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The story fiend (Brighton, UK)

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Make The Yuletide Gay [DVD] [2009]
Make The Yuletide Gay [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Keith Jordan
Offered by Gayfilmlover
Price: £4.29

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better!, 7 Jan. 2010
I watched this film over Christmas hoping for a little, light fun but it was truly awful. The characters are paper thin, the dialogue between them seemed only to have been written to crowbar in jokes that the writers had come up with rather than to tell a structured story.

I really enjoy light, frothy films done well but this was not good. The actors did their best with the script but I think they were fighting a losing battle on this one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2010 4:00 PM GMT

Where The Wild Things Are [DVD] [2009]
Where The Wild Things Are [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Max Records
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £3.25

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film for adults looking back, 31 Dec. 2009
I went to see this a few weeks ago at the cinema and found the cinematography absolutely stunning. The soft, filtered light used on the island with the monsters really gives you the contrasting sense of being taken to a different world. Throughout the film, I found myself getting carried along with the moods and emotions of Max and could really empathise with his confusion with social interactions at this age. I think this film has the power to take you back to your earlier childhood and all the anger management issues and arguments that so often accompany it! I'm not sure, however, if its moody, reflective nature will pack enough of a punch for today's younger kids. The underlying message may be one that is easier for an adult looking back to grasp.

It was absolute genius to use life-sized puppets for the monsters rather than extensive special effects as the puppets really capture the beauty of the original Maurice Sendak drawings. The lumbering movement of these huge but gentle monsters also managed to render so much of their inner emotion, and the actors who voiced them were excellent too as they gave them such a sense of humanity.

Although the end of the film reflected the book closely, I found it was rounded up just a little too quickly for me. I was left with a slight "So what?" feeling, which was a shame as I had enjoyed the rest of the film so much. A film is naturally going to have marked differences to the book and, in my opinion, this is somewhere that the director could have used a little poetic license to get the message across.

Sleeping Beauties
Sleeping Beauties
by Mavis Cheek
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cheeky and fun...with lots of wit!, 24 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Sleeping Beauties (Paperback)
This is only the first of Mavis Cheek's novels which I have read. The story is about Tabitha's beauty salon, a place where women come from miles around to allow Tabitha and her assistant Chloe to work their magic on them. Over the years Tabitha has, in her eyes at least, made the salon into a sort of paradise on earth - somewhere women can be pampered and preened beyond their wildest dreams. However, Tabitha is fast approaching retirement age and feels she has actually had enough of the world of the beauty salon and is ready to move on. Chloe, although young and beautiful, is sometimes prone to crude outbursts and has some odd notions of what is best for the customer. Tabitha has her doubts about her possible successor and so sets her a challenge to decide if she can earn this oh-so-precious mantle...with very funny consequences.

I would agree with the earlier reviewer in that you can probably foresee the overall ending but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of this novel in the least. It was entertaining to follow what specifically happens in the three 'made-over' women's lives. I very much enjoyed Mavis Cheek's satirical style and there were more than one or two laugh out loud moments (something which I find novels often promise but rarely deliver). This is very much a book about women and so any male characters play a secondary role but I found that Cheek's writing brought each character to life (as far as was necessary) and I had a clear picture of each of them in my mind's eye.

If I had to choose one negative I would say I was sometimes a little confused by the overall style of the novel. The subject matter and how it is treated is fairly light and frothy but references to scheming goddesses throughout and a chapter on women's representation in art through the ages seemed not to fit so well with the rest of the novel. I can understand the point that the beauty salon is the modern equivalent of painters dictating what feminine perfection is but stylistically it jarred slightly with me. Having said that, it did bring substance to the novel and stopped it from being a funny but instantly forgettable tale. I am interested to know what other reviewers thought about this area.

I will definitely read more of the author's work as I did enjoy this one and am interested to know how her style develops over her many novels.

The Careful Use Of Compliments: Careful Use of Compliments v. 4 (Isabel Dalhousie Novels)
The Careful Use Of Compliments: Careful Use of Compliments v. 4 (Isabel Dalhousie Novels)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Isabel Dalhousie - you'll love it!, 23 Dec. 2009
With this being the fourth in the series of the Sunday Philosophy Club series, I was worried that the character Isabel Dalhousie would have started to run out of steam. But of course I should never have doubted Alexander McCall Smith! This is a great addition to the series that I devoured in just a few days, despite me trying to eek it out.

The novel starts about a year after the last book ends and this time, with the addition of baby Charlie, Isabel's life has become just a little bit more complicated. As well as having this very cute distraction (imagine a tartan romper suit!), there are plenty of other things for Isabel to be concerned about - her ongoing relationship with Jamie (Charlie's father) is causing a few problems between her and her niece Cat, her housekeeper Grace seems determined to take over the day-to-day care of Charlie and trouble is brewing with the Review of Applied Ethnics, the philosophy magazine that Isabel is the editor of. And on top of all that, she has a mystery involving a possible art forgery to solve!

