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Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton)
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A 3rd Time to Die
A 3rd Time to Die
Price: CDN$ 3.31

4.0 out of 5 stars The Star Crossed Lovers, April 8 2014
This review is from: A 3rd Time to Die (Kindle Edition)
The plot of 3rd Time to Die is certainly not unique. I can remember coming across the scenario of a group of souls being reincarnated into successive lives at least a couple of time in the dim and distant past, on one occasion the story being told over a whole series of books. However, it’s an interesting idea with many possibilities.

I did not think I was going to get on with this book at all initially and after about a dozen pages, I did wonder if it was going to join the select group which I have not got through. It all seemed a bit melodramatic to me at that stage. However, from there it gained strength throughout and I was certainly caught up in the tale and eager to know what the outcome would be. The questions are obvious, but the answers certainly contain some surprises.

Ashley and Craig are two star crossed lovers, who have lived and loved before with tragic consequences. Each is married to highly unattractive partners, but in personality rather than the physical sense. Both of these characters, who have little in the way of moral principles, are cheating on their partners. Ashley and Craig become close friends. However, it is clear the direction things are moving in and that they will inevitably become lovers in the fullness of time. Will history repeat itself or can they break the cycle of violence? Which of the other characters have been in the same succession of lives as the two of them and who should they fear?

This is a relatively short book but it’s certainly tense as things progress. I found it an enjoyable read and if your reading interests extend to reincarnation and old souls then I certainly think you will find it of interest too.

Ruby Silver (Trace Brandon)
Ruby Silver (Trace Brandon)
Price: CDN$ 4.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Moving Story, April 8 2014
Ruby Silver is the third in a series, starring mining expert, Trace Brandon. However, although there are references to the two previous books which I have not read, this is very much a standalone volume.

This time round Trace and his associates have staked a lot of claims in an old silver mining territory where he has high hopes of commercial production. However, in his line of business he has attracted his share of enemies who are quite happy to attack him by fair means or foul, together with other characters who he might not have come across before but who are just, plain, ornery. Some of his ill wishers prefer to attack him in the business sense, but there are others out there who just want to see him dead and it does not take very long for him to come across one of the latter.

This is a fairly short, but very competently written tale. Things keep moving along at a good pace and generally the story hardly pauses for breath throughout. It is probably not the most memorable of fiction, but it’s a good read and one which most will enjoy. If another Trace Brandon book comes my way I will certainly be happy to read it.

Cut The Blue (The Floss McFarland Series)
Cut The Blue (The Floss McFarland Series)
Price: CDN$ 5.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable Tale, April 6 2014
Independently published books, as I would presume this is, come in all shapes and sizes. I read quite a lot of them. Most have something of merit although sadly a few are just dire. Every once in a while you come across a real little gem and I thought this was certainly one of them. I am quite surprised that this has not been picked up by a traditional publisher.

We first meet Floss, our heroine, in the prologue, literally hanging in the air and in some peril. Naturally, we do not find out what is going on until much later, towards the end. Floss and her friend, Penny, run a private investigation agency. Suddenly, after a run of occasional, mundane jobs, they land two interesting and potentially dangerous assignments. One concerns industrial espionage and one, people trafficking.

This is not a particularly fast moving story, at least not until much later in the book. After about a hundred pages not that much had happened. However, I had thoroughly enjoyed it up to that point because it was just so well written. The narrative is sharp and with a constant edge of humour. Floss herself is perpetually self deprecating and apparently full of self doubt. However, having given up a safe but boring career as an actuary, she is hardly lacking in confidence in reality and is a very sharp cookie.

It's an interesting story, competently handled, but as I alluded to earlier, it is the way it is written that really makes this book. There is a mild amount of romance in the air as Floss is attracted both to Milo, another investigator, and much to her surprise, a rather fit East European lady, Tasha. Nothing too heavy on the love front though, which I think was a good decision by the author.

Clearly there is plenty of mileage in Floss and her friends, if the author is minded to write more in this vein. I certainly hope she does on the evidence of this tale which I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly Recommended!

