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Dixit Odyssey is a very simple, beautifully designed game that can be played and enjoyed by just about anyone. I've played it with family, friends and experienced gamers alike - they've all loved it.
In the box is a large score board, 12 coloured bunnies, 12 matching peg boards for players to choose their answer, and 24 coloured pegs. Oh and a deck of 84 cards, which are the core of the game. Each cards are significantly bigger than standard playing cards, and each one has a different painting on. The paintings are mostly quite surreal or unusual, but utterly exquisite, you'll find yourself flicking through the cards admiring the artwork.
The idea of the game is that five cards are dealt out to each player, and players take it in turns to be the storyteller. When its your turn to be the storyteller, you choose one of your cards then give a clue. This could be by telling a story, saying a word or phrase, acting something out, even singing a song! You then place the card face down on the table. All the other players then choose one card from their hand that they think most matches with what the storyteller has said/done and also places it face down on the table. All the face down cards are then shuffled and dealt face up next to the numbered spaces on the board. Everyone except the storyteller has to then guess which is the storyteller's image by secretly voting (using their peg and peg board), then all revealing their votes at once (so players can't say to their neighbour, oh you thought it was number 3, I'll go with that too...)
Players get points if they vote for the correct answer, or if players vote for their cards. The storyteller gets points if at least one person, but not everyone, correctly guesses their card. This is the important bit, because the storyteller has to strive to be neither too obscure or too obvious if they want the points.
The winner is the first to 30 points (you move your coloured bunny rabbit up the scoreboard as you get points). And that's the game. There's a couple of variations including one for 7-12 players but that just alters the voting and scoring, the game is essentially the same.
This is a great game, that can be enjoyed by anyone, even quite young children. It's basically the same name as 'Dixit' but with different cards and a different way of keeping score (the peg boards rather than just using cards). I also prefer this version, as it plays up to 12 players, whereas the original 'Dixit' only has scoring counters for upto 6 people. While the game can be played by 3-12 people, I've found the sweet spot to be 5-8 players.
Lastly, if you play a lot, there's several expansion sets of cards which you can buy too to enhance your enjoyment of the game and give more variety.
Kingdom Builder is one of a new breed of board games for grown ups, characterized by a small amount of luck, but lots of strategy and tactical thinking. This particular game is excellent, and won the prestigious 'Spieles Des Jahres' Board Game of the Year award (this is the board gaming equivalent of the Booker Prize).
So what's this game about? The basic idea is that on your turn you pick a card that will have one of five different terrain types on - grass, forest, canyons, desert and flower beds (bizzare I know, but it does add a nice splash of colour to the game). You then can to place 3 of your settlement pieces (little wooden houses) onto hex shaped spaces of that terrain type on the board, but you must play adjacent to one of your settlements already on the board if possible to earn victory points.
So how do you get victory points? Well for starters, you get 3 victory points for each of the castle hexes on the board which has at least one of your settlements next to it. Most of your victory points though will come from the three randomly selected objective cards. These might say things like '1 victory point for each of your settlements next to water', or '12 victory points for the player with the largest settlement area', or '4 victory points for each castle or location hex connected by a chain of your settlements'. As the victory point objective cards are randomly selected each game, this adds a lot of variety.
Your ultimate objective is to maximise your victory points at the end of the game, but particularly early on, you'll want to try and collect some bonus tiles, which gives you extra turns each round, special actions you can take etc.
As well as randomly selected objective cards, each game includes a different board - there are 8 board sections in total, each with different bonus tile hexes, and each game you will play with 4 randomly chosen board sections.
Lots of grown up games have similar 'game mechanics' i.e. how the game works. This game though is quite unique. To do well at the game, you have to tactically choose as you go along where to play your tiles, and try avoid getting 'stuck' placing settlements in one area of the board each game. This is why I think it is quite 'puzzely'.
The game is for between 2 and 4 players and games last 30-90 minutes. The rules are very easy to learn, but even for experienced players the game has lots of tricky decisions to make and tactics to decide upon. It plays slightly better with 3 or 4 players. It is still very good with two - my wife and I really enjoy the game - but with 2 players there is plenty of space on the board so you may spend much of the time playing your own game almost independent of each other, 'multiplayer solitaire'. This is no bad thing particularly if you don't like confrontational games however.
