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The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW from someone who didn't read Harry Potter, 26 Feb. 2013
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
Harry Potter wasn't my cup of tea, I stopped reading after 1/4 of the first book.I am in awe with this one. Hard subject,very much like XIX. Naturalism in French literature after 1860, admired Zola, it is likely that you may admire Casual Vacancy also.

Sadness... But don't many people live like this? As abusers, bigots, or victims,as activists whose efforts meet without misunderstanding, or even hostility because other are hostile to people who the activists help? Or some people live in cold indifference without much thinking or feeling about ethics, because they have not the problems the others experience? Or do others who are terribly deprived labor in heroic ways and are met with disdain while they are heroes in their own way?("Bad girl" Cristal in this novel for example). J.K. Rowling takes sides, but sides often need to be taken, and she explains why, and does it indirectly, without preaching, through showing, not saying.Brilant work with great attention to detail and fine story telling.

Some complained that R.K. Rowling heavily criticized the middle class. I think everyone gets criticized.There are the upper crust members, people who live in the Sweetloves mansion.Those are not very present in the novel, but they are not angels. Middle class is criticized,as probably more visible in every day society in which we live, but the poor are getting their bitter critique, in their case they are more excused. For example heroin addiction is no ta choice,after all, is a very strong compulsion which is a battle, authors shows it. Or self harm, she explains the psychology behind both cases very well. And in cases of other problems. For sure j.K. Rowling did her homework, I admire that, she didn't shy away form difficult matters.

This book is not an escapist one, and in addition to its own literary qualities this is has value on its own. Some art, writing serve as conscience of societies, this work is one of them.WE need such works,as we need investigative journalism, but it takes courage to deal with such subjects. This book shows a society which is morally in state or morally bankrupt.Which doesn't mean that all people are devoid of ethical instinct,or total war mongering sadists of some kind, no.There are of course kind of sadisits and victims among them: too ignorant to be nice,or have real sadistic streak, have trouble with temper and no insight whatever.Or victim admiring the tormenter of all family, the battered wife who doesn't help her children but admires he husband and always excuses him.And quite a number of examples of dysfunctional interaction between people.So, it is not a pleasant read, rather one which can make someone cry.

The book has two buildings which I find symbolic: ruined abbey on the hill and mansion which belonged to the gentry, the Sweetloves.No monks no Sweetloves are there anymore. The monastery had inhabitants who were daily devoted to high standard of morality,as much as we may criticize them, and see them as foreign, they did their share of effort and often were good example. Gentry, with all privilege and bigotry relating to class did effort to make their ways of life more gracious, filled with respect to others, even if this respect was directed to their own class only. In any case members of those types of communities respected their own member if they were ethically advanced. Not so for the community of Pagford.Yes, Barry Fairbrother does his great job, and only some can understand him, other engage in their petty local politics and hostilities fueled by ignorance and bigotry.

The empty ruin of Christian monastery overlooks the community which claims to upheld high moral standards, but is not. Sweetloves' mansion is on the same level as the rest of community, just set apart,and other empty or inhabited by empty people to whom privilege in not obliging to anything, no noblesse oblige, they don't have any sense of obligation but they feel above all and enjoy their elevated position as a reason to feel above others and feel disdain. The hope for the community lies in those who are able to break from it constrictions, have mental courage to face those who are empty.

I, Crowley: Almost the Last Confession of the Beast 666
I, Crowley: Almost the Last Confession of the Beast 666
by Snoo Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, witty, great read, 2 Jan. 2010
This book is written in confessional form, in the first person, and it is a fictionalized account of the life of Aleister Crowley, the "most wicked man on Earth," as he was called by the press. Crowley in this book recalls events of his life, and Wilson portrays Crowley as a funny excentric, so, there is enough humor to entertain the reader. It is a comedy. And there are also reflections, or question posed, showing Crowley how he was received by his contemporaries, what were the realities of his life, and the social climate, what were his pains and tragedies, which may explain why he chose to offend social norms in his search for spiritual meaning, and why he disregarded social mores so much.

