Profile for Alexa > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Alexa
Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,107
Helpful Votes: 587

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Alexa (United Kingdom)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-15
Russian World War II Dictionary: A Russian-English glossary of special terms, expressions, and soldiers' slang
Russian World War II Dictionary: A Russian-English glossary of special terms, expressions, and soldiers' slang
by Isaak Kobylyanskiy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Short - bur essential reading., 5 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This slim volume is short, but well laid out - and its content is irreplaceable.

The vocabulary is divided into topics, with a clear indication of register. Hence acronyms and other terminology specific to the orgabnisation of the Soviet forces is treated separately from military jargon - terminology that is concise and specific within a military context, whilst not necessary part of civilian vocabilary. And this is distinguished again from military slang - the informal, ubiquitous terms used in geberal conversation.

There are a couple of other sections, which are most definitely NOT exhaustive. The purpose of including these is, I think, to enable the user to read a military memoir of the period and understand the context. So there is a section on personal descriptions - the sort of things that end up being soldiers' nicknames - and another on popular slogans and current propaganda aphorisms - as well as examples of some of the more well-worn humour.

The section on "vulgarities" is extremely brief and most definitely NOT exhaustive - I think it has included the most common terms simply because these are precisely the words that are often left untranslated in an English edition. But more importantly, the point is to make clear that it is completely false to assume that the form that profanity takes is universal. The Russian word that (in similar circumstances) is used as ubiquitously as the F-word in English, is not a translation of the F-word, but refers to something quite different...

There is also a brief section on interjections etc. - again dealing with the sort of thing that is often left untranslated - which makes the important point that firstly, the conventional representations of the more onamatopoeic noises differ between Russian and English and secondly, that identical ones often have different meanings: a Russian who says "Eh?" in reply does not mean the same thing as an English speaker would.

Finally there is a section of short anecdotes: exanples of Russian military humour.

The way this book is organised means that it is primarily aimed at an audience who understand standard Russian, but lack the specialist vocabulary. This probably gives the book a relatively small target audience. But for that audience, it is invaluable! There are other books and Internet resources on Russian vulgarisms; the acronyms can also be deciphered via the Internet. But for the military jargon, this is simply the only resource that I have been able to find.

Furthermore the additional information regarding jokes, slogans and idioms is invaluable. I have seen good, modern translations flawed because the translator has not recognised an idiom as such and translated it literally (e.g. where Arkady Babchenko refers to Army cooks having "noodles behind the ears" - the translator not having recognised that a) Russian field rations didn't include noodles and "he has noodles behind the ears" is an idiom like "wet behind the ears", signifying a "newbie" or "greenhorn".)

And this extended material means that I would recommend this book even to someone who does not speak Russian (although they will need to be able to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet).

Russian memoirs tend to be written for a Russian audience, with a shared cultural history. Even when a foreign audience is intended, many Russian are not fully aware of what aspects of their background will be totally unknown to their readers. So nothing is explained.

And, just as we often quote, or deliberately misquote, films, TV etc. in normal conversation, Russians indulge in similar word-play - including using political slogans of the time as fodder. What might seem to be an earnest exhortation to heroic endeavour can be recognised as sarcastic once it is identified as a quotation (like the British Tommy who mutters "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more...")

For reading Russian memoirs in the original, this book is essential. (Even if you are fluent in modern Russian, unless you have the necessary cultural background, this will be providing new information. Slang and jargon evolve.) But even if you are reading translations, I recommend it. This book will increase your comprehension considerably.

The Darkest Kiss (Lords of the Underworld - Book 2)
The Darkest Kiss (Lords of the Underworld - Book 2)
by Gena Showalter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2.0 out of 5 stars It could have been good..., 3 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I found later books in this series to be an original take on the genre, so I went back for the earlier ones. This was a disappointment. I found it extremely formulaic and predictable. The descriptions of sex took up about a third of the book, leaving time for very little plot.

But what disappointed me most was this:
I've met Lucien in other books in the series and found him an intriguing, enigmatic character. Long, white hair + disfiguting scars and an extremely chilly personality. (No, he looks NOTHING like the picture on the cover!)
So, whereas the first book was a very obvious "girl is attracted to violent guy because he is hot", the promised to be a lot more interesting. If a guy presents such an unattractive personality (cold-blooded killer, casual torturer etc.) to the world, and doesn't bowl a girl over with his looks, HOW does she get to discover the appealing attributes he is hiding?

Sounds interesting, eh?

Well, it could be. But it isn't. Anya simply has a kink for scars, and finds them sexy (as she tells us in the first chapter).

