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Tales of Twilight and the Unseen (Alma Classics)
Tales of Twilight and the Unseen (Alma Classics)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars a master storyteller -and not just a Sherlock Holmes one-trick pony!, 20 Sept. 2015
Few would dispute the fact that Arthur Conan Doyle's highly acclaimed Sherlock Holmes detective stories are known and loved by millions of readers throughout the world but a lesser known side of the master storyteller's creative ability is that he is a highly accomplished exponent of the short-story form as is evident from Tales Of Twilight And The Unseen and Tales Of Terror And Mystery, wide-ranging collections of stories derived from varied sources - and written in Conan Doyle's superb prose style. Sit down in your uneasy chair and experience the thrills and chills of these gripping stories.

Conan Doyle's vivid imagination and creative ability for constructing ingenious, strange, extraordinary situations is given free rein in one of my favourite stories in Tales Of Twilight And The Unseen, The Great Keinplatz Experiment, a bizarre mind-boggling story in which a Professor and a student act as guinea-pigs in a scientific experiment to determine whether it is possible for the spirit to exist outside the human body. Other favourite stories in this collecton: The Brown Hand, a ghost story featuring the restless spirit of a dead Indian with only one hand relentlessly seeking to recover his severed hand; B.24 featuring a burglar who gets more than he bargained for in the course of a house robbery; and The Ring of Toth, a story deriving its source from the mysteries of ancient Egypt and the strange powers given by a ring.

Of all his writings, Conan Doyle excels in the short-story form, his strongest suit (IMO), but whatever readers may think of any particular story in this collection - and even if the odd story or two such as Cyprian Overbeck Wells and The Los Amigos Fiasco don't measure up to Doyle's best short stories (IMO) - what all the stories do share is the stamp of Arthur Conan Doyle's superb prose in which they are written, the hallmark of a master of his craft. Recommended!


Tales of Terror and Mystery (Alma Classics)
Tales of Terror and Mystery (Alma Classics)
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.94

5.0 out of 5 stars a master storyteller -and not just Sherlock Holmes stories!, 13 Sept. 2015
Aside from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's highly acclaimed Sherlock Holmes detective stories known the world over, a lesser known side of this master storyteller's creative ability is that he is also a first class, highly accomplished exponent of the short-story form as evidenced in the thrilling "Tales of Terror and Mystery", a wide-ranging collection of stories written in Conan Doyle's superb prose style.

In stories such as The Lost Special, The Jew's Breastplate and The Black Doctor, Conan Doyle displays a genius for constructing strange, extraordinary, seemingly impossible situations, sometimes bizarre, that thrill, mystify and challenge the reader to work out a solution before the baffling mystery is finally resolved with an ingenious solution conjured up by Doyle or a stunning deceptive twist in the tale as exemplified in the story of The Black Doctor or in The Case of Lady Sannox, to cite but two examples. The narrative formula established by Conan Doyle in Sherlock Holmes stories, whereby some kind of rational explanation, however unlikely, may be found to explain what appears (in the readers' eyes) to be an impossibility, is closely followed by Doyle in some of the stories in "Tales of Terror and Mystery" as is perfectly illustrated in the story, The Lost Special in which a train, witnessed leaving a station en route to its destination, mysteriously disappears without trace between stations, seemingly into thin air.

Revenge lies at the heart of the story The New Catacomb in which the reader, knowing what retribution is coming in the story, watches as Doyle unfolds the chilling fate that lies in store for the victim. In another story, a violent and brutal form of retribution is to be found in The Case of Lady Sannox. Greed is the motivational force that drives the story, The Brazilian Cat whereas in The Japanned Box, in sharp contrast, the power of love is the driving force behind the story.

For this latecomer (I'm sorry to say) to Conan Doyle, favourite stories here were The Lost Special, The Black Doctor, The Case of Lady Sannox, The Japanned Box and The Brazilian Cat. Out of all his writings, in my view, Conan Doyle excels in the short-story form, his strongest suit (IMO) but whatever readers may think of the individual stories in this collection, what they all share is the superb prose of Arthur Conan Doyle in which they are written, the hallmark of a master of his craft. Recommended!


