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James R. (Maryland, USA)

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The Year's Best Schlock! Horror 2013
The Year's Best Schlock! Horror 2013
by Gavin Chappell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Ripping yarns., 21 Jan. 2014
This is a nice little collection of horror stories, well presented and for the most part of excellent quality. One of the stories towards the end seemed like it was part of a serial but other than that they were all solid stand alone reads.


The Method of Chinese Wrestling
The Method of Chinese Wrestling
by Tong Zhongyi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.57

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Training, 19 April 2012
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OK, so I have deducted 1 star for the grainy quality of the illustrations (which, given that this book was first published in 1935 is forgivable). However, this is a really practical book for any student of martial arts. The directions are a little laconic, ie. "swing your arm down," "pivot your right leg" but when combined with the illustrations they make perfect sense. Which, is more than can be said for a lot of more contemporary martial arts manuals.

The real treasure of the book is not the wrestling techniques but rather the training methods, with great sections on kicking and stepping for waist flexibility, hand drills and training with objects. This really is an excellent book for any martial artist looking to develop power, whether in throws or striking. If you're willing to put in the effort to learn the movements, you will get a great deal out of this book.

Like most training books, it needs a partner and an experienced instructor to master the fighting techniques fully but the training techniques are invaluable.


Battle Royale (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Battle Royale (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Koushun Takami
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Constructed and Complex Novel, 6 Mar. 2012
Criticism of the violence and disturbing subject matter do not do this novel justice: for such a long piece, the pace never drops, the numerous characters never become confusing or indistinct, the characterisation is amazingly conistent and incredibly strong. There is a definite pulp element to the violence and drive of the writing but the underlying political commentary about attitudes towards the young elevates the piece from its shock value. Amidst all the chaos and violence Takami finds the beauty in almost everyone of the young lives that is destroyed.

The writing crosses several genres and transcends each one as it does. I cannot think of a better constructed or more poignant novel that was released in the nineties. The scope of Battle Royale is simply awe inspiring


Sexing The Cherry
Sexing The Cherry
by Jeanette Winterson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of Post-Modernism, 6 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Sexing The Cherry (Paperback)
Sexing the Cherry is a post-modern classic of the highest order. Winterson mixes allegory and complex philosophy with such art that, even having read the novel four or five times, it is easy to miss quite a good deal of the beauty and complexity of the piece. As ever with Winterson, gender and sexual politics play a part in the novel but they are handled by such a likeable protagonist that you can simply chose to enjoy the story if you don't want to think to much. As I said, it is post-modernism of the highest order; an astounding piece of literature that is too often over-looked.


When I Was Five I Killed Myself
When I Was Five I Killed Myself
by Howard Buten
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Piece of First Person Prose, 6 Mar. 2012
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Some really great first person narrative sits over a story that doesn't really have that much to say. Adults and children communicate in different ways, erm, that's about it. This is a quick, entertaining and mildly provocative piece that is definitely worth a read but certainly not worthy of the high critical praise it has garnered. Buten does well to get two hundred pages out of the one significant thing that actually happens in the piece and that is a tribute to his writing. On the whole though, this book felt like a first draft that could have been much more developed.

This particular edition comes with notes written in German for German speakers and is unusually small. It is a great size for reading on the train.


Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
by Nick Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Prose is the Driving Element of this Memoir, 1 Mar. 2012
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I really did enjoy this memoir, Flynn's writing is, for the most part, well paced and evocative. However, it is not a novel and is almost totally lacking in structure or drive as throughout the bulk of the book Flynn is not actively interested in his father (or his own life) and is merely drifting from one place to the next. It is a testimony to the quality of Flynn's prose that he managed to make this a compelling read.

However, there is a general numbness to the tone of the book and its pace dips quite severely at around section 5 as it takes on a slightly inventorial nature. Here we get a lot of stuff that feels like padding, fictional scenes with Flynn's dad as Santa and a few conversations presented in play format that didn't work for me at all. I think Flynn has put them there to inject some life into the drabness that eclipses this section of the memoir; yet they served to slow it down even further.

Nonetheless, this is a case in which perseverance paid off as the final section of the book regains the energy that is integral to the rest of the book and we are left with a clear picture of just how muddy and complicated the relationship between father and son can be. Sometimes beautiful, often ugly and unpleasant but a brilliant read.


No Title Available

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent quality, 29 Feb. 2012
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The item is well packaged and arrives in good time. The sunflower seeds are delicious and perfectly roasted. This is the perfect gift for the homesick American.


The Dice Man
The Dice Man
by Luke Rhinehart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average Prose Mars an Above Average Idea, 24 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: The Dice Man (Paperback)
An interesting piece, though not as interesting as many have claimed, the narrative dips in and out of brilliance as the protagonist abandons his own personality and all of its various hangs-up mysogyny (which is so acute that the first 120 pages are like wading through tar), hetrosexuality, marriage, fatherhood etc. There are lot of interesting games played with the reader in the dialogue about the dice system presenting us with evidence and arguments against it whilst showing it as exciting and effective.

The book could have stood to be about a third of the size it was, the prose is a little turgid at times, the jumps between narrative voice are often rather dull and break up the flow of the piece. Furthermore the set pieces tend towards sexual acts that would probably have been considered more shocking in the days before internet porn but that have all long since passed into cliche. There is a lot of great ideas to consider and the novel is definitely one of the more thought provoking books I have ever read however it lacks the grace of style that would earn it a place in the cannon of great philosophical works


Fiction Agonistes: In Defense of Literature
Fiction Agonistes: In Defense of Literature
by Gregory Jusdanis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.50

5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book, 31 Jan. 2012
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This is essentially an extended essay on the state of contemporary literature; given Jusdanis' academic credentials, it is surprisingly readable. I am not going to explicate the piece for you but if you are considering buying this book then I would heartily recommend that you do.


All My Friends are Superheroes
All My Friends are Superheroes
by Andrew Kaufman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good things small packages etc., 31 Jan. 2012
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An excellent little book, with some poignant and thought provoking moments. A strong sense of humour and interesting choice of subject matter are the shining moments of this very short novella. I am looking forward to reading more of Kaufan's work in future.


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