What an opportunity missed.

The Wizards and the Warriors (Chronicles of an age of darkness)
The Wizards and the Warriors (Chronicles of an age of darkness)
by Hugh Cook
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively simple, 15 Dec. 2014
For me this book set the standard in the fantasy genre, against which other novels are compared (and all to often found wanting). The archetypal warrior mercenaries and the archetypal scholarly wizards find themselves having to work together... and, predictably, they dont really get on. So far, this sounds like a hundred and one other novels in this genre. What makes it different is the characterisation - and character development. We get to learn WHY people are the way they are... and sometimes THEY learn where they have made mistakes... There are moments of real tragedy, as well as episodes with a sense of humour.

The story is self-contained, in that it comes to a natural end, without "buy-the-next-book" cliff-hangers. But really it is an integral part of the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness. The subsequent books are not exactly sequels; they follow different characters and timelines overlap. Characters who appear briefly here are central to other tales. And we hear of Hearst and Miphon again - or their reputations in the eyes of others...

This is a far from standard fantasy world. It does not follow standard tropes; where it appears to do so, it is usually only to lampoon them later. And is it really a fantasy world at all? The portals have me wondering - is this actually SF?

Denim Long Skirt - Indigo-UK 14
Denim Long Skirt - Indigo-UK 14

2.0 out of 5 stars The incredible shrinking skirt..., 10 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When I first got this, I loved it.
Then I washed it,,,
It leaks dye (which is also to be expected, given the colour, but still inconvenient).
And it shrinks,
And not just in the first wash.
It continues to shrink... until too small and no longer looks anything like it did when first unpacked. A pity - because I really liked it, the first time I wore it,
So - a nice design, but several production flaws.

Learn Russian
Learn Russian
by Peter Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars What some people find easy, others find difficult, 10 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Learn Russian (Paperback)
What some people find easy, others find difficult, and vice versa. Personally, I find the modern 'functional' approach to language learning, where the teacher starts with the phrases in the language that they assume are most useful to you, and hope you pick up the grammar as you go along, incredibly frustrating. However many people seem to like this approach, and seem terrified of grammar; if that describes you, then you will not like this book.

Furthermore, it goes at a breakneck speed, which if you are new to language learning, could be rather off-putting. Also, it is worth remembering that Prof. Press is an expert in comparative linguistics, so he often explans a point by comparing (or contrasting) it to other languages.

Those caveats aside, this is a truly excellent book for helping you to understand real Russian fast. It takes the approach that I find works best for me, namely starting from the patterns and structures of the language. It does not itself teach a lot of vocabulary, but its habit of showing the patterns, rather than presenting information as mere rote-learning, makes vocabulary easier to acquire.

Most importantly, it takes as its startng point the assumption that the reader wants to be sable to engage with real Russian texts, including classical Russian literature, rather than simply "make oneself understood" in a conversation. Its aims are anything put modest - by the end of the book you will be reading Pushkin in the original! This is not 'simple Russian' - it starts with the very basics, but it attempts to include everything.

As this is still a relatively slim volume, obviously something has been left out, and that is 'drill'. There is no repetition (and I suspect a certain amount of obscure forms may be missing). But this brevity makes it ideal for looking up specific structures.

So, this is a book that is heavy on the grammar, but what makes it more than a bare grammar reference is Prof. Press' warm, chatty and witty style. He attempts to explain why things are the way they are, introducing aspects of Russian history in the process, and his habit of using great Russian literature as example texts keeps the reader inspired, and reminds you why you want to learn this fascinating language!

Medium Blue Soft Nitrile Gloves(100) Powder Free Latex Free AQL1.5
Medium Blue Soft Nitrile Gloves(100) Powder Free Latex Free AQL1.5
Offered by Aaron Chemicals Ltd
Price: £5.45

5.0 out of 5 stars fits the bill admirably, 17 Sept. 2014
Excellent. These gloves are extremely sturdy. They do not adhere to the skin, and slide easily on and off, whilst being sufficiently closely fitting that they stay firmly in place whilst in use. I did not find them impairing dexterity at all. I will certainly order again.

Crocs Women's Casey Bijou Blue Mary Jane 10880-44M-420 4 UK
Crocs Women's Casey Bijou Blue Mary Jane 10880-44M-420 4 UK

4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and practical, 17 Sept. 2014
These ARE Crocs, which means they are a sort of rubber, not leather. However the colour and surface texture mean that this is not obvious at a glance. And what this means is that not only are the shoes waterproof, they do not pick up dirt from the streets, but retain that 'just polished' look.

