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Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom)
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Doctor Who And The Pyramids Of Mars (Classic Novels)
Doctor Who And The Pyramids Of Mars (Classic Novels)
by Terrance Dicks
Edition: Audio CD

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sutekh wants his Mummy, 20 Nov. 2010
This audio book of one of the old Target novelisation's of the Classic series is a great listen that'll wrap you like a mummy's bandages in the world of Tom Baker's gothic era of classic Who.
It's read by Baker, who brings his earlier self vividly to life and does a great job reading and acting the other roles. There's atmospheric but sparing use of dramatic music and sound effects (but you won't hear the classic Who theme). For those who have seen and are familiar with this adventure, it'll spring in Technicolor before their eyes, for those who haven't, I imagine they'll enjoy the adventure and be surprised at how bleak and chilling these old adventures could be.
This is because, as said, this is a great example of Baker's gothic era, when the emphasis was on claustrophobic and atmospheric drama and scares, with genuine moments of horror. It's a tight contrast with the widescreen digital effects and multi-verse destroying spectacle of contemporary Who. I believe this really shows that less can be more.


Fellowes Earth Series Mouse Pad - Leaves
Fellowes Earth Series Mouse Pad - Leaves
Price: £7.54

5.0 out of 5 stars 'Leaves' a very good impression, 1 Nov. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This mat is described by the blurb as "optical and laser mouse friendly." The how of this is I guess the smoothness of the fabric. I did a comparison with my old mat, and my mouse does glide much more freely across the new mats surface.
It's impressive that this is "95% post-consumer recycled SBR tire rubber backing." Certainly this holds to the desk very satisfactorily; better than a lot more of the more mass produced spongy backings.
The packaging is also incredibly noble. The card is 100% post consumer recycled material. And the packaging card is printed with soy based ink.
And it looks great, it's green nature echoed by a gentle and calming design of leaves against a background of soft focus greens.
This is a worthy example of a recycled product that looks great and works well. Recommended.


Love to the Little Ones: The Trials and Triumphs of Parents Through the Ages in Letters, Diaries, Memoirs and Essays
Love to the Little Ones: The Trials and Triumphs of Parents Through the Ages in Letters, Diaries, Memoirs and Essays
by Louisa Lane Fox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Everyday heroism of the family, 30 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This anthology is a collection of writing on the experience of parenting of largely British families, chosen with this focus because, as Louisa Lane Fox says in her introduction, the British seem to have a unique perspective on family life. And, any work of this type is bound to be largely influenced by the culture and background of the reader and selector of these pieces of writing.
The writings are largely letters and excerpts of letters, with some excerpts of memoirs and journal entries. They date from the 15th Century and are arranged chronologically. The anthology is arranged into sections dealing with pregnancy and birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and death.
The compiler states that her intention is to show the universality of the parenting experience through the ages, that there are startling differences which the anthology brings out, such as the greater past experience of infant mortality, but otherwise some differences are not as great as we may think. Fears about `letting go' of adolescents and adults, of the frustrations of expectations thwarted, of rebellions by children determined to make their own way, are all here. And in this the book does succeed in showing the constant themes of parenthood as well as the serious differences and outlooks of the different periods that can make us gasp.
It's a rich and varied read, with each piece of writing introduced by the briefest description of time and place and maybe a very short observation or comment by the compiler. There are monsters and extreme situations, such as abusive nannies, hostile and destructive parents (and sometimes children), but in the main the anthology rings out with the heroism of the everyday that parenting brings out, the sacrifices of parents and the binding mutual love of families.
Stand outs for me include Rachel Cusk describing the total overwhelming experience of an unsettled crying infant, and how it reduces her life to constant on her feet strategies for finding ways to bring the child peace, to the point where she realises that although seemingly meaningless, there is the realisation that "'all' that is required is for her to be there; an `all' that is of course everything, because being there involves not being anywhere else, being ready to drop everything."
Fergal Keane's wonderful "Letter to Daniel" is there with its determined tenderness by a man who has witnessed terrible cruelty and atrocity. The final section of the anthology, on the experience of the loss of children, stands out as the most intense and tightly edited section. If the anthology has a fault it is that through the previous sections there is too much that is ephemeral and throwaway, which just serve to make you want to skip or put it down (the latter in my case as I'm a determined cover to cover reader). But the last section does not have this, and it is the most consistently powerful, not surprising given the subject matter. But it is not morbid or self indulgent. It's cathartic, terrible in sadness, haunting, but also affirming and liberating in its descriptions of the strength of love and the spirit. Charles Darwin's correspondence with his wife during the fatal illness of their beloved Annie is the longest single chain of correspondence in the volume and thank goodness, because it is wonderful, shaking in it sadness, but wonderful.
This is a treasure chest then, sometimes frustrating but ultimately incredibly rewarding. I recommend that you do read it cover to cover to get the overview, and then keep it at hand to revisit the gems.