The Best Christmas Present in the World
The Best Christmas Present in the World
by Michael Morpurgo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars christmas in the trenches., 21 Aug. 2015
The Best Christmas Present in the World, is a moving, memorable, beautifully illustrated Christmas story picture book, partly Factual and partly Fiction, aimed at young readers. The first part of the story is true: a simply told retelling of the well known story of the 'unofficial' Christmas truce that happened during the 1st World War in 1914. German (Fritz) and British (Tommy) troops on the Western Front in Flanders, France were dug into 'trenches' and facing each other through the barbed wire strung across the wasteland battleground known as 'no man's land'. On 25th December, 1914, in an astonishing spontaneous gesture of peace and goodwill, soldiers on both sides laid down their rifles, climbed out of their trenches, ventured out beyond their barbed wire and came to-gether in between the lines in 'no man's land' to celebrate Christmas day, 1914, to-gether, a moment of humanity in a time of carnage. The horrors of trench warfare were quelled temporarily by the outbreak of peace - if only for a night, and Christmas Eve at that - as 'Fritz' and 'Tommy', recognising their common humanity, joined forces in no man's land, shaking hands in friendship, eating and drinking to-gether and exchanging small gifts, followed by an impromtu football match; and all this joy and goodwill on the same horrific battleground terrain where trench warfare had raged but a short time before. Michael Morpurgo simply and deftly retells the remarkable story as it happened through a letter written by a young soldier in 1914 to his girlfriend at home.

Now the story switches from Fact to Fiction as the time period fast forwards some eighty years on when the young soldier's forgotten letter is discovered by chance hidden in an old rolltop desk. Morpurgo adds a contemporary twist to the story that is stunning in its impact. Both adults and young readers can enjoy this book. Really, this extraordinary story with a touching twist in the tale will pull at the heartstrings of anyone who has a heart.


[ [ [ The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case: A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers[ THE GREAT CAKE MYSTERY: PRECIOUS RAMOTSWE'S VERY FIRST CASE: A NUMBER 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY BOOK FOR YOUNG READERS ] By Smith, Alexander McCall ( Author )Apr-03-2012 Hardcover
[ [ [ The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case: A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers[ THE GREAT CAKE MYSTERY: PRECIOUS RAMOTSWE'S VERY FIRST CASE: A NUMBER 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY BOOK FOR YOUNG READERS ] By Smith, Alexander McCall ( Author )Apr-03-2012 Hardcover
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A detective is born!, 18 Aug. 2015
A detective is born in the first book of an excellent new series of Precious Ramotswe mystery stories aimed at younger readers. The Great Cake Mystery introduces the young African schoolgirl Precious Ramotswe in her ealy years, long before she grew up and became famous throughout the world as a detective who founded The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Faraway in Botswana, Africa, even as a youngster still at school, Precious had already made up her mind that when she grew up, she would be a detective someday.

Alexander McCall Smith tells us how the young Precious Ramotswe started her life as a detective in the story of her very first case, The Great Cake Mystery, in which Precious with her natural curiosity and readiness to ask questions, shows promising signs that, even at her age, she has the aptitude to solve mysteries and the making of a future detective.
At school, somebody is stealing items of food belonging to other school children. Precious, following her instincts, doesn't believe that the chubby boy suspected of the theft is, in fact, the guilty party. Her instinct tells her he is innocent. When she decides to find out the truth of the matter, she is faced with solving a mystery that would test all her skills.

