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R. Frith (Manchester, England.)
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The Scottish Malcontent
The Scottish Malcontent
Price: £1.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and substantial novel, 26 May 2013
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I enjoyed this book a lot. Historical fiction is not something I normally seek out, but this transcends any stereotype and is a beautifully written and strongly plotted novel with real substance. The characters are very well drawn, and the fact that one's sympathies and sense of identification extends both to the antagonist and protagonist/s creates a rich and emotionally fascinating journey through the story. The writer clearly knows the period thoroughly, and the world of late eighteenth century Edinburgh is vividly and colourfully depicted. There's sly humour there too which lightens the narrative just when it could become overly ornate, and this balancing act is maintained throughout so that the reader really feels the political currents and emotions of the period and, perhaps surprisingly, finds oneself drawing parallels with current affairs. Excellent - very much a recommendation.


Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain
Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain
by Matthew Engel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a travelogue, but.., 21 Aug 2012
One of the two star reviews says 'I was expecting a travelogue, a journey around the British Isles...' and the low rating clearly reflects the writers disappointment. I suppose I was expecting a travelogue too, but far from being bitterly disappointed I was astonished and impressed that, after a couple of chapters (that did indeed appear to offer a travelogue), I found myself reading a witty, perceptive, and amazingly interesting history of the railways and of the political and financial shenanigans that have surrounded them from the earliest days of rail travel, and which continue unabated. A delightful book - one I thoroughly recommend and without question deserving of five stars.


The Silent Weaver: The Extraordinary Life and Work of Angus MacPhee
The Silent Weaver: The Extraordinary Life and Work of Angus MacPhee
by Roger Hutchinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful telling of a unique life, 3 Dec 2011
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The Silent Weaver joins a growing list of excellent books by Roger Hutchinson that describe and explore different aspects of Hebridean life. Like Calum's Road, Father Allan, and A Waxing Moon, The Silent Weaver uses a singular subject to weave a complex but evocative picture that touches on - among other things - military history, Uist culture, medical practice, and the recent economic history of the Outer Islands. All this in telling the extraordinary story of Angus MacPhee, a crofter who went off to war in 1939, fell ill with a form of schizophrenia and was then sent to Craig Dunain Hospital outside Inverness. For the next 50 years MacPhee chose to remain almost totally silent, but went about weaving hundreds of garments from the grass and leaves he harvested from the hospital grounds. Only a few of these were rescued (by the art therapist Joyce Laing) but Hutchinson uses these basic facts to write a truly fascinating story and go on to place MacPhee's achievement both within his own Gaelic and Celtic culture, and within the world of 'Outsider Art', or 'Art Extraordinary' (to use Laing's terminology).

A wonderful read, full of insight and never once losing sight of MacPhee's achievement in recapturing and rediscovering his humanity against enormous odds. Thoroughly recommended.


A Waxing Moon: The Modern Gaelic Revival
A Waxing Moon: The Modern Gaelic Revival
by Roger Hutchinson
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, 23 July 2011
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Although I've read and enjoyed several books by Roger Hutchinson before, I admit that I approached A Waxing Moon more as a research project than expecting it to be an especially good or gripping read. But in fact I was surprised at how quickly I was drawn in to the story of Gaelic and even into the twists and turns in the fortunes of Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic College in Skye, around which much of the story is told. Hutchinson is a master of gently unfolding facts and histories, but in so doing he manages to retain the essential drama of events. This makes the book, whilst being informative and factual, something of an unexpected page-turner.

The book leaves the question, probably wisely, of the long term future of Gaelic open. But it filled this reader with admiration for those handful of characters who fought and resisted the long and drawn-out choking of the language and often staked everything they had on the battle to reclaim the language and its culture. Many battles have been won, but the long-term decline is enormous. This is a thrilling book, not only as a history of a unique and special language, but also as a portrait of how a few individuals can turn a tide around, and how regeneration of place can start with relatively small commitments and initiatives. Recommended.


Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
by Mark Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.11

148 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book and CD, 9 May 2011
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Mark Williams is one of the four co-authors of the excellent 'The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness', and in many ways this book covers the same territory as that guide. Solidly based on scientific and academic research it also updates the information in the earlier book - setting the guidance in the context of current advice from NICE (the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), for example. Williams has long been associated with research into the causes of depression and anxiety both at Bangor and Oxford University, and the writing, although easy to read, feels sound and well researched.

In some ways the book even improves on 'The Mindful Way Through Depression', simply by the fact that it feels less like a book written by a committee, even though the general tone is somewhat lighter and accessible. Its emphasis and language is also more British, especially on the accompanying CD guide, which Williams narrates. So, on balance, it's a slightly easier book to read (possibly as a result of the journalist Danny Penman's help), perhaps a little less weighty, but an excellent and very up-to-date guide and support for anyone wanting to investigate mindfulness meditation, especially in the context of depression and anxiety.

