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Matt "Matt!" (Portsmouth, UK)

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The History of Portsmouth: Containing a Full and Enlarged Account of its Ancient and Present State; with Particular Descriptions of the Dock-Yard, ... the Isle of Wight and the M (Heritage Series)
The History of Portsmouth: Containing a Full and Enlarged Account of its Ancient and Present State; with Particular Descriptions of the Dock-Yard, ... the Isle of Wight and the M (Heritage Series)
by Lake Allen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff. Interesting, 26 Dec. 2015
The first history of Portsmouth ever written. Great stuff. Interesting, written a long time ago and now reprinted by a local historian in Portsmouth. Part of Portsmouth's heritage and surprising in some of its details. The writing is of its time, but still readable. A little bit dry to do with the mediaeval stuff, but also has some unexpected facts and surprises. Really enjoyed it, overall.


The Best You November 2015
The Best You November 2015
by Barbara De Angelis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.32

5.0 out of 5 stars and really like the insights it gives into the way successful people ..., 17 Dec. 2015
I've read this magazine for a few months now, and really like the insights it gives into the way successful people think. And there are some useful tips on getting the best from life, and all sorts of stuff to do with food, health and so on. Yup. Recommend.


Ten Years In A Portsmouth Slum
Ten Years In A Portsmouth Slum
by Robert Dolling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting., 23 Oct. 2015
Really interesting read. Portsmouth in the 1800s certainly comes to life in these pages. Great.


The Night Circus
The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm not going to say "don't read this"..., 17 July 2015
This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
I can see the appeal of this book for many readers. From the description and reviews, I thought it was going to be one for me. The opening chapters were intriguing, leaving you with that "Ooooh" feeling. Little hints and implied statements that "nobody knows where he comes from", "We do not know what language he speaks", "there is something unseen at its base." These are great teasers, that should draw you in to the intrigue.

However, Morgenstern uses these teasers so much, almost on every page and definitely in every short chapter, that I got fatigued by them. After a while I was thinking: "You know what, I don't care if there's a mystery in this bit, because there's a mystery in all of it, and I've got that, so thanks, you don't need to keep badgering me about it. Just get on with the bloody story."

The novel is Rococo in its design. It builds baroque trope on baroque trope until the narrative is severely impaired by what are essentially tricks. It's marvellous that Celia can turn one thing into another. I mean, actually, it is a marvel. There's magic in creation. Yup. Get all that. But after a while there is no marvel left because you've had so many marvels. It's like continuing to have sex post-orgasm. What should be a joyous event chafes. That's what happens here. The mystery is drowned in a sea of its own mystery, and nobody knows what the mystery was and where it has gone because it is a mysterious thing full of mystery. STOP IT!!! PLEASE STOP IT, ERIN, YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!!

So, what makes a narrative interesting? Well, one such thing is a great character. Just one would be a start. But even the main protagonists, A. H. and Hector Bowen are sketched so slightly that one has no idea why they do what they do. A. H. is a bit of a psycho really, who brings a child up in isolation, with study only. Then Hector is a bit of a psycho, wilfully breaking his daughter's wrists to teach her lessons.

The rest of the crew become indistinguishable. Like cartoon characters. The sisters with an eye for design. The contortionist who speaks in cryptic short sentences that really don't convey anything. The impresario who throws extravagant dinner parties in London where you might expect one - at least one interesting person - to turn up.

But you don't get that. What you get instead is people who look interesting but are dead inside. They have no inner life. No sense of individuation or personality, but are clearly symbols allegories and ciphers placed there to add a bit of background colour to a narrative that simply doesn't move onwards.

One of the other problems in this book for me was the writing style. It's lush, visual and has a very slow rhythm, with elongated sentences. And that should be great, but becomes a problem. Because without a short snappy sentence from time to time to wake me up, I feel like there's something of a nerd whispering in my ear just boring me to an early grave. I have trouble breathing when I read this book, that's how visceral my response to her writing is.

So, I'm not going to say don't read this. I read Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy where others threatened to slash their wrists - so I get that a book can be loved by some and hated by others. But I will say, be aware that you're not going to read a thumpingly driving narrative, or meet interesting people along the way.