And as Crowley may amuse you, there is also bitterness. He can be seen as a product of religious abuse, raised by fanatical parents, who were ideological and lacking compassion. This upbringing, which left psychological scares, and a tragic event in his life (no spoilers here), may have formed his personality and his path in life. Wilson is compassionate toward Crowley, but without sentimentality.Crowley, who serves as an image of modern day heretic, was demonized by the press and often called "the most wicked man on Earth," and we may understand why people found his behavior so shocking.And the author is not white washing Crowley. But when Wilson juxtaposes Crowley to the others, those who opposed him, or who were his bitter enemies, we are forced to ask what we as a society perceive as evil, or what freedom is, where are the limits of freedom, and what is really brain washing and manipulation.

For example there is Mussolini, just mentioned shortly in the novel, but in the right spot. Both were contemporaries, Crowley lived in Sicily.Yet Benito Mussolini was considered a great man, while Crowley was the demon.

There is also the problem of Crowley sacrificing a cat in one of his rituals. And there is no doubt, that Wilson (as me), thinks this is a horrible thing to do.But than we have one of his poet collegues, who in order to rejuvenate himself collaborated with scientists who kept monkeys in their lab, and produced a substance which was than considered to have great regenerative powers when injected.Obviously a very frivolous reason for sacrificing monkeys. Than there is Crowley, who in desperation kills a cat, as he believes that the sacrifice will help his very ill daughter to survive.Both were misguided, but Crowley is less of a monster than his respected collegue.

For those of you who are Crowley fans, (I am not, I confess), you may enjoy it, but you may get upset too. It depends how you prefer Crowley to be portrayed. The author has great style, his writing is witty, characterization is great. Wilson is a dramatist, he writes mostly plays, but Crowley as a character in a novel is amazing. Not an easy task to portray such unusual person, but Wilson excels.To me the novel is brilliant, I recommend it highly. Yes, Crowley was sexist, nationalistic, racist, etc.Yet the book is very complex, it shows his struggles as a man who desperately was seeking to free himself from pain of his formative years,to find a better universe for himself and others, a better universe than this in which he grew up, and in which he was not able to put his trust.

by Ruth Brown
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Wondeful gallery of pet art!, 2 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Copycat (Hardcover)
This book has realistic, detailed illustrations, with half pages in between which change situation when turned over, while the scenery doesn't change.The story is more like real life, rather than a fairy tale, somewhere between reality and exegeration(about a cat who is copying other animals).

The author/illustrator did wonderful job rendering the scenery and animals.The characters are based on her real life pets, and it shows in the quality of illustrations: the animals have a lot of character.Wonderful book for children, but also adult animal lovers too. This little gallery of pet art is touching, and invites to come back, to delight in all the details.

The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read and Write It
The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read and Write It
by Nicholas Awde
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple explanations, step by step, 12 April 2009
I really like this book; simple instruction, step by step like if learning calligraphy. Yes, there are the letters and their variants, and at the first look they may seem intimidating, but just starting and following, and what? Things don't seem so complicated anymore. The instruction how to write, the movements as in calligraphy, division in space by the lines, this really simplifies the task. I know, everyone is different, some people are more auditory learners,(I am very visual),some get a lot from gestures, (you can draw the letters int eh air), so, if you are an auditory learner, you may need to spend more time learning alphabet than the visual types, so, my enthusiasm may not be shared by all. But in any case, I found the instructions very clear, and nicely divided into bits of information. Right amount of words to practice, enough to learn, but not so much that you feel drawn in drills.

I am, really, really happy with this book, it is very well constructed for self-study. I recommend this book highly.Don't get me wrong: I don't claim it is "oh, so easy," the alphabet is complex, and the rules need to be followed, but I was pleasantly surprised how intuitive the book is constructed, the learning felt more like brain tease than a chore. But maybe it felt like this because it is not a second alphabet I learned? (Learning cyrilic script was a kind of hell in the past). I had challenges at the beginig, as Arabic writing was unfamiliar to me, but hey, this type of unfamiliarity happens with learning languages in general. After some time, I really started to feel the smooth gestural qualities of this alphabet. In simple explanation, Arabic started to feel kind of ergonomical, if I can say so. Don't let the fact than is written in different direction, or has different letter forms intimidate you; after some time I found it very natural, as you can write words with relative gestural ease, seems like the letters feel easy for the natural movements of the fingers holding a writing tool.Now I find Arabic is a very hand-friendly alphabet. I think this book made me come to this conclusion faster.

