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Ms. N. C. Turnill "nickyturnill" (Newcastle, UK)

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Micro USB Mains Charger for Samsung Galaxy S3 (i9300)
Micro USB Mains Charger for Samsung Galaxy S3 (i9300)
Offered by Tec Uk
Price: £3.20

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Useless!, 13 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This product doesn't work. It charged my phone successfully for only one night. Since then it'll only charge if you hold the charger in a certain position which is not very useful.... Unimpressed. Needed this for my holiday and have had to buy another.

The God of Small Things
The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banana Jam Anyone?, 17 Mar. 2006
Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things was published in 1996. It quickly became a best seller and won the Booker prize in 1997. I first read the book in 2000 after it was recommended by a friend who was studying it as part of her English Literature Degree. The same friend went on to conduct her Literature MA into this book. I read the book again recently and it was just as wonderful as I first recall.
The God of Small Things is written from the perspective of 'two egg' boy and girl twins, Esthappen Yako (known as Estha) and Rahel who recount the story of their childhood in India.
The book opens with Rahel's return to their childhood home of Ayemenem in Kerela, for the first time in 23 years, after her emigration to America. She goes to meet her brother, Estha, who no longer speaks as a result of a traumatic event which occurred during their childhood and led to their separation and her eventual emigration.
The book tells the events that led to that fateful day in 1969.
The twins grow up with their mother, Ammu and Baby Kochamma, their grandfather's sister. They are raised in their grandparent's house, following their mother's divorce from their father, with whom they have no contact. They are generally a well off family and the family business is the production of jam in a local factory. The God of Small Things tells of their daily life and the trials and tribulations faced in a discriminating society, highly governed by traditional customs and boundaries.
Ultimately The God of Small Things is a book which deals with the cultural dilemmas of post-colonial India. The novel is rich with Indian family and social customs and politics, particularly the disruption of the Indian caste system and the prejudices faced by those defined as the 'untouchables' and the shame brought upon Ammu's family when her husband abruptly left them.
Arundhati Roy writes using a wonderfully poetic and descriptive language and the book is a joy to read. I savored every page and it is a book I will never part with. The God of Small Things is full of suspense, mystery and drama using a narrative which weaves between the past to the present, always hinting at the disaster which marks the books climax. Bizarrely there are a plethora of ordinary words starting with capital letters and a number of Indian terms (for example the use of 'mol' for girl and 'mon' for boy) used throughout. This style takes a little while to get used to but overall it just adds to the magic and the intrigue invoked in this book.
The God of Small Things has created a name for itself as a classic novel and it is sure to be loved and re-read for decades to come. I imagine you would appreciate this book if you have enjoyed the works of authors such as Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez. I can also liken the book to those such as Memoirs of a Geisha and The Poisonwood Bible.
Arundhati Roy was born in 1961 in Shillong. She left home at 16 and initially lived in a squatters' camp selling empty beer bottles. She then studied architecture in Delhi. Roy became interested in the arts under the influence of her second second husband, filmmaker Pradeep Kishen. Roy began writing The God of Small Things in 1992 and finished it in 1996. The book has been sold in 21 countries and is semi-autobiographical, partly based on her childhood in Kerala, the only place in the world where Christianity, Hinduism, Marxism and Islam collide. Roy has since involved herself in non-fiction and politics, publishing collections of essays and working for social causes, sadly she has not written any other novels to match The God of Small Things.
In summary this is a wondeful, magical book, one of only a handful that I have read twice and one that I will never part with. I throughougly recommend this book and in my mind it receives an easy five out of five. I hope you enjoy it too.

The Sea, The Sea
The Sea, The Sea
by Iris Murdoch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.52

