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maklhouf

I've been on Ciao a few years and had a lot of hostile comments when I began. It's interesting, to look over them now, especially , after I read a Ciao announcement, pleading with members to be nicer to new recruits. Hmm ...

Reviews written

since 20/06/2003

103

One for the money - Janet Evanovich 26/11/2014

Several things I didn't know about bounty hunting

One for the money - Janet Evanovich I didn't know that, in 1995 you could go to a gun store in New Jersey and buy a self defence spray that contained a form of nerve gas. This is the USA at a particular time, fascinating to those of us who come from a place where there are no bounty hunters! That sounds serious, but actually this book is mainly light entertainment. It did not take long to read, something I picked up as a relief from the weighty philosophical ideas of Ayn Rand. Stephanie Plum is an airhead in need of a job, a lingerie salesgirl, who, for some reason, decided to take up bounty hunting. She is spectacularly bad at it and is always having to be bailed out by a capable man, in particular, Ranger, an experienced bounty hunter, who is rewarded for his help by getting wounded and hospitalised. Obviously, there is no justice! Joe Morelli took advantage of her when she was a young maiden and now fate offers her a chance of revenge when he is wanted for the murder of a young woman, but she will have to learn to handle to handle a gun first, another thing she is not terribly good at. Her long suffering Cousin Vinnie runs the bounty hunting agency, but naturally he is not all that keen to send Stephanie after the burly (but hunky) Morelli. The author is naturally funny in her style and paints truthful pictures of characters like Grandma Mazur, Ranger and Mamma Morelli. There are moments of true suspense in the well woven story. It soon becomes clear that there are more weighty matters to be considered ...

Borat - Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan (DVD) 26/11/2014

Borat, not boring

Borat - Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan (DVD) Penises are big in Borat, by which I mean, they feature heavily in this movie. Although, by no means always big, in one case vanishingly small. Borat's penis, I can't tell you about. Though he flaunts it, at some length (!), in a comic homoerotic fight scene with the vanishingly small chap. When I say "vanishingly small", however, I am not meaning the fellow himself, who is rather enormous. Are you with me so far? To remain on the the subject of penises ( apart from Pamela Anderson in a bikini, there is no female nudity in this film), the DVD that I saw had a strange black rectangle over Borat's item. This was somewhat distracting. Perhaps someone will let us know if it appears in all its glory in the actual movie? The movie opens with Borat in his native village. He is proud of his sister, who has won an award for prostitution.This is marginally better than Jew baiting, the other entertaining activity the villagers pursue. But Borat is off to study culture in the USA and at the end of the film we are able to see the changes in his village after he has returned with the new insights ( and wife) he has picked up abroad. I hear that the real people of Kazakhstan were annoyed by this movie which essentially portrays them as no-brained, backward, red neck whore bashers, who are unacquainted with modern plumbing. Borat never learns the purpose of that strange white ceramic object in the bathroom, and , on one occasion, collects his poop in a plastic bag and presents it to the ...

The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand 12/01/2014

The Fountainhead of Objective philosophy.

The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand This book was written nearly a century ago. Ayn Rand was a fugitive from newly communist Russia. A teenager, she had to teach herself the superb English and grammatical writing style she displays in her iconic, groundbreaking books. Howard Roark is her protagonist. In creating Howard Roark, Ayn Rand was setting out to describe the ideal man, as she would like to see him. Howard is tall and gaunt, with a shock of orange hair. Nobody can ignore him, but he takes no notice of most people. The only people that interest him are potential clients for his architectural services. Until the advent of the beautiful Dominique Francon. Dominique is a young and wealthy heiress who happens to be the daughter of the boss of a firm of architects that stands for everything Howard Roark is against . Her father is in business to give his clients what they want. Usually, what they want is something traditional and conservative, echoing the values of days gone by. Roark is relentlessly modern. He believes that every building he puts up, should be appropriate for its purpose, making the best use of the materials available in its location, at the time when it is being built. Do not put off reading this novel because you are not interested in architecture. I was not aware of my interest in architecture until I read the book. I now go around, looking at every building wondering if Howard Roark could have built it! It is said that the character of Roark is inspired by the American architect, ...