The Last Gospel
The Last Gospel
by David Gibbins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Eco than Dan Brown or Indiana Jones, slow, gripping late, 12 April 2009
This review is from: The Last Gospel (Paperback)
But lacking Eco's finesse.

The prologue is great and full of promise. Than, as also the other reviewer pointed out, there was an overload of information.Which slowed the pace, and I have to admit even when the author described the excitement of discovery of the ship of St. Paul, I didn't share his excitement. Lots and lots of info,and don't get me wrong: I love thrillers with good information, well researched, and the author has fine credentials. But there is too much detail, which slows down the pace.

If a book is advertised as a "cross Indiana Jones with Dan Brown," you have a different set of expectations.Here the action was not gripping, as it drowned in dialogue between the characters, who actually should know most of the info in the first place as they belong to the world of academia. (Maybe Costas would be excused, he has other area of expertise). So, one star down, as for me the action started to really take off around the page 200, and started to be really good around the page 300.

The mistakes in the foreign language were charming, like for example confusion of gender,or "liederhosen" ("song pants" in German).etc. And was a pleasure to see the author using Latin so much, Latin gave the book more sense of authenticity. The author also touches on the scholary controversy relating to the island which was in Greek manuscript written as Melite, the tradition says it was Malta. (However, there was another Melite, close to today's Dubrovnik, the author doesn't mention this part of controversy among scholars). Also he describers the Gospels as altered as much as it would happen with oral traditions.I think it is Dan Brownian moment, which I don't like. Yes, some manuscripts of Antiquity were mistranslated, miscopied, things were added "at a whim," but the gospel is unique in this regard. Actually later version and earliest version of the manuscripts are amazingly similar,not much mistranslations or mistakes.This is what is unique about the New Testament manuscripts.Why I write this? Some things need to be taken " with a grain of salt" as the author writes. I am surprised a scholar wouldn't know this. I am taking this info with grain of salt. But never mind.

There is also murderous Catholic church, Vatican. (Yawn, this again?).Naples is described as if this were a nest of crooks, mafia, and in general a purgatory on earth. And things are easy to predict.One star less.

The character of Costa, a MIT educated engineer is thin, he seems to not know too much and Jack, the main hero, Jack, needs to explain things to him, history, etc. Costas is here in order to give the main hero an opportunity to give lectures. Even though I got used to the constant lectures in this book, after some time, the characters didn't grip my sympathy so much. One star is gone.

Than Mr. Gibbins has so much knowledge, it doesn't even compare to Dan Brown. One star given.Both authors make Catholic church a murderous organization, hell on Earth, mafia-like. Luckily, the church is not even in part as murderous as both authors describe it. And I am glad, because if the church would have murderous monks and priests, I can imagine both authors would get both of their eyes black.(Sorry for being flippant, couldn't help myself, got tired of those devil Catholic subject in books).

Getty Villa fans: don't get excited like me when I started to read they are approaching this wonderful place. Not much describing, and from the description I think the author wasn't there, or visited this place such long time ago, that he doesn't remember it well.Never mind, but my initial rush of adrenaline when I read the words "Getty Villa" was gone in seconds.

I will read more of the author's books, sure, I think he has very interesting ideas, a lot of knowledge. This is exciting.I think I probably could enjoy this book more, if I were not introduced to this book by the two sentences posted on the cover, comparing the author to Dan Brown and Indiana Jones (US market, I don't know about UK).

Promised Land [DVD] [1970] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Promised Land [DVD] [1970] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £41.95

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterwork, showing part of history of capitalism in Europe, 12 April 2009
The movie Promised Land by Wajda is great on many levels: directing, acting, camera work, costumes,etc. Wajda is not dissapointing.It shows turbulent times during the XIXc. very well, the extremes of unleashed greed and how people were affected by greed: their own or of the others.
Industrialization brought easier access to goods, but also dramatic changes, not always for the better.