Teed Off!
Teed Off!
by Nicola Furlong
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.51
3 used & new from CDN$ 17.51

4.0 out of 5 stars A Golfing Story With a Murder Mystery, April 2 2014
This review is from: Teed Off! (Paperback)
I expected Teed Off to be a murder mystery with a golfing theme, but actually it could more fairly be described as a golf themed book with a murder mystery taking, at most, equal billing.

Riley Quinn is a female gold professional who has had to leave the circuit due to an injury and is now club professional at Sea Blush, a golf club controlled by her brother in law, Pitts. Clearly she misses the professional tour and has not entirely come to terms with having to leave. However, a suspicious death at the club, initially judged to be an accidental death, has Riley beginning to ask pertinent questions. As she gradually squeezes out the truth a prestigious woman’s golf tournament is taking place in which Riley’s sister, Halliday, has her own demons to face.

I have a working knowledge of golf although I do not play myself. The author writes with authority about the sport, and I learned quite a lot about golf on the way through this book. However, I would say that any reader who has no real interest in golf should probably stay clear as there is quite a lot of detail here, including shot by shot descriptions of the tournament, which may leave you cold unless you do have such an interest. The murder mystery itself is quite a slow burn and its probably 50 pages in before the author finishes setting the scene and things start to happen. However, I enjoyed Riley’s measured and logical approach at teasing out what really happened. She is an interesting character and no doubt will be the subject of further instalments.

Overall an enjoyable tale, but with the proviso that you need to have a real interest in golf to fully appreciate it. If you are really keen on the game you may well rate this book as Five Star.

Almost Snow White
Almost Snow White
Price: CDN$ 3.11

3.0 out of 5 stars A Sad Little Story, April 2 2014
This review is from: Almost Snow White (Kindle Edition)
This is a short tale- some one hundred and forty pages. It has the air of a Fable about it - a story with a deeper meaning.

"Snow White" is Precious Anne Sprately a young Negress living in the southern states of America. She finds the yoke of the Jim Crow laws her people are subject to, too much to bear. Her boyfriend and her beloved brother are both killed- probably casualties of the Klu Klux Klan. Precious herself is the product of her mother's rape by a white man and is badly treated by her parents because of it. Precious is able to pass as white herself and her friend,Callie puts in her mind the idea that she should. Precious reckons that if she runs away to somewhere no one knows her she can live her life as a white woman.

The story that follows is basically about her adventures and the trials and tribulations that afflict her new life. It is not so easy to forget your past as Precious had thought and success, so hard to win, can easily be thrown away. Returning is often harder than going.

This is a sad little tale which again highlights the terrible injustices of a two tier society and the extraordinary inhumanities of people blinded by prejudice.

I Am That Fool
I Am That Fool
Price: CDN$ 5.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy First Effort, March 30 2014
This review is from: I Am That Fool (Kindle Edition)
They say that everyone has one good novel in them, and after 34 years practising in law, this is Rick Cornell’s. He does, however, suggest at the end of the book that he has another in mind. Certainly on the evidence of this effort I would encourage him to put pen to paper again!

This is a story about a successful defence lawyer who has, due to his success, made an enemy of one of the district prosecutors. When Ryan Browne makes an error of judgement in his overenthusiastic celebration of a successful trial, the District Attorney’s office is determined to wreck his career and are none too choosy about how they accomplish it. Ryan quickly finds his lifestyle destroyed, as he does his best to prepare to represent himself for a trial which will have a pivotal effect on his future. Incidentally the title of the book comes from the well known saying ‘He who represents himself has a fool for a client’ although the author alludes at the end to a double meaning.

The description of the trial has the ring of authenticity about it, drawn from the author’s experience. What really comes across is the uncertainty about it all, the unexpected waylaying even the best laid plans and the fact that at the end of the day justice is a lottery and whether the outcome is just depends on so many factors outside of the innocence or guilt of the accused. I came away with the impression that this was a much more realistic description of what really happens than the sanitized version in most legal fiction.

If I had a criticism it would be that, although this is a short book, for my taste the ending after the trial was somewhat protracted and made an unnecessary effort to tie up too many loose ends which could, perhaps, have been left. Having said that, this was a book which I enjoyed and one which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys legal tales. Certainly a worthy first effort!

