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Paul Tapner (poole dorset england)
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Eurovision Song Contest 2015 Vienna
Eurovision Song Contest 2015 Vienna
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Building bridges and singing ballads, 24 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The usual two disc cd which contains all forty songs that were entered into the latest Eurovision Song contest.

Twenty songs on each cd. With the usual box style. That has a short piece from the executive supervisor of the contest on the inlay. Plus listings and copyright details for each song, alongside pictures of the singers.

The songs, a lot of which are ballads, are like this:

Disc one:

Albania. Solo lady singer all about being empowered. The kind of song that won't win it, but is good enough to get through the semi final.
Armenia. Four people sing together in a song that is a little too elaborate for it's own good, but which almost works.
Austria. Pianist plays and sings about his love. Not a classic but better than nul points which it got might have you expect.
Australia. A perfecly decent bit of pop.
Azerbaijan. Solo singer in a power ballad about insomnia. It grows on you and works better on cd without the distracting dancing in the performance.
Belgium. All about rhythm, and rather unique. The kind of thing that can divide opinion. But it did well in the contest, so the majority will like it.
Belarus. Pop music all about time. Capable but not especially memorable.
Switzerland. All about empowerment. Also not one that will linger in the mind for long.
Cyprus. A very nice solo ballad which is very well sung. Excellent stuff.
Czech Republic. Another ballad with romantic woes. Two very strong singers.
Germany. Mournful stuff about relationship troubles. Well sung and worth more than it's nul points.
Denmark. A very good bit of sixties style pop. A shame it didn't get to the final as it's one of the few catchy ones in the collection.
Estonia. Romantic woes at the end of a relationship in a ballad with great guitar work and good signing. Top notch.
Spain. Power ballad for a lady singer. Powerful but not as memorable as you might hope.
Finland. Four punks with learning difficulties get past that to perform. Fair play to them for that. But the song is one of them ranting into a microphone for one hundred seconds. Which will seem very long.
France. Anti war solo song that builds very well.
United Kingdom. Oh yes! Twenties style meets electro pop funk. A very catchy tune but lacks the x factor needed to do that well. As we now know.
Georgia. Lady sings power song about being tough. Repetitive lyrics. Reasonably good singer.
Greece. Strong but somewhat over familiar power ballad.
Hungary. Another anti war one that does manage to hit home well.

Disc two:

Ireland. Mournful solo female ballad. Sung well and good tune. Shame it didn't do better.
Israel. Very catchy and one of the few you can really dance to in the collection. Great listen.
Iceland. Another about an empowered lady. It's alright.
Italy. Trio of opera style singers who are very good with a rousing show stopper.
Lithuania. Upbeat romantic ballad that does make you smile.
Latvia. A romantic one with a difference in an experimental style. Didn't grab me. But did grab a lot of the voters.
Moldova. For sure! Rock on down with hard core Eastern European pop! Which is capable enough but won't stick in the mind. Unlike the backing dancers. But you need the dvd to see those.
Montenegro. Sung in the local tongue with a strong ethnic flavour. But it doesn't stick in the mind for long.
Macedonia. A very good romantic number and a good singer.
Malta. By a complete coincidence, another lady sings about being a tough warrior. A capable song but a disappointment from a country that usually does stronger ones.
The Netherlands. Nice tune but a very repetitive song.
Norway. Another romantic ballad. Decent but not that memorable.
Poland. Good singer singing a solid song about love.
Portugal. All in Portugese, and mildly catchy at points.
Romania. Plea for helping abandoned children which has heart, but doesn't help itself by switching languages.
Serbia. Strong ballad and lady singer.
Russia. A really great power ballad with a very good singer.
Sweden. Electro pop. Being the favourite from the off meant it came with reputation, and first time out it might underwhelm. But it does grow on you.
Slovenia. Another that's a little different to the norm. The song might not grab at first, but there's some great music and a really good use of the violin.
San Marino. Duet with uplifting plea for tolerance. Very good and nicely sung.

Not quite the strongest year. But there's some good stuff in there. And as ever, it's perfect for the fans for their collection.