The story of three men,German, Jewish and Polish who become business partners is of course fictional, but of course such partnerships probably existed.And capitalism of XIX c. and the situation int eh city of Lodz was bad. The movie is based on a novel, the author of which, Reymont, was working a as clerk for an industrialist in Lodz,and knew the problems first hand. The exploitation of the poor,and the competition between the industrialist was merciless indeed. So,we see abuses of power, sexual exploitation, abuse of trust, and other evils.Reymont's, and Wajda's ambition was to show a realistic picture of early capitalism as seen in Lodz, which place magnified the evils even more.
I think in order to understand the movie better, it is good to take in account the history of Lodz, and the role this played on the map of European capitalism.Geographically, a Polish city, under the control of Russian Empire, it experienced explosive growth after the decree of the tsar helped to make it to the center of weaving industry. I think fast became the biggest center of this kind in entire Europe. At a price, of course.As the wave of enterpreneurs emigrants, who were industrialists already, or those hoping to make a fortune really fast,there were also the poor who came in desperation but with hopes for a better life. The very bitter realities are shown in this movie, and actually some things may have happened in real life.

As the movie portraying Polish society: the city was very diverse, because of waves of emigration. At some point there were only twenty percent of ethnic Poles in Lodz.So, the movie shows a part of social history in Europe,as Lodz was so unusual in many ways. You probably know that Esperanto, the invented language,was invented by Zamenhoff, a Jew by ethnicity, who lived in Lodz. Zamenhoff wanted to help people to communicate,as there was such a medley of languages, there was real problem: communication across nationalities. I think this fact alone says a lot about the situation in Lodz, it can give impression of chaos which existed there, than.The situation of the poor was really miserable.

Back to the movie itself:the situation among the rich was not good either, because the predatory practices, which cause so much suffering of the factory workers and their families. The rich couldn't be sure of thier future either,as fortunes were made quick, but could be lost extremely fast too. Like the robber barons int he US, the industrialists in Lodz had no mercy for each other.Some of the characters in the movie are more extreme than the others. Should I add that the characterization and acting is superb?

For example Bogucki, the Polish partner in the three ethnic enterprise, is extremely agressive. He comes from a family of Polish nobility, very empoverished, and he worked as a clerk, and is the poorest of the trio. But, probably because of the relative lack of means, as compared to his partners, he compensates in his lack of scruples. He sells the property on the country, his father and w woman whom he should marry need to be uprooted, that he could invest.Nothing is holly for him, literally, as he even swears on a holy icon (false testimony), in order to deceive. There are bad characters from other nationalities, but Bogucki is the worst.In the end scene when he is presenting his little son, dressed with Oriental decadence, like a little tsar, or Polish magnate of Baroque painting, the viewer has no doubts that the capitalism of those days was not less oppressive and power hungry than feudalism. Actually this scene shows the continuity of the corruption of feudalism carried into new times, on the wave of industrial revolution.

Dr. Martens  Lalana
Dr. Martens Lalana

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great shoes!, 16 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Dr. Martens Lalana (Shoes)
I got the black version of those shoes, and I am very happy with them. Very happy. ( Even consider to buy another pair, as they started to be one of my favorites). They are versatile, and I can dress down some more fancy things, or dress up some jeans, wear them with vintage without looking too vintagy, etc. First I was thinking that they may look too Gothic, but not (of course tastes may vary).

When they arrived, first I didn't like the look of the soles, as they are not black, nor are the heels. They have kind of industrial look. But than I was thinking shortly of young Coco Chanel and her usage of the unusual colors and fabrics (not considered elegant in her days, or even considered empoverished materials, I am talking now about her beginnings, not the time she became an icon of elegance and her designs were not considered shocking anymore), her love of the functional, I got hooked.
(No that I can afford to wear Chanel, or would wear if could afford). The shoes appear to me artsy, contemporary, and the design embossed inside, which looks like funny, cute skull-like something, makes me smile.

The shoes are somehow wider, but they give me comfort.
I like comfy shoes, and my favorite brand so far was Ecco, but the design looks kind of traditional to me, so, I wanted something with more twist. This is first time I bought Dr Martens shoes, but now I am encouraged to buy some of the less avant-garde looking shoes by this company.

The Last Cato
The Last Cato
by Matilde Asensi
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfull book, (thriller), loaded with intersting information., 23 Dec. 2007
This review is from: The Last Cato (Paperback)
This book was first published in Spain two years before the Da Vinci Code, so, I feel like joining those reviewers who (rightly so), point out that this book is not a knock off. And it is different than DVC, which is rather a simple chase: this book is a chase also, but The Last Cato focuses also on spiritual quest,initiatory experiences, and human capacities of transforming own psyche. It is a very fascinating book, contains so much information, is so well researched, that if you don't mind that all the information slows from time to time the pace of the story, and specially if you like history, is hard to put it down.