There's a Bear on My Roof
There's a Bear on My Roof
by Neil Irani
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bear with a sore head, 9 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In this story a young boy must come to terms with difficult feelings of guilt and anger after being scolded for breaking a vase.
His feelings are externalised as the titular bear on the roof, , big, scowly, sulky and angry. The boy has to persuade the bear to come down and be reconciled to it with a big hug, hence reconciling himself with his own difficult feelings.
The story, told in simple rhyme, is clearly told and engaging when read aloud. The illustrations cleverly describe the feelings at the heart of the story, all stormy weather, cross and upset faces, sulky poses. The bear is never scary, though, more of a big, furry sulky creature. To reinforce this point, there's a quick description of grizzly bears at the end, stressing that grizzly doesn't mean cross but that the fur is speckled with grey.
It's a worthy attempt to help children with emotions. Really great story tellers of course do this anyway, weaving it into their stories in a way where you do not quite realise what is happening, and this approach is much more obvious, although valid and here successfully done.


Doctor Who Demon Quest 1: The Relics Of Time
Doctor Who Demon Quest 1: The Relics Of Time
by Paul Magrs
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.20

4.0 out of 5 stars A new chase is on, 9 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The recent television series has gone in for big screen hyper-action on the biggest possible scale, including the death of the multi--verse and invasion by every race of foe at once.
It's refreshing then to find this audio adventure that gets to the heart of classic Doctor Who storytelling. Less epic in it ambition, but intriguing, atmospheric, gently humorous stuff. This also gets closer to old Who by re-visiting the encountering of key historical characters (here the Emperor Claudius) so beloved of the earliest Who.
It's a two hander, with Tom Baker and Susan Jameson, the former reprising his fourth Doctor, the latter Mrs Wibbsey, a no- nonsense village matron. Tom Baker is very much back in character and on form, but, fittingly, perhaps, sounds more weathered, sadder, older, and wiser. Susan Jameson is great as a no-nonsense foil to the Doctor, filled with `common sense' and plain talking admonishments.
It's the interplay between these two characters that provides much of the humour, and the story rolls along, drawing you in, in that old reassuring Saturday Teatime way, to a cat and mouse story of an enigmatic figure leaving the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey in effect a massive paper chase through history. The first clue leads them to Ancient Britain in the time of the Roman invasions, and it's here it comes close to Hartnell feel when they encounter the Emperor Claudius, in retirement, seemingly bucking the tide of history. Or is he? Needless to say, all is not what it seems....
This is clearly the start of a new series, and further instalments will hopefully make more of Mike Yates, here a brief cameo only, and draw out some of the unresolved threads of this adventure. Exactly why is there a pile of shrivelled corpses in advanced stages of decomposition in Ancient Britain? The Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey stumble across this grisly sight in a brief nod to the gothic horror of 70's Who, but it's not explained.
This clearly follows on from the `Hornets Nest' series but you don't need to have followed that (I didn't) to enjoy this. If you want a refreshing antidote to the sledgehammer approach of latest Who, this is a good buy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2010 10:11 PM GMT