What you will get is cinema. A long slow dream sequence that you may well fall into and become beguiled by, if (unlike me) you are lucky enough to get drawn on by the fairy light in the woods that leads you onwards to nothing.

Enjoy it on that level.


The Best You Magazine
The Best You Magazine
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 29 May 2015
This review is from: The Best You Magazine (App)
This is great actually. A lot of really good stuff in this mag!


Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown Ups
Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown Ups
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really great fun and well written., 28 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An excellent book, filled with stories that are bizarre, creepy, funny and strange. A recommend that makes you see Portsmouth in a new light.


Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography
Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography
by Andrew Morton
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Jolie does not come out of this book well..., 8 Nov. 2013
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What can I do in reviewing this book except give you my overriding impressions?

The first one is about the subject matter as Andrew Morton likes to portray her. Under his hands, Jolie comes out of this book as a nasty, mercurial, capricious, selfish, unfaithful manstealing drug addict who continually lies and presents the truth to suit her own needs. It's not a flattering portrait by any means. Manipulative, destructive and shallow, Morton presents us with a picture of a woman driven by a series of addictions and compulsions. She is a whirlwind of sexuality and deceit who is quite happy to walk into stable relationships and wreck them. Even her later work with the UN is portrayed as in some way capricious and self-serving, and under Morton's eye even her treatment of the kids she adopts is at best worthy of suspicion and at worst actually illegal. Unlike Jolie, this book is not pretty. There is something mean of spirit in Morton, and it comes through in the overall impression her gives of Jolie, rather than the facts of her life taken individually.

The cause for Jolie's unstable personality as it is here presented leads me to the second observation about the book. Morton is just as happy to point to the fact that Jolie is a Gemini to account for her character traits as he is to fill the pages with whacky post-Freudian psychobabble to describe her motives. The book is much better when Morton is not theorising on the deep unconscious reasons for Jolie's behaviour and actually tells you about her behaviour. I don't expect to be told about her personality on the basis of her star sign or spurious psychology just as I wouldn't expect to be told that the lumps on her head are evidence that she was more amorous than other women, or that the full moon turns her into a werewolf. That, Mr Morton, is space-filling - and piss-poor writing.

That said, this book does give an account of Jolie's life which - with its emphasis on destructive sex and drug abuse is like watching a slow motion car crash. She cuts herself as a kid, her mother gives up her bed to Jolie and her boyfriend when the couple are just 14, Jolie nearly stabs him to death and he does the same for her at the same age and both go to hospital... And so the sad show goes on. The young Jolie takes copious drugs and screws anything that is slightly warm and still breathing, and appears perfectly happy to wreck relationships and treat the people around her like disposable syringes. Essentially, she is portrayed as a fickle, feckless "user" - in all its connotations.

It's not nice reading, but I suspect it is in part accurate - though it skims over Jolie's acting skills and attempts pat "psychological" interpretations of her life as seen from the outside rather than giving a genuine insight into the woman herself. In Morton's telling, the life she leads becomes so debauched and so dissolute that even she can't handle it any more - the night she shares an apartment with her lover, ex-husband, lesbian ex-lover and her girlfriend and has a breakdown is pricelessly funny in the deadpan way it is delivered by Morton. I don't think he was meant to be funny, but one can have little sympathy for a two dimensional character who has been set up by the author as someone willing to make that much of a mess of her life apparently on purpose.

The character of Jolie is remarkable in this book simply because she weathers it all. She's portrayed as a kind of adult role-play Lara Croft who raids married men's beds rather than ancient tombs. Where others would go to pieces, she simply goes for the next fix, which is either a tumble in the hay with someone else's husband or a shot in the arm to keep her going. Unafraid to wreck the happiness of others to supply her own obsessions and compulsions, I found that I at once hated this version of Jolie and begrudgingly admired her for her apparent armour-plating and psychotic self-serving.

Her treatment of her father Jon Voight throughout is awful. Morton implies that Jolie wants to blame him for all her woes rather than address them, mature and grow up. This, could be true, I suppose, it could be the extreme life that the extremely wealthy lead, or it could be a gross caricature. If it really does lift the lid on what is beneath the surface beauty of Hollywood, and of Jolie, then it made me glad of my rather boring life.

To be frank, I felt grubby reading about Morton's Jolie and her shenanigans. Some things are better left unsaid. And some books unwritten. There is a far better biography of Jolie waiting to be written.


