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Spartan (Berkshire)

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After the Crash
After the Crash
by Michel Bussi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ironically I wanted to throw this book out of a window!, 20 July 2015
This review is from: After the Crash (Hardcover)
I bought this book largely on the back of the Sunday Times review and was looking forward to it hugely but unfortunately this is a poor book in just about every way. Firstly the translation from French must be very poor; that or the author actually writes like a 10 year old child. Some of the sentence structure is terrible and the use of inappropriate adjectives to describe character reactions or feelings is, in places, frankly laughable.

Next the plot. It's just unbelievable tosh. Are we, the reader, expected to actually buy the idea of a lone 3 month old child somehow being thrown clear of a commercial plane crashing into a mountain in the first place? Has anyone ever seen wreckage of such a crash on TV? For a moment lets say we are. The characters in the book then set off on a story that just jumps from one unlikely, contrived and melodramatic set piece to another. We start with the 'suicide' of the main character, Credule Grand-Duc. Does anyone know why he's killing himself in the first place? He's been paid 100,000 Francs a year for 18 years mainly to go on holiday to Turkey and write an incredibly naïve account of his case that's written like the very worst Mills and Boone claptrap. He's doing himself in why? Secondly despite looking at the case for 18 years he's only looked at the original article written in Est Republican once? Why have the paper at all and only look at it once and why then lay it out on the table you plan to blow your brains out on if it's such a marginal document??? I could go on but it's all just so bad. Malvina de whatever it was it just about the worst pretend baddie I've ever read about. Why is she walking round Paris with a gun she never uses unless it's a dreadfully lazy plot device to make the story, the answer to which Credule has in the very first chapter, a mystery that it patently is not. Characters in this book are uniformly dreadful and I challenge readers to care one bit about any of them. It's also an infuriating cheat to 'solve' the mystery of who Emilie/Lyse Rose actually is by dropping a plot bombshell out of nowhere right at the end with the 'enter stage left character' that absolutely no-one has mentioned at all who has done something so unlikely that I actually found myself swearing at the book. Lets not even get into the fact that DNA testing becoming available as the story progresses makes the whole thing redundant and would make the 'suicide' of Grand - Duc an obvious cover up. Shaving a moustache off a Turk still leaves you with a dead Turk Mr Bussi!

As you may guess I did not like this book one bit. Personally I think it's overhyped and whoever gave it the review in the ST probably didn't actually read it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2015 2:39 PM GMT


The Book of Strange New Things
The Book of Strange New Things
by Michel Faber
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.74

6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's strange all right..., 1 Jun. 2015
Um. this is either a really clever book who's cleverness has completely passed me by or it's exactly what it seems, a dull, monotonous, non story that has very little to say about space travel, the future, love, relationships or religion.

The story takes us through a missionary landing on an alien world to take God to the indigenous population. He's left his wife on an Earth that is falling apart. The new planet is an awful long way away. Fizzy drinks are very expensive.

It doesn't work for me on just about every level. The protagonist is needy, preachy and weak and also a recovering alcoholic, drug addict and petty criminal. How he got through the selection process to go in the first place is a complete mystery. There's no feeling of a relationship between him and his wife; they both seem keener on their pet cat. The new world is strange, the aliens equally but in a really boring way. Oasis (the planet) has moderately interesting rain but just about nothing else. The Aliens like the ever lasting life part of the bible owing to the fact that their bodies don't repair themselves. One of them gets a manky hand right at the end to confirm this. He sort of likes him (or her) but not that much. He sort of fancies one of the other characters who also has a back story that would get most would be astronauts kicked out of the first interview. It goes nowhere which is a good summary for the whole thing.

Don't bother.


Outwell DOUBLE Self Inflating Mat - Elegance 7.5 cm - Camping Mats
Outwell DOUBLE Self Inflating Mat - Elegance 7.5 cm - Camping Mats

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pricey but nicey, 30 July 2013
Just back from a weekend sleeping on this and can only say that, while it's 3 or 4 times more expensive than a blow up alternative, its well worth the investment. The mattress is dead easy to get ready, literally requiring placing in the spot you want it and undoing the easy to operate valves. The rest does itself although additional air can be blown in when or if needed. Personally I prefer a slightly softer mattress so didn't do this but it holds the air well, will probably never need re-inflating half way through the night, and provides a very comfy nights sleep. Packing away is slightly more challenging and does require a strong pair of hands to get the air out. A practice at home would be recommended and, once mastered, this is a physical but fairly straightforward task.

