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Julia Probyn

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Lamentation (The Shardlake series Book 6)
Lamentation (The Shardlake series Book 6)
Price: £5.39

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The success of this series is a mystery to me, 28 Feb. 2015
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I am entirely mystified as to why these books are so popular.

Shardlake: Well, Nicholas, you are from the countryside, so you will need me to explain the religious situation in London. Because naturally they have no religion outside the city.
Nicholas: Indeed, and although I am a gentleman born and thus allowed by the sumptuary laws to wear a sword, my extensive education has left me entirely ignorant of the processes of the Reformation. Although it is a matter of life and death, what with all the burnings and plottings going on. I wonder how I missed it? Perhaps I was busy admiring my gentlemanly sword.
Shardlake: I rebuke you for your vanity, though I am glad you mentioned the sumptuary laws because we all need to be reminded of those, especially if we happened to be readers in the twenty-first century. Or, of course, boys from the country. I will now explain the current political and religious situation in very simple terms. But don't worry if you don't catch it all at once: I'll circle back around to it at least once in every chapter.
Nicholas (suddenly): Wadmol.
Shardlake: Wadmol? Why do you mention the cheap woollen cloth worn by those who according to the sumptuary laws cannot wear swords like a gentleman?
Nicholas: Well, it's local colour, isn't it?
Shardlake: I think it only counts as local colour if you quote a very very familiar sort of line from the Bible at the same time, or insert an archaic phrase into the sentence.
Nicholas. Wadmol, by the holy blood of Christ?
Shardlake: A bit too traditional, perhaps, but we new men don't seem to have any picturesque oaths of our own, so it will have to pass muster. Now let's go to Whitehall where we will meet all of the most famous people of the sixteenth century, and make astute observations about how William Cecil is likely to become very powerful later in life. We may be middling sorts of men in Tudor London, but dammit, we are shrewd.

And so it goes on. Clunk clunk clunk. How have a thousand reviewers tolerated this stuff? It isn't awful, but it is pretty unambitious.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2015 2:10 PM GMT


Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Price: £1.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Cod-medieval prose made me desperate, 22 Feb. 2015
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This book was recommended on the fantastic book blog The Idle Woman - I've normally been such a fan of her taste that I bought it without downloading a trial chapter. But (sorry, Idle Woman) I found the prose unbearable. I like historical fiction (and this sort of historical fantasy is closely related to it) but not the sort of pastiche of historical language where characters refer to being 'abed' rather than 'in bed', vel sim. The plotting is pretty slow, and between that and the limp prose, I gave up about half-way through. I don't often give up on books. I am an academic who spends a lot of time reading seventeenth-century sermons, so my boredom threshold is pretty high; and when I was reading this book my train had broken down and I was trapped on a bus replacement service with nothing else to read. And I still couldn't force myself to keep going. I think perhaps this has been mis-marketed: better as a children's book?


Blue Guides: Prague
Blue Guides: Prague
by Jasper Tilbury
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Great for history and art, but a very unpleasant travelling companion, 3 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Blue Guides: Prague (Paperback)
Some of the negative reviews of this book are by people who just don't like the Blue Guides - but I've always been a fan. If you want a properly detailed history or anything more than the vaguest account of the architecture of a city, they are your only option. I've never given one less than five stars before, but this one is different. Yes, it shares the strengths of other Blue Guides - but it is also a bad-tempered and unsympathetic piece of writing. Snippy comments about Patrick Leigh Fermor's prose style, intolerant remarks about the Child of Prague - an object of Catholic veneration worldwide, rather than a dress-up Barbie - made this a depressing read. I'd rather see Prague through the eyes of someone who seemed to like the place.


Nightrunners of Bengal (Indian Trilogy Book 2)
Nightrunners of Bengal (Indian Trilogy Book 2)
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A surprising and powerful book, 18 Sept. 2014
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I was really surprised by the quality of the writing and the story-telling. This is a thoughtful and compelling account of the Indian mutiny, which is properly sensitive to the Indian side of the story. Wonderful.