The Lord of the Rings (3 Book Box set)
The Lord of the Rings (3 Book Box set)
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A work of genius that still has me in two minds about it..., 1 Jan. 2013
I read The Lord of The Rings every year from age 9 to 17. It's interesting to note that each time I read it, I discovered something new about it.

By the time I was 17, I discovered that its epic style which is inspired by Beowulf is actually pretty unsatisfactory once you've found an alternative: the Grand Tradition of literature.

So here's my dilemma: I LOVED Tolkien when I was immature and didn't understand character interaction and gripping plotting. When I got older, I could see his limitations. He replaces poetry recital for characterisation, truncates action sequences (there is no excuse for this, drawing on models such as Beowulf and The Iliad as he does - the old epics do action exquisitely) and uses repetition of plotting in place of tautness of storyline (the departure from the Shire comes to mind here.)

But all this said and done, there is no getting around the DEEP DEEP impression he left on my mind as a boy.

I suspect that Tolkien manages to access archetypes that are buried in our psyches and which cause a kind of magical frisson when you encounter them for the first time.

He is a writer of myth rather than fantasy, and I suppose it is true that myth has its own rules, separate from standard literature. I remember reading The Silmarillion for the first time as a teenager and thinking it was actually the most profound book I'd ever read. But it doesn't do what it's "meant" to do - it doesn't deeply involve you in the characters and it has such a vast sweep of history that it is more a quasi-religious work than a work of fiction.

The novelty of the creatures we meet in The Lord Of The Rings, from talking trees to immortal beings to utterly evil creatures that are twisted, broken versions of elves delight us on first encounter. They intrigue. And they hold in them for a child a sort of poetic, archetypal truth which is both addictive and appealing. Why? What is it that Tolkien does?

I have an idea that it is this: he uses the syntax and form of great religious epics, like the Old Testament or the Bhagavad-Gita to inform The Silmarillion - and then uses the ideas in that book to inform The Lord of The Rings. (Tolkien actually wanted to publish The Silmarillion as his next book after The Hobbit, but George Allen wanted something more accessible.) His work is charged with myth.

In a world looking for alternatives to what many consider to be a discredited Christianity it has that wonderful quality of pressing all those mystical, mythical buttons without inconveniently bothering you with the silly notion that it might be true. That is quite an achievement, and I suppose it has to be acknowledged on its own terms.

Nevertheless, judged by your average fantasy novel criteria, it's not a great book.

Tolkien himself argued that Beowulf was a great work of literature when all the Classical scholars around him had argued that it was a rude, unformed piece of Anglo-Saxon crudery. He identified specific criteria by which to judge it. I think the same can be argued for Tolkien's work, too. It follows a tradition that is separate from the Great Tradition. Somehow it still manages to strike into people's imaginations and transport them to another world.

I suppose that this is what makes it great - although I know for sure that I outgrew it long ago.

Enjoy this book. To do so, be prepared to meet it on its own terms, and be swept along by its scope and its grandeur. Just try to ignore all those annoying things I listed at the start of this review that a modern writer of fantasy would never be allowed to get away with! Reading it for the first time could be the start of a lifelong love affair with the mystical. It could also be one of the most irritating events of your life.

Time for you to choose.


Parabnormal
Parabnormal
Price: £1.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly funny, and smoothly written., 16 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Parabnormal (Kindle Edition)
This is great fun. The central idea of a psychiatrist dealing with the mental problems of people who are apparently vampires and werewolves makes for very entertaining reading indeed. There were moments when I laughed out loud in this delightful book. This writer has a real comic talent, and I was left wondering at the end of it: "What next?" Whatever it is, I want to know!


An Evening with Richard Bandler: Introduction to NLP [DVD]
An Evening with Richard Bandler: Introduction to NLP [DVD]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Bander is extraordinary, 19 Jun. 2012
Having watched Richard live at this very seminar in London, I was delighted it was released as a DVD. Richard is extraordinary in the way he presents ideas and keeps the audience engaged, and the way he uses NLP on two people, to help one overcome public speaking and the other to overcome a bad memory is almost miraculous.

I would strongly recommend this DVD, but even more strongly, I recommend you go and see him live on stage, before you miss your opportunity!


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