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Amazon Customer "doodlemonger" (Galway, Ireland)

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A Short Book About Drawing
A Short Book About Drawing
Price: £0.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Long Review about a Short Book, 10 Jun. 2015
This is a book about why humans have always drawn, and what they get out of it. It's a very enjoyable book, which I read in one sitting. On the whole I thought it was great, and for the writing I would award it five stars. As for the art, Andrew Marr is a great draughtsman, with an excellent eye, who records his subjects very well - and often with very beautiful results, at least when he's drawn with a pencil.

Which brings me to the only aspect of the book I didn't like. The reason I've lopped off a star is the choice of medium - nearly all the images in the book were drawn using an i-pad. Ugh! I just can't bear them, and while I would like to be open - in my job I see a lot of them, often done by great draughtsmen - I have yet to see a single one that does not look like it's been drawn by a robot trying very carefully to draw like a human. What good are 250 million colours (or whatever) if they all look like they're the weird ones from a packet of markers? And what about the fuzzy edges when you use the airbrush tool (or whatever it is) - they are awful! I'm very familiar with David Hockney's i-pad drawings too, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the two men are friends. (I suspect that David Hockney has no one around him to tell him to ditch the awful digital drawing and get back to a pencil.) I can't understand how Andrew Marr doesn't see the inadequacy of the digital drawings, being a man of taste and discernment, as evidenced by his beautiful pencil drawings. He does mention early on in the book that after his stroke, drawing with a tablet worked well for him, since he didn't need two hands (one to draw, the other to steady the paper), but I think he has been using the tablet for a while, before his stroke. Maybe I'm wrong, in which case I will feel very bad. I know why people like drawing with a tablet - immediacy, convenience - but don't aesthetics matter at all?

Now for the good bit. I agree with nearly everything that Andrew Marr says about drawing. He has some terrific one-liners (and I paraphrase): "There is a current trend to believe that most people can't draw. They didn't know that in the nineteenth century, poor deluded fools, and so they did it anyway." I have strong feelings about this: I speak to hundreds of adults and children about drawing and while I meet scores of adults who insist that they cannot draw, there are much fewer children (virtually none below the age of about ten) who claim the same. That suggests to me that something happens along the way to convince them that they are useless at drawing. Sometimes I will hear a tale of a mean teacher who said thoughtless, cruel things and crushed the confidence of the budding artist. So I agree with Andrew that people actually can draw a lot better than they believe - and my drawing classes bear that out.

I love Andrew's take on the unchanging nature of drawing: he says that writing evolved from drawing, and has changed so much over the centuries that sometimes it's hard to read a piece of writing from the past - but that drawing has never changed, and that every time we begin a drawing we are doing the same thing that man has done since...well, since records began.

I don't agree that the author name-drops - yes, names are dropped, but he happens to be friends with a man whose views on drawing are well-known and firmly-held, so I think it's normal to share some of his opinions. However unlike Andrew Marr, I won't have a picture in my book (which is on the way...ish) of Ronnie Wood, simultaneously drawing me. Or of my cameraman. But that's all irrelevant. What matters is that Andrew Marr has derived enormous happiness and satisfaction from his drawing practice, and would have us trying the same. (I can vouch for drawing as a cure-all: it's the best activity in the world, it will lift you out of the doldrums - even temporarily - and although you might think you're "useless", it's great fun learning.)

There are some things in the book that I don't fully agree with, which aren't necessarily the author's own views, such as humans finding beauty in things that could help us survive, which I think is nonsense. I also think it's a shame that the author falls into the trap of thinking that all the greats are in the past. But these are very minor quibbles and other than the lack of hand-done drawings - I don't see tablet sketches as hand-done - there is nothing to complain about in this very excellent, well-written book by an extremely nice and interesting man.

More More France Please: The Little Lusts and Secrets of Life in France [NEW UPDATED EDITION 100 NEW PAGES]
More More France Please: The Little Lusts and Secrets of Life in France [NEW UPDATED EDITION 100 NEW PAGES]
by Helena Frith-Powell
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Horribly written by author with a funny attitude but probably very useful, 27 Oct. 2014
I don't know where to start. Terrible syntax, poorly edited, badly written and full of sentences which make little sense. So much for the quality of writing, but the content is far worse. The author comes across as a misanthropist, refers to people she has met by childish and cruel nicknames which she clearly thinks are funny, and has no sense of social responsibility. I dislike arrogance, and unfortunately the author leaves you with the impression that she feels far superior to the people in whose country she has chosen to live. She also seems starry-eyed about the symbols of wealth - ugh. Avoid (however I can see it could be very useful for those intending to emigrate, so I suppose it does achieve what it intended to...)