This engaging, amusing, feelgood story, simply told and beautifully illustrated with bold, vivid drawings evocative of the African setting is one that both younger readers and adults can enjoy, the perfect introduction for younger readers to the wonderful storytelling powers of Alexander McCall Smith. And here's one older reader for sure who is looking forward to budding detective Precious Ramotswe's next case once upon a time before she was famous.
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The Mystery of Meerkat Hill (Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers)
The Mystery of Meerkat Hill (Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Precious Ramotswe before she was famous., 13 Aug. 2015
The Mystery of Meerkat Hill is Precious Ramotswe's second case in Alexander McCall Smith's excellent new series of Precious Ramotswe Mysteries for Young Readers. Faraway in Botswana in Africa, young African schoolgirl Precious Ramotswe, long before she grew up to become the famous detective of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, had already made up her mind, even at her young age, that one day she would be a detective. In her first case "Precious and the Monkeys", Precious had already shown through her resourcefulness, natural curiosity and readiness to ask questions, an aptitude for solving mysteries and promising signs that she had the makings of a detective. Now in The Mystery of Meerkat Hill, Alexander McCall Smith tells us more of how the young Precious Ramotswe started out on her road to becoming a detective. The tale begins when Precious makes friends with two new classmates Teb and Pontsho, sister and brother and is introduced to Pontsho's comical pet meerkat. Soon after, her new schoolfriends' family's cow disappears, a serious blow that could have a devastating impact on poor folk who can barely make ends meet to begin with. So poor are Teb and Pontsho, in fact, that they have to walk about in their barefeet. Precious starts searching for clues that will help them track down the missing cow. However, help arrives from an entirely unexpected quarter!

An engaging, amusing, uplifting, simply told story, beautifully illustrated with bold, vivid drawings evocative of the African setting that both youmger readers and adults can enjoy. These excellent stories of Precious Ramotswe mysteries for young readers are the perfect introduction to the wonderful storytelling gifts of Alexander McCall Smith. And here's one older reader for sure, who is looking forward to the next case of budding detective Precious Ramotswe once upon a time before she was famous.


The Mystery of the Missing Lion (Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers)
The Mystery of the Missing Lion (Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers)
by Professor of Medical Law Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Precious Ramotswe, budding detective., 10 Aug. 2015
In Botswana, Africa there was once a young girl, Precious Ramotswe, who grew up to become a famous detective when she founded The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Even as a youngster still at school, long before she became famous as The No. 1 Lady detective in Africa, Precious had already made up her mind that someday, she would be a detective. In her first two cases "Precious and the Monkeys" and "Precious and the Mystery of Meercat Hill", Precious, with her natural curiosity and readiness to ask questions, had already shown promising signs that, even at her age, she had the aptitude for solving mysteries, the potential to be a detective someday. That Precious has the makings of a future detective is again seen in the story of her third case "Precious and the Mystery of the Missing Lion" in which Alexander McCall Smith tells us more of how the young Precious Ramotswe started on her life as a detective. The tale begins with Precious on a holiday trip staying with her Aunty Bee at Eagle Island safari camp in the Okavango Delta. While there, she makes a new friend, a boy named Khumo. Also there is Teddy, a gentle lion, tamed and trained - but longing to roam free in his natural habitat. When Teddy the lion goes missing from the camp, Precious and her new found friend Khumo have to use all their skills and resourcefulness as their search for Teddy takrs them deep into the jungle - jungle full of danger from hippos and crocs!

An engaging story for young readers. Running through the story, the theme of Born to be Free, wildlife having the freedom to roam as free as the wind in their natural habitat rather than raised in captivity, tamed and trained to live in restrictive man-made environments such as a circus. Beautifully illustrated with bold, vivid drawings of the African setting and a variety of wildlife, this charming book that both younger readers and adults can enjoy, provides a perfect introduction to the wonderful storytelling gifts of Alexander McCall Smith. Here's one older reader foe sure who is looking forward to budding detective Precious Ramotswe's forthcoming cases in this excellent series of stories once upon a time before she was famous.