12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Irrationality and Obsession., 17 Mar. 2006
This review is from: The Sea, The Sea (Paperback)
Iris Murdoch wrote her Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sea, The Sea, in 1978 and it is hailed as her best novel. It was her 19th book and she had been short-listed for the Booker Prize several times before. Having watched the film and read the book, which tell the life story of Iris Murdoch in the past few years, I have been interested in reading some of her writing for some time. The Sea, The Sea is the first of her novels that I have had the pleasure to read.
The narrator of The Sea, The Sea is sixty-something year old, Charles Arrowby. Despite his years Charles comes across as a much younger and vibrant character, mostly due to his many everyday oddities. Charles has spent his life in the theatre as a director, and is a famous figure in the media. Charles certainly thinks a lot of himself and his self-focused natures comes across throughout.
Charles has recently retired and has moved from London having bought himself a house by the sea. The house is called Shruff End and it is situated "upon a small promontory" standing alone overlooking an unspecified area of the South English coast. The house is dilapidated, lacking electricity and modern conveniences but it is just what Charles wanted. It is from Shruff End that Charles begins his autobiography and his new life.
Charles soon discovers that one of the people living in the small town is his first love, a women called Hartley (or Mary), who had sworn to marry him in their adolescence. When Charles and Mary turned 18, however, Hartley told him she didn't want to marry him and she ran away. Charles searched fruitlessly for Mary in his youth but she covered her tracks well. He had never forgotten her….
After discovering that Hartley lives in the village Charles rapidly becomes obsessed with her as a symbol of his lost youth and happiness. He is used to being able to have any women he has ever wanted and he convinces himself that she must still love him. Hartley is however, married to Ben, but Charles convinces himself that Ben is a bully and that Hartley is desperately unhappy and awaiting his rescue. Charles simply won't accept that they he and Hartley can't be together, and this leads into an odd psychological drama during which Charles even goes to the length of kidnapping her and keeping her locked away in his house for several days…
Although the majority of the book primarily focuses on the relationship between Hartley and Charles there are a steady stream of visitors to Shruff End and thus a host of other characters. Of greatest interest is Mary and Ben's adopted son, Titus, who sought out Charles to see if he was his biological father and ends up staying indefinitely. Ex-lovers of Charles, Lizzie and Rosina also feature and bring with them many tears and tantrums. Peregrine and Gilbert, friends from the theatre also arrive and finally, James, Charles cousin, towards whom he is jealous and resentful. Shuff end is therefore, at point, a hive of activity and Charles and his guests primarily spend their time drinking into the early hours of the morning.
The books starts as a diary of Charles everyday life. During these chapters a great deal of the book also tells of the menial things Charles does. There are large sections of the book devoted to what he eats (scrambled egg and beetroot anyone or dried apricots soaked in water with biscuits?), his forays around the town and his naked swimming trips.
The diary format, however, is soon lost as the events that occur at Shruff End happen too fast for Charles to keep up his writing daily. By the end of the book the narrative changes to that of a recount of past events. This is a bizarre approach but it works and the gradual transmission between writing styles is barely noticeable to the reader.
The Sea, The Sea is primarily a book about relationships, about Charles inability to let go of his first love and about his obscure relationships with a number of ex lovers and friends. Despite his high self opinion, Charles is an insecure character. But he is likable for his bizarre ways and his completely illogical rationality when it comes to both Hartley and the other characters in the book.
The sea is nearly ever-present, always in the background and also playing a more major role at times. In addition to the numerous swimming trips, there is an attempted murder whereby one character is pushed into the sea, a drowning and the sighting of the sea-monster. The latter is a small and obscure part of the book and the only really unbelievable part. Thus I thought it was a shame to include it as it distracts from the main focus of the book.
The book is fairly slow, not a great deal happens in the 500 odd pages of small text, although it is well written using a lovely poetic style and very small chapters throughout. I found The Sea, The Sea relatively easy to read although it did take me a while to get into the storyline at first. I'd say it took me about 3 weeks to read, because it does demand attention especially while you get used to the style.

I enjoyed reading The Sea, The Sea, and I intend to read some of Iris Murdoch's other works. It isn't the easiest book to read and I did struggle a little to get into it initially. It is worth persisting though as the main character is a splendid and interesting chap who I liked despite his irrationalities. The Sea, the Sea is never going to be hailed as a classic but at the same time Iris Murdoch is a reputable author and as her best known book The Sea, The Sea is worth a read. Four stars from me.

The Art of Looking Sideways
The Art of Looking Sideways
by Alan Fletcher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.37