Other things to consider: it's longer than many mats on the market at 200cm which is beneficial if you are above average height; it has a non slip cover top and bottom so doesn't slide around the tent and you don't slide off it; at 7.5cm deep it is deep enough that the ground is not felt at all and it is insulated from the ground so is lovely and warm. Typical of the clever people at Outwell it comes with an overbig storage sack so does not need to be compressed to its pre-delivery size in order to pack it away. Having had lots of the usual problems with blow ups and recently lost yet another one to a mystery slow puncture I would recommend this product to casual campers not worried about weight or space who don't want to be furiously pumping at 2 in the morning!


Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle
Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle
by Roy Adkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.13

3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good enough., 17 Oct. 2011
This is a decent book that probably gives someone new to the Trafalgar history everything they'd need to know. It's pretty well written and gives enough of the back story to the times and the lives of the men on board ship to leave casual readers satisfied. There's a decently fleshed out cameo of Lord Nelson and his life up to the fatefull battle and the battle itself is adequately described. As you may of guessed, my overall opinion of this book was that it was OK. What I was hoping for was just a little bit more. Just a bit more about everything and certainly I was hoping for a better telling of the batlle itself, a battle even this author acknowledges was perhaps the most important sea battle ever fought. I'd hoped for a bit more about Lord Nelson or perhaps just the same story and the same level of detail told with a bit more passion and ultimately have come away from this book a tiny bit dissappointed. Were it not that it was bought for a holiday read and I was on a beach with nothing else to do I probably wouldn't have finished it.


One Day
One Day
by David Nicholls
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it, 25 Aug. 2010
This review is from: One Day (Hardcover)
100 odd pages into this book I was tempted to write it off. Emma is basically a bore and Dexter a cardboard cutout misogynistic party animal obviously 5 minutes from going off the tracks. I thought it trite, predicatable and not much fun.

On holiday in Devon with not much else to do though, I stuck with it and can only say that it was worth it. What I like most about this book is that the author lets you come to your own conclusions about the characters and their complex relationship with each other. A few reveiws here rather gushingly say that the main characters are so right for each other and how, from the start they were "praying" they'd get together. Here I disagree. Dexter just isn't a nice person; shallow, narcissistic, horrible really and Emma vunerable, almost preachy and more than a bit dull. Yes she is always there for Dexter, but why? The man is (and I'll say it again) really unpleasant. But this is what I loved, even if it was once I'd actually finished reading it. Life isn't perfect, it's not a story and this is the books greatest acheivement; that it can tell you this, that it can show how people somehow work together when they really shouldn't without actually spelling it out. There's no stepping out of the story or giving the words to the characters themselves to explain how Emma and Dexter are ultimately incomplete without each other and I love the fact that this is something you have to work out or understand on your own. The fact that Mr Nicholls has somehow managed to write this without actually writing it is nothing short of genius and if you gave this book one star you've either missed this completely or are feeling bitter because you've been horribly burnt by a real life Dexter!

There's no particular reason why these two disparate people should be so right for each other but the book follows them both through the ups and downs of thier lives and loves cataloging Dexters downward spiral and Emmas success and how, somehow, they manage to stay in each others lives. I don't want to give too much away so will avoid talking about the plot and what ultimately happens but this is a book that genuinely touched me. It's about love, fate, life, everything really and, if you try it, I believe you'll be thinking about it long after finishing.

Why not 5 stars? Sorry Mr Nicholls but I hate what happens. The last line written about Emma is still in my head, will probably never leave it now and, brilliant though it is, I have to hate you for it.


A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - the Last Great Battle
A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - the Last Great Battle
by James Donovan
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It depends what you're after, 30 July 2009
You'll love this book if:

1. You're interested in the subject.
2. You wants lots of detail.
3. You want lots of background material.
4. You want to know a bit about every Indian tribe ever.

You'll hate this book if:

1. You want a flowing narrative story.
2. You want to learn more about Custer the man.
3. You don't want to be still reading a book months after you've bought it.
4. You couldn't tell a Lakota from a Dakota and couldn't care anyway.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2017 9:42 PM GMT


A Foreign Field: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in the Great War
A Foreign Field: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in the Great War
by Ben Macintyre
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A War made real, 23 July 2009
I bought this book for the 2nd time and received it yesterday. Around midnight last night, it was finished. I'm not sure that more needs to be said to describe the compelling true story contained within its pages; it's a well written, well researched and touching account of the horrors of the Great War described through the lives of a handful of people (both french peasants and trapped british soldiers) and will capture the reader from page 1.