Some other reviewers felt that the demands which inevitably come with a needy, first baby had been given a rose-tinted sheen in this novel. But when I pick up one of McCall Smith's novels, I want to be able to see life through his gentle, ever-inventive eyes. I don't expect an 'overflowing-nappy' slice of real life. That's not my idea of escapism!

Fear not as this is classic Dalhousie and once again we are able to ponder the big (and not-so-big) philosophical issues of daily life along with Isabel. This is fast becoming my favourite of McCall Smith's three main series. Hopefully it's one that will run and run.

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
by Roddy Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as enjoyable as I had hoped, 13 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Paperback)
I really wanted to love this book and was disappointed when I didn't. There is no doubt that Doyle brilliantly captures what it is like to be a 10 year-old boy. His inspired use of dialogue and the thoughts of the group of boys both ring true but I just didn't find myself getting emotionally drawn into the main character's life. The story of a boy struggling to understand the changing, adult world around him and witnessing his parents increasingly violent relationship is one that interested me. I had thought I would devour a book like this in one greedy reading but this just didn't happen. The structure itself jumps around throughout the novel (perhaps much like the mind of a 10 year-old boy) and I found it just too easy to put down. There was not enough of a reason to keep reading. Even when I finally reached the end of the novel I felt pretty unmoved and unchanged.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy Book 1)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy Book 1)
by Stieg Larsson
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner - once you get to the heart of the story, 6 Dec. 2009
Mikael Blomkvist is a investigative journalist who is given the task of solving a decades-old murder mystery. Henrik Vanger, an aging industrialist, hires him to shed light on the mystery of how his niece disappeared forty-odd years before. The old man is 100% convinced that one of his family is behind Harriet's disappearance and once you get to meet the family you'll understand why. Helping him on the case is Lisbeth Salander, one of the most intriguing characters to be found in a crime novel in many a day. Professionally, she has carved a niche for herself by becoming an expert hacker, someone above the law who sees no legal or ethical issues with breaking into computer systems to gather the information she needs. Let down by successive authorities, she stands outside society, is feral in her behaviour towards others and, as such, provides an unusual viewpoint on what is happening within the novel.

All in all, I found this a great mystery. I was completely swept along by the plot and really found it to be one of those 'just one more chapter' books that you don't come across very often. There were lots of twists to get your teeth into and I definitely didn't see the ending coming. The lists of characters is pretty lengthy and I did wonder at some points if it was strictly necessary to have quite so many. Saying that, the Vanger family is an interesting one to read about with more than their share of skeletons in the closet.

Some reviewers have mentioned that the dialogue seemed in places a little unnatural to them. I noticed one or two moments like this but, if anything, this seemed to me to be more an indication of a Swedish person with amazing English who exceptionally rarely said something that a British person wouldn't say. It certainly didn't stop me enjoying the novel.

If I were to single out one negative aspect, it would be the number of scenes in the novel. I think the plot would have been tighter if a few scenes had been removed, without any significant loss of storyline. However, as Stieg Larsson died before he had a chance to OK the final edit, I think it would be unfair to hold this against the novel. Also, readers should be aware that there is a introductory section at the beginning, which concentrates on financial matters. Resist the urge to skip this section and please, please stick with the book beyond this point. This relevance of this section will only become clear much later and you won't regret it. I think comparisons can be made between this novel and the work of Henning Mankell. Both seem to want to say something uncomfortable about today's values and Swedish society in particular.

Right, now to put the other two in the trilogy down on my Christmas list!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2010 8:59 AM BST

Jamie's Dinners
Jamie's Dinners
by Jamie Oliver
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No more excuses not to be able to cook up a storm!, 15 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Jamie's Dinners (Paperback)
I got this book as a present just after it first came out. I enjoyed it back then and I have recently rediscovered it and started cooking from it again. One of its plus points is that there is a real variety of recipes on offer - from many traditional favourites such as lasagne, fish and chips, sausage and mash with red onion gravy (absolutely delicious!) to more adventurous dishes (Spanish chickpea and chorizo soup - again amazing!) The recipes I have tried are all straightforward (that's a good thing in my book).

One of the best sections, in my opinion, was "Family Tree". Here Jamie shows you how to make pesto, a simple tomato sauce, slow-cooked lamb and some other things and then gives you three or four ideas of what to do with each. I thought this was a great idea as once you have got the hang of the one basic recipe you can then make a whole raft of other dishes - genius. Some readers may find this approach too prescriptive but I think it is a great way to get less-confident cooks experimenting. I think there are a huge number of people in the UK who don't know the basics of cooking yet who want to feed their families well but don't know how to do this. I think this is the perfect book for them!

There is also a great section on 5 minute wonders for those of us who feel we are too pressed for time to cook properly. After reading this, it's clear we no longer have any excuses.

Try the Southern Indian and Seafood soup recipe - you won't regret it. Once you have the spices for this dish it is really economical too as you only need a little of each. If I were you I would just go with basic white fish fillets from the freezer department of the supermarket and leave out the seafood. Keeps the cost down and tastes just as good!

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry
by Leanne Shapton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!!! The story of a relationship told through a couple's collected objects., 11 Nov. 2009
I received this book as a present last Saturday and by Sunday morning I had finished reading it. It is one of the most unusual books I have read in recent weeks and it deserves to sell and sell and sell!