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Guide to Visual Awareness., 17 Mar. 2006
The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher, a renowned designer and art director, is a great coffee table book full of interesting and random information to keep the reader entertained. The book has won a number of awards.
The book is hard back, between A4 and A5 in size and contains just over a 600 pages. The cover is simply white with a number of random statements scrolled across it. One of these statements, the only written in red, reads the Art of Looking Sideways.
The Art of Looking Sideways is filled with Fletcher's lifetime collection of images, ideas, pictures, notes, drawings, quotes, puzzles, quotes, reflections, bizarre facts, poems, anecdotes, scraps and other useless information. It is inspirational and interesting and I love to deleve into this book on occassion as a source of pure amusement and fascination.
The Book is described as 'a guide to visual awareness'. It is creative and interesting and random. It presents Alan Fletcher's way of looking at the world and it my opinion this is a good way. It is always better to imagine the glass half full rather than half empty.
The book is loosely arranged in 72 chapters with titles like Colour,Noise,Language & Chance&, Camouflage and Words, although there is no real structure and this adds to its appeal. It is full of colour and every page bursts out at you, pulling you in, intruiging and amazing.
Some of my favourite parts of the book include a double page photographic spread in which Alan has laid out lots of stones. It took me a while to realise the significance of these stones but once I had got it I was thrilled. There are 26 in total and each contains a letter within the lines and marking upon them. It must have taken him years to collect them and the piece is very impressive in my eyes.
Another of my favourite parts is a collection of mistranslated signs from foreign countries. For example: Do not use the Toilets and Please eat by the Sidewalk etc.
From Buzz Aldrin's bootprint on the moon, drawings of Stone Age pebbles, a painting of "Ireland--as seen from Wales and quotes from famous authors, old cartoon strips, photos from the air, the mona lisa in international flags, visual illusions and drawings of brussle sprouts there is definitely something for everyone.
This book makes you see that there are different and original ways of looking at everything. It is a journey and a fascinating one at that. In addition the book is suitable for everyone, I can't see how anyone wouldn't be interested in at least parts of this book and I give it my complete reccommendation.

How to Get a PhD - 4th edition: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors (Study Skills)
How to Get a PhD - 4th edition: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors (Study Skills)
by Estelle Phillips
Edition: Paperback

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Calling all Ph.D students., 17 Mar. 2006
I am a currently a final year Ph.D student, enrolled in the Psychology Department at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. I read this book during my first year of study and I found it a valuable resource in getting started.
Those of you who are yourselves Ph.D students will know how difficult it is to know where to start your research and the lack of help/guidance many students receive (although of course this depends on your supervisor and your department specifically). I personally received little help and was primarily left alone to 'get on with it'. This was very daunting to say the least.
This book is therefore a good place for those in a similar position to start. I recommend the book for either those who have recently embarked on a PhD or for those who are considering it. The book may also be valuable to those who are just starting out as academics and are new to research supervision.
There are 12 chapters in total.
1) Becoming a postgraduate:
This is a very brief chapter, containing general information about whats expected during the three years of study and the PhD degree itself. The chapter also outlines the structure and aims of the book in general.
2) Getting into the system:
Chapter Two contains information about choosing a course, both in terms of your supervisors, subject and the institution you will be attending. It is important that you ensure your are happy in all of these area's, as a PhD is a long hard slog. This chapter is really only suitable for those who have yet to apply.
3) The nature of a Ph.D qualification:
Chapter Three discusses what's expected of a PhD student, what you should be aiming for by studying for a PhD and the overall point of the qualification. This is discussed both from the student and the supervisor perspective.
4) How not to get a Ph.D:
This is a fairly self-explanatory chapter and deals with issues such as not to overestimate or underestimate what's expected, not understanding what is required, losing contact with supervisors and not leaving adequate time to write up. There are lots of useful examples in this section and it is one of the best overall.
5) How to do research:
This chapter discusses the characteristics of good research and the most common types of research and methodologies. In addition sources of electronic support and discussion are outlined, which may be helpful if students are struggling to get help internally. This chapter contains really useful tips and advice, it is also one of the most useful chapters.
6) The form of a Ph.D thesis:
This chapter discussed the finished product, e.g. the actual thesis that will be submitted at the end of the three years of study. This section includes advice on the structure of the thesis, how to lay out chapters and some tips of writing skills, originality and theory.
7) The Ph.D process:
This chapter discusses what you should expect during the three years you are completing your PhD. Deals with topics such as isolation, time management, boredom, frustration, deadlines and the development of transferrable skills. Again, I would say that this is one of the most useful chapters of the book.
8) How to manage you supervisor:
This chapter discusses what's expected of your supervisor and how much of a role you can expect him/her to play. Highlights the importance of regular meetings and progress reports but also that esentially the PhD is an independent process. This section also deals with handling potential problems including what happens if you want to change supervisors and if you want to make a formal complaint.
9) How to survive in a premomineantly British, white, male, full-time academic environment:
Covers areas such as sexual harassment, racism and disabilities and how to deal with these factors. This chapter is not really that applicable to me and thus I only skim read it.
10) The formal procedures:
This chapter primarily deals with the submission of your thesis, the selection of examiners and tips on how to handle the 'viva' - the oral exam which takes place at the end of a PhD and which is generally dreaded by all students. There are also tips on getting funding and going into post doctoral research following a PhD.
11) How to supervise and examine:
Generally this chapter focuses on the student-supervisor relationship but is geared mostly towards the supervisors perspective and thus isn't very useful for students.
12) Institutional responsibilities:
This chapter discusses the training of both supervisors and students. What you should expect from your university and your supervisor overall, the resources and support you are entitled to and also what they will expect from you!
Each of these chapters are broken down clearly into sections making in easy for readers to access the bits that are relevant. There's also a clear index at the back and many references should the reader feel they need additional help.
The book is well written and avoids jargon. Although it can be a little hard going at times, this is too be expected given the topic and the necessity of covering all relevant issues. The book isn't designed to be a pleasurable read, it is designed to be a factual resource.
On the negative side one disadvantage is the fact that the book is fairly subject specific and tends to give examples from buisness studies students on the whole. This is a shame as sometimes the examples are a little irrelevant.
I also feel that the book would benefit from an increased emphasis on scientific writing skills in general. This is one area that students commonly struggle with, yet it is primarily neglected throughout.
It's also expensive at £19 but the book is a really useful resource throughout your PhD and is sure to be a valuable source of information. If you are willing to buy secondhand, the book is currently available at from around £15. In addition students should have access to a university library where the book is likely to be available.
In summary this book is definitely worth a read if you are a first year PhD student who feels out of their depth and all in all, I do recommend it. However, because of the price and the subject-specific examples I give the book four stars.