Lonely Planet Lisbon - Lonely Planet 07/08/2013

Lonely planet lisbon, no flaws?

Lonely Planet Lisbon - Lonely Planet Although the edition of the Lonely planet guide to Lisbon featured here was published in 2001, they are actually updated every year, and needless to say, I am coming to you from a more recent version of the Lonely Planet guide to Lisbon. This writer can be a little too positive, a little too upbeat. She needs to mention the things that do not work, like dog mess on the pavement, spitting in the street, the tourist information booth in Belem where the staff appear to know nothing about their own city and the filthy things some people do on the beaches. She is a hopeless optimist when it comes to learning the Portuguese language and seems to think we will find it easy to learn. I have found it very difficult to understand what is said to me in Portugal, despite having a working knowledge of Italian, French and Spanish. The writer also neglects to warn travellers about the unpredictability of Lisbon taxi drivers. The best thing about the book is the maps. Lisbon is notoriously difficult to map and it would be nice to have a relief map - a map that warns you when you are going to be up a hill or down in a trough. Lonely Planet Lisbon's maps do not do that, however they are clear and well laid out. There is a map for each sector that the author discusses and also a map at the end of the book, that you can pull out and take with you on your local journeys. The money saving tips are good. We are told not to bother with the Santa Justa elevator (I never did). You get the same ...

Flashfire - Richard Stark 18/07/2013

Flashy flashfire

Flashfire - Richard Stark Short chapters and terse paragraphs are what we expect in a Richard Stark novel and we find them here. Perhaps we also find Parker less one dimensional, though he is still cold, calculating, vengeful and cruel. As the Melander gang in Florida, Palm Beach is about to find out. When I say Parker is less one dimensional, I do not mean we see a softer side of his character. There is no such thing. However, in this novel we see more of him relating to women, two women, Claire, his regular squeeze and a newbie on the crime circuit, Lesley. Claire is cool and beautiful, an ex getaway car driver. When she meets Parker, he objects to her presence, because having a woman driver is unprofessional. She rejoins that it must be an unrewarding profession and wins his admiration. So compared to Comeback, this is the more entertaining novel The female characters are more fleshed out and Richard stark proves he can do some real portraiture, other than simply laying out the steps of Parker's latest heist. His portrayal of the wealthy matrons of Palm Beach, Florida is masterful. We see them, important, overdressed, some comfortable with aging, others doing everything to hold on to youth. One such matron works out to get a hard body. She cannot get a young face, so she settles for striking. She is sixty seven, but ironically, her toyboy husband, who is in his twenties, is having an affair with a woman of the same age as himself, whom he finds attractive because she has a soft body. ...

Comeback - Richard Stark 15/07/2013

Stark comeback

Comeback - Richard Stark Stark by name, stark by nature. This author favours a succinct delivery with no unnecessary frills. In this terse novel we get a chance to look at two kinds of criminal - dumb crooks and smart crooks. It all ends in a climax of brutish violence. Not what you would usually find in the wake of a Christian crusade, perhaps. Parker`s gang have decided to steal the love offerings of preacher Archibald´s congregation. Archibald gets his offerings in cash and that is the draw. This novel was written in the nineties and it appears very dated, because this was the moment when everything was changing for criminals and for us honest people as well. Cash was going out of fashion. Credit cards and E payment were on their way in. The average robber could no longer be sure of finding any money in the till he robbed. Most likely it had gone straight to the bank by electronic transfer. Only a few outlets continue to deal in cash and religion is one of them. Parker never puts a foot wrong. if he did he would be dead. However it is hard to sympathise with a character who never appears to feel any emotion, never makes a mistake or shows any weakness. He has a girlfriend, Claire, but we do not get a chance to look at their relationship. We see them living in a respectable community, when Parker is "off duty". What does she see in him? He is a very unattractive "hero". But we keep reading because the story is gripping and we want to see how things turn out. It is quite unusual to read a cops ...