The Resistance is one of those things that if you don't know about it already you are never going to buy just from seeing on a shelf (virtual or otherwise). The box looks fairly bleak, and the name doesn't exactly ooze excitement, but what is inside the box is a really great game.
In the last 10-15 years there has been a real renaissance in board games for grown ups, and there are now thousands of great games available to buy. They come in every imaginable theme, and range from really easy to quite complicated. Resistance is very easy to learn and play, it only takes 15-20 minutes and can be played with between 5 and 10 people.
The idea of the game is that some of you are spies for an evil and totalitarian state, the rest are members of the Resistance - the good guys. The spies know who each other are, the resistance members don't know who are resistance members and who are spies. Players take it in turns to nominate a team of 2-4 people to go on a mission. Everyone then gets to vote on whether they approve of the team selection, passing if a simple majority approve it. If the team selection is rejected, the next player gets to choose a team. Once a team gets approved, each player secretly puts down either a 'Mission Success' or a 'Mission Fail'. Usually, if there's one or more Fails, then the mission fails. There are 5 missions in total. If 3 out of 5 missions pass, the Resistance win, if 3 or more out of 5 fail, the Spies win. And that's it!
The whole fun of the game if your a spy is to try not to get outed as a spy and try to get missions to fail. If you are resistance you are trying to figure out who the spies are so that you can not send them on missions, so the missions will pass. Lots of accusations, theories and debate fly round the table - it is great fun. If you don't like lying, being lied to or getting accused though, you may not want to get this game.
The game itself is literally that simple. There are some extra plot cards which you can use to spice up the game and make it more challenging - where the player whose turn it is to choose a team gets to hand out cards like 'show your loyalty card to another player' which just adds to the confusion!
Overall this is a great, quick party style game. It works well as a quick after dinner game, or you may spend all night playing multiple games. The beauty of it is that it accomodates lots of players and is quite quick and easy to explain. It is also quite cheap, so really good value for money, you'll probably find yourself getting it out time and again.
Moneysavingexpert.com is the money saving site set up by eminent tv journalist Martyn Lewis. It's stuffed full of ways to save money - the site claims that by utilising money savings tips on the site you are effectively giving yourself an average pay rise of at least 25%. Depending on how financially savvy you are, you might be already taking advantage of a lot of the money saving tricks, but it's unlikely you won't be able to save at least some money by using the site.
The main part of the site is divided into different sections, such as shopping, banking, utilities, travel, insurance etc. Each section includes various articles on ways to save money in each area. These are kept very up to date, which is very useful.
There is also a deals and vouchers section which is updated daily with details of high street and online sales, best prices for a range of top products such as laptops, and details of vouchers for shopping, restaurants etc.
There is a selection of very useful tools on the website too. My favourites are:
Flightchecker - Put in a range of dates and where you want to fly to/from and the flightchecker will find the cheapest flights. Works for short haul and budget routes throughout Europe.
Cashback Maximiser - Find out which cashback site gives you the best cashback, search for products, services or websites.
The Demotivator - Put in what you spend each day or week on snacks and other sundries, and it will tell you how much you are unneccesarily spending each year. A real motivator to stop spending!
I also use the Forums. Thousands of moneysavers discuss daily all things moneysaving. I particularly like the 'Upping your income' sub-forum, full of great suggestions for earning extra money online (I found dooyoo from here).
As well as the site, there's a great weekly email which you can sign up for to keep up to date with all the latest money saving tips, tricks and deals.
Overall a great site which will continually reward you with extra great tips and suggestions on each revisit. It really could change your life, or your finances at least!
Quantum of Solace is the latest James Bond film, and the second starring Daniel Craig. It follows on from the previous film, Casino Royale and while it's enjoyable on it's own, it may help your enjoyment a little if you've seen the previous film. This time Bond is out for revenge after the death of his beloved Vesper. In the process, he unwittingly kills a member of Special Branch who happens to be a close friend of the Prime Minister. Suddenly he's being chased by the bad guys, the CIA and his own people.