It is structured as an auction catalogue where the collection of objects that one couple have build up during their time together is being sold off. Through the choice of objects (clothes, books, invitations to parties, postcards, unsent notes) we discover the course of their relationship from beginning to end. The majority of the lots are accompanied by a photo (as you would expect from a real auction catalogue) and a short description. If you are curious (nosy is such a negative word) and have ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors this book is great as it allows you to take a glimpse into another couple's life together. I found that it was a similar experience to reading someone else's diary which is always a forbidden pleasure.

Just as in a more conventional novel, I found my mind would jump ahead wondering what would happen later in their story. I also had a really clear vision in my mind of the two main characters (Leonore Doolan and Harald Morris who by profession are a food writer and a photographer) were. The objects chosen help to paint a picture of their interests and passions, their personalities (good and bad aspects), and their hopes and dreams for the future. There is something that rings very true about these two people and, after having read the book, I was completely convinced by their relationship.

After reading the book I started to look around at the things that I have in my flat and what they say about me and my relationship with my partner. It is amazing how each object, no matter how insignificant, manages to say something new about the life you have built up together. This is a great present for that quirky person in your life. My sister is a big fan of eBay so I think she might find one of these in her Christmas stocking this year.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2010 4:26 PM GMT

The Reading Group
The Reading Group
by Elizabeth Noble
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great idea, well carried out!, 4 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The Reading Group (Paperback)
At first I thought I was going to find it difficult to keep the many characters in "The Reading Group" separate in my head. However, to Elizabeth Noble's credit, she manages to make them all very distinctive and so this was never a problem. I very quickly found myself getting drawn in to each of the character's lives and looked forward to finding enough time to read the next chapter. There was a number of unexpected plots twists which kept me reading too - always a plus point!

The novel seems to be aimed at young mums and, so as a man, I am probably not the target market the publishers were thinking of. Nevertheless I found it to be a sometimes funny, often poignant take on the lives of the women in the book group and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the author manages to capture the difficulties and doubts which younger mums often face and, from talking to friends with children, the thought processes that they go through too.

I thought the idea of using the book group to structure the novel was a clever one. The lives of the women in the group are mirrored by the books they are reading and if anything this shows how universal the issues dealt with are - adultery, pregnancies (wanted and unwanted), friendships between women, parent-child relationships, love in all its many forms etc). While it is a little unlikely that one group of people would go through all these issues in one year this is a work of fiction, not real life. Any controversial issues in the novel (I don't want to spoil the story for anyone) are dealt with sensitively and left me wondering how I would have dealt with them if in a similar situation.

Some reviewers have commented they felt characters' issues were just skirted over. While there were some in the book that I think it would have been interesting to investigate further eg one of the characters being forced to put her mother into a nursing home, I think this was not the novel to do it in. The main drive of this novel is to get an insight into the private lives of all the women in the group and in this regard the author is very successful. In my opinion, it would have slowed the pace down if she had stayed with any one character for too long.

Unlike some other reviewers, I didn't expect to have a lot more details of the books that they read in the group and I probably wouldn't have wanted this either - I would rather just read the books myself and make up my own mind.

In short I would say if your are looking for a light novel that will make you smile and think about some bigger issues then choose this. If you are expecting real in-depth discussion on the books that the group read then this is not for you.

Three Junes
Three Junes
by Julia Glass
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just one June too many, 31 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Three Junes (Paperback)
I originally bought this novel thinking it would be a great one to get lost in when I was away on holiday. I found, however, that I kept picking it up and setting it back down again despite myself. The novel is divided into three separate parts which roughly all follow the trials and tribulations of the McLeod family. I found myself most drawn in by the first (and to a lesser extent the second parts of the novel). In the first part we follow the character of Paul McLeod as he journeys to Greece to try and deal with the death of his wife. I would have liked the author to explore their relationship a little more as I felt there were areas that could have been mined much further and which would have made interesting reading. It is to the author's credit that although we tend to mostly see Paul's wife through his and his son's eyes we get a very strong sense of her determined character.

The second part of the novel is told by Paul's gay son Fenno. I enjoyed reading about his developing relationship with his acid-tongued friend in Manhattan and I thought Julia Glass managed to evoke the era of AIDS devastating the gay scene really well. However Fenno's maudlin character did get on my nerves eventually. I felt that I wanted to avoid him after a while - not possible unfortunately when he is one of the main characters.

To be honest when I reached the third part of the novel I initially missed the link of how that character was connected to the rest of the story - a sign for me at least that this novel was simply too long. This was my main gripe with the book. I thought structuring the novel in this way was an excellent device but felt slightly cheated by the third part which brought nothing new to the previous two parts.

As has already been pointed out here there are a few minor errors in the novel but to be honest I think this is inevitable in a novel this size and it shouldn't spoil someone's overall enjoyment of the book. I was amazed to discover that this was the author's first novel. The writing itself is very accomplished, the characters complex and the dialogue on the whole realistic and for that reason I would definitely like to read something else by her in the future.

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