Lisbon Chillout Hostel, Lisbon 03/07/2013

Chill out Lisbon Chillout!

Lisbon Chillout Hostel, Lisbon Would I recommend this Hostel to a friend? It depends who the friend was. Speaking for myself, I was rather uncomfortable during my stay at this establishment. I will tell you why, later. Lisbon Chill out Hostel ticks all the right boxes: It has a verandah from which the view of Lisbon is impressive and also a small garden, only available in summer, which has a lemon tree and the ubiquitous graffiti inspired "hostel art", you find in many Lisbon hostels. They have a fully equipped kitchen where you can cook your own meals and a living room where guests can read a book, listen to music or watch a movie. According to them, they often organize trips for example, to traditional Portuguese Fado concerts, flea markets, and the fabulous night-life of Lisbon, free for everybody to join. They offer guests a free breakfast including bread, cheese, jam, traditional Portuguese marmalade, chocolate spread, cornflakes, milk, juice, tea, coffee and more. Coffee and tea is offered free all day, but, in common with most Lisbon Hostels, you usually have to provide your own milk. They say you can ask the staff at the hostel to light up the garden grill and do a barbecue for guests in the evenings. or take you through the city on a personal guided walk. The staff do try hard to be helpful and supply guests with information about Lisbon, and this is where my uncomfortable feeling comes in. The issue is best illustrated by the following excerpt from a review by a satisfied guest on the ...

The ComeBack Girl - Katie Price 11/06/2013

The Comeback Girl - what Katie wrote?

The ComeBack Girl - Katie Price I picked this up at random. Somebody had left it lying around and I have long been curious as to the literary metamorphosis of the one time glamour model, Jordan. It soon became clear that there was more than one way to review this novel so I have given it two reviews. Review one Jordan is now referred to by her legal name of Katie Price, and that is the name on the cover of this book. Sorry to spoil the ending, well actually, I am not sorry at all.The last line of the novel is absolutely hilarious to anyone who knows anything about the plastic surgical history of the glamour model, Jordan: "And Eden knew there was nothing fake about Jack. He was the real thing." This novel is so lightweight it could probably float all the way to the stars that are sprinkled all over its cover. The Comeback Girl is lightweight, even for Chick Lit. It is doubtful whether it could sell many copies if there was a different name on the cover. The book was actually written,obviously, by one Rebecca Farnworth and she must have had a lot of fun writing it. I don't know what she normally writes, but, as the novel is published by publishing giant, Random House, she probably writes geography textbooks or something. The main character has a name a bit like Jordan, in this case Eden. What is it with glamour models and biblical monikers? Eden is not a glamour model, only built like one (naturally). Eden is a singer. Jordan also tried her hand at being a pop star, and, presumably, in this novel, she ...

The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht 17/01/2013

Tiger in her Tea

The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht This is a prize winning novel, an Orange prize winning novel, so we know roughly what to expect. Lots of literary merit, whatever that may be. College professors beaming at their favourite student. She will go a long way. Has already. All the way from former Yugoslavia to the United States, via Egypt and Cyprus. To complete the educational atmosphere, we are presented with questions to answer at the end of the book. Here is a sample: get your thinking cap on. Does old age always "harden beliefs"? "But the greatest fear is that of uncertainty." Is the Deathless Man right? Do you need to see to know? To give the author her due, she has a remarkable command of English, for someone who learned it as a second language, in Egypt, but I would say she is more of a painter than a writer. She paints a picture of Doctor Natalia drinking coffee made with holy water in a church, where she staunches the wounds of a man who can never die. The title subject, the Tiger's Wife, gives rise to a picture of a tame animal, born in a circus and raised in a zoo, who goes wild one day and decides to take a wife, a human being. The tiger's escape from the zoo gives rise to lots of gory incidents, one in particular, in which the village blacksmith aims to shoot the tiger but instead shoots his own head off. This kind of thing must be what the Guardian review of the book means, when it refers to her black humour. Black humour also perhaps, at the funeral of the dead cousin. The cousin had been ...