A week later: I have considered what I wrote and I think I was a little hasty. I still think the book is terribly written and anglocentric, but I've been thinking a bit about the nature of British people who live abroad. The way they often seem to delight in living in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours - I don't understand why they don't want to get right in there and bumble along with the locals, cheek by jowl. Personally I think one of the best things about being anywhere - home or abroad - is the characters you meet everywhere, and by characters I don't mean odd characters, I just mean different people. My husband, who is British, tells me that this perceived misanthropy comes from living on a very overcrowded island. He says I just don't get what it's like to have a grinding daily commute on the Underground...I guess that's so.

I thought about all the passages the author wrote which tell the tales of others' (mostly British) experiences of trying to live in France. They are illuminating, and extremely helpful in many ways, although I did think as I read these accounts, "No! That wasn't the way to approach that!". I imagine that a lot of the ones who didn't make it, or who had a bad experience, just didn't know how to approach French people in a relaxed, friendly and open way - you do need to be warm to get anywhere in France (and very occasionally even warmth doesn't work, but that's the same anywhere). I've lived in France many times and I've always found the people fantastic - really open and warm, and always ready to have a joke, apart from the lady in charge of my Paris bank account many years ago, who scared me witless. I was still "Madame" after nearly a year, and I was only 22, for crying out loud. But they are very formal, and we Irish are the complete opposite. I love France, for all the usual reasons, but I love the people too. I wondered if that was because I'm fluent in French, allowing me to communicate in a real way, so I imagined what it would be like to live in, say, Greece, or Germany, in neither of which places I could ask for so much as a cup of coffee, and I realised that I would find it horribly difficult until I spoke the language, and I'd definitely appreciate a book like this.

So here's my revised review: very annoying to read if you have any regard for grammar, or don't like arrogant attitudes, but extremely useful if you're considering moving to France.

Classic Austrian Cooking (Cookery Classics)
Classic Austrian Cooking (Cookery Classics)
by Gretel Beer
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious. Great book., 5 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Delicious, fantastic book by a great cook. I adore Austrian food anyway and so my husband and I are thrilled to have the book. Mother-in-law is Austrian and a terrific cook but she can't be bothered any more so thank heavens for it.

Make Your Own Stupid Sock Creatures
Make Your Own Stupid Sock Creatures
by Lark Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The best use by far for a pair of socks, 5 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! Then get used to going around barefoot, for you will realise that the best use by far of socks is to turn them into Stupid Sock Creatures! Before John Murphy's beautiful book, we all had nice warm feet. Life is much better now, for although our feet may be cold, we have many more friends in the house, all living on our three children's beds. I myself have made countless Stupid Sock Creatures, and have painted pictures of them, and have made Stupid Pyjama Monkeys too. I was sort of trying to get the kids sewing...and now they know loads, all because of this book. My boy has made about eight Stupid Sock Creatures, all by himself, and he was only ten when we got the book; my younger daughter was only seven, so I think she was a tiny bit young, but still made lovely versions of Stupid Sock Creatures; my eldest, who was twelve, made up her own patterns, as no one tells her what to do, and they are all very lovely. I gave workshops in the local library to kids based on John Murphy's book (voluntary ones!) and the second time I did it they all came back laden with their own creations. Now i think I will teach my art class how to make them as they're very enthusiastic.

Quite simply a work of inspiration. Beautifully presented, easy to follow, and a barrel of laughs!

Committed: A Love Story
Committed: A Love Story
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read but weird about children, 5 July 2014
I enjoyed this, but I can't help but find fault with a couple of things.

I enjoyed parts of Eat Pray Love, but on the whole thought it was a bit annoying. Liz Gilbert's best gift, in my opinion, is in reporting the speech of others. She does that well and amusingly in both books.

I would give Committed a lash, it's well worth a read. Very interesting facts and tidbits about marriage in other times and places.
Poor husband, Felipe. His entire personality and love life, laid bare for the world to see. Liz does say that she warned him in advance though, and said he could cut and run.

Lots of reviewers find her self-obsessed. So what? That seems to be common enough. The author is a very nice person, but she should let that become clear through her writing, rather than telling us how lovely she is, spreading her largesse and kindness to all and sundry - she figures that while she's childless by choice, she is still a wonderful member of the Auntie Brigade, being there for all her tired, worn-out mother friends. I can safely say that the only people who have stepped in for me since my kids were born are other mothers (and fathers, my own super dad and my super brother). My brother once said the husband and I should leave the kids in the elevator to his apartment, hit no.5 (his floor), and go off to the airport. Then one morning we all went to the shops with the kids, two minutes away, and he asked if he could retract the offer! Not once has a childless woman ever offered to take the kids for me or give me a dig-out. Only other mothers understand the deliciousness of a meal...cooked by someone else!

