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BARBARA A. V. MIDDLEMAST-NEAL "The Librarian" (Essex, UK)

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Speedlink Funny Farm Mouse USB - Cat
Speedlink Funny Farm Mouse USB - Cat
Offered by L'électron

5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun item, 10 Dec. 2013
Bought as a birthday present for me (my 50th - and ideal for a cat-loving eccentric adult), this is great fun and has attracted a lot of attention at work (I work in a school)!

It is the size of a conventional mouse and is very responsive.

I have had no problems at all with it and it has already received a lot of use!

Perhaps not ideal for a very small child, but it certainly is fine for an adult/older child's hand.

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
by Conn Iggulden
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gruesome, 14 Oct. 2013
This is the first book by Conn Iggulden I have read.

I enjoy historical novels and the insight they often give into the past. Sadly, this was not a book I enjoyed.
Scenes of murder and torture are liberally distributed throughout the text, in gruesome, gratuitous detail. If it is to illustrate the bloodthirstiness of the times, the specifics are unnecessary. I found the sentence structure and vocabulary simplistic and not what I would expect of a novel aimed at an adult audience.

To me, the author seems to be trying to make his main protagonist, Derry Brewer (King Henry VI's spymaster), into a man the ilk of Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell (of "Wolf Hall" and "Bring up the Bodies"); he does not succeed. Mantel's Cromwell is a sympathetic, well-fleshed, three-dimensional character; Brewer is not.

This, to me, was a horrible read, unredeemed by the author's research into this fascinating period in British history. Really disappointing.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2013 3:39 PM GMT

Jon For Short
Jon For Short
by Malorie Blackman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing horror story for Young Adult reluctant readers, 10 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Jon For Short (Paperback)
Published by Barrington Stoke "Teen", this is a superb book for Young Adult reluctant readers (or those with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia). Malorie Blackman is an outstanding author who involves her readers from the outset of all of her books - and this one is no exception.

This is certainly NOT suitable for younger readers; for example, the back cover states "Jon is in hospital. He can't move. The doctors have taken his arms and he is sure his legs are next. Will Jon ever escape?"

It opens ominously: "Soft footsteps sounded in the dark bedroom. The dim light of a torch danced across the walls. The footsteps slowed as they came closer to the bed... A bright glint of metal glinted in the torch beam. The glare of a knife blade..."

This is a recurring piece which the author cleverly extends at the beginning of each chapter; more information about the nightmare is gradually revealed as Jon's story progresses.

Jon is in hospital, drifting in and out of sleep. Each time he wakes, he engages with members of staff at the hospital and the reasons for his admission are hinted at and slowly revealed by various nurses and doctors - in much the same way as the nightmare proceeds.

This would be a fantastic book to read aloud to a group of students in school (it is definitely NOT a bedtime read!) and should stimulate lively discussion.

I can't disclose too much, without spoiling the story, so I'll leave it at that!

by Matt Greene
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant new voice - funny, moving and exceptional, 9 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Ostrich (Hardcover)
One of the best novels I have read for some time, this features the voice of 12-year-old Alex, who is on a quest to find out why everyone (including his hamster, Jaws 2) is behaving oddly since he had brain surgery (Alex, not the hamster).

Alex is exceptionally intelligent and inquisitive and has a tendency to miss-hear words, which results in hilarious Malapropisms, little jewels of laugh-out-loud humour, which are a joy to find scattered throughout the book (and from which the title "Ostrich" originates).

Matt Greene has written a classic here - easily of the quality of Mark Haddon's "Curious Incident..." etc; it's an intelligent crossover book which will be appreciated by teenagers and - perhaps - even more so by adults. Brilliant.