The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot
The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot
Price: £6.79

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read MIddlemarch instead, 18 Sept. 2014
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This is a largely inoffensive read, but contributes nothing to our knowledge about Middlemarch - there are much better studies of the book itself, and of George Eliot's life, available to us. Good criticism doesn't have to be inaccessible to the general reader: writers like John Sutherland and John Mullan manage to write entertaining and approachable works which are also informative and - crucially - not so self-indulgent. This isn't a 'way in' to Middlemarch, as several readers have suggested: it is a way in to Rebecca Mead, who, although undoubtedly charming, is not the same thing. If you are considering this book as a bridge to Eliot, have more faith in yourself: read Middlemarch instead.


Blackout
Blackout
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I always enjoy Connie Willis but there are a few problems with ..., 12 July 2014
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This review is from: Blackout (Kindle Edition)
I always enjoy Connie Willis but there are a few problems with Blackout which keep this one hovering around the 3-4 star mark for me. The narrative technique gets a bit wearing - every second chapter ends with a cliff-hanger and then keeps that storyline in the air while switching to another set of characters for a few chapters. When we get back to the cliff-hanger, it is almost inevitably an anticlimax, to the extent that I started discounting the proffered disasters immediately - which completely undermined the suspense. And then, I'm not convinced that London won the war all by itself. There is no doubt that tremendous courage was shown during the Blitz, but this read at times like the Daily Mail. I much preferred To Say Nothing of the Dog. Please be funny again Connie Willis!


In This House of Brede
In This House of Brede
by Rumer Godden
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 16 April 2014
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This review is from: In This House of Brede (Paperback)
I've read quite a lot of Rumer Godden but this was by far the best of her books for me - I loved the portrayal of sophisticated Philippa Talbot and her efforts to come to terms with her new life as a Benedictine. I consciously chose to read it during Lent, but it works just as well as a novel as it does as spiritual reading.


Pride and Prejudice: Darcy and Bingley (SECOND EDITION) (Darcy and Elizabeth Book 2)
Pride and Prejudice: Darcy and Bingley (SECOND EDITION) (Darcy and Elizabeth Book 2)
Price: £0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More research needed, 16 April 2014
Underclassmen and upperclassmen at Cambridge? And are these boys supposed to be unsure about what 'de trop' actually means? I'm all for authors having fun with Jane Austen's characters, but I like my historical fiction to be based in fact. Cambridge doesn't have grounds: colleges do. Having made money in trade was perfectly acceptable. There are some great histories of the university and the period which would add all sorts of detail to this work, and I recommend the author look at them before developing this any further.


Death in a White Tie (The Ngaio Marsh Collection)
Death in a White Tie (The Ngaio Marsh Collection)
Price: £4.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition: misleading description, 27 Nov. 2012
The Kindle edition of this book is advertised as containing 848 pages, and states that the price (£3.99) represents a saving of 60% on the list price of £12.99. However, if you check the ISBN for the print edition, it refers to an omnibus containing three Ngaio Marsh titles: the Kindle edition contains only one book, at nothing like the advertised 848 pages - and naturally, the price for one is lower than the price for three: the saving isn't a saving at all. I love the convenience of my Kindle when I'm travelling, but I'm really not impressed by this sort of dishonesty. The book itself is wonderful: the low rating here only refers to the inaccuracy of the sales tactics.


A Surfeit of Lampreys (The Ngaio Marsh Collection)
A Surfeit of Lampreys (The Ngaio Marsh Collection)
Price: £4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Notes on the Kindle edition, 22 Nov. 2012
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There are plenty of reviews which refer to the story (which is great): I'm commenting specifically on the production values of the Kindle edition. I wish it were more like a book - it doesn't have a title page, and there is no publication information, no copyright details, no ISBN. I can just about forgive the few typos or scanning errors which have made their way into the book (Charlot is often rendered 'Chariot', which isn't at all the same thing) but my biggest gripe is having to go to google to know what year a book was published, which is an important piece of interpretative information. Please, Amazon, insist on higher standards in your Kindle texts!


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