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Roman Clodia (London)

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Price: 9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to love this..., 21 July 2014
This review is from: Hild (Kindle Edition)
Set in 7th century Britain, this is a book which I expected and wanted to love. Griffiths has done a very good job of depicting the time with enormous attention to detail: the itinerant society, the structure of the households, the linguistic variances and the struggles for Christianity, as well as the more secular struggle for over-lordship of what is only nominally Britain.

So the background is immersive – less successful, oddly, is the foreground for me: I never either believed in or warmed to Hild herself. Only three when the book opens, she is already more articulate, more sensitive, more self-conscious and more astute than I could believe, and she speaks and thinks like a child out of time. I’m afraid I don’t respond well to fey characters, those acutely attuned to a mysterious natural world that no-one else fully understands: Hild is one of these girls (and yes, in fiction they’re nearly always female) who talks to stoats and listens to the crows.

The story is part Joan of Arc, part Sword in the Stone, overlaid with a semi-mystical sense of femininity. At just eleven, Hild is telling the king where to set his battles and his slaughters – and, yet, at the same time, Griffiths refuses to pander to the idea of superstition and/or divine revelation or intervention. It’s almost like Hild is a modern girl thrust back in time so that despite being named ‘the light of the world’ (repeatedly), she is actually just an acute observer.

Many people may well love this and Griffiths has certainly done a fine job of depicting a time of major transition in British history – I just couldn’t engage with Hild and her story, though, in the way that I wanted to.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)

Russell Hobbs 20346 Rosso Slice and Go, Red
Russell Hobbs 20346 Rosso Slice and Go, Red
Price: 29.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick and convenient way to slice, grate and shred, 20 July 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a compact and convenient gadget which slices, grates and shreds most vegetables quickly and easily, taking some of the hassle out of chopping. That said, this only really works with hard vegetables - carrots, cucumber, peppers, radish, cabbage, onions, potatoes all worked beautifully, but anything leafy like lettuce, or the stalks of spring onions just get caught in the space between the slicing attachment and the housing.

The unit has a relatively small footprint and so sits easily on my worktop (and I have a small kitchen) ready for use. The two attachments not currently in use can be stored in the back for convenience. Putting the thing together and changing the blade attachments is quick and easy (and I'm usually clumsy when it comes to anything mechanical), and washing the tube and grating blades is a cinch.

The feeder spout allows whatever you're slicing to drop straight into a bowl or pan as long as it's not too high - my soup pan fits well but my slow-cooker pot is much too high to fit beneath it.

I've tended to use my food processor mostly for slicing and grating, and this is a far quicker option and easier to clean. It won't replace a food processor in terms of other functions, but it's great for anyone who wants to slice/grate salad and vegetables every day for meals.

The Shadow of War: The Great War Series Book 1 (Great War 1)
The Shadow of War: The Great War Series Book 1 (Great War 1)
Price: 3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A panorama of Britain in 1914, 17 July 2014
The start of a series, this gives a panoramic fictionalised portrait of Britain between June-December 1914 tracing life before and during the first months of the war. Binns writes in a relaxed and easy style, painting the human face of the run-up to war. His characters are perhaps a little schematic, stretching from the working class lads to the aristocratic officers, the women taking to nursing the wounded, to Winston Churchill.

This first volume sketches in some of the social currents of the time: the suffragette movement which would be given a boost during the conflict as women took on ‘male’ roles, the general social unrest and growth of the trade union movement.

I like that this is the story of the war, not a story set against a background of war. This would be ideal reading for anyone who finds reading history books dull but who still wants a more detailed record of British life in 1914 than is usual in fiction.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)

An Electronic French Dictionary (Electronic Dictionaries Book 4)
An Electronic French Dictionary (Electronic Dictionaries Book 4)
Price: 1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works well if you have relatively good French and read French texts on your Kindle, 12 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I think some of the negative reviews here are from people who are trying to use this dictionary in ways for which it wasn't designed: so it's not a French phrase book, it doesn't have extensive 'tourist' vocabulary (e.g. for reading restaurant and café menus), and it's not ideal, though perfectly possible, to use it as a standard dictionary where you input a word in French and the English translation pops up. Where it comes into its own is if you are reading French texts on your Kindle and need an instant translation of a specific word - a sort of quick and dirty translation/reminder.

As one reviewer here notes, it won't translate the odd French word in an English text: Kindle recognises that the majority language is English and so automatically looks up the French word in your English dictionary. As long as the language of your text is French, however, then this works fine. I read quite a lot of French novels and there are always words that I've forgotten or don't know - and this is perfect as an instant look-up tool. It works the same way as the Kindle English dictionary does: just touch the word (or move the cursor to it on the Kindle Keyboard) and the translation pops up.

This recognises some inflections, though not all, and the translation/definition is brief and basic: perfect for reading novels. I also have the Kindle standard French-French dictionary in use and so if a word is not recognised in this French-English dictionary, Kindle automatically defaults to French-French which usually sorts out my problem.

So this is a good tool if you already have relatively good French and read a lot of French Kindle texts - it won't replace a proper dictionary but it's an excellent way of looking up words when reading on the tube without breaking the flow of the text.

Myths of the Underworld Journey: Plato, Aristophanes, and the 'Orphic' Gold Tablets
Myths of the Underworld Journey: Plato, Aristophanes, and the 'Orphic' Gold Tablets
by Radcliffe G. Edmonds III
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 59.44

4.0 out of 5 stars Theorising Greek myth, 12 July 2014
In this book Edmonds re-looks at the concept of Greek myth and, specifically, the journey to the underworld and suggests that myth is not so much `canonical formulations of religious dogma' but `a contest of competing authorities'.