Midnight in Havana: An Inspector Ramirez Investigation (Inspector Ramirez 1)
Midnight in Havana: An Inspector Ramirez Investigation (Inspector Ramirez 1)
by Peggy Blair
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good start, but a rushed finale, 10 July 2013
This opens with the young future Cuban Police Inspector Ricardo Ramirez being blessed - or cursed - by his grandmother on her deathbed, with the ability to see ghosts.
Murder victims - mute and visible only to Ramirez - accompany him as he goes about his business.
His grandmother's dementia was responsible for her "visions" and Ramirez fears he has inherited it. He bears this burden alone, unwilling to share it with anyone, even his beloved wife.
The author takes her time setting the scene; the premise is interesting and she slips in details of the privations suffered by the ordinary Cuban people as a result of American foreign policy. It is clear where her sympathies lie.
There is no humour in this story - nothing alleviates the grinding poverty of the people or the vast differences between their lives and the affluence of the tourists'. To what lengths, therefore, will the children go to earn a few pesos to support their families? This is the reason why Ramirez is investigating the brutal rape and murder of a little Cuban boy, who has been procured for sex.
Having taken her time to set the scene, the author rapidly speeds up the plot progression after the accused's lawyer arrives in Cuba. From this point, things are rushed - as if the author is anxious to realise the denouement; this is a shame and - in my opinion - the book suffers for it.
This is an easy read; the publisher's claims that this is a "literary" crime novel are exaggerated. This is Peggy Blair's debut novel though, and she has talent. I hope she isn't persuaded to speed up production in the hope of writing a bestseller. That would be a real shame.

The Other Typist
The Other Typist
by Suzanne Rindell
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Irritating voice, 8 May 2013
This review is from: The Other Typist (Hardcover)
Initially this reminded me - a great deal - of "Notes on a Scandal" by Zoe Heller, in that plain, frumpy Rose (the character from whose perspective the book is written) is obsessive, opinionated and unlikeable.
Rose is employed as a typist at a police precinct in Prohibition New York. "The Other Typist", mysterious, beautiful, worldly Odalie (hair scandalously bobbed and with expensive tastes) is employed due to the increased workload caused by the crackdown on speakeasies.

Rose is seduced when Odalie chooses her as her especial friend; becoming inseparable, Rose moves from her shabby lodgings into Odalie's sumptuous hotel. But Odalie has other - illegal - means, which enable her to support her expensive lifestyle.

The writing style is clumsy during the first two-thirds of the book, as the author struggles to write in an unfamiliar voice; Rose is unlikeable and there are Sapphic overtones to her obsession with Odalie (echoing a previous apparent obsession with a novice nun at the orphanage in which she was raised).

In the final third of the book, style and direction alter and Rose's character morphs to become more sympathetic; she is less insufferably judgemental (being generous to the author, this may be deliberate) perhaps because of her obsession with Odalie and involvement in her illicit lifestyle.

The denouement is unbelievable, despite the author's repeated emphasis of Odalie's magical ability to enchant everyone she encounters. Finally, there is a clumsy attempt to suggest Rose's own account of events is fatally flawed and a fantasy of her own making.

In summary - read if you have nothing else more worthwhile.

HP Pavilion DM1-4027SA - silver
HP Pavilion DM1-4027SA - silver

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Design flaw - poor casing - please read!, 5 Jan. 2013
I am not particularly IT-literate, but have been using computers regularly for well over 20 years. I would describe my knowledge of computers as being fairly representative of most users.

I received this little laptop as a Xmas present in 2011. I loved it. It was speedy, lightweight, had excellent battery life and did everything I required of it.

As the year's warranty expired, we received an invitation to renew; the cost was over £130, which I thought to be uneconomic when weighed against the value of the computer and therefore chose not to take up the offer.

Just before Xmas 2012 - just after the warranty expired - one of the hinges sheered through, a lump of plastic broke away and the flimsy plastic surrounding the screen cracked. By New Year's Day, the screen was unusable. I am not even sure that the warranty would have covered this, but - the fact is - that the hinges are ridiculously small and simply not up to the task of carrying the weight of the screen.

A friend had had a similar experience with an HP laptop and had warned me not to walk around with the screen open as this puts undue stress on the hinges. As a result, I have been even more careful with the computer than normal!

My husband took the computer to a nearby shop. He was told that the plastic casing requires replacement - £90 and the screen may be damaged and require replacement too - another £80. These sums are approximate, but effectively means that the computer is beyond economic repair. I am furious about this as everything else is in perfect working order.

I do not expect to treat computers like disposable batteries and replace them every year, but this - in effect - is what I have had to do. I have sent an email to the managing director of HP, more as a means of venting my frustration, rather than in expectation of any solution. I am so disappointed by the build quality that I will not, on principle, buy anything made by HP again.

The Education Of Epitome Quirkstandard
The Education Of Epitome Quirkstandard
Price: £4.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Spiffing adventures with jolly chaps - great fun, 7 Aug. 2012
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This is a laugh out loud funny, funny book. If, like me, you enjoyed P.G. Wodehouse's nonsense about intimidating maiden aunts and extraordinarily nice-but-dim upper class twits with, dash it all, not the trace of the remainder of an idea in their woolly little heads, bless 'em - you'll love this.