So what is the film like? Well it's been slated by critics and viewers alike, but I enjoyed it. It's got the obligatory car chase (and boat chase and plane chase), beautiful women, lots of fighting, witty lines etc etc. If anything it's even more unrealistic than Casino Royale, watching if you can't help but frequently shake your head and think Bond should have been dead long since. My opinion though is that you shouldn't watch a Bond film and expect it to be realistic. This has it's fair share of deaths, and some of them I was even sad about, but overall it's less gritty and dark than Casino Royale.
So that's my opinion, but my wife who watched it with me thought it was a bit boring and too unrealistic for her. She much preferred Casino Royale.
In summary if you like James Bond films, don't mind that it's not that believable and aren't a critic then you will probably really enjoy this film like I did. Otherwise, you may be disappointed. A worthy addition to the James Bond collection.
Below I have attempted my top 10 fiction books of all time. In coming up with this list, I have tried to be fair to myself and include books based on how I enjoyed them when I initially read them, not on how much I think I'd like them now. The books therefore reflect my changing tastes over the years. This left me with the dilemma of whether to include books I enjoyed as a child - eventually I decided to include them but limit children's books on the list to two.
Books and reading are highly subjective, and everyone will have their own opinions on what makes a good book, and different people will also be looking for different things in a book. Some people like to read classics to say they've read them or because they feel they should. I've fallen into this trap myself sometimes - not always with bad results - but most of the time don't tend to. Fiction books I just read to enjoy, and if after a while I'm not enjoying a book I will stop reading. Life is too short for bad books. Some of the books on this list will have a lot of literary merit, some are what I call 'popcorn' books - mindless pap that's great fun to read.
So here goes with the list, not in any particular order mind - it's hard enough limiting myself to 10 books, never mind trying to rank them!
1) 'Magician' by Raymond E. Feist. This is a 'Tolkien-esque' fantasy novel, with elves, dwarves, magicians, warriors and Kings. While on literary merit and originality it ranks far below Lord of the Rings, for sheer enjoyment it is unrivalled in the fantasy genre. I first read this book when I was 12, and have re-read it many times over the years. It is little known, but was in the BBC Big Read Top 100 books poll a few years ago, and has sold several million copies. It's a doorstopper of a novel, at over 800 pages long but well worth a go. I often tell people, read to page 120. If after that you don't like it give up. More than likely you'll be hooked!
2) 'The City and the Stars' by Arthur C. Clarke. When I was a teenager/early twenties I read a lot of science fiction, and this was always my favourite. It's quite short, about 250 pages. It's about the last city in the universe, Diaspar, millions of years in the future. No-one new has been born in Diaspar for thousands of years, the same people are born, live, die and are reborn again (only gaining memory of their old lives when they come of age). Then one day Alvin is born, a totally new individual... Widely considered one of the true classics from the Golden Age of science fiction, The City and the Stars, more than any other novel I've ever read invokes in me a sense of awe and wonder.
3) 'Killing Floor' by Lee Child. An American crime thriller, written by British born Lee Child who is my current favourite author. This is the author's first book, and introduces the character of Jack Reacher, an ex-major in the military police, now a loner who wanders across America, exploring his home country having spent his first 35 or so years of life on American army bases round the world. One day he stumbles into Margrave, a small town in Georgia where he is immediately arrested for a murder he didn't have anything to do with. Reacher is a very tough character, incredibly smart and very unlike any other character I've ever come across. The book is excessively violent in places (it's Lee Child's most violent book to date) but is arguably required by the (very clever) plot, and for me is it's only possible negative point.
4) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The only pre-20th century novel to appear in my list. I read this after watching the BBC television adaptation, and loved it just as much as the tv programme if not more. The characters leap off the page, and it's such a gentle, easy read. The tv adaptation followed the book quite closely, but there are some extra scenes in the book not in the tv series or film, particularly the epilogue showing Lizzie's life after marrying... oh but I really shouldn't say, just in case there's someone reading this that doesn't know the story!
5) 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea' by Judith Kerr. My first favourite book I think. I got it for Christmas when I was 2 - apparently I was ill that Christmas and couldn't sleep so my mother read this book to me - I liked it so much that I made her read it again and again and again... Years later I still loved reading it. It's about a family who hear a knock at the door - it's a tiger who asks to come for tea and basically eats them out of house and home. Simply brilliant. A perfect book for very young children.