Kalin. 4th In the Dumarest Saga
Kalin. 4th In the Dumarest Saga
by E. C. Tubb
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The girl with the visions, 24 May 2015
Fourth book in the 'Dumarest of Terra' series of science fiction novels. These are good old fashioned pulp science fiction novels about Earl Dumarest, interstellar traveller who is looking for clues to help him find the location of his homeworld. The long lost and legendary planet called Earth.

These books do tend to be pretty much self contained and all might work as jumping on points, but it's better to read the series in order to get the most from it.

This volume runs for one hundred and ninety one pages, and is divided into thirteen chapters.

At the start of it, Dumarest rescues a lady from a mob. A lady with a unique gift. She can see possible futures, and which are likely to come true. Her name is Kalin. She has red hair. The two end up travelling together, and draw closer.

Meanwhile, a man asks the Church of Universal Brotherhood to help find his missing daughter.

On the planet Solis, Kalin's homeworld, a family look after a very sick lady.

All these things will come together. And Dumarest's life will never be the same again.

In these days of fiesty female heroines, Kalin being a damsel in distress always on the edge of going to pieces and needing Dumarest to look after her can feel a bit irritating. But she is a well developed character, and very much a fish out of water in a dangerous environment. So that works fine. The way their relationship develops is nicely done. With one beautiful continuity reference to an earlier novel.

Solis is an interesting creation. The lead Monk is a good character. And the situations and places Dumarest and Kalin go through are also all good creation.

But where this one really clicks is in the final twenty pages. You might think it will be a rushed finale. But it's not. I'm re-reading this series at present, for the first time in almost two decades. And whereas a lot of it doesn't come back after so long, I never ever forgot the end of this one.

It has emotional impact. It brings all the plot strands together well. It does consider one of the big questions of science fiction in a thoughtful manner. And it then grabs your attention by doing something else. That forever changes the status quo of this series.

Up to those pages, this is a very good entry in the series. But those pages are some of the best things EC Tubb ever wrote. So this is an entry that is well worth five stars. You will never forget it once read.


Find Me
Find Me
by Laura Van den Berg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memories, 17 May 2015
This review is from: Find Me (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A dystopian novel. You can't quite call it post apocalyptic since it's set during, not after, a potential collapse of civilisation.

It's a stand alone novel not part of any trilogy or series. It's complete and self contained in two hundred and seventy eight pages. It's divided into two parts. And further into forty chapters.

Some strong language and adult moments [but not very many of either] mean it's not really for younger readers.

The main character, who narrates it all in the first person, is a lady called Joy. Shop worker. Cough syrup addict. A woman who had a tricky past and never knew her parents.

She starts the story in a hospital. Undergoing tests. Because in a world stricken by a deadly disease that starts with blisters and memory loss, she's immune.

She can remember many things. From the trivial to things she might prefer to forget. But whilst life in the hospital goes on, she gets an aim in her life...

This is one of those books that throws you into the situation at the start without too much initial exposition, so it does take a little getting used to. As does the writing, since it's the kind that does grab, but keeps you going thinking this is interesting but I do hope something will happen soon.

The prose can be something it takes a little to get used to, since it will have Joy's memories at one moment and then current events at another. If you want to read a book to admire the quality of the writing, then this might suffice. But at the same time it's the kind of prose you can end up skimming whilst waiting for narrative drive.

And yet, narrative drive does gradually appear. Events in the hospital move along. Joy is not entirely as passive a character as she might initially seem. And by the time of part two, the story is moving along and taking a whole new direction.

Part two does though get a little bogged down in the middle, before coming to a quick conclusion that might satisfy, or might leave you feeling to be a bit too inconclusive.

Yet Joy's journey is an interesting and involving enough read while it lasts. This doesn't feel like the kind of book that will live in the memory for too long, so the reviews printed on it are perhaps a little over the top. But it's not a bad read. So it's one to file under promising debut.


The Walking Dead Volume 23: Whispers Into Screams
The Walking Dead Volume 23: Whispers Into Screams
by Robert Kirkman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The growing pains of Carl Grimes, 17 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Twenty third volume in the series of paperbacks which collects issues of popular horror comic the Walking Dead, which is all about a group of people struggling to survive when the world is overrun by zombies.

This collects issues 133 to 138 of the comic. It's not a good jumping on point for new readers. Who should start with volume one.

The paperback follows the usual format in that it runs all six issues worth of black and white art together into one long narrative, although you can usually tell where one issue ends and the next one starts.