Precious and the Monkeys (Precious Ramotswe)
Precious and the Monkeys (Precious Ramotswe)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A detective is born!, 8 Aug. 2015
A detective is born in the first book of an excellent new series of Precious Ramotswe mystery stories aimed at younger readers, introducing the first case of the young African schoolgirl Precious Ramotswe in her early years, long before she grew up and became famous throughout the world as a detective who founded the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Faraway in Botswana, Africa, even as a young girl at school, Precious had already decided that when she grew up, she would be a detective someday. Alexander McCall Smith now tells us how the young Precious Ramotswe started her life as a detective in the story of her very first case "Precious and the Monkeys" in which Precious, with her natural curiosity and readiness to ask questions shows signs that, even at her age, she has the aptitude for solving mysteries and the makings of a future detective. At school, somebody is stealing items of food belonging to other school children. Precious follows her instincts and doesn't believe that the chubby boy suspected of the thefts is the guilty party. When she decides to find out the truth of the matter, she is faced with solving a mystery that would test her skills and powers of deduction.

This engaging, amusing, feelgood story, simply told and beautifully illustrated with bold, vivid drawings evocative of the African setting, is one that both younger readers and adults can enjoy, the perfect introduction for younger readers to the superb storytelling gifts of Alexander McCall Smith. And here's one older reader for sure who is looking forward to budding detective Precious Ramotswe's next case once upon a time before she was famous.


Precious and the Zebra Necklace: A New Case for Precious Ramotswe (Precious Ramotswe 4)
Precious and the Zebra Necklace: A New Case for Precious Ramotswe (Precious Ramotswe 4)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Precious once upon a time before she was famous., 1 Aug. 2015
Faraway in Botswana, Africa, a girl called Precious Ramotswe grew up to become a famous detective of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, but even as a young girl at school, long before she became famous, Precious had already decided, even at her age, that when she grew up, she would be a detective. In her very first case "Precious and the Monkeys", Precious had already shown through her natural curiosity and by following her instincts that she had the aptitude for solving mysteries, the potential to be a detective someday. That she has the makings of a future detective is again seen in her readiness to ask questions and resourcefulness displayed in succeeding cases "Precious and the Mystery of Meercat Hill" and "Precious and the Mystery of the Missing Lion". Now, in the story of her fourth case "Precious and the Zebra Necklace", Alexander McCall Smith tells us more of how the young Precious Ramotswe started her life as a detective. The tale begins with Precious meeting a new friend, Nancy, at school only to discover that the girl has a sad mystery in her past involving her missing parents. Precious offers to help and the schoolfriends soon find themselves engaged in an exciting adventure, in danger of being lost in the vast African Bush on a trail that takes them into the remotest parts of Botswana in a search for Nancy's parents.

An engaging, uplifting story aimed at young readers, simply and deftly told and beautifully illustrated with bold, vivid drawings evocative of the African setting and the Botswanan people. "Precious and the Zebra Necklace" is an enchanting book that both children and adults can enjoy. These excellent stories showing the young Precious Ramotswe starting out on her life as a detective are the perfect introduction for younger readers to the wonderful storytelling gifts of Alexander McCall Smith. And here's one older reader for sure who is looking forward to budding detective Precious Ramotswe's next case once upon a time before she was famous.


London Stories (Everyman's Pocket Classics)
London Stories (Everyman's Pocket Classics)
by Jerry White
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.66

2.0 out of 5 stars historical perspective on "London Stories" sometimes loses the place!, 30 Jan. 2015
"London Stories" - anthology in the Everyman Pocket Classics series. Attractive pocket size hardcover. Arty dustcover and a ribbon bookmark. The editor's selections, stretching over some four centuries, open with a piece written in 1603 and progress chronologically to the present day. Some readers may be dismayed to note that the editor, himself an historian, chooses to depart from the 'short story' (fiction) format successfully established as the norm in previous titles of Everyman Pocket Classics (such as New York Stories, Christmas Stories, Ghost Stories, Detective Stories etc) and opt instead for a mixture of fact and fiction in selections consisting of journalistic pieces, short stories and excerpts from longer works.

