest of the book needs to be added, but this is not the same as the physical editions.

Under the Dome
Under the Dome
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars More of the same please Mr King., 10 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: Under the Dome (Kindle Edition)
Personally, I think Stephen King is at his best when he is doing an epic story that really drags you in to his world. The Stand is of course one of the best examples of this, but it is far from being his only great book. I have found though that with the odd exception, most of his best work is pre-1992. It is almost like he flicked a switch in his writing at the end of 1991 and things were different afterwards. So, for the past 20 years or so, I wasn't eagerly awaiting his new work as I did before, and some of the books I read, I found quite difficult to appreciate fully (Delores Clairborne, Rose Madder, Tom Gordon, Atlantis, Dreamcatcher to name a few).

I didn't give up hope though, and Under the Dome has been some kind of reward for that. It draws you in to his world again. You can imagine the town, the people, the cars, the roads. You get a real sense of almost being there which has been missing from some of his recent efforts. There are some really nasty characters, and of course tragedy. Like with his best books, I find myself almost wishing I could be there to make a difference. Once again, King delivers a book which provides copious amounts of story and information, but still leaves you wanting to know more.

I can understand some of the criticism of the ending, but for me, it works. Without going into spoiler territory, I can't think of a better justification/explanation for it, which wouldn't stretch credibility even further. In other words, the ending for me tied in nicely with what I would expect from a Stephen King book. "Deus ex Machina"? Not strictly, no. But closer to it than some of his more recent work, and to be honest, better for it in my opinion. SK writes better when he is not trying to be something he isn't. He can't write the thriller than someone like DeMille can, and I don't want completely rational writing. If I did, I would read someone else.

I want to be enthralled, entertained, and occupied while in the process of reading an SK book. When I am not reading it, I want to be wishing I was. I a book where I can't wait to get to the ending, but don't want it to finish. That is how I found "Under the Dome" to be.

Treasure Island - The Complete Series [DVD]
Treasure Island - The Complete Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eddie Izzard
Offered by b68solutions
Price: £5.99

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Showed promise.., 3 Jan. 2012
After seeing this, I have mixed feelings about it. The effects and atmosphere is great and visually and audibly, pretty close to how I imagined it. The problem is, it is different from the book, and I don't find the changes an improvement. Ultimately, the question must be why? There was more than enough drama and excitement in the book to easily fill the duration but the changes they made don't add to it, but even worse, alter the dynamics.

Now, Silver doesn't have the same charisma, Hawkins doesn't have the same fortune, and Trelawney is more nasty rather than a fool. It isn't the fault of the actors, I think they do a great job (Izzard, Penry-Jones, and Mays in particular), but some of the plot changes either just don't add anything positive (overall) to the story, or actually detract from it.

Still, it is worth watching, but if they went to so much effort to produce it, why not just stick to the story?
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2017 8:34 AM GMT

A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You'd Been Taught At School
A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You'd Been Taught At School
Price: £3.32

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light-hearted look at a stuffy subject, 2 Jan. 2012
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Being born in the 70's and attending secondary school in a country that didn't formally exist as a colony until 1840, almost all of the ancient history in this book was, to me, entirely new.

The book starts with the Greek alphabet, moves into an explanation of how Greek and Latin influence our language, then moves on to Greek and Roman mythology, before moving into history, then the arts, and science.

As such, I found it incredibly interesting, which a fair few "ahhh, that is where it comes from" moments (or even "eureka" moments perhaps). The book is a great mixture of education and entertainment and while it might not make you an expert, it will hopefully at least be a start.

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