Winter In Madrid - C.J. Sansom 12/01/2013

Long, hard Winter in Madrid

Winter In Madrid - C.J. Sansom This is a substantial novel, so do not expect to devour it in a couple of sittings, as you might, a thriller by Dean Koontz. Although it is placed in the thriller section here, its publishers, Pan, describe it as a love story, and the Sunday Express calls it part historical drama. Certainly, the author , C.J. Sansom, does not seem particularly to have set out to write a thriller. He seems more concerned to portray the devastation bought about by the Spanish Civil War. I find it very interesting to go back to a time, when many people really believed that Great Britain had already lost the Second World War. At such times the shady world of secret agents comes to its own, and we have the dubious pleasure of observing how these dubious characters conduct themselves, for instance, at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid, where all luxuries are avaiable, in contrast to the starvation and desperation outside in the streets. A group of British operatives are sent there, simply to act as if they are enjoying a wonderful dinner together, without a care in the world. This is for the benefit of the other guests at the Ritz, who are mainly fascists and high placed Nazis. A happiness match ensues, with the Germans and British, in turn trying to outdo the other side at guffawing and generally being cheerful over the entrees. There is a lot of talk about democracy and this is what Harry, the protagonist, tells himself he is fighting for, when he allows the secret service to talk him into spying on his ...

The Good Guy - Dean Koontz 10/01/2013

Postpone the chores, finish this Good Guy first

The Good Guy - Dean Koontz This is a fast paced, page turning thriller. Dean Koontz wastes no time setting the scene. He draws you right in, from page one. You are there, at the Rooney's bar, with Tim Carrier. With him, you select a place at the back, where you can sit, unnoticed, eclipsed by the other guests, three lively guys at the front of the bar, and the rest, canoodling couples. You feel Tim's loneliness as he fields his friend's teasing about his single status. Rooney, the bar owner, is married to Michelle, beautiful, brilliantly talented, but also wounded. We find out how, right at the end of the book, when we also find out the secret that Tim is hiding. And we will read through to the end. Dean Koontz has guaranteed that, with the short chapters and writing style, succinct to the point of curtness, that are his trademark. Tim is a big man, who works with his hands as a bricklayer, but, from the start, we sense that there is more to him than that. His reaction to the stranger who approaches him in his chosen hide, at the back of the bar, tells us this right away. It is a delicate mix of irony , surprise and curiosity. He allows the newcomer to speak about his dog named Larry, who has taken up skydiving, but while mulling over this interesting fact, he realises that Larry's owner is now heading for the door, leaving behind on the table a large manila envelope, stuffed with thousands of dollars and a picture of a woman, who will shortly be the victim of a hitman. We scarcely have time to ...

A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties - Suze Rotolo 08/01/2013

Freewheeling live beat

A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties - Suze Rotolo My last review , Greedy Goliath versus last man in tower, was of a book that transported me in space. This book, by Suze Rotolo, transported me in time. More than that, it carried me to a state of mind in which things were possible. A person could make his or her own way in life, and Suze Rotolo´s boyfriend, Bob Dylan, certainly did that. Suze does record, that at that time, Bob Dylan had the least control he would ever have, over his music career, but compared to the industry puppets of today, he was a free (and freewheeling), man. I like the fact that the book´s layout is as freewheeling as its title. Its various sections are introduced with arty titles along the margin and the paragraphs start with huge cursive capital letters. For a publication that uses only black and white print, it is very attractive. It is worth getting for the reproductions of old restaurant menus, advertisements and book covers it displays, especially as all this comes in a size that you can easily stuff into your pocket. Dylanites, like myself will drool over the very early copies of sheet music for his songs. This was a time when the stuffy shackles of post war Western life had been loosened by Jack Kerouak and the beat generation and were just about to be further kicked over by the hippy revolution. You can feel the hope and excitement coming off the pages of the book. Suze Rotolo reminds us also of less positive aspects of the beat/hippy culture, in particular, the way that women were used ...

