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Reviews Written by
H. Callaghan "Alice in Wonderland" (London, UK)
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Despicable Me (Blu-ray DVD)
Despicable Me (Blu-ray DVD)
Dvd ~ Steve Carell

4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking little movie, 10 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This absolutely charming movie features Gru, a supervillain with problems. His bank has made funding for his project to steal the Moon contingent upon him obtaining a shrink ray, and when this is stolen from him in turn by a younger, brasher rival, he adopts three cookie-selling orphans in order to sneak his way in to his enemy's supervillain base and get it back again.

Of course things get complicsted with the orphans and along the way Gru has to choose between the fruits of villainy and being a father. It's a very cute and funny entertainment and it looks great: bright colours and wonderful visual gags. I think adults could enjoy it as much, if not more, than children. Definitely worth a look.


Black Swan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Black Swan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and disturbing, 18 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I adore this soundtrack. The beautiful music of the ballet score is supported by darkly disturbing notes, reflecting the fracture of its heroine. I love to write to this, and would recommend it wholeheartedly.


The Elements of Style
The Elements of Style
by William Strunk Jr.
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Guide, 18 May 2011
This review is from: The Elements of Style (Hardcover)
You can never go wrong with Strunk and White - used by novelists, technical writers, and journalists, its short but common sense rules are never less than helpful.


The Knitter's Year
The Knitter's Year
by Debbie Bliss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely looking but nothing you really want, 21 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Knitter's Year (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a beautifully put-together book and features a ton of projects you can throw together quickly. Unfortunately, out of 52 I'd only consider knitting one or two of them, and even then you could find funkier patterns somewhere else.

However, tastes differ and if you're the kind of person that like knitting your own Christmas decorations, valances for your shelves, and pot plant covers, this may work for you. For my own part, I thought the unique patterns were too fussy or strange to have in the house, whereas the useful patterns all had prettier equivalents in other books.

I was looking forward to this, so a bit disappointed.


The Gone-Away World
The Gone-Away World
by Nick Harkaway
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite wonderfully mad social satire, 18 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Gone-Away World (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Don't be put off by the seemingly endless digressions of this weird and wonderful novel - every one of them pays off, and Harkaway shows a mastery of his material which is quite breathtaking. Beautifully written, scary, funny and strange, this odd tale of a war and the political machinations around it was easily one of the best things I read this year. Hard to say much more without getting spoilery, but suffice to say, highly recommended on pretty much every front.


Lord Have Mercy Upon Us: London's Plague Years (Revealing History (Paperback))
Lord Have Mercy Upon Us: London's Plague Years (Revealing History (Paperback))
by Stephen Porter
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but left me wanting more, 21 Aug. 2010
A fascinating subject and the figures explained in exhaustive detail, but I couldn't help but feel that it could have done with a few broader remarks about the history of the period to contextualise the plague for the general reader. For instance, there is reference to the impact of the plague on the Civil War, but not so much about what living through the Civil War was like with the added annoyance of the plague. Perhaps the assumption is that the reader should already know a sufficient amount about the period, but this reader frequently found herself lost.

That said, it is interspersed with frequent and lively contemporary accounts of events, and seemed meticulously researched. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.


Transition
Transition
by Iain Banks
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Multiversal Travel FTW!, 4 Dec. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
I finished Transition by Iain Banks and while I enjoyed it, I'm not entirely sure I understood exactly what happened to the protagonists at the end. I strongly suspect that there is some kind of Culture SC thing going on, but it's never explicitly stated. Some fabulous set-pieces in it though - my favourite is a palace on top of Everest in a deserted Earth where everyone's been killed by a comet.

And of course he plays tricks with narrative which I think is one of the things I admire most about him and where I find him most influential, which is impossible to discuss here without being violently spoilery. But the book is itself a kind of full circle, a narrative palindrome where events are retold at the end and the added context makes it make sense.

It was also nice to see that we agree that access to multiverse travel always always ALWAYS leads to increased levels of murder, shagging, and exposure to Fascism. I approve.


Belle de Jour's Guide to Men
Belle de Jour's Guide to Men
by Belle de Jour
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Frisky, 4 Dec. 2009
You've got to admit the concept is intriguing - a prostitute meets a lot of guys, and in a fairly privileged role, like a doctor or an undertaker. Presumably she sees them behaving in ways that I'm not likely to see, for instance. And it's a gender-specific thing, so it would be difficult for me to tease out in my own personal observations and use. So her views would be interesting to know, and indeed, so it proves.

