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Francis Mitchell "EvilNoddy" (Ware, Hertfordshire (UK))
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Strange Glory: A life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Strange Glory: A life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
by Charles Marsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars As relevant as Sophie Scholl or Operation Valkyrie, deserves to be better known, 14 April 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a sympathetic biography of a public figure not much given to self-analysis. despite copious writing. The result is a surprisingly good account of life in a period of history that brought great difficulties to most Germans. However, I could have done with a bit more contemporary detail of events that were happening even if they did not directly impinge upon Bonhoeffer (for example, we are given much about the capitulation of the Reich church but nothing on the Catholics). The chronological approach of most of the book starts to waiver towards the end (chapter eleven starts in Jan '39 before darting back to the summer of 1938 and a similar start occurs in chapter twelve and so on), I am not sure if this is due to author and research team fatigue or is a tactic to soften the blow of the final act. The notes and index go a little awry too (see note 72 on p.447 that references pp.29-29 and the omission of the term UK (or unabkommlich) on p.513). Minor qualms aside there is much to admire in 'Strange Glory' for Christians and everyone else.


Greatest Hits
Greatest Hits
Price: £4.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Need cheering up? Then this is for you..., 3 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Greatest Hits (Audio CD)
It's Hugh Masekela, it's a best of, therefore it is a five star. Only question is why was this not a double CD. Township music that makes you feel good but tells stories of oppression at the same time, also songs that celebrate Africa too. Great to see that he is still gigging in his seventies, even more wonderful live that he is recorded.


Front Lines
Front Lines
by Michael Grant
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Good on combat, good on social justice, 3 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Front Lines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Like a blockbuster film this book requires you to suspend disbelief, in this case at the premise that men and women would serve side by side in frontline battle seventy five years ago. It is a testament to the writing that you soon get carried along with the story and the book makes good points about sexism, and racism too, without being 'preachy'. The slurring of indiscreet language works well also, we know what is really being said without having to adjust for the impact all the time. As a British reader it is refreshing to read a balanced account of one of the theatres of World War II that gives merit and demerit to allies reasonably equally, my uncle was in the Royal Navy off Tunisia during the period covered by this book and it was a vital but torrid passage of the war. See also Prof. David Reynolds television documentaries, I think it was in '1942' that he remarked on US soldiers newly arrived in Engalnd asking for beer to be served 'as quickly as you guys got out of Dunquerque' and singing 'The Yanks are coming', after Kasserine the GIs were repaid by taunts of 'The Yanks are running'. Yet the GIs who survived were also the ones in the vanguard of the bitter conquest of southern Italy (my uncle was also in the naval support for that campaign). I particularly liked the account of trauma in this book, I cannot say if the accounts of combat and military training are accurate but they convinced me. It did take a little while to engage me (being a sixty year old male, might be different for a younger reader - I'll pass it on to my daughter) but a real page turner by the end.


Prisoner of Night and Fog
Prisoner of Night and Fog
by Anne Blankman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The swastika discarded, 30 Nov. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
An ambitious novel set in a critical but little visited period for historical fiction, this mixture of real events and people in the years immediately before the Nazis gained power countered against a developing romance sustains interest and informs the reader. There are inevitably a few passages that strain credibility, sometimes the language is too modern (Gretchen felt ‘grounded’, ‘fixed’ breakfast) and the occasional lapse into ‘Hardy Boys’ detective narrative might jar but the overall impression is of a well paced, well developed and vital story.

This tale should appeal to all adults but is probably aimed at late teens, I worry that the length will put some off but the relevance of the subject matter is undiminished in contemporary politics and it is important that those in the present engage with this matter in the past so as to be wary of unbalanced trends in the future.

Perhaps this may even be a logical next step for readers of the Millennium trilogy although the writing is not quite as brisk as Steig Larsson’s journalism tempered mirror to the present. Looking forward to the film adaptation, especially if it is made in Germany where local actors could develop the characters to full authenticity.


A Theory of Justice
A Theory of Justice
by John Rawls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore it if you are serious about how we should live, 19 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: A Theory of Justice (Paperback)
The most significant philosophical work of the last fifty years is a must read for anyone seriously interested in how we should live at the present time. A complicated and careful book predicated upon a challenging thought experiment it is not the easiest read, you should not expect a plan for our social life in the current historical period to be, but it is necessary that you make the effort.


Lie of the Land
Lie of the Land
by Michael F. Russell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere to run, no easy way to fit in, 19 Sept. 2015
This review is from: Lie of the Land (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The psychological journey of an unlikeable and unimaginative outsider stranded in a relatively quiet but unpleasant science fiction near future may not sound promising but this debut novel is thought provoking, descriptive of the modern social structure of the Scottish Highlands (in many respects of rural Britain in general) and disturbing in the sense of a warning about the type of world we are sleepwalking into (rather than disturbing in a baseless fear shock horror story).

The division of the book into months rather than numbered parts helps with the West Coast feel as the change of seasons bears upon the story and the, at times, non-chronological progress of the narrative fills in some of the gaps we were left to consider earlier. This assists our understanding of the partial knowledge of the characters and when the book breaks away from the central character about two thirds of the way in (before returning to his viewpoint for the closing stages) we can flesh out what were one-dimensional stooges into potential parallel stories and the drama these characters may produce.

I think that if Michael Russell were to write a sequel I would be inclined to seek it out and read it.