Flood
Flood
by Stephen Baxter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glug glug, 19 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Flood (Paperback)
A lot of reviewers suggest that the Flood, an apocalyptic novel about the drowning of the world, is a good holiday read. Well, yes, if you can shake off the mounting pessimism the narrative carries. If you like your disaster novels with some hope, or redemption, this isn't really the one for you.
It starts in a rain drenched, war torn Spain in the near future (2016). One of the things the novel does well is to give a credible and believable near future, and the idea of Spain descending into a faction driven war zone is both shocking and believable.
Four hostages of a fundamentalist Christian faction become the novels' main protagonists. They are Helen, Lily, Piers and Gary. They are rescued from captivity by soldiers from a worldwide conglomerate `Axys Corp.' In our world of the super rich and military contractors, this no great stretch on our credulity. Axys Corp's CO, Nathan Lammockson, features prominently in the novel. He is a believable portrait, of a super rich CO, addicted to the idea of `leadership,' and the more extreme the situation to exercise leadership he believes, the better. And he knows the mother of all extreme situations is on the way.
Because slowly, inexorably, the seas are rising at an `exponential' rate. Shortly after their release the ex-captors are plunged into the crisis of the Thames overtopping the flood barrier following a storm. The passages describing the flood are scary and believable, with some chilling details, such as an aerial view of cars being swept along like logs by the spreading stain of an overtopped river. Eventually the waters recede and life goes on, temporarily, because soon the waters rise again, and again, with increasing severity. Soon there are panicked flights north, and cities and countries around the world report similar situations.
The protagonists are all well written, flawed, believable human beings. Piers, ex-military, is traumatised by his captivity which he has repressed and as a result he is stretched tight to breaking point. Lily is perhaps the novel's moral anchor and core, and the story is told mainly through her eyes. Helen, her sister, city high flier and single mother is tough but brittle, and Gary is personable and youthful. For a large part this reads like (good) Michael Crichton. A band of scientists and military figures employed by an enigmatic super rich magnate face a scientific catastrophe and race to understand and overcome it. So far so Crichton. However, here the principals never get the chance to get past understanding events, which are too big and rapid. And here the writing differs from Crichton. It is scarily bleak. All those who set themselves up as leaders, including Lammockson, have fatal feet of clay. No one has a solution to the nightmare. A scientist, Thandie Jones, hits on the possible cause, vast subterranean seas are breaking free and filling our seas like a bath. Major characters fall like nine-pins. There is violent death and mental and emotional disintegration aplenty. No world view, whether scientific or religious, gives hope. Everything goes under. Various `Ark' projects are launched, some doomed, some unknown, and it's the unknown fate of these that offers a very slender hope.
In the end, the quality of the writing and the scariness of the narrative, make this a compelling a worthwhile read. But it is a massive drowner and downer.