What was more revelatory, at least for me who isn't familiar with her blog, was how witty she was. She struck me as someone it would be fairly fun to get pissed with. I was less convinced by her classification of women and their needs - none of her three major categories described me in any way - but then you're not buying this as serious dating advice, as evidenced by the wonderfully random Index and flowchart at the back. You're having a good laugh and picking up a few piquant observations along the way.

Recommendation: Would make a great Christmas present for a girly mate.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 6, 2011 1:21 PM BST


Her Fearful Symmetry
Her Fearful Symmetry
by Audrey Niffenegger
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange And Uneven, But Occasionally Beautiful, 4 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Her Fearful Symmetry (Hardcover)
I finished the copy of Her Fearful Symmetry =nd I was pleased that I did. It was a strange and uneven read, but had some beautiful moments.

The novel focusses on a pair of twins, as one attempts to break free of the controlling influence of the other through relationships, college, and finally darker and more final forms. They have inherited a beautiful flat near Highgate Cemetery, a location that casts a long shadow over the book. A malign influence in the form of Elspeth the ghost seems to offer the more fragile Valentina the way to escape her overbearing twin, but of course everything goes horribly wrong...

The relationship between the twins was deftly handled and the evocation of Highgate Cemetery itself is superb. There is a distinctly 19th century timbre to the novel which appears early on and then disappears, only to come back in the last hundred pages. Niffenegger excels in the small exchanges between characters and also the sense of doom surrounding the final crisis.

That said, I felt that Elspeth the ghost was quickly a too familiar and almost comical feature in their lives, and since everyone could talk to her, through seance appurtenances such as automatic writing and ouija boards, you are almost left forgetting that there is anything wrong with her. But the final hundred pages and their hideous bargain and denouement were wholly rivetting, and I am very grateful for the copy


We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What everyday things tell us about the universe
We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What everyday things tell us about the universe
by Marcus Chown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.86

28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mystery of Starlight, 4 Dec. 2009
The Sun could be made of bananas, and it wouldn't make a sod of difference to us. Though that said, it would make for tasty but rather scorched banana bread. It's not that the Sun is on fire because it's made of flammable stuff. The Sun is on fire because there is such a lot of it. The crushing force of gravity increases pressure and correspondingly heat within its contents, producing the mind-numbingly melty temperatures within.

This is one of the many surprising assertions made in We Need To Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown, which I mentioned receiving and enjoying last week, so I was consequently thrilled when I heard he'd be interested in guest blogging here on December 11th! YAY! So, I've read the book, and experienced no less than three Eureka moments.

Such as: Stuff is made up mostly of nothing but energy. According to Chown, if all the space were removed from atoms, the entire human race could be fit into the space of a single sugar cube. It's actually highly mysterious that I don't plummet straight through the seat on the Tube and to gory death on the tracks below, book in hand, as tiny electric forces are basically the only things holding me up. For the record, this is not a great thing to think whilst one is sitting on the Tube reading.

Which brings me neatly around to the book, of course. We Need To Talk About Kelvin, jacketed with what seems to be aggressive non-threateningness, is a book about relating everyday phenomena, such as starlight, your reflection in a window, the fact that aliens haven't enslaved everybody yet - into powerful illustrations of quantum mechanics at work in the world. It's peppered with fascinating anecdotes about the scientists involved in the work of proving these things, from Galileo to scientists whose work is only just being published now.

Possibly the most impressive thing, to me personally, was the discussion on quantum probability. I've read some extremely good books on the subject while doing my Mephistophela (and increasingly Sleepwalker) research - Quantum: A Guide For The Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili and Brown's Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse: The Quest For The Quantum Computer, amongst others, but to me personally, Chown's recounting of the phenomenon was the clearest.

One hesitates to write things like, "We live in an age where..." It's just so portentous. You could imagine it being said by Mr. Voice in a movie trailer. In fact, it almost certainly has been. But the fact of the matter is that the incessant daily scramble to stay on top of mundane things blinds us to the fact that we are all participants in an ongoing elaborate miracle - that the universe is a juggling trick where all the balls are in the air at exactly the same time, and science is a series of constantly opening doors leading to ever more astonishing worlds where our idea of "true" and "normal" meets the quantum idea of "true" and "normal" and they immediately get into a huge fist fight. As it happens, on a clear day, you really can see forever. And that's pretty amazing.

Sometimes you just reminding.


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