The other issue I have is that she constantly talks about the bum deal that women get in marriage. She hasn't had kids so she doesn't understand that while your husband can drive you nuts in so many ways, a lot of the time the work he does enables you to spend every moment that you want with your babies (too many perhaps!), and the joy they bring is like nothing else on earth.

But Liz really doesn't get the love that a mother feels for her children. Not her fault - how could she? For example, she tells a story that her grandmother told her about a beautiful wine-coloured coat with a fur collar. It was not only beautiful, but a tremendous achievement for a young woman in the Depression to buy such a thing through the effort of her own hands. Then, after her marriage, money is tight, and her grandmother snips up the coat to make a winter outfit for her eldest daughter, the author's aunt. Liz think this is a tragedy. If that was me, I would have said, "Right, the coat has served me well, and I loved it, but my little one is going to look so cute when it's done, and she'll be so warm and cosy!" She also can't understand when her grandmother says the happiest time of her life was during the early years of her marriage and motherhood. She says she has to respect her enough to believe her, but still can't understand it. I know that my life changed forever the second my first child left my body, and I could never have envisaged it beforehand, so I should let her off fact the more I think about it the more I realise I was a complete cow to my friends' kids before I had children of my own - totally intolerant of their dear little ways and not spoiling them as I should have, or even talking to them much.

So much for the whole kid issue.

I think that as a treatise on marriage, the book was excellent. However it's strange that she doesn't really see that any marriage is as different as the couple involved, and that everyone writes their own rules, albeit usually stacked in the man's favour, by and large. I told my husband that according to the author many American women wish, above else, to be "inspired" by their husband-to-be. Hilarious! But a bit sad too. I did find loads of useful tips that would have been great to know when I was starting out fifteen years ago - like being extra-careful with what you say when you're both stressed, and a few other things that I can't remember but will no doubt come in useful when my ageing memory drags them up again. I was reading lots of stuff out loud to my husband and he said "You're part of the problem." I said "What?!" even though I should have guessed what he meant. "You're part of the problem, for reading it," he said. So inspiring!

That's about it really!

Chocolate Wars: From Cadbury to Kraft: 200 years of Sweet Success and Bitter Rivalry
Chocolate Wars: From Cadbury to Kraft: 200 years of Sweet Success and Bitter Rivalry
by Deborah Cadbury
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a good read: an inspiration, 21 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wanted to read about the development of chocolate for a number of reasons. I love reading stories about family businesses, coming from that kind of background, and anyway it's always so interesting to see how a family has grown a business. I also wanted to educate myself on the history of chocolate, as I'm an author/illustrator and I am always on the lookout for a good project.

I got much more than I bargained for.

Chocolate Wars is very much the exciting story of chocolate, which is fascinating in itself, and as another reviewer mentioned, Deborah Cadbury's book reads like a thriller. But it's the story of the Quaker principles that has touched me the most. I have a few Quaker relatives but I had no idea of what the ethos really was. If I decided to follow any religion at some point in the future, Quakerism would be my first choice. The protagonists never seemed to put themselves first, but always, always, the common good, in a real and practical way - like building a convalescent home for poor little children crippled by being shoved up chimneys or abused by drunken parents (there were a lot of awful social problems in Victorian England). That's just one tiny example.

I'm only halfway through (I usually can't stay awake more than ten seconds after hopping into bed) but I love this book and I feel so much richer for my newfound knowledge. Sometimes I read a passage aloud to my husband. Normally when I do this he'd say "I'm reading my own book, thank you" but with this one he just listens, and wants to hear the next bit.

I believe Ms Cadbury has written something on the rivalries between palaentologists in the nineteenth century: as a geologist with a modicum of knowledge on the subject, I can't wait to read it.

Read this book - you'll be the better for it.

Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius
Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius
by Megan Vaughan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb, a tour de force - and a page-turner to boot, 6 Aug. 2013
Megan Vaughan has put an enormous effort into recreating Mauritius as it was in the eighteenth century. I feel very grateful for her dedication: the book is an excellent read in every way. Sure, it will make you furious about the cruel treatment of bonded humans by their fellow men, but more than that, it will enrich your knowledge of human nature. A lot of it isn't pretty. The book has made me think - not for the first time - about what it means to be in the control of someone else, to be a colony, to be an abducted person with no hope of a better life.
As to the content: you will learn about the daily lives of early Ile de France settlers and the bonded people whose lives they controlled (slaves); about the bizarre demographics of Mauritius at the time; about the absurd lengths to which Franco-Mauritians went to oppose abolition of slavery. These are all present in the public record, but be warned, a lot of it is grim.
There's even some fascinating theories on the evolution of Mauritian Creole.
Buy it - with every penny and more.