Last Man in Tower - Aravind Adiga 29/12/2012

Greedy Goliath versus Last Man in Tower

Last Man in Tower - Aravind Adiga The first thing I have to say about this novel, is, if you can afford it, get the hardback version, rather than the paperback. The paperback crams the story into almost two hundred fewer pages and the result is the tiniest print you ever squinted at in a book. The hardback is twice the price of the paperback, at over eleven pounds, but worth it, unless you have a good magnifying glass. You can get it cheaper by shopping around on Amazon and Ebay. The Author. Aravind Adiga was born in Madras in 1974 and studied in The UK and USA. He has been the India correspondent for Time magazine and won the Man Booker prize for his novel, The White Tiger, in 2008. Who should buy this book. Get this book if, like me, you enjoy armchair travel to another country and culture. Perhaps, ironically, you will also like it, if you enjoy things like soap operas, because people are the same everywhere, when all is said and done. You might wish to avoid it if you like happy endings, although the ending could be said to be happy for everybody but the book's main character. Shanmugham, the right hand man of the villain builder of the piece, Shah, also feels short-changed at the end. He has spent several months handing out sweeteners to the various people involved, in order to facilitate the smooth progress of the new developement, and yet, his employer, Shah, does not feel he is is entitled to any extra money himself. What it is about. The story is simple, one that happens every time the ...

Reheated Cabbage - Irvine Welsh 22/07/2012

Tough dish of Reheated Cabbage

Reheated Cabbage - Irvine Welsh It was very difficult for me to immerse myself in this book as it is written, almost throughout, in some kind of weird Patois. I expect Irvine Welsh refers to this as "dialect", or even "Scottish language". Strangely, although he uses the F word and C word extremely liberally all through the work, he appears to have no desire to put these two words into dialect and we are treated to them with monotonous regularity in almost every sentence. In the interests of research, I overcame my heart sinking revulsion, and did my best to decipher his writing. I reminded myself that this was the globally acclaimed author of the book that became the movie Trainspotting, neither of which I have seen or read. It turns out that these are actually quite interesting, often funny short stories, usually centered on the lowest of the low, no hope dregs of Scottish society. The last story: I am Miami, is an exception to that rule, being the tale of a retired, old school, schoolteacher, who very much regrets the outlawing of his beloved "tawse" a horrible leather whip, which he was wont to use with gay (I use that word advisedly) abandon on his male pupils. He gets his come uppance when he unwittingly ingests a cup of hallucinogenic"tea", which has been made by one of his former student victims, now grown to man's estate. That was one of the easier stories to understand, being written in plain English for much of the time. Another story, written mainly in English, is Kiss and Make Up. However ...

Unreal Hostel Lisboa, Lisbon 17/07/2012

Unreal Hostel Lisboa, Lisbon

Unreal Hostel Lisboa, Lisbon Unreal Hostel is a hostel in central Lisbon close to the Sheraton Hotel. They have 140 beds in a six story building. It is in a very central location, in Picoas, on the yellow line of the Metro. They provide breakfast from 8.30am -10am, It is more than just a continental breakfast, comprising cheese and ham as well as the usual rolls and jam. It is actually a very good breakfast, with orange juice, coffee, hot milk, tea and chocolate and you can take all you can eat. You will get clean and plentiful bed linen, towel and covers. A great thing is the free and secure luggage storage they offer, this means you can go out for the day after you check out and come back in the evening to pick up your stuff without any worries.There are free lockers in all dorm rooms, on payment of a a returnable deposit of three euros.There is free internet access throughout the building. You can use your own machine or the hostel's. The staff is reasonably friendly and welcoming. There is cable TV in the TV lounge and there is also a quiet lounge with books and magazines. You can cook your own meals in the Guest Kitchen but they kick you out at midnight. The kitchen is well equipped and there is usually a shelf of free food left behind by former guests that you can use. You can then eat your food in the top floor dining room, which is large and light with big windows The showers are hot but you have to keep pressing the button if you want a long shower. However, unlike many hostels, Unreal ...
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