The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet Pictorial)
The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet Pictorial)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback

87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Start Packing!!!!!, 17 Mar. 2006
I am a big fan of Lonely Planet, I love their travel guides and I have found them immensely helpful in my travels around the globe. When I spotted this on display in Waterstones I was very excited and I was thrilled to receive it for Christmas.
This book contains information on ALL of the countries in the world in alphabetical order, 230 entries in total. This list of countries comes from the United Nations list of defined countries and does not generally include the foreign dependencies of these countries, whether self-governing or Crown colony. However as they wanted to include some of the more popular and beautiful travellers destinations they have included some dependencies for example Bermuda, New Caledonia, the Cayman Islands and French Polynesia. They also include fine distinctions such as England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales as separate entries as they do with Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan for example and they include Antarctica and Greenland even though strictly speaking these are not countries per se.
Each country features a double page spread which is primarily composed of big, bold and vivid pictures providing an insight into the people and places of the country in question. The pictures will make you want to visit pretty much every country in the world, regardless of that countries woes or wars. The book truly proves that there is some good and some beauty in every corner of the globe.
A small section of written information and a map of each country is found on each page along the right hand side. Basics such as the Capital, population, religions and languages spoken are all includes as well as the best time of year to visit. These basics are followed firstly by the ‘essential experiences’. For example in the England entry the must dos are:
Climbing St Pauls Cathedral; eating fish and chips on pebbled beaches and willing the sun to shine; climbing Scarfell Pike in the Peak District and marvelling at the view, the regency town of Bath; exploring the coastline of Cornwall and Stongehenge.
Some pretty good choices there if you ask me.
Next there is a section entitled ‘getting under the skin’. This is broken down into six sections: listen to, read, watch, drink, eat and ‘in a word’, which again provides a fascinating insight into the country in question. Using England as an example again here are their suggestions:
Watch: Sense and Sensibility; Listen: The Kinks, Waterloo Sunset or anything by the Beatles; Eat: Sunday Roast with all the trimmings followed by apple crumble and custard; Drink: Real Ales; Read: The English by Jeremy Paxman; In a word: ‘Oright?
There are two final sections, firstly ‘surprises’ and secondly ‘trademarks. According to the book the ‘surprises re England are…..
“it doesn’t actually rain that much, the English drink more tea than you ever thought they did, most of the best things on offer in England are free”
……and the trademarks are……..
“The Royal Family; Lords and Ladies and big hats at Ascot; Cockney Rhyming Slang; Britpop; Jellied eels; Warm beer; Page three girls; Fry-ups; Football.”
At the end there’s also a general extract from the lonely planet guide book with some general information. In the England entry they discuss the number and variety of pubs and drinking establishments…. (says a lot I think….!!!).
12 'bonus' destinations are featured at the end, that I guess they just couldn’t bear to not include. These are much shorter versions than the other entries including just one picture each. The places featured include Montserrat, Gibralter, St Helena (an island belonging to the UK) and Niue (an island belonging to New Zealand).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2010 4:18 AM GMT

Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America - A Memoir
Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America - A Memoir
by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Edition: Paperback

86 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Young and Depressed in America, 17 Mar. 2006
The book is a true to life portrayal of Elizabeth’s life in the USA, written first hand. It starts of in her childhood, in approximately the 1970’s, when she is only around 8 or 9 from when she still feels normal to when she starts to feel the depression first kicking in. Her parents separate when she is pretty young and she gets sent away to Summer Camp for months on end which she dreads. During one of these Summers as a child of only 9 or 10 she takes her first overdose, not enough to do any real damage, but enough to be recognised as a cry for help…. She also spends long periods of time sitting in the toilets at school cutting her legs, however she can hide this all too well. Sadly no-one notices her cries for help and life goes on with Elizabeth sinking further and further into her depression.
The bulk of the book is set during her late teens and the time she spends at college. Elizabeth is an interesting case because she is a very intelligent person and despite her depression she gets a place to study at Harvard and she always somehow manages to just scrape through. Unfortunately away from the security of home, things just get worse for Elizabeth. She starts to drink a lot and to take a lot of drugs, cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis, speed, you name it, to try to make the pain go away and to try to ‘fit in’ but this just makes everything worse.
When she isn’t on a manic partying spree Elizabeth’s days are primarily spend alone, in bed, in the dark, because she can’t even find the energy to drag herself up out of bed. She cries endlessly for days on end and tortures her poor mother who simply cannot understand her ups and downs. Her father stops speaking to her altogether and disappears for up to years at a time. She doesn’t eat and can’t seem to sleep even though she’s too tired even to stand up. Something little like going to the bathroom or answering the phone seems like the worst ordeal ever to Elizabeth at these times. At her worst moments she considers suicide, she doesn’t go to any lectures or do any course work, she literally cannot do anything. A great deal of the book is devoted to the description of these periods at the bottom of despair, it is painful to read and it can become quite depressing, although also fascinating.
Elizabeth’s lowest states can be demonstrated with two examples, both of which occur while she is at Harvard. She sleeps with a lot of people, but because she is so depressed she doesn’t even notice that she hasn’t had a period for two months. That’s until she wakes in the middle of the night, covered in blood and is taken, screaming, to the hospital where she is told she’s had a miscarriage. The other example is her description of the time her Grandparents, two lovely old people, went to visit her in Harvard. They undertake the five hour drive only to find that Elizabeth is not there. She is recovering from a night of taking one hell of a cocktail of drugs on the floor of a friend’s house, depressed and on a come-down she is simply unable to get up and go and meet her Grandparents. They bang on her door and leave countless messages, worried sick, just five minutes away and all Elizabeth can do is lie and cry about the fact that she can’t get up and go and meet them, she just cannot deal with it…...
Her saving grace must be her friends who also seem there to pick her up and drag her to the psychiatry ward or give her a good talking to and of course, her mother. Without these people who are described in great detail within the book, who knows where Elizabeth would be today, or even if she would be….
Other parts of her life are more positive, at times she holds down a good summer job, throwing herself into the workload manic as ever, working all night and proud of what she can achieve and partying all night with it. These are clear manic episodes in which she does crazy, impulsive things without thinking them through and consequently these things often end up going horribly wrong. But of course, such moments never last long, it always goes back to the depression. Elizabeth knows this and she just waits for it to happen.
It gets to the state where Elizabeth is admitted to the psychiatric ward fulltime as she starts to contemplate suicide, in fact there is a period where she is in and out of here on a number of occasions. She eventually has a lot of therapy with a women named Dr Sterling, who she comes to trust and rely upon deeply and who managed to help her and keep her away from the edge. It is this women who eventually starts to try Elizabeth on drugs to control her depression. Some make it worse, some improve the situation marginally. At this point Prozac is a brand new drug on trial and Elizabeth agrees to give it a shot despite the little knowledge there was about the drug at this point. Of course you can guess the rest. The improvement is dramatic and immediate and it changed Elizabeth’s life immensely for the better, letting her control her depression and at least attempt to lead a normal existence.
In many ways this isn’t a happy ending, for Elizabeth the problem will never go away and she has to deal with a life in which she relies on pills, the side effects that come with them and the occasional bouts of depression she still seems to slip into…..
At the end of the book there is a prologue and considerable information about the life of Prozac since Elizabeth became one of the first to be prescribed the drug. There is a very amusing extract in which Elizabeth discusses her friend’s cat. The owners of the cat had recently separately and there had been a house move; consequently the cat had become distressed and had starting to tear fur from it’s coat and chew it. The vet diagnosed depression and prescribed the cat with a low dose of Prozac. Sure this is America, they love their legal drugs over there, but isn’t this just the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? The whole point of course is to illustrate that the whole Prozac thing has got way out of hand, millions of people in America and World Wide now take Prozac and the drug is well over-prescribed. Elizabeth had to suffer for over a decade with the debilitating disease that is depression before she was offered any real help now you can just pop to the Doc’s and I reckon you or I could get some without much cause for fuss at all…. Still that’s the way of the world!
What I also liked about the book is that it contains numerous literary references, for example snapshots of characters or storylines who Elizabeth feels she can relate to. Elizabeth is a literature student and a huge bookworm which explains this constant referencing. If you’re like me and you really enjoy reading then you’ll find that your attention will constantly be grabbed by another interesting book title or author to add to your list of must read material.
In summary I’d just like to say that this is truly a great read, passionately written and shocking to the core, you just won’t be able to put it down. It is an insight into a world you didn’t know existed and if anything at least it helps the rest of us to understand to some extent. Depression is a real problem, however exaggerated it has become, we just have to hope and pray that it is something we don’t have to deal with in our own lives but it personally or to those we love.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2011 12:32 PM GMT