The last volume saw Rick's new society continuing to grow, whilst a new threat suddenly appears. So this picks up from that cliffhanger.

Said new threat allows for some suspensful and exciting early action scenes. But then doesn't go the way you might have expected, as more about it is revealed.

What happens next as a result does allow for this volume to concentrate on a central theme. The new world Rick is building, and many of the moral arguments that result from the choices he's made to get this new society working. Some interesting discussions result.

As does another threat that none of them see coming. Which leads to some very suspensful moments as someone's fate is in the balance.

The large cast of characters the series now has means that some don't feature very much. If at all. In particular Rick, who is absent from the narrative for a lot of it. Some things that the last volume set up barely get touched on, so presumably the series will come back to them in due course.

But one regular character, who makes a couple of brief appearances here and no more, might just break your heart.

By the end, someone has a made a choice. Which will leave you desperate to know what will happen next as a result.

One hundred and thirty eight issues in, but there's still plenty of life in this series. Roll on volume twenty four.


iWhite Instant Teeth Whitening Toothpaste
iWhite Instant Teeth Whitening Toothpaste
Price: £8.78

4.0 out of 5 stars The whitening stuff, 15 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A tube of toothpaste which promises - on the box - instant teeth whitening.

Said box also advises that it's not suitable for those under twelve.

It looks a little different to a normal tube of toothpaste as well when unpacked, looking more like a tube of skin cream. But as you'll see from the photo of the product, it's a little larger than those also.

Designed to whiten below and on the surface, plus to prevent tooth staining and restore enamel. This is the kind of product you buy, like an expensive electric toothbrush, if you really want the top of the range and something that will have an effect.

It does have a little bit of a taste to it, which you don't tend to notice at first but then gradually becomes apparent. This is more noticeable than anything unpleasant. Although how noticeable might be a matter of subjective opinion.

Does it whiten instantly? One go with it doesn't leave your teeth pristine, but they do look quite noticeably polished afterwards. So for good results, it's a long term thing. Thus whilst it might not do quite what it claims to on the box, thus could be just what you're looking for if you really want something that will make a difference.


Sky on Fire (Monument 14 Trilogy 2)
Sky on Fire (Monument 14 Trilogy 2)
by Emmy Laybourne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The bus trip from Hell, 9 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Second in the trilogy of young adult novels called 'Monument 14'. Which are about a group of teenagers and younger children who are forced to take refuge in a department store when a couple of disasters almost destroy the world around them.

Recommended reading age would be thirteen and up, thanks to some violence and adult situations and disturbing moments.

First book in the series was Monument 14 (Monument 14 Trilogy 1), which ended with the group being split in two. Eight of them are trying to get to a nearby airport from where they might be able to be taken to safety. They have a sixty mile trip to make, in a salvaged school bus.

Five are staying behind in the store.

And one is missing.

There's a gas cloud hanging over the area which has a different effect on people depending on their blood group. The ones who have stayed would be most at risk from it if outdoors.

All this is explained in an opening chapter which does contain a bit of expostion, and reintroduces all the characters. So you might be able to get into this without having read the first book. But you'd still be better off starting with that.

This one runs for two hundred and sixty three pages. It has a prologue and epilogue, plus twenty six chapters.

The narrative is split between two of the characters. Brothers Alex and Dean. Who narrate in the first person. Dean is in the store. Alex is with those on the bus. Thus you get to see each group as the narrative flashes back and forth between them.

Those on the bus have a journey that is anything but smooth. And very hard choices to make along the way in order to survive.

Those in the store aren't as safe as you might think, as danger lurks outside. And Dean is still hopelessly in seemingly unrequited love with Astrid.

The size of the bus group means some characters there do stick in the mind and make a bit more of an impression than others, but that's only a minor complaint about an otherwise superb and very readable book. Because the characterisation is very good indeed, really making you want to root for those people to survive. The prose is very readable.

And the way the narrative jumps back and forth makes you turn pages rapidly, desperate to find what will happen next. The amount of tension and jeopardy it creates is amazingly good. Especially in the final chapter which is incredibly exciting.

Just as good is the relationship between Astrid and Dean, which takes good twists and turns and is very believable indeed, with things happening via the actions of the characters.