Whilst the facts behind the story can only be sketchy the author has painstaking researched his brief and fleshed out this little known cameo into a genuinely interesting and emotionally involving story. Little is actually known about many of the main protagonists, in itself a sobering reminder of just what destruction occurred between 1914 and 1918 and Mr MacIntyre deserves much credit for painting such a vivid picture with such little material.

To be critical I felt that perhaps more could have been said about the relationship between Robert Digby and Claire Dessenne but with so much doubt I guess the author deserves some credit for staying within the boundaries of what material he had and not flying off into romantic conjecture. Written as a novel or portrayed in film this could be quite some story however so it's maybe a shame that this wasn't considered when writing.

Can I also recommend that anyone with the means and time to visit the graves of the 4 soldiers do what I did some years ago and make the effort. An already goose bump enducing story is made even more so looking at the stones at the back of a small churchyard in rural france. The carnage of World War I is sometimes hard to take in when such huge casualty numbers and enormous graveyards are considered. The Menin Gate at Ypres alone has the names of over 50,000 men killed and never found inscribed on it. Perhaps this small and hard to find row, with the lives of those carved known more personally because of this book, brings the true horrors of the Great War into a sharper focus than anything.


Michelangelo And The Pope's Ceiling
Michelangelo And The Pope's Ceiling
by Ross King
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius explained and genius written., 1 July 2009
Just picked this off my bookshelf for the second time and am once again captured by the authors fluent, knowledgeable and yet totally approachable prose. The project of painting the Popes ceiling in the Sistine Chappell and creating what is certainly one of arts and maybe mankind's greatest achievements is spectacularly rendered in a book that engages and entertains the reader from Page One.

This book will appeal to a wide variety of people, from aficionados of Renaissance Italy through to those that know very little about the country, the period or the main protagonists. Michelangelo is painted (excuse the pun) in very relevant strokes, his passions and motivations given real life and the task he undertakes explained in detail that both boggles the mind and demonstrates his amazing achievement. Ross King is clearly a talented writer able to portray a complex story that obviously has more than one historical gap and yet his conjecture and descriptions of what probably took place are totally believable. What is established historical fact is described in an approachable way that even Joe Average could appreciate and I guarantee that anyone who reads this book will be booking a flight to Rome at the earliest opportunity.


No Title Available

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shame., 23 Feb. 2009
Nice quality and a well received Christmas present. If only Jonathan Vilma played for New York and not New Orleans these days....


Brabantia Sensor Bin DeLuxe, 45 L - Matt Steel Fingerprint Proof
Brabantia Sensor Bin DeLuxe, 45 L - Matt Steel Fingerprint Proof

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Has bin., 20 Feb. 2009
I think it fair to start by saying that I bought this bin with some apprehension. My wife, while possessing many fine qualities has developed a, shall we say, over-keen desire to avoid kitchen contaminants so, perfect, we thought, a bin that does not even require you to touch it! Not only that but a smooth lid mechanism opening a hole big enough to throw in all manner of likely waste and then close sublimely behind it. A sleek design, Brabantia to boot, it's a no brainer!

Well fast forward 24 hours (courtesy of the slightly pricey next day delivery) and said bin is waiting to be opened in our kitchen. Out of the box appeal is very high. Finger proof you say? Well lets see about that.... Crikey that's actually pretty good although I'm not sure in the actual value of having a fingerproof bin you're not supposed to need to touch?

Fast forward another 15 minutes because that's how long it takes to find and fit the batteries required and our hands are hovering expectantly over the cylon-like motion sensor on the lid. Beep! A smooth opening and trial rubbish goes in. 6 seconds later a smooth close. Things are looking good, lets have another go.

Nothing.

This is the sound of no lid opening.

I could continue in this vain to illustrate the next 45 minutes of replacing batteries, manually opening the lid, tapping it lightly as per the manual (a manual for a bin!?) etc etc but I guess you get the point. It would shut when opened providing the lid was on our kitchen top and not on the bin and it never opened via the sensor again.

This is a classic example of form over function, style over substance, of over-engineering gone mad and of the obvious need not to re-invent the wheel. A lid that opens and closes when its supposed to, not when it wants to is what's needed. What was I thinking? Why-o-why did I not trust my instincts and steer clear of this nonsense?

Why indeed.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2013 10:30 AM BST


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