by Alex Haley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roots: A must read CLASSIC, 17 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Roots (Paperback)
Hayley's 'Roots' is easily one of the best and most vivid books I have ever read. It is a modern classic and it comes with my 100% recommendation.
Roots is a account of the life of Kunta Kente, a young African boy, captured and shipped to the US to work as a slave. The book details the start of his life from his birth in 1750 in a village called Juffire in Gambia in the West of Africa. As a young boy Kunta is captured and subsequently transport across the sea to be sold as a slave. Kunta is shipped to and sold in the State of Virginia, first by a harsh master and thus he runs away four times, with no place to go his is re-caught and eventually sold to a new 'master' who is much softer than the first. Kunta eventually accepts his fate and the book goes on to detail his working life with his new master, his marriage the housemaid Belle and the birth of their daughter Kizzy. In some ways the book has a happy ending as Kunte is eventually freed but at the end of the day this book is about slavery, a practise that was inhumane and unforgivable.
At times It is a shocking and graphic account of the maltreatment and suffering endured by those taken as slaves. Both in America but particularly the parts in which Kunta details his experiences on the ship across the Atlantic, where he estimates that the death rate could reach as high as 40%, given the unsanitary conditions, with bodies just chucked mercilessly into the sea. This disturbing account will stay with me always, it is appalling to think that so many thousands of innocent people undertook such horrific times, stolen from their homelands in order to ensure that the USA became the richest country in the World.....
Passionately written and factually correct, the book has definite educational value as well as being a great read. It is actually based on the real ancestral history traced back seven generations to the Gambia by Alex Hayley himself. Of course many of the details will be fictional but this doesn’t damage the story in any way.
As the story follows Kunte throughout his entire life consequently it is LONG and some might see this as a disadvantage! It's one of the longest books I've ever read it fact, a good 800-900 pages, but it is well worth the time. It's totally engaging and impossible to put down once you have really got into it, I'd recommend it as a holiday read, or sometime when you've got the time to really get it to it. Also be aware that at times the language can be a little difficult to comprehend, there is a lot of slang involved, but as long as you persist then it gets easier to read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2010 12:53 PM GMT