Although the story does come to a seeming end in the epilogue, it then springs a surprise in regards to a loose end. Which allows for a third book Savage Drift (Monument 14 Trilogy 3).

After reading this, you will be desperate to know what happens in that.

A superb second volume in a brilliant trilogy. Well worth a read if you're thirteen. Or older.


1920: America's Great War (Baen)
1920: America's Great War (Baen)
by Robert Conroy
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.50

4.0 out of 5 stars The German Mexican American war, 8 May 2015
A novel of alternate history from Robert Conroy. A writer who specialises in this particular genre. It runs for four hundred and ninety three pages. It has twenty four chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue. It's complete and self contained in one volume, not part of any series or trilogy.

It does contain occasional strong language and adult situations.

Every novel of alternate history has what they call a 'departure point.' Where the history of the world of the story went a different way to the one we know. In this story said departure point is, as outlined in the fascinating author's note at the start, the battle of the Marne in 1914. Which could easily have gone very differently. And led to the central powers winning the Great War in months.

A situation that would have left Britain isolated but still with a strong navy. Germany the main power in Europe. America, thanks to President Woodrow Wilson, wanting to keep out of things. But a growing economic powerhouse. Which would have left the Kaiser wanting to do something about that.

The main story starts in 1920. With Germany allied to Mexico and having troops there. When they strike North, the United States has to respond and adapt quickly it wants to survive.

This then follows the usual style for such books, in having fictional characters alongside real people from history.

If you've read enough books by this writer, you might be used to his style. And he doesn't break that here. Real generals are impressed by ordinary and fictional men who rise rapidly through the ranks as a result of being brave and savvy soldiers. Characters fall in love. Battles take place.

It does come close to feeling a little too forumlaic and familiar at times. But that's only in the middle of the book. The opening third is very involving. Thanks to feeling very original and presenting a conflict where you really don't know how things will go. The characterisation and the very readable prose do keep you involved, though.

It does have a very good final quarter, too, with some battles not going quite how you might expect.

Robert Conroy has come in for some criticism for allegedly not presenting British characters too well in the past. But anyone who feels that will find such concerns allayed here, as the British do rather well out of the narrative.

Not ground breaking, then, but a solid enough read from a writer who is good at producing alternate history tales of that kind.


Predestination
Predestination
Dvd
Price: £4.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A writer walks into a bar, 5 May 2015
Predestination is a science fiction movie. It's all about time travel. And it's based on "All You Zombies-", a short story originally published in the 1940's.

Unlike many movies based on short stories, which just take the general idea of the story and go their own way with it, this is a reasonably faithful adaptation.

Although the box of the dvd may try to make it look like a thriller, that element of the film is a rather minor one. It's far more a character/puzzle piece.

Ethan Hawke plays a man who is a Temporal Agent. People who travel in time to stop crimes before they are committed. Badly injured when in pursuit of a bomber, he still wants to catch the criminal.

All this takes place in the first few minutes of the film, where it can be a little tricky to work out initially what is going on, as there's precious little in the way of exposition.

His work takes him to 1970's New York. Where, while posing as a bar tender, he meets a customer who promises that they have a very interesting story to tell.

They keep their promise..

This is the point at which the film clicks and becomes involving viewing. From the start of this scene on, you do notice and admire the attention to period detail. But then the narrative becomes compelling as well, as the customer's story unfolds. It's a very interesting and involving character piece.

And it's not the end of the movie by a long way.

This is a film about time travel. So all that happens next really considers the possibilities of that to the full. Some of what happens will make you reappraise earlier things.

It's also, as all good science fiction should be, something that asks the big questions and makes you think about them. The big questions in this case being all about free will and choice. And just how much control we do have over our own lives.

The strength of the plot is such that the movie never feels stretched at ninety three minutes, and unfolds very nicely, keeping twisting and turning right to the end.

It's the kind of film that will divide opinions as it may not work for all, but if you want an intelligent and thought provoking piece of science fiction - as well as a very good adaptation of the original story, should you be familiar with that - it's well worth a watch.

The disc begins with a couple of trailers. These can't be skipped, and the only way to get through them quickly is via the fast forward button on the dvd remote.

There are no extras.

The only language option is English.

And there are no subtitles on the disc.