Rocks Of Ages
Rocks Of Ages
by Sj Gould
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On these rocks...., 19 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Rocks Of Ages (Paperback)
In this work published 2001, Gould sets out his theory of NOMA, which has since been attacked by Richard Dawkins as insufficient for the task of putting religion in its proper place.
It's well known that Dawkins believes that religion has no proper place. Gould, in this work works out his position that yes it does have a place, in discussing the why of life, and questions of morality and values. It is there to help us look within and `know ourselves.' It is to have its own `magisterium' or scope of enquiry. Science, Gould goes on to explain, has a magisterium of its own, and that is to analyse the how of things, to work with facts and determine the validity of new ones. He quotes the dictum that science looks at the ages of rocks, and religion the rock of ages.
Gould explains that these magisterium should not overlap, hence the key term in the book of NOMA, or Non-Overlapping MAgisteria. This is a definite and clear position of non compromise. Never the twain should meet. By peaceful co-existence and dialogue of debate of mutual respect, Gould believes that we can truly grow in wisdom, and he turns back to this old biblical term, wisdom, more than once. He sees the magisterium as nourishing each other, not attacking each other, and we, as a people, will benefit from the growth and flourishing and mutual learning from both. Although separate, he sees them as two parts of the same whole, like Yin and Yang. They are both valid, and neither can properly work without the other.
This sounds blessedly simple, and one wonders why we have trod a more destructive path of science and faith at loggerheads, which is if course a very current issue today in September 2010, with Stephen Hawkings apparently dismissing the need for a Creator, and the Pope's visit to Britain being dominated with an address attacking aggressive secularism in this country.
Gould spends a large part of his book examining why this is so. The key reason, he explains, is that the magisterium keep trying to steal territory from each other. So, Creationists try and abuse science by using it to validitate their literal Biblical tendencies, bending it out of all recognition, trying to force it into a mould into which it simply will not go. And science often mistakenly uses its conclusions to make moral and value judgements about the path of mankind. An example of this would be Eugenics. Gould traces the different historical manifestations and developments of these trains of thought, and he is often incredibly fair minded and open in his enquiry, as befits a good scientist. For example, in his analysis of the Scopes affair, where the teaching of evolution in the classroom came under legislative threat, he examines carefully how this story has been caricatured and oversimplified. How William Jennings Bryan, the Senator who attempted this, was in fact a passionate crusader against social injustice and had very real and understandable fears about how evolution was being treated by some scientists e.g. Germans in the 1st World War to justify a brutal survival of the fittest policy at odds of course with the Christian faith. The trouble is, Gould explains, this is of itself a misunderstanding and oversimplification of Darwin's work.
If he shows unmitigated scorn it is for the more recent Creationist and the attempt of Creation science, which he sees as having no justification whatsoever, a pure abuse of NOMA.
So, the book is liberal, fair minded, clearly and engagingly written. Gould's prose does inspire and fire up a spirit of inquiry in the alert reader. I was left, however, feeling unsatisfied by his closing chapter. Here he completely dismisses the attempt of the Templeton Foundation to square the worlds of faith and religion and ridicules some of the attempts as reported in the media by scientists with that Foundation to do this. But Gould's ridicule and scorn is at odds with and jars with the rest of his work. He's read some newspaper and magazine reporting of the Foundation's work. Is this enough to so completely dismiss and denigrate the spirit and endeavour of its work? The respect he's been writing about is not there. Yes, some abuses of trying to meld faith and religion are absurd. But here Gould suddenly identifies so strongly with the science camp you wonder why he has bothered with the pervious 200 or so pages. Our physical universe, it seems must be judged solely by science. If created at all, it must stand completely apart. Design is completely providential. We are a race that is inconsequential. Snails are scientifically more significant and in terms of numbers have had greater dominance. Here the scientist wanders away from spiritual inquiry, and well, why NOMA then, on this basis? To simply set religion apart to better mock it?
This remains, though a significant, and engaging work. And some important truths are made clear of what happens when both science and faith are misused to distort the conclusions of each other. And the debate rages on. We need, clearly more work like this on the Yin and Yang of science and religion.


The Private Patient: Radio Drama (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries)
The Private Patient: Radio Drama (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries)
by P. D. James
Edition: Audio CD

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Private Patient, 18 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Private Patient
In the Private Patient dark family secrets combine with machinations over a will to produce a detonation of murder and horror.
The murder of a woman accused of witchcraft in a stone circle in the Fifteenth Century provides an eerie unsettling opening to this drama. Fast forward to a private cosmetic surgery in contemporary times, which has the same stone circle in its grounds. The Witches dying curses ring in our ears and we will discover how they settle and enshroud events in this building and the lives of the families that work there. Buried secrets of guilt and parentage are shown to be the seeds of monstrous crimes.
There are moments of unsettling horror in this drama. We live the moments of a murder through the eyes of a victim strangled in her bed. This is not a perspective PD James usually takes, usually preferring post mortem reconstructions to tell of the horror of a crime. But here we really take a first person view and the effect is profoundly disturbing.
Other grisly deaths follow; we are drawn to imagine the fate of someone else locked in a chest freezer to die an awful death. And there's other family bloodshed framing the background to the story so profoundly unsettling it would make our best horror writers lay down their pen.