6) 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova. This book is about the search by successive generations of a family for the tomb of Dracula, but worrying events make them wonder whether Dracula is quite as dead as everyone thinks... The book combines all the elements of a thriller with a historical mystery and fair dash of horror. Together these different aspects make up a whole far greater than the sum of their parts. An absolutely brilliant book.
7) 'Chocolat' by Joanne Harris. The book is about the characters of Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk who arrive and cause a stir in a sleepy, rural French village when they open up a chocolate shop, challenging the traditions and staid way of life of the villagers. The book is hauntingly evocative and beautiful - you can almost smell the rural French air and taste the exquisite chocolates in Vianne Rocher's shop. I admit my infatution may be influenced by reading this book on a sunny beach in Turkey on my first holiday abroad and first holiday with my girlfriend, now wife. Still, I loved this book.
8) 'The Day After Tomorrow' by Allan Folsom. On the first page, main character Paul Osborne spies the man who murdered his father many years ago in cold blood on a busy street. The man was never caught and never seen again until that day. Paul follows him, seeking answers and revenge, and is catapulted into a nightmare... I read this book many years ago, and still lives in my memory as the ultimate thriller novel, even though I can remember next to nothing about what happens after the gripping opener. After I read it, this book was passed around every member of my family, and everyone loved it, including some who didn't like thrillers, and my brother who doesn't read books (for many years the only books he read were this one, and Magician which is number one on my list).
9) 'The Reality Dysfunction' by Peter F. Hamilton. I used to read a lot of science fiction, as I think I mentioned earlier, so should really have another book representing the genre in here. The Reality Dysfunction is massive - 1000 + pages, and the first in a trilogy of equally long books. It is Space Opera, science fiction that is vast in scope with many characters and stories across many planets... Set in 2600, on a distant colony world an utterly alien entity accidentally gets in between a dying human and the afterlife, with terrifying and awful consequences (don't worry no demon legion appears or anything like that!). This is awesome, brilliant stuff, but only read if you've got plenty of time to dedicate to it.
10) 'The Island of Adventure' by Enid Blyton. Between the age of 4 and 10 I read pretty much nothing but Enid Blyton so had to include the Queen of children's books on this list. OK so her books are very dated, and all the children eat about 20 sandwiches each on every picnic but who cares? The Adventure series of books feature just above the Famous Five in my estimation, and Island of Adventure is the first book. It's got spies, a mysterious island and a parrot called Kiki. What more could you want?
Phew, that was harder than I thought it was going to be. There are so many great books I've read over the years, and inevitably lots couldn't be included. Here are a few that just missed out:
The Island by Victoria Hislop
Trader by Charles De Lint
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Harry Potter (all)
I hope at least some of this list was useful or interesting. They will not all be to everyone's taste but it's such a varied list that I hope whoever reads this review can find at least one new book to enjoy from my list. Happy reading!
Genre: Science Fiction/Alternative History
Setting: Roman Britain
No. of pages:
Part of a series: Yes, 1st book in Time's Tapestry Quartet.
Next book: Conqueror
A woman going through a difficult birth starts uttering words in latin, a language she doesn't know. It is a prophecy, a prophecy that will echo down the centuries...
This book is set mostly in Roman Britain, from before the Romans came to Britain to the fall of Rome. The book is made up of several different sections, each focusing on a different generation from the same family line, spanning several hundred years. It is the story of a family and their prophecy, and how that links in with the fate of Rome and Britain. The early beginnings of Christianity is also one of the themes in the book. I particularly like the part where a stone mason convinces Emperoer Hadrian to build his great wall out of stone, and not mounds of turf. Enlightened sel interest I think!
The book is well written, and as well as being a good story gives an interesting insight into Roman Britain. It's supposed to be part of an alternative history series, but as far as I can tell so far it sticks fairly closely to accepted Roman history, so I learned a lot about the changing fortunes of the Roman Empire and of Britain over several centuries.
If I was to level a criticism at the book, it would be that the different sections of the book, each separated by many decades at least and featuring different characters, struggle to form a strong overall narrative. Each section is good on it's own but the link is sometimes a tenuous one between each set of characters.
This review is also being posted on librarything.com
Setting: Californian suburb, USA
No. of pages: 385
Part of a series: no
This is a standalone crime thriller from author Robert Crais, who has been delighting fans for years with many books featuring his detective duo of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.