China's Coming War with Asia
China's Coming War with Asia
by Jonathan Holslag
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars For me, an eyeopener, 21 Aug. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book appears to me made up of three essays, the first is a very valuable history lesson concerning China's development as a modern economy since World War II and runs to 140 pages, i.e. 80% of the book. I was most impressed with this as it makes sense of the random news items I have read on China over the last fifty years and the only criticism I feel qualified to make is that I could have done with a glossary to help me cope with the many acronyms that fill some pages. There is a copious and detailed set of numbered notes, with pinyins where appropriate, as well as an index and maps but a glossary and brief biographical sketches would have helped even more, I know there is always wikipedia but sometimes it is best to have all the information together in one volume.

The penultimate chapter of 23 pages is a rundown of military developments in the Pacific, whilst this does have frightening implications I found myself wanting a stickerbook or scale model of numbered plastic pieces rather than a glossary here. Again a very detailed essay but a technical view that was a jarring change of pace after the logical progression of the previous seven chapters.

Finally the argument to back up the sensationalist title and cover illustration occupied just the last ten pages and whilst the speculation was a possibility I was not convinced that the conclusion necessarily followed from the previous eight chapters. Furthermore I was troubled by a few, as I see them and I have to admit that as a non-expert I might be wrong to place emphasis on them, ommisions and dismissals. The handover of Hong Kong in 1999 seemed a momentous occasion in Britain but gets no mention here, it had an influence in the years leading up to the event and remains a city of great interest to Commonwealth observers (as well as a reason for formal state relations between Britain and China). It was surprising that a Professor from Brussels did not mention other European nations relations with China either, do we really have so little importance? Further afield I would have liked to see some analysis of China's trade and investment with Africa, and also a comment on the recent development deal with South Africa. The Indian Ocean could also be as important as the Pacific in future. And finally, I think there are many compensating mechanisms that will limit Holslag's conclusions and not the least of these are the effects of the wide Chinese diaspora and the increasing travel opportunities for both those outward from China and interest from the rest of the world to travel in.


The Lure of Technocracy
The Lure of Technocracy
by Jürgen Habermas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.72

3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag, 15 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The cover blurb does not really describe what is a miscellany of later Habermas that often touches upon Europe and the complex workings of the EU organisations but does not close with many of the pressures and opportunities facing its citizens. For example, climate change gets no mention until page 57 and then only as part of a list of threats. A second and final mention of environment refers to it as a hurdle to overcome ratehr than an integral component of policy, there is no mention of the past effects of a Common Agricultural Policy or any opinion as to its future applicability. Education and health systems are also blindsided, as is the increasing effect of new information technology. Rawls also is given just a single nod and the concept of justice between generations seems to be restricted to responsibilty of the current one to read Heine rarher than the vital task of doing what is best for the future. Perhaps a German outlook makes appreciation of the growing influence of China possible to ignore but surely not the EU's relationship with Russia. The most glaring omission is the lack of consideration of South Africa's experience with a multilingual state when discussing European cultural integration, whatever one thinks of the results so far it is obvious that SA has an ambition that deserves appreciation.

Two other problems with this edition are the lack of either index or glossary, this makes the referencing of difficult terminology more arduous than is necessary. All this being said there is a much of philosophical interest here, especially for students of Martin Buber and Heinrich Heine, but the skewed agenda setting and the impression of living in a world without migration or militarism leaves an unsatisfactory course for his recommendations.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2015 7:29 PM BST


I Hear the Sirens in the Street (Detective Sean Duffy)
I Hear the Sirens in the Street (Detective Sean Duffy)
by Adrian McKinty
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Here's a cracking wee read for ye, and that's no word of a lie, 4 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are plenty of enthralling strands weaving together, and sometimes disentangling, in this potboiler set in near history. However, what I like most about this book is the underlying and never overstated implication of the effects of unemployment, alcohol and drugs on a community. And the weary resignation of the policemen whose responsibility it is to manage the troubles within the Troubles. I will be keeping an eye out for more Adrian McKinty novels and also wondering why Serpents Tail did not effectively proof read the copy, a few spelling errors and even word order faults crept in either at that stage or (given that Clays did the job, unlikely) at the printers. But that does not detract from the work although the writer deserves better. And I will definitely be getting hold of the ingredients and making myself some fifteens.


Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem [DVD]
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ronit Elkabetz
Price: £10.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dour, claustrophobic, fascinating, 2 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
and a little overwrought. 'Gett' has many similarities to 1950s Hollywood and Ealing courtroom dramas and, at times, some of the tactical revelation of the duplicity of witnesses that will be familiar to viewers of Kurosawa's 'Rashomon'. The difference here is that we are dealing with modern theocracy and fundamentalism entwined with the legal process, this does not prevent clinical discovery of facts but it is also responsible for farcical moments and hand-wringing mental agony. The film does a great job of portraying the central characters predicament and demonstrates how lives can be thwarted and denied the flourishing home life expected in a marriage.

I would hesitate to call this a feminist film as there is suffering on the part of the unyielding husband also, he may be the villain but he is not a pantomime villain. I would hope viewers could reflect on the problems from any gender or attachment perspective. Also, not being Jewish, I wondered whether I would find the proceedings of a rabbinical court unfathomable but this was not the case. However I am not able to give a verdict on the veracity of the portrayal of the court and players.

Finally, I hope I have not put anyone off watching this film but only prepared them for a tough start. I think you will find that it draws you in.


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