Maybe it's because I'm not a Londoner that I love reading short stories set in London town. I anticipated that the stories in a book with the title "London Stories" would convey a strong sense of place, would have the feel of the city of London all about them. Unfortuneately, too often, this is not the case. Drawn from both the contemporary period and the past, some very good stories are on offer but in more than a few London seems peripheral to - rather than in the foreground of - the stories (IMO). For stories purporting to be "London Stories", too many of the stories - that could have been set anywhere really - lose the place.

Two early factual pieces on the Plague (1603) and the Great Fire of London (1666) are written in a convoluted style of English that some modern readers may find offputting in terms of 'readability'. This convoluted style is observed again in "Anne of Oxford Street" (1822), Thomas De Quincey's moving piece describing his friendship with a young street prostitute. More arresting stories with something of the atmosphere combined with a strong sense of the place of London about them include Defoe's "A Ragged Boyhood" (1722), an excerpt from a longer work "Colonel Jack", with the feel of the London of Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger about it; George Gissing's "Christopherson" (1906), and John Galsworthy's " A Forsyte Encounters the People" (1917) - breaking down class barriers in a crowded London Underground Tube station being used as an air-raid shelter.

Some readers may feel London has been shortchanged somewhat by "London Stories", London deserving more than it gets from the historical perspective adopted by the editor. And that consequently, a golden opportunity has been lost to add to the excellent Everyman Pocket Classics series, a definitive anthology of the very best London short stories (fiction). In my view, retaining the popular established format (short stories - fiction) of previous Everyman Pocket Classics anthologies to-gether with a strong sense of the place of London in the foreground of each LONDON story, would have served the City of London, the Everyman Pocket Classics series and not least the reader, better.


Unstated: Writers on Scottish Independence
Unstated: Writers on Scottish Independence
by Scott Hames
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Stand up and be counted for Scotland's future!, 2 Mar. 2014
What kind of Scotland do the Scottish people want? Will the Scottish population overcome fear and a collective lack of national self-confidence and seize the day, a once-in-lifetime opportunity offered by the forthcoming referendum to create a new independent Scottish Nation? Is it time for Scotland to stand on its own feet, roll up its sleeves, slough off the fear of striking out on its own and face up to the challenge of taking responsibility for itself and its own affairs? Is now the time for the Scottish population to realise that no one can run the affairs of this country better than the people who live in Scotland? Has the time now come for Scotland to empower itself to be the architect of its own future? Have the freedom to be who it wants to be, not simply a nation shaped by decisions made from a remote Westminster government. Is it high time for Scots to show the fear-mongers once and for all that Scotland is not too wee, too poor nor too stupid to govern itself? Is now the time and now the hour for the Scottish electorate to stand up and be counted for Scotland's right to self-determination, if that's what it really wants? Come the day and come the hour, will Scotland have the willpower to step out of the shadow of, as some of the contributors to this book say, a scare-mongering British state that seeks to deny Scotland the right to self-determination and that will use every means and every argument at its disposal to cling onto power and keep Scotland firmly in its place?

The above questions and other central issues come under the spotlight in this must-read book featuring prominent Scottish writers, frequently outspoken, each with something worthwhile and thought-provoking to say about Scottish Independence. Each of the contributors, writing within their own parameters, record their personal thoughts and what they really feel deepdown about Scottish Independence, their narratives exploring the issues and setting out the choices before us in a way that, refreshingly, endeavours to steer clear of mindless party political dogma handed down to us by career politicians. Some see the forthcoming referendum as a 'now or never' moment when a new independent Scotland can remove nuclear weapons and rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. On balance, the writers contributing to this excellent book generally incline towards the pro-independence camp, the belief that ordinary Scottish people can control their own destiny again, many contributors coming down emphatically in favour of putting Scotland's future into Scotland's hands, the right of Scots to run Scotland and choose the government of their choice. For most of the writers here then, in place of fear, its onwards and upwards to a better and fairer independent Scotland with a socialist programme at its centre, an independent Scotland empowered to take major future-shaping decisions for its health services, its social welfare systems, its defence strategies and its taxation policies. Well worth reading! Outspoken and provocative! Informative and thought-provoking! Recommended.


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