This book follows Jeff Talley, an ex SWAT and hostage negotiator, who after a boy dies on his watch decides to take the sleepy backwater job of police chief in a quiet Californian suburb. Nothing ever happens there, until one nightmare day when armed robbers break into a house and hold the people inside hostage....
That short synopsis gives away a lot less than what's on the back of the book - be warned. There's a lot more to the story, several excellent plots fused together to make so much more than your average crime novel. The character of Jeff Talley is a well drawn character, with a believable back story. All of the other characters are convincing too, the bit part characters are not your usual cardboard cut-outs. The writing is high quality without being overly descriptive, and the dialogue is very realistic. The chapters are quite short and snappy, which adds to the book's page turning qualities. I read this book in three days, and was late to work today because I just had to finish it. After finishing it I found myself missing the book and the characters and wishing there had been more.
This review will shortly be posted on librarything.com
Genre of film: Comedy
Starring: Hugh Grant
Length: 1 hour 41 minutes
About a Boy is a comedy film based on the book by Nick Hornby and starring Hugh Grant. I can hear many people at this point saying 'oh no, not another comedy with Hugh Grant'. This film is different from most of those other Hugh Grant movies however - while the actor does what he does best, i.e. somewhat of a slob, a dunce with women etc., it is also more than that. More than most of his films, this one shows that Hugh Grant can actually act.
Hugh Grant plays Will, a thirty something batchelor who has never had a job in his life, living instead of the royalties from his deceased father's single song hit, a cheesy Christmas number which Will can't stand. He lives in a swish apartment with all the latest gadgets, filling his life with watching tv, buying CDs, and having a succession of girlfriends (non lasting more than a few months). One day he hits on the realisation that single mums are a great source of potential girlfriends, and signs up to a single parent's support group, pretending to be a single dad. He meets a woman, arranges a date but ends up with the woman's friend's teenage son tagging along. He takes a liking to Will and as life at home is difficult (with a suicidal manic depressive mother), ends up going round to his apartment a lot, and even hitting on the idea of matchmaking Will with his mother.
The film is light hearted and funny, but with a serious side too. It has a number of issues within it such as depression, bullying, growing up, difficulties of being a single parent and so on. This gives the film a slight gravitas missing in pretty much all the rest of Hugh Grant's films. Hugh Grant is excellent for once, as is Nicholas Hoult who plays the teenage boy Marcus. The film is not going to bowl you over with it's brilliance, but it's an enjoyable, solid comedy.
Genre: Popular History
Pages: 358 + 150 pages of notes, bibliography etc.
'Mayflower' is an account of the Pilgrim Fathers' journey to America, and the story of the first 60 years of the Plymouth colony (and as time goes by, other colonies too). The book starts somewhere before their journey to the New World begins, explaining the circumstances and background of their decision to leave England, and indeed Europe, behind. The author then spends a chapter or so describing the voyage. The book really starts to get going when they land in the New World, and recounts the colonists difficult first couple of years there. Along the way, the book describes many of the people who had an impact on the new colony. As the years pass, the author goes into less detail, but you still get a good picture of the early development of the New England colonies. The final third of the book tells the reader about King Philip's War: a violent, bloody conflict with the Native Americans in 1675-1676.
As well as challenging the creation myth surrounding the Pilgrim Fathers, the book's main theme is the rocky, ever-changing relationship between the colonists and the Native Americans. The author does this very well, portraying the complexities of the interaction between the two cultures and showing us that nothing about it is black or white but instead myriad shades of grey.
This is one of the first popular history books that I've read, and I was very impressed. Nathaniel Philbrick has given the book a novel-like quality, gripping and easy to read without compromising history. The author's main objective has been to tell a story, a true story, as faithful to the actual events as he can be. While occasionally quoting or describing bits from primary sources (such as the book by William Bradford, Plymouth's first leader) he never gets bogged down in the detail. For anyone who wants to read more about a particular part, the massive notes section and bibliography at the back is available.
The final third of the book relating to King Philip's War was perhaps a bit too long for me, but for man people I imagine this part could be what they like the most so I can't really fault it!
Overall, this was a great book. I urge anyone with an interest in early American History, or anyone who just wants to read a gripping true story, to read this book.