Magnolia Gods (River Sunday Romance Mysteries)
Magnolia Gods (River Sunday Romance Mysteries)
Price: CDN$ 1.05

5.0 out of 5 stars A Stylishly Written Story, March 29 2014
When I was first asked if I would like to review Magnolia Gods, I was sent an extract to read. I liked both the style and the content and I would say that this typifies the whole book. This is an interesting story and it is well written.

Mike runs a struggling aviation museum. He is approached by Jesse who coerces him into agreeing to research an incident which occurred shortly after the Second World War, when an apparent traitor, who was Jesse’s grandfather, hijacked an experimental seaplane and disappeared. However, although this happened a long while ago it appears that certain people, particularly the company who manufactured the plane, are still very interested in the theft and have not forgiven or forgotten what occurred. Tension builds quickly as the race is on to trace the seaplane, and it all builds into an exciting climax. The ever present question of why anybody still cares is gradually teased out and is quite surprising.

This is quite a short book and the action certainly does not pause throughout. The story is succinct and no pages are wasted on the sort of padding which a number of authors are guilty of. The plot is logical and well thought out and although unlikely is certainly not impossible. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and would recommend it. Note that although this is described as a River Sunday Romance Mystery, this is really not a correct classification as there is little in the way of romance here. It is more an action adventure.

The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring
The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Appealing Feline, March 20 2014
We first met Snow Lion, a rather delightful feline, when she was rescued and joined the house of the Delai Lama in The Delai Lamas Cat. This is the next book in what will hopefully be a series, although it is certainly not necessary to have read the first book to appreciate this one. However, it is certainly a book worth reading if you have not already done so.

In the preceding book, this rather charming and observant cat was looking at the main tenets of Buddhism and applying them to her own life. This time round she is given a task by the Delai Lama, when he leaves her to travel which is ‘what makes you purr’. In other words, what makes individuals happy and how to create the circumstances for happiness. Snow Lion does this, in part by observing others and in part by taking these lessons and relating them to her own life.

The author has put together an interesting formula here which certainly works. This could certainly be categorised as a self help book, but the messages are delivered in such a way that the reader understands them without the rigid delivery of a self help book. On another level this is all about the main principles of the Buddhist faith which are certainly worth studying as they contain a great deal of common sense. However, perhaps most importantly, overall it is a charming and whimsical tale about an appealing cat which cat lovers everywhere will relate to.

New Tricks - Series 10
New Tricks - Series 10
DVD ~ Amanda Redman
Price: CDN$ 39.74

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Change at New Tricks, March 16 2014
This review is from: New Tricks - Series 10 (DVD)
Great that at last the Region 1 DVD is being issued, some 8 months after the UK version. Series 10 of New Tricks saw a sea change in this very successful and long running show which debuted as long ago as 2003 and has now run to 87 episodes. By the end of the series the only member of the original team still in UCOS was Jerry Standing (Dennis Waterman). Following the departure of Jack Halford (James Bolam) at the beginning of the last series, it was time to bid a fond farewell to both Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) and DS Sandra Pulman (Amanda Redman), Brian fairly early on in the series and Sandra in Episode 8.

The cases this time round were quite varied. We start off with a two part story set in Gibralter, which is unusual for New Tricks which has rarely strayed far from its London home in the past. This was a puzzling cold case in which two killings separated by sixteen years were apparently linked. Brian had been getting himself into trouble and there are signs that his days in UCOS were numbered. The change of scenery seemed to suit the team who seemed to excel with the more exotic surroundings. However, the rest of the episodes were back in London, and I would say the stories were a lot more interesting and coherent than, perhaps those in Series 9 when apparently the cast took it on themselves to rewrite some of the scripts!