Just Dance 4 (Wii)
Just Dance 4 (Wii)
Offered by PROGAMES
Price: £19.94

5.0 out of 5 stars it WORKS, 2 May 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Just Dance 4 (Wii) (Video Game)
I adore dancing and I adore music with a good beat. Added to this is the fact that all my life I have wanted to get slimmer. I'm an ex-hockey player and have always been very active but never slim the way I wanted to be. Got great results in the gym (hello, cheekbones!) but it got boring...always my enemy. BUT along comes Just Dance 2, 3 and 4...I love them all but I do think Just Dance 4 has the edge. I don't bother with the gym anymore as it was becoming a real chore but I adore the hour I have to myself every day for the Wii and Just Dance 4.
Sometimes I go for the individual tracks but mostly I just want to get my pulse up and get thoroughly out of breath so I use the Just Sweat feature. I'm still not at my target size (it would help if I didn't eat so much)but my body has changed completely and everyone is commenting.
I'm useless at following the moves but I'm getting better and it's a great feeling when you actually keep up with the moves.
I'm completely addicted now and I feel a great sense of calm after a good workout. Better than running as my knee packs up too soon.
I also use Zumba and I find it very good for fitness but I do prefer Just Dance. Depends on your mood on the day really.
Overall, an excellent choice.

Zumba 2 Fitness Wii - Bundle Pack with Belt accessory
Zumba 2 Fitness Wii - Bundle Pack with Belt accessory
Offered by Tracymuk
Price: £32.95

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars beyond horrible, 26 April 2013
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
Having completed the first zumba, I thought it was time to get going with the second. I adore good beats and love zumba in general, especially live classes. The reviews were glowing. The graphics were better, the music was better, everything was better.
I'm very disappointed. It's the graphics more than anything - they are hideous. Where do I start? They look like Sims people. They are really ugly, and funny-looking. The moves are odd, really computer-y. The girls are really rough - they'd probably look lovely if they were real but to me the avatars or whatever you call them looked really skanky...tattoos, dreadful hair, horrible midriffs - as I say, all could look fine on a real person but just awful on a Sims creature.
Then there's the bit at the end of each song - the strange little Sims person does all these supposed-to-be-cool attitude-y moves while an imaginary crowd goes crazy, clapping and cheering. For ages.
On the plus side, each move is repeated so many times that even a useless dancer like me can eventually get the hang of it.
I didn't crack a sweat, and I found the moves really slow, but that could be because I lost heart quite early on (I've NEVER given up before - even a Rick Astley song on Just Dance!).
Very disappointed. Also...I know I'm doing this because I need to shape up a bit but the "real" people on Zumba 1 \nd Just Dance (funny colours and all) seemed a lot kinder! I hated looking at cartoon bodies. I often think that people who play computer games are falling for a huge con as the graphics are so dreadful. So at least you know where I'm coming from!
I do Just Dance or Zumba every day and I am soaked in sweat afterwards, and I love it really is just Zumba 2, not the whole dance-wii principle!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2013 5:37 AM BST

Mauritius: On the Spice Route 1598-1810
Mauritius: On the Spice Route 1598-1810
by Denis Piat
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, pity about the 200-year-old grudge, 5 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read this as research for a book I'm writing. I loved it - Denis makes history come alive, his characters are written with seemingly personal knowledge and it's not often that I find a history book unputdownable. The book's format is based on describing the personalities of the time, and how their lives and actions influenced events of the period. I wanted to go into detail about the history of Mauritius and I wasn't disappointed.
It ends with the taking of Mauritius by England in 1810, so I'll have to look elsewhere for any information on nineteenth-century Mauritius.
The author seems devastated that Mauritius was lost to France - you'd swear it was a recent tragedy, rather than 200 years ago. Also, I'm not English - I'm Irish, and I am a lover of France and the French language - but I got very fed up with the anti-English tone. Most English would find it amusing, I know, so maybe that's a plus! But I found it a bit tedious after a while.
Having said that, it's an excellent read and well worth the steep price tag.
It would have been five stars except for the chippy tone towards the end.

You will discover a world of disaster, tragedy, intrigue and above all incredible daring in Mauritius' early history. I found the tales of determination by the early settlers and governors very inspirational: these were men who never gave up, faced with events that would send most of us running for the hills.

The author represents women as, on the whole, pretty and decorative characters, there to make life sweeter. "He can't have known many women then," was my husband's comment.

Buy it - it's brilliant. One of the very best on the subject that you'll find.

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