This review is also on librarything.com
This is a police crime novel by Ian Rankin and set in Edinburgh - one of his books about Inspector Rebus. Chronologically it's not the first book (that's Knots and Crosses), but all of Rankin's books can be read as a stand alone novel and this is no exception.
Just to get you into the mood of the book, the first scene in Mortal Causes is of a man being tortured to death. His body is found not long later in one of Edinburgh's underground streets, that was closed for building work. Inspector Rebus is soon on the case, but then the Scottish Crime Squad and also Special Branch from London are taking an interest. Is it connected to the bomb threats that have been coming in frequently recently? With the Edinburgh festival in full swing, there's even more pressure for quick results...
This is Ian Rankin's 6th Rebus novel, and like the others it is excellently written and a great read. Although you always want to know what happened and who was involved, you want to know more what Rebus is going to do (including what trouble he lands himself in!), and how he's going to find out what happened. This is a little different from many of his other books, as he spends quite a lot of time away from St. Leonards station, working from police headquarters at Fettes (where he is seconded to), so DS Holmes and Siobhan Clarke only make relatively brief appearances, which is a shame. Despite this, the book is at least as enjoyable as other Rebus novels.
In a terrible storm that doomed his father, the young babe Connavar was born. His father died running from battle, and he vowed never to be a coward, never to betray his friends. He grows in strength and skill, but is also impulsive and quick to anger. But this must be tempered if he can save his people from the terrible armies that one day will attack the tribes of the Rigante.
This is a damn fine fantasy book. Unlike most in the heroic fantasy sub-genre, this book is set at the end of the Bronze age, and the beginning of the Iron Age. There is a lot more realism in this book than in many other books like it, more so than Gemmell's Drenai series. There is no black and white, only differing shades of grey, and the gritty undertones make it all the more enjoyable. The story is well told, following the hero and main character Connavar throughout. While not epic, the story is gripping, and the characters are enjoyable, if not quite having the characterisation of David Eddings or Raymond Feist. In recent years little fantasy has caught my interest, but David Gemmell's certainly got my attention, and I will be reading his other books in due course, including Midnight Falcoln, the second book in the Rigante series and sequel to Sword in the Storm.
This review also posted on librarything.com
The Fourth Estate follows the fortunes of two men who are both trying to build up the biggest newspaper empire in the world. One of them is a Jewish East European immigrant who comes to live in Britain, the other is the son of a rich Australian newspaper proprietor. In the course of their business dealings they become bitter enemies...
I hadn't read all of a novel in quite some time, constantly starting books and not finishing them, something I don't like doing, so I decided to read a Jeffrey Archer novel, as I always have found his books gripping page turners, something I needed. While I have read it all, and it may have started me back on the habit of reading, I have to admit I was very disappointed with this book. In many ways it is very similar to his earlier book 'Kane and Abel' but it is a poor copy indeed. Both feature two men, one an immigrant, one a man of rich, upper class upbringing, who become bitter enemies through the course of their business dealings. However I find The Fourth Estate is very limited by just sticking to newspaper businesses. Too often the characters seemed to get their own way by threatening to reveal important people's secrets in national newspapers, very much a cliché and overused in the extreme. Also, the characters in this book are a lot more wooden, they have no personal motivations, no personal reasons for being bitter enemies. It all seems a bit wooden and shallow. Not highly recommended.
This review has previously appeared on librarything.com
Bobby had been out walking with her faithful dog one day in the woods behind her home in Haven, Maine, when she found (well, tripped over actually), a piece of shiny metal sticking out of the ground. Her dog doesn't like it, as he whimpers and cowers away, but she is intrigued and starts to dig, completely losing track of time as she does so. It's much, much bigger than she had at first thought, huge in fact. The work of excavating it consumes most of her time. When her best friend and occasionally lover, a drunk poet named Gard, returns to Haven, he finds Bobby thin as a rake, and acting very strangely. What's more, her dogs eyes glow with an alien green light. Soon the whole town seems to have become entranced in some sort of spell, they say they are 'becoming'. Everyone except Gard.