It has it all. Formidable aunts, gentlemen's clubs, ridiculous names (Simone Crepuscular? Ivor Funicular? The eponymous Lord Epitome Quirkstandard?) - ridiculous scrapes, intelligent servants who save the day - it has the lot.

You need, of course, to suspend disbelief on the very first page. We discover Lord Quirkstandard in quite a pickle; his staff have been called up, to a man, to serve in the ongoing war in France. Lord Q supposes them to be engaged in some tidying, dusting and cooking on the Western Front. This being the case, he is endeavouring to boil himself an egg to have for breakfast. His cook has left him precise instructions, but sadly omitted the instruction to light the gas under the pan of water.

Failing to feed himself, he lights upon the idea of going to his gentleman's club, Mauve's, to have his breakfast, but is then confronted with the problem of: a. not knowing where his clothes are stored, and b. not having the slightest notion of how to encase himself in them.

The story ambles along nicely in this manner, until Lord Q decides he needs an education, and thus finds himself in the establishment of one Simone (his mother had hoped for a girl) Crepuscular, an extraordinary individual who has spent most of the first half of his life travelling around the world, having marvellous adventures, getting married and siring three children, and most of the second half, writing down his experiences in educational pamphlets which are now available for hire or purchase from his shop.

The author is sharply witty and I laughed delightedly at the foolish antics of Lord Q and company. Being a poet A.F.Harrold is acutely aware of the power of words and adept at using them. This is not great literature, nor does it claim to be - but it's jolly funny and a spiffing light read. My one minor quibble is that the conclusion seemed a rather hurried and ill thought out.

Buy it - go on - you know you want to.

Tilly: The Ugliest Cat: How I rescued her and she rescued me
Tilly: The Ugliest Cat: How I rescued her and she rescued me
by Celia Haddon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential book for cat lovers and people interested in cat behaviour, 23 Jun. 2012
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This is a lovely, well-written book by a determined, thoughtful woman (Celia), who gently wins the trust and love of a little mud-coloured cat.

Tilly is the ugliest cat in the Cat Protection League shelter, where she has resided for eighteen months without being adopted. She is supremely distrusting of humans and cowers away from them, ears flattened to her head and eyes wide with fear; Celia's husband, Ronnie (ever-ready with a bon mot) describes her as being the "colour of sewage".
Celia takes Tilly home with her, to foster her in a normal home environment, in an attempt to rehabilitate her. She initially justifies her actions to herself by considering it dispassionately as a scientific exercise to make Tilly into an acceptable cat for adoption.

As Tilly stubbornly refuses to engage with her, Celia wonders whether she has undertaken an impossible task as her husband's health deteriorates. But what follows is a wonderful story of patience and resilience in the face of (as any cat owner knows) a cat's determination to be what and how it is, doing what it wants to do. Throughout the book there are entertaining asides about other cats and cat owners' experiences which are used to illustrate the author's reasoning. There is also a heart-rending account at the beginning of the book about the author's childhood, which she discloses in an attempt to analyse and explain her character. I found one particular incident, in which Celia describes her farmer father's punishment of her pet cat, exceptionally harrowing.

In summary, this is a "must read" book for cat lovers and those interested in ameliorating cat behaviour; it is also ultimately up-lifting and an explanation of just how much animals can enrich and enliven our lives.

Bring Up the Bodies
Bring Up the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one book this year, make it this one, 20 May 2012
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
Hilary Mantel, it seems, ends "Wolf Hall" - draws breath - and continues seamlessly chronicling Thomas Cromwell's life in this second volume.

There is no necessity to read "Wolf Hall" before embarking on "Bring up the Bodies"; this stands alone as another beautifully written, painstakingly researched and finely drawn characterisation of Cromwell and his dealings with Henry.

Even minor participants in the drama are beautifully drawn and little details, such as Cromwell's reminiscences of teaching London slang to his peers in Italy, serve to make his character more sympathetic and believable.

If anything, this flows more smoothly than the first volume and may even be a better book. I sincerely hope that this wins as many awards and accolades as "Wolf Hall".

I'm eagerly awaiting the publication of the third book, "The Mirror and the Light", although it's difficult to see how Hilary Mantel's writing can possibly get any better.

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