Next of Kin (Living Planet Book)
Next of Kin (Living Planet Book)
by Roger Fouts
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chimpanzees can use Sign Language??, 17 Mar. 2006
Next of Kin: What Chimpanzees Have Taught Me About Who We Are was written by Roger Fouts (with Stephen Turkel Mills) and first published in 1998. The book is about the lives of a group of chimpanzees (particularly a female named Washoe) who can use American Sign Language (ASL) and Roger's commitment to them over the last three decades.
The chimps detailed in the book are Washoe, Tatu, Moja*, Loulis and Dar. I know their names and the signs for each of their names well because I met them myself. Back in 2001 I did two weeks voluntary work at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI), part of Central Washington University in Washington, USA, the current home of these chimpanzees.
* Moja is no longer alive, she passed away in 2002.
I did a psychology degree which led to my fascination in language. Chimpanzees who have successfully been taught ASL are used as case studies in order to try to explain language development. I am also a travel-holic and a trip to the West coast seemed like a good idea, thus I applied and was accepted to work as a volunteer at CHCI. Next of Kin was advised as reading material before we arrived in order for us to gain some understanding of the centre and the background of the five residents…..
…. And so I came across this book and I literally couldn't put it down. It is fascinating, compelling and heart-warming. It will teach you about things you never thought were possible…..
The story starts back in the early 1970s with the ideas of Allen and Beatrix Gardner. These researchers came up with the great idea of finding themselves a baby chimpanzee and attempting to teach it ASL in order to see whether or not it was lack of vocal, rather than mental, ability which prohibited our closest relatives from using a spoken language. In 1976 they acquired a ten month old female chimpanzee named Washoe, who had become surplus to the Space Program. Roger Fouts was hired by Gardner and Gardner as part of a team of research assistants who cared for the chimp and taught her ASL. At the time he started to work with Washoe she had already been taught around two dozen signs. Roger helped to raise Washoe in a caravan and garden in Reno, Nevada. She was treated the same way one would a human child with 24hour care. They clothed her, bathed her and put her in diapers, fed her using cutlery, played dolls with her and signed her bedtime stories. Spoken English was not used at any point in her presence. Only ASL was permitted.
A large part of the book is devoted to these first few years of Washoe's life and it can be frightfully amusing at points. Washoe was a mischievous and boisterous youngster who loved playing games and being tickled. At one point Roger describes how she managed to get hold of a bottle of washing-up liquid which she drank. Roger was convinced she was going to die!! She didn't but in his own words 'it cleaned Washoe out like nobodies business and he spend the rest of the day cleaning up Chimpanzee diarrhoea!!
The team of researchers successfully taught Washoe more and more signs. For example EAT, CRY, GO, SIT, SAD, HAPPY, BIRD, PLEASE, CLIMB, CAR, BABY, MINE, PLAY, MORE, BLACK BUGS, SORRY, TREE, CAT, TICKEL, FRUIT, YOU, UP, OUT and many others. By the time she was five Washoe had a vocabulary of around 130 words, today she has a vocabulary of >200 words, which frankly is amazing. Washoe could combine words to form basic sentences, for example: YOU ME OUT; GIVE ME FRUIT; PLEASE PERSON HUG; ME CLIMB TREE.
Sadly though Washoe got too big and too boisterous. Gardner and Gardner proved what they wanted they decided she needed to move somewhere more permanent and secure. Hence in October 1970, Washoe moved to a research lab at the Institute for Primate Studies in Oklahoma, Roger Fouts went with her as her primary guardian.
In Oklahoma Washoe had a baby called Sequoyah, but she died of pneumonia within two months. Washoe became withdrawn and wouldn't eat. This is a hugely touching part of the book as illustrated in the following: In the summer of 1982 Kat was newly pregnant, and Washoe doted over her belly, asking about her BABY. Unfortunately, Kat suffered a miscarriage. Knowing that Washoe had lost two of her own children, Kat decided to tell her the truth and signed to her: MY BABY DIED. Washoe looked down to the ground. Then she looked into Kat's eyes and signed CRY, touching her cheek just below the eye. When Kat had to leave that day, Washoe would not let her go. PLEASE PERSON HUG, she signed…..
Washoe became more depressed and was eventually given an 'adopted' baby; Louis. Washoe took to Louis almost immediately and they are still together to this day. The experimental process kicks of here again. The researchers stop speaking verbal English around Washoe again and revert back to only ever using ASL. The point of this is to see whether Washoe would teach her baby signs independently. Using this method over a period of several years Washoe taught Loulis 51 signs completely independently.
A third experiment was also conducted by another group of researchers who looked at the use of signs between three 'unwanted' young chimpanzees who were raised as siblings. These chimpanzees were Tatu, Moja and Dar. They were raised together in the same way and Washoe and it was shown that they were able to communicate between themselves.
In 1981 Washoe and Loulis were eventually moved to Central Washington University where they lived in a make-shift environment until 1993 when the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute was built. The five chimpanzees then moved in together where they have lived since as a strong family unit. Research on the chimps is continuing, for example I worked on a project examining their use of novel and recycled objects with the aim of proving that chimpanzees respond positively to different sources of stimulation. This was proven and hopefully these results can be used to help improve the lives of other captive chimpanzees across the globe.
Much of the story is heartbreakingly sad. Rogers love and obsession for all chimpanzees, especially Washoe, stands out throughout. At points Roger discusses in great detail certain cases where captive chimpanzees have gone mad from being kept in tiny cages with absolutely no stimulation for years on end. The treatment of many captive chimpanzees today is still horrific which is appalling when you consider that they are highly intelligent and out closest relative at 98% genetically identical to us. They have culture, hierarchy and use tools. They raise their young for years in the same way we do and have complex family and group structures. They are amazing animals for whom I have great passion and they are being wiped out because humans continue to hunt them (even though it is now highly illegal) and to destroy the forests in which they reside. These practises need to be stopped and reading this book will make you realise this. It is too late to return captive chimpanzees to their natural habitats, they wound not survive, but hopefully more will be done in the future to ensure that they are kept in humane conditions and are given the respect they deserve.
The book contains a lot of scientific information with regard to the theories and background of language evolution and acquisition. However Fouts writes at a level that almost everyone can enjoy, he uses everyday language so it doesn't get too much. If you aren't interested in the science behind the project then it would be easy to skip over these parts.
Many people criticise the observations which have been made within this book and the many scientific studies that have been published. I'm not going to go into these criticisms. Read the book and decide for yourself…..