This book got me gripped from the start, and hooked me all the way through. King's writing style is excellent, his imagination vast, and the characters are very believable. I loved the references to one of his other books, 'The Dead Zone' which I read last year. Apparently there are numerous references to characters and plot from other books in many of his stories, almost all set in Maine, New England, but having only read three books so far I couldn't say. My only criticism is that at 800 or so pages it was overly long and probably could have been shortened by a couple of hundred pages without distracting anything from the story. I'd read some advice from Stephen King once that you should always cut at least 10% of everything you write - if he follows his own advice, I dread to think how long winded this book was originally! Still, very good read which I would recommend.
This review has previously appeared on librarything.com
Eggheads is a tv quiz show shown on BBC2 in the teatime slot, either 6-6.30pm or 6.30-7pm. The original format had a team of five quiz experts being challenged by different teams each day and host was Dermot Murnaghans. Following the 'Are you an Egghead?' spinoff show, the host has changed to Jeremy Vine, and there is a sixth egghead, Barry, who won the spinoff show. Now five of the six eggheads appear in each show, and they take it in turns to have an episode off.
- What is the format -
There are 4 'head to head' rounds on different categories where one contestant goes up against one egghead. The winner of each head to head is able to participate in the final round, the loser is eliminated.
At the start of each round, the host reads out the category. The team of contestants decide which of them will play that round and which egghead they want to go up against. The contestant will then choose whether they want to go first or second. Contestant and egghead then get 3 questions each, alternating between them, multiple choice with 3 possible answers. If there is a tie after these questions it goes to sudden death where they each get a question but with no answers to choose from. This continues until one person is the winner.
The final round follows the same format, but the surviving team members can confer and it's general knowledge rather than a particular subject.
- What are the different rounds? -
Each show there will be 4 different category rounds, selected at random from the following:
Film & Television
Arts & Books
Food & Drink
- Who are the eggheads? -
Kevin Ashman - Undoubtedly the most difficult to beat, he seems to know everything though his weak subject is food and drink.
Chris Hughes - Has won mastermind, international mastermind and Brain of Britain. Likes sport and trains.
Daphne Fowler - Has won Fifteen To One twice, as well as other quiz shows.
Judith Keppel - First person to win £1 million on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
CJ de Mooi - The entertainment and fashion guru, known for his loud shirts.
Barry Simmons - The newest egghead, chosen after winning the 'Are you an egghead' spinoff series.
-What's the prize -
The prize is £1,000 initially and for each show the eggheads win, the prize money rolls over so goes up by £1,000 each time until someone wins, then it goes back down to £1,000.
- What I think of the show -
I think it's quite a good quiz show with a variety of categories. Unlike some quiz shows (Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Weakest Link) they don't waste the viewers time with stupidly easy questions, but neither are many questions impossibly hard - it's a good balance. There are however not many questions in a show, in comparison to shows like Weakest Link or University Challenge, instead there's a lot of chat and padding. So if you want quickfire questions you'll be disappointed. Overall it's a good teatime quiz programme that doesn't leave you feeling thick for not knowing many answers!
- How to take part -
You need to get together a team of 6 people and fill in the application form that can be found at the following address:
If the programme makers like you they will ask your team to go for an audition to one of several regional audition venues. After that some teams will be chosen to go on the show - you will be given telephone interviews each to give the writers ideas on things to talk to you about on the show. Filming is at BBC Television Centre in London. One of the six of you will be chosen by the programme makers to be the reserve - they won't appear on the show unless someone else is sick or chickens out at the last minute but has to go down anyway.
- Insider info -
I appeared on the quiz show back in 2007, so can share some insider info.
- Daphne spends a lot of time researching and reading up on a variety of topics and carries a pda around with things to learn. Kevin always intends to get around to learning and researching new things, brushing up on weak areas (i.e. food and drink), but never gets around to it - how he knows everything therefore I don't know!
- When the host tells the contestant and egghead to go to the question room, this is just an area of the set sectioned off from the rest of the teams by a screen. Contestant and egghead sit next to each other on a bench, only a couple of feet apart!
- The contestants are sometimes smarter than they seem. On the tv show there's never more than 2 or 3 sets of sudden death questions per round - in reality the egghead and challenger could be more evenly matched and have to go to many sudden death questions to decide it. Due to time constraints they won't all get on the show though. As of 2007, apparently the record was 17 sudden death questions each in the final round before there was a winner!
- All the eggheads are really nice and down to earth in real life, and are happy to chat to contestants after the show.
- If you get to go on the show, you will get travel, meal and hotel expenses paid for.