If there's a flaw in this production, there's some 'Basil exposition' by a hastily introduced characer in the last scenes to describe the final pieces of the puzzle that seems a little contrived and so something of a letdown. How much of this is a flaw of the original novel I don't know, but I didn't feel that it worked too well here.

But this remains a gripping and haunting audio drama underpinned by solid performances by Richard Darrington as DI Dagleish and Deborah McAndrew as Kate his assistant, and Carolyn Pickles as the narrator. Do give this a listen. With the lights on.


Deadlock (Ryan Lock)
Deadlock (Ryan Lock)
by Sean Black
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lock and Load, 17 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Deadlock (Ryan Lock) (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The cover blurb makes this sound like a prison drama, something along the lines of `Prison Break.' To add weight to this impression, the acknowledgement states that the writer did time in a US Supermax prison to add some lived in realism.
It's strange, then, that so little of the action actually takes place in a Supermax. In fact, after reading the book, you'd be forgiven for thinking Sean Black has endured unnecessary grief in the Supermax when the sense of realism and detail on the page could have been got from watching a prison movie instead.
The book opens with the brutal slaying of an ATF agent and family by a white supremacist gang he was infiltrating.
Then, fast forward to mercenary hero Ryan Lock, an ex military body guard now taking on his own assignments. He's accompanied by army buddy Ty Johnson, and together the pair play like a splicing of Miami Vice with 24. Lock is cast pretty much in the mould of Jack Bauer, as is the pace and style of the storytelling, albeit without the real-time contrivance.
Events and the pace move in easily digestible, short chapters with a suitably rapid, staccato prose style.
I could have done without the salivating descriptions of weaponry and hardware, however, and equally intrusive were the frequent product placements.
Also, even the most credulous action fantasist might question the spectacle of a biker chick white supremacist taking down a passenger jet with a grenade launcher in her underwear. Scenes like this feel like a Tarantino spoof.
Still, the book is a guilty pleasure and a real page turner. It won't leave you short-changed if you want an action fix whilst waiting for the next `24' box set.


Doctor Who: The Ring of Steel
Doctor Who: The Ring of Steel
by Stephen Cole
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pylon peril, 30 Aug. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an entertaining and undemanding Who adventure, ably read by Arthur Darvill (the ever likeable Rory), who does a good job capturing the character and speech patterns of Matt Smith's Doctor, so much so that I was left wondering if Mr Smith was actually doing the reading at points. He conveys the other characters well, and there's an effective and judicious use of sound effects at key dramatic points of the story.

The Doctor and Amy arrive on Orkney just in time to meet a tense standoff between environmental protestors declaiming the addition of pylons to their landscape and the power company Astra-gen. A sudden earthquake and the robotic actions of the security guards soon shows that more powerful and sinister forces are at work (and aren't they ever). Soon the Doctor and friends are facing off against an alien enemy threatening the destruction of our world and countless others unless stopped in time.

Using Pylons as striding killing machines plugs into a childhood fantasy that most of us must have had, when staring out of car windows as kids on long journeys at rows of pylons, and it works well here, evoking a War of the Worlds tripod vibe as well. The controlling aliens are more in the vein of Douglas Adams, apologetic and not liking loud noise! At one point, to paraphrase;
"We are very sorry for the invasion and immediate destruction of your planet, but this is to carry out necessary pre-programmed works. Thank you very much for listening. Goodbye."

There are some recycled Who ideas; converting the Earth's atmosphere (The Poison Sky), nano-bots (The Doctor Dances), energy drained from people by energy like beings (Planet of Evil). They all go into the pot to make an engaging production with a sense of deepening mystery and a race against time.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2015 3:02 PM GMT


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