So how did the new boys and girl get on? Steve McAndrew (Denis Lawson), Jack Halford's replacement, seems to have really settled in with the team now and appears comfortable in the role. However, I was particularly impressed with Dan Griffin, Brian's replacement, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst who is probably best known for his role in Only Fools and Horses. From his appearance in Episode 5, when the team are investigating a murder case from 1980's Soho, he seemed to be a natural for UCOS. This was an inspired piece of casting. The final new boy (or rather girl) was Detective Chief Inspector Sasha Miller played by Tamzin Outhwaite who only had two episodes to make an impact, which she certainly did on the team who were initially very suspicious about this change. However, in many ways she seems like a younger version of Sandra Pulman and even sounds very similar so this is, perhaps, not such a dramatic change.

I would agree with those who have said that it would be good to have more of the personal lives of the participants as there was in earlier series. However, I would say the signs in this respect are good with glimpses of Steve McAndrew's and Dan Griffin's personal life, quite a lot on Brian Lane in the earlier episodes and some pretty dramatic personal developments for Sasha Miller from the word go. Lets hope to see more of this aspect in the future.

So overall this was a good solid series of 10 episodes which will please most viewers. It is not certain where we go from here, and although a new team is in place alongside Jerry Standing, I have not heard that an eleventh series has been announced yet. When it became clear that most of the original actors were leaving I did wonder what the future would hold. However, after this series I see no reason why the show should not continue along the same lines with the new cast, particularly given that the viewing figures for this season remained very strong. It will certainly be different and with the established players leaving it is the end of an era, but there is no reason why the new format should not be equally entertaining.

Downton Abbey Complete series seasons 1-4 (4 season set)
Downton Abbey Complete series seasons 1-4 (4 season set)
DVD ~ maggie smith
Offered by AvA GaMeS
Price: CDN$ 53.99
6 used & new from CDN$ 51.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Annual Downton Box Set, March 16 2014
A new series of Downton is an annual treat, and as usual this year it is followed by the DVD compendium. This includes the 34 episodes to date. There are seven episodes from the first series, eight each from the second, third and fourth, plus the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Christmas specials of which the first was a dramatic masterpiece, but the second did not deliver in the same way in the opinion of most people although it ended dramatically. The third was not as good as the first but was good solid stuff which most will enjoy.

The four series so far have taken us from 1912, just after the sinking of the Titanic, up to 1922. Each of the four series to date has had a slightly different background. Series 1 takes us to a very formal setting within the household with much concern about match making for the Crawley daughters to find them suitable partners which will secure the financial future of the estate. However, those above stairs are generally shown in largely a sympathetic light in their relationship with their servants below stairs and this sets the scene for the whole subsequent series.

The second series takes us through World War 1. Downton Abbey has been converted into a convalescent home for servicemen injured in the conflict. This quite different scenario provided the script writers with some interesting stories and the series runs from the Battle of the Somme in 1916 up to the end of the war in 1918.

The first Christmas special and the third series take place from late 1919 into 1920. The first features a very dramatic trial and this was probably the single best episode so far. In the third series the household is far more back to the life of an aristocratic family as it was in the first series although the estate faces major challenges in the post war period and a need to embrace change if Downton is to survive.

The second Christmas special sees most of the action move to Scotland, and a tragic conclusion which shocked most viewers and rather put a blight on Christmas Day for many. The fourth series takes us a little further into the 1920s and some relaxation of the divisions between those above and below stairs is obvious, although it still all looks like a rigid division to our contemporary eyes. The Christmas Special, set in 1923 involves the 'coming out' of Lady Rose, which is a quaint British upper class custom where young ladies are presented to society.

A major source of story lines for the script writers has been the interaction between those below stairs and those above stairs. Quite a few of the main characters in both groups have been in Downton from the beginning and there are some very strong performances. However, I am not sure things would be the same without Maggie Smith as the matriarch of the family and she continues to dominate any scene she is in.

If you are interested in the additional features, this DVD set includes all the extra features which were on the individual season releases. These amount to several hours of additional viewing.

Personally I have been an avid follower of Downton Abbey from the first series and have seen every episode to date. I have now started to enjoy reruns of the earlier episodes. However, if you have missed out so far, then this DVD set is an excellent introduction to probably the best costume TV drama in recent times. Prospective purchasers should be aware that there will inevitably be further seasons of the show, so whilst this is the definitive box set to date it will not remain so.

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