The Gracekeepers
The Gracekeepers
by Kirsty Logan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The bear and the maidens fair, 3 May 2015
This review is from: The Gracekeepers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A book of fantastical fiction. Thus described because although seemingly marketed as mainstream fiction it does contain elements of other genres.

It's a standalone novel, complete in two hundred and ninety three pages. It's divided into twenty seven chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue.

Mild adult themes and some mild violence do mean it's best for grown up readers.

There's also a rough map of the setting of the story inside the front and back of the book.

Set somewhen in the future, after the sea has flooded the land. Long enough for what went before to be barely remembered legend. Some people live on islands. But most get by living on the water. The former are better off. But the latter outnumber them.

One of the latter is North. A girl who is part of a travelling circus. Her act is to dance with a bear.

One of the former is Callanish. Who lives all by herself on an island. She is a gracekeeper. Someone who tends the graves of those who die at sea.

North is due to marry. But she has a secret that could cause a lot of problems if it gets out.

Callanish is where she is and does what she does because of something she once did.

When the two happen to meet, it gives both a chance to change their lives. But making that come to pass won't be easy.

The narrative has a different viewpoint character in each chapter. You might expect it to jump between Callanish and North all the time, but occasionally it will focus on a supporting character.

You could expect this to be the kind of book that strives first and foremost to have smart prose and be clever in the writing. But it's not. Because whilst the writing does try hard to be evocative and does succeed at this, it's also good and clear and very captivating with it. It's the kind of prose you could easily skim because you're getting hooked on the story, but the kind of book where you will get even more detail out of it by savouring things.

Because it's a solidly character based drama from the off, with two leads who are very sympathetic and who you can easily relate to. And it's got writing and a setting that do hold you as well. The narrative is a bit of a slow burn at first, being one of those where you're held by the writing and the setting and also thinking something major will happen soon. It doesn't go quite the way you would expect when that does. But at that point you do end up admiring some good plotting and detail.

From then on the story of these two is a bit of a page turner, as it really does hold you and leave you wanting to know what will happen to them. In addition, you get a fascinating setting as well.

Everything is resolved very nicely in the end, with a finale that gives a good life lesson also and which will stay with you for a while.

A very good and enjoyable read. A really good debut.


Death Match (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)
Death Match (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)
by Matt Fitton
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Contest of champions, 2 May 2015
Latest in the current run of Doctor Who audio stories which feature Tom Baker as the Doctor, along with Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as the voice of K9.

This is a two part story. Whilst most in this run are self contained, this one follows on from the cliffhanger ending to the previous release Requiem for the Rocket Men (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures). Thus it's not one for casual listeners.

The episodes run for thirty eight and thirty five minutes respectively.

Mild spoilers for Requiem for the Rocket men follow..

Leela has been kidnapped by the Master. The Doctor and K9, plus Leela's new friend Marshall, both approach the matter from different directions. Both find she has been taken to the Death Match. A place where the champion warriors of rich and powerful people will fight in a deadly environment, and where only one can win.

Can Leela be freed? And just what is the Master up to?

Although the episodes are a bit long, there is a lot to like here. This is essence the second half of a four parter, with Requiem for the Rocket Men having been the first half. This works better than the earlier attempt with these to do the same 'The Sands of Life/the War against the Laan', because there's more depth to the story, and making it two linked two parters gives it more detail.

As ever there's a very great feel of the tv era of the show, right down to the supporting characters and the writing and the music and sound direction.

The leads are always at the top of their game. Tom Baker gets some great dialogue, as the Doctor approaches some moments in a laid back and laconic manner. K9's literalism allows as well for some fun lines.

The plot does unfold at a measured pace, and only late in the day do you get all the answers. But that makes you reappraise what has gone before. Which is good.

It does throw in some interesting moral discussions, and allow the Master to do something a little different at one point as well.

Leela and Marshall do have a very good chemistry together. You can see how one particular part of the story will end right from the off, but when that comes to pass it really doesn't matter, because the manner in which it does things makes it something you really won't forget in a hurry.

And also, as ever, Big Finish's writing is pretty clever because it does make things that never quite worked on tv work better in hindsight.

A very good listen. Well worth five stars.

There's a trailer for the next release in this run on the penultimate track of the disc.

And just three minutes and fifteen seconds of interviews with cast and writers on the track after that.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2015 10:41 PM BST


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