Moving away from the idea of an originary ur-myth of the underworld journey, this instead explores how the motifs and patterns of action are re-configured and re-shaped according to author, genre, text and its social and political function.

Taking three examples: the Orphic gold tablets, Aristophanes' Frogs, and Plato's Phaedo, Edmonds explores how each text (or set of texts) re-use the underworld journey to different effect and function.

The introduction is especially good on the scholarship on myth and the problematics of defining what myth is and what it does. In comparison, the textual readings are less dense, and can feel a bit truncated. Edmonds never uses the terms intertextuality or reception though these concepts underlie some of the work he is doing here.

So this is good for students working on Greek myth or literature, or the specific texts under discussion - but it isn't the most sophisticated of readings in literary terms.

It's Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Cliches
It's Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Cliches
Price: 8.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lexicographical study of clichés, 11 July 2014
This is a lively and accessible book which opens up academic language research to a non-specialist audience. Hargraves studies clichés statistically and argues that context and misapplication often determines what is and isn’t a cliché rather than mere overuse.

After setting out his research questions and explaining the statistical methodology used in the book, he then goes on to examine clichés and evaluate them according to their effectiveness and frequency within a given corpus of language. As Hargraves himself points out, the definition of cliché is both fuzzy and subjective and he strives to add a certain mathematical order to the idea.

I’m not a linguist but it may be the case that this isn’t sophisticated or theoretical enough for an academic specialist and perhaps a bit too detailed for the generalist reader: if you enjoy books about words and language (e.g. Mark Forsyth’s The Horologicon) then this might be a good choice.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)

July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914
July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914
Price: 8.65

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Perceptions, misperceptions and deliberate deceptions', 11 July 2014
In the midst of a deluge of WW1 books, this offers a fresh re-examination of the diplomatic sources from the fatal month of July 1914. Taking a panoramic view encompassing Vienna, Berlin and St.Petersburg as well as London, this explores the decisions taken by individuals in the moment of crisis and without the benefit of foresight.

Otte's book is not for the casual reader wanting a general overview of the lead up to war. It's good on the multiple 'perceptions, misperceptions and deliberate deceptions', and thus strives to find the role of individual agency in the move to war, rather than locating its causes in systemic forces.

Otte isn't the most elegant of writers but this is an interesting read for anyone with a fairly informed prior knowledge of the literature on the causes of the war.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)

A Kind of Loving
A Kind of Loving
Price: 3.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic lad-lit from 1960, 6 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Kind of Loving (Kindle Edition)
Published in 1960, this book secured Barstow’s place as one of the group of authors writing about the lives of young, working-class men in the industrialised north. Vic Brown is a grammar school boy with an ex-miner for a father, and prospects as a draughtsman in an engineering firm. 20 years old when the book opens, this traces a year when his life changes through his relationship with Ingrid, a young woman from his work typing pool.

What makes this book so compelling (I read it in a single sitting) is Vic’s voice: laddish and yet idealistically romantic, all his shifting emotions, his honesty and his confusion are captured brilliantly. Vic could have been an unsympathetic character and it’s to Barstow’s credit that he’s not: even at his most brutal and callous, his relentless candour keep us on his side.

Apart from the story of Vic and Ingrid, this is also a book which gives a brilliant depiction of the world as it was in 1960 in a small town in Yorkshire: the newfangled television, the innocence of youth, the way a public dance-hall forbids rock’n’roll forcing young couples to waltz instead, people smoking pipes on the bus.

But for all the social-historical interest, this remains so powerful because of the detailed characterisation and the increasing claustrophobia of Vic’s predicament – a book deservedly named a classic, and a superb read.

Price: 6.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing and drowning in domestic minutiae, 5 July 2014
This review is from: Her (Kindle Edition)
Like some of the other reviewers here, I loved Alys, Always but found this a disappointing second book. All the acidic sharpness, the subtle uncovering of Frances' ruthless manipulation and determination has instead been turned into what has become a standard genre: the domestic gothic where Nina's obsession with a past `secret' spills over into Emma's present.

I liked the set-up of this book but felt drowned in domestic minutiae. The story is told through the two voices of Nina and Emma but they both sound exactly the same with no nuances of voice to distinguish them, and as they often tell the same events the story feels repetitive: this can work when one person's narrative reveals new things about the first person's, or something about the narrator but neither of those happened here.

It's a fictional trope that people hold onto tiny events from the past and, eventually, wreak their revenge on the unknowing perpetrator - but I'm afraid I just wasn't convinced by it here. The past event is so insignificant in the world of the book, the `revenge' so out of proportion to what has gone before.

So this is very similar to books by people like Erin Kelly, Julia Crouch, Louise Millar and others - I really wanted to love this but though there are moments of domestic menace I'm afraid this didn't live up to the promise of Lane's first book.

Lark in the Morning: The Verses Of The Troubadours, A Bilingual Edition
Lark in the Morning: The Verses Of The Troubadours, A Bilingual Edition
by Robert Kehew
Edition: Paperback
Price: 21.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring troubadour poetry, 4 July 2014
This is a good anthology of troubadour poetry with a full and wide range of poets and styles represented. Kehew gives a brief introduction to the collection, and then supplements translations from Ezra Pound and W.D. Snodgrass with his own. This is a bilingual edition so we have the Old Occitan facing the modern English which is immensely useful – and the English translations are in verse in an attempt to convey the lyric quality of the poems/songs, not just their meaning.

It’s a little disappointing that there isn’t a greater representation of trobairitz (female troubadours) here and I would especially have liked more from Comtessa de Dia.

So this sits somewhere between a scholarly work and a ‘popular’ one: the contextualisation of the collection, the troubadour moment, and the individual poets doesn’t probe or problematise the texts in any way, but there is a fuller bibliography attached. This is especially good as a supplement to the standard works and other translations from Occitan.

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