The CD is worth the price on its own - again, based on Jon Kabatt-Zinn's exemplary mindfulness CDs; very accessible, but probably perfect for someone starting out on this route. Thoroughly recommended; Mark Williams does a great service to the cause of a non drug based approach to combating depression, but it's also the perfect starting place to understand mindfulness, whatever the reason.


Long Player Late Bloomer
Long Player Late Bloomer
Price: £11.66

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Affecting, 5 Mar 2011
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Listen to this in conjunction with viewing Douglas Arrowsmith's 'Love Shines' on BBC4 and it puts an entirely different light on the album, especially when compared to Chris Roberts rather superficial BBC review (sadly used by Amazon to promote this album). I agree that on first hearing the shiny and perhaps over-focused production seems to suffocate the songs, but then again it has always taken a while to discover the complexity and richness of the songs and the delivery on Ron Sexsmith's albums. I'm still finding things in Exit Strategy of the Soul - an album I've listed to at least once a week since it was issued.

The film shows Ron Sexsmith anxious about his career, totally open and honest about the risks he's taking in making an album with Bob Rock. It's a compelling study in putting together an album, far from a simple PR job or an attempt to glamourise the artist, and it ends up as a profound and touching study of a dedicated artist trying to make his way in a world that's only easy for extroverts and self-publicists. Ron is neither of these, but a complex, honest and vulnerable man - it's this honesty that makes his work so powerful and affecting. Slowly, once you get beyond the production values on this album, this honesty and subtlety asserts itself once again. Let's hope it is as successful as Ron wishes it to be...


Bridge To Terabithia [Blu-ray]
Bridge To Terabithia [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Josh Hutcherson
Price: £9.17

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic film about childhood, 21 Dec 2010
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Like several of the other reviews I took my 10 year old son to see Bridge to Terabithia largely out of a sense of parental duty, expecting a sub-Narnia fantasy and feeling it would be fortunate if I was marginally engaged. In the event it was my son who ended up holding my hand, saying 'dad, it's only a story...'

Actually it's a really beautiful film, emotionally true, achieving the difficult and delicate balance of depicting the world from the point of view of the children, whilst not holding back from the harshness and pain of the (to me totally unexpected) twist to the story. It is remarkably well acted by both the child and adult cast. The two main characters are wonderfully acted, and Anna Sophia Robb's performance as Lesley is absolutely exceptional; as another reviewer says, her performance puts the cast of Harry Potter and Narnia in the shade with its vivacity, empathy and subtlety.

The way the filmed story unfolds is also very well constructed, and I felt the balance and shifting between the fantasy world of the children and their gritty day-to-day existence at school and home was entirely believable. It's actually a classic film about childhood, and as with other films that transcend entertainment and have something to say it's not an entirely painless process for the viewer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 2, 2011 12:06 PM GMT


The Golden Pig
The Golden Pig
by Mark Penny
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good - really poor., 16 Aug 2009
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This review is from: The Golden Pig (Hardcover)
I bought this as 'light holiday reading', being in a pre-summer holiday rush, and obviously feeling a little light-headed. I think the reviews must have persuaded me - all of them 5 star, and they stressed the mixture of comedy and action in this book. I made an effort - I read a quarter of the book before I just had to stop, and left it on the shelf of the rented loft.

Not good; the humour is really feeble; the action and characters so obvious and cardboard cutout that there's absolutely nothing to care about in the story. Sorry, I don't like being negative but something has to be said to the unsuspecting buyer to balance the other comments from readers.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2012 7:01 PM GMT


Whisper of the Heart [DVD]
Whisper of the Heart [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yoshifumi Kondo
Price: £12.49

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another classic, 25 April 2006
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This review is from: Whisper of the Heart [DVD] (DVD)
I agree with Matthew - this is a wonderful, detailed and moving film, another classic Ghibli production. It can also be seen as a key film in the output of the studio in that deals head-on with the need to find identity and expression through creativity - in this case as a writer of stories or a maker of musical instruments - which must clearly represent a central tenet of Ghibli's philosophy. As with most of Miyazaki's stories, it focuses on the traumas of adolescence, but here the fantasy element is merely tangental to the realistic story of a first love. Instead the fantasy is seen as the imaginative expression of the heroine as she weaves her own story that tries to make sense of the events around her.

The animation is perhaps not always quite as accomplished as in Miyazaki's work, but Kondo is also a great director of animation,and the film is to be highly recommended - essential even.


Jacques Brel: The Biography
Jacques Brel: The Biography
by Alan Clayson
Edition: Paperback

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Facts, but something missing, 11 Dec 1999
I was initially delighted to find an English-language book about Brel. However, as I read on, the experience became more and more frustrating. Of course it requires something approaching greatness in a writer to explain how a reasonably well-off and conventional boy from Brussels could grow to be one of the world's greatest songwriters, performers and singers. Unfortunately this book doesn't even begin to explain this. Nor does it really analyse the greatness of Brel's magic, or the wider cultural context - it remains a mundane read. A disappointment.


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