I think this book can be much more satisfying than a typical page turner, intellectually and emotionally satisfying, it is just richer, well woven story which has unity, and more of spiritual content. But for those who like thrillers which are very much like a roller coaster, with chopped-down short chapters which end with cliff hangers, dense with red herrings, and rearranged in a manner that is very non-linear,this book may not be high-octane enough, as in this book the tension develops more from the continued story, than those additional methods of creating suspense.

The main protagonist is a female, a nun,intellectually strong, often stubborn, facing challenges in a human way, pushing her limits.She is not a flat character.Two men who are on the journey with her, are the brainy type and the warrior (also a smart one), but not two dmentional characters either.There is also a romance.The thriller is written in first person, the reader is in the mind and body of the female protagonist.Dante's writing, the Divine Comedy, is the key, the guide from which the clues are taken.

Why I am giving the four stars, and not for example five? The dialogue quite often appears unnatural, and it seems that the translation is not perfect, appears kind of unpolished, which takes some of the fun reading away.This book is not only the effort of the author, but also the translator.In case the book has some flaws in Spanish, the translator could make it flow better, more natural.Sometimes translators take this freedom. But the book must have been a challenge for the translator, as such a heavy load of information like in this book requires that the translator is familiar with the information (if not, things can really get lost in translation, or even misrepresented),so, I am not really complaining, as the translator represented author's knowledge very well. Another comment: the main protagonist uses a lot of adjectives, the character describes more than shows, which is a little bit XIX.c. when in writing it is combined with the first person view. However, it also can be this was the intend of the author,part of characterization, not a flaw. Maybe she just wanted to create a character which lives as much in history, in the world of ideas as in the present time.

In general, a delightful read, specially for women. I hope there will be more books form this author.

Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics
Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics
by Burton Silver
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious book! A lot of humor for art people., 23 Dec. 2007
Humorous book,imitating art books.

This is a wonderful book, with very nice photos. The art world jargon is very believable. The cats are presented the way typically artists are shown and described by the art establishment.Abstract expressionism is covered mostly, also you will have examples of installation art. Deliciuos and heart warming!I truly recommend this book, if you are an aillurophile yourself, or want it as a gift for a cat person, or an artist.

The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture (Shambhala Pocket Classics)
The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture (Shambhala Pocket Classics)
by Gyorgy Doczi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.94

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patterns, proportions, measuremtns and harmonics, 23 Dec. 2007
This book is about recognizing very basic patterns in nature (anatomy of humans and animals, plants, rocks, shells, etc.), universe,arts, crafts, architecture, music,writing, rhythm in poetry.Diverse cultures are covered.The preview of this book can give you quite a good idea how its looks like and how its logic is developed.This is not a book on composition, dealing with design principles teaching how to balance your composition using those principles, if you are in creative profession.

This book is not dealing as much in depth with composition from the view point of art history, although touches it, but it takes a wider, more holistic approach.(You will not find for ex. the analisis how triangles and diagonal lines were applied in composition in order to create harmony in paintings).Historical references range from neolithic times, through antiquity, Renaissance.For ex. the author deals with such universal symbol as pentagram, but not as much from the view point of iconography: it is more about harmonics in a more Pythagorean way, and it is mentioned that this symbol is meanignfull still today , which allows the pentagram to be classified among Jungian archetypes. Or the author touches sightly on the view of unity and harmony laws among Maoris (mana and tapu), American Indians,Minoan art and architecture expressed in its spiral patterns (mother earth symbols, mother and child, symbols of re-emergence, labyrinth). You get the idea.

I think this book can be of great interest to many people who are interested in patterns and proportions: mathematicians, specially if you are into fractal geometry, artists, art historians, architects, craft people, musicians, dancers, scientists, or if you have deeper interest in those areas.The book is loaded with illustrations, diagrams, and photos (black and white). I highly recommend this book. (Specially if you liked Goedel, Escher, Bach:an Eternal Golden Braid, and forgive me the alterantive spelling in Goedel's name, can't find umlaut on my keyboard.
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