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Ken Kesey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintery Mintery Cuttery Corn, 17 Mar. 2006
Vintery Mintery Cuttery Corn
Apple Seed and Apple Thorn
Wire Briar Limber Lock
Three Birds in a Flock
One Flew East and One Flew West
And One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest.
One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest is a fabulous book which was written by Ken Kesey in the 1960's. The setting is primarily that inside an American Mental Institute and it depicts the life of the inmates and their experiences at the time. Before I tell you anymore about the book I must say that this is easily one of the best books I've ever read and I read it for the second time very recently. This proves that it's amazing because I rarely re-read books; there are too many new ones to go at!!! I would certainly put it in the top ten books I have ever read and beleive me I have read many many books in my time.
The story is told from the prespective of Chief Bromden, also just called the 'Cheif'. Bromden is a HUGE 6"5 odd American-Indian guy. He grew up in a life of discrimination and watched as his culture, life and family were ripped as a consequence of modernisation. The Cheif has chosen not to speak anymore and has got lost in his head for the last decade or so. Everyone else on the ward presumes that the chief is deaf and dumb which is an interesting twist to the story and means that he gets to hear alot of illicit information which isn't for his ears!
Initially much of the book details the Chiefs moments of madness where he feels like he is lost in the swirling fog and can't get out of it, watching things and people float by. These interludes are interesting and very random visual account of the experience of madness. But thankfully over time the Chief comes to learn that he can control and escape from these episodes.
There are two other main characters. Firstly McMurphey who is really the lead role withint the book, even though the book is not told from his perspective. McMurphey gets himself institutionalised purely because he can't be bothered to work off his sins (fighting and fucking) at the work farm. He is a bold and daring character who doesn't follow rules, does as he pleases and likes to gamble over anything and everything. McMurphey's presence changes the ward dynamics immediately. Mostly for the better and he shows the patients that life can still be fun, treating them like normal, sane human beings for the first time in years.
The other main character is the Big Nurse. She is the evil driving force of the hospital, insisting on order and regime. The Big Nurse cannot stand McMurphy's present and most of the book is devoted to their psychological war against each other. These scenes are clasically funny at times and shocking in others, particularly the parts which detail the experience of electro shock therapy (EST), the Big Nurse's final attempt to get MycMurphy under her those times EST times was thought to help 'cure' patients and to make them 'calmer' based on the evidence that natural seizures in epileptic patients have a calming effect.
The other characters are a handful of other patients, including Ruckley and Billy, the ward orderlies who are the Big Nurse's partners in crime, the Doctor and a couple of McMurpheys lady friends who appear a couple of times within the book. Once towards the end when they break into the hospital at night for some illicit drinking and again on a fishing trip which McMurphy organises to get the patients out enjoying life and the fresh sea air!! But mostly we deal with The Chief, McMurphy and the Big Nurse throughout.
I'm not going to detail the whole story and the ending because really what is the point in that? I'm just going to say that this book has a tragic and totally unexpected ending...... Although McMurphy manages to teach the patients to respect themselves once again and to show them that they are able to survive on their own (he even gets the Chief to start talking again!), the Big Nurse is the one holding the trump card..... at the end of the day McMurphy is institutionalised and she gets her own back for the chaos and destruction that he causes on her ward.....

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