The sole has a good surface grip, increasing their practicality for inclement weather. In fact, the bar pictured is an elasticated strap, making them extremely easy to slip on and off - yet they do not look like "comfort shoes". There is a strip of cloth lining down the centre of the insole (presumably to adsorb sweat) and a pice of soft padding at the heel, preventing rubbing.

My only gripe is that (as I have sometimes found with other Crocs shoes) they are quite a small versionof the size I ordered, which made my feet rather tired after a day's wear.

The Prince Who Walked With Lions
The Prince Who Walked With Lions
by Elizabeth Laird
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating life does not necessarily make a good children's novel, 22 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a difficult book to review - and I think that the author also found it difficult to write, for the same reasons.

The subject matter is fascinating. Prince Alamayu, in his short life, had to adapt to an incredible amount of change in his social circumstances - born to the luxury, formality and violence of the Abyssinian court, then shipped off to England as something between a guest, a hostage, a refugee and a trophy, he passes through the British public school system, he trains to become an officer in the very British Army that destroyed his father, before dying young of illness.

There is certainly plenty of interest here. The problem is how to write about this.

Firstly, there is the problem of attitude. Alamayu was the product of his background and upbringing (as are we all). He encounters racism when he attends a British public school, but his own attitudes are not those that we, today, can find acceptable. He is himself racist in his attitude to other cultures. He is a slave owner, with no concept that his eunuch slave has any rights or feelings of his own; he is angry and hurt to discover that his slave prefers freedom to travelling to Britain and continuing to serve him,. Aside from the issue of the deliberate creation of large numbers of eunuchs, to serve the court, his father was a notoriously cruel, and rather unpredictable ruler. Yet he seems to be the parent that the boy was most attached to (his emotional needs, inasmuch as they were indulged at all, seem to focus on his personal eunuch), so, naturally enough, the boy sees nothing wrong in the mass murders that the Emperor orders.

Of course, we should not judge Alamayu harshly for any of this. His views are simply the inevitable result of his upbringing - which is so very different from a modern childhood that it would be hard to identify with it. But this is where the problem in storytelling arises.

There is a problem with telling Alamayu's story from a first person point of view. I have great respect for Alamayu - the lad is an incredible survivor, to take such changes and losses in his stride. But his coping mechanism seems to lie rewriting his identity according to his new circumstances - we know that he lost the language of his childhood. This prevents the author from using the device of an older narrator, explaining and commentating on his earlier attitudes.

It would of course be possible to tell the story 'straight' - to write Alamayu as thinking and feeling with the appropriate attitudes of his times and background. But the prevalent modern attitude that a story cannot have its hero (or any other 'good' character) espouse any views that we nowadays realise are unacceptable, even if they were endemic in the historical setting described. So Elizabeth Laird skirts the issue. Although the story is told in the first person, she tries to evade showing Alamayu thinking as he undoubtedly actually did - except for at a few points, where his actions make it all too clear. The result is that we never really get inside Alamayu's head; he is a very 'flat' narrator, despite the traumatic events described. This technique distances the reader from him even further.

It is hard to bond with the protagonist; but perhaps that is also necessary. For the facts of Alamayu's ife are unfortunately rather grim. The realities of court life mean that he seems to have relatively little emotional bonding with his family - yet the fact is that he was torn away from them at a very young age, and never saw or heard from anyone he had cared for (family or servants) ever again. He was then similarly separated from the surrogate family he had adopted. Finally, he dies young, without achieving his goals.

The problem with writing a biographical novel is that the facts are sometimes inconvenient. Told straight, the story would be unrelentingly tragic and grim. So, to vary the mood, the novel is padded out in the middle section with some "Boy's Own"-style school heroics, with give Alamayu some successes.

The result is a book with wild, and sometimes abrupt, changes in tone. The perhaps more interesting account of the dramatic events of Alamayu's early life are told very flatly, probably in order to distance a young reader from the horrors described. The closer, more personal tone only arrives when we reach a fairly mundane, predictable account of overcoming racist taunts from a bully at a public school.

I commend Elizabeth Laird for remaining true to her sources and not reshaping the facts of this young man's life into a more 'convenient' form.

But I think it would have been better to either take the plunge, and write a more immersive account of his early childhood, and let the reader try to understand why the boy has such an outlook, or simply write an engrossing third person account, which would enable the writer to explain the context of these events better.

The level of violence (howevermuch it is glossed over) may disturb a sensitive child, whilst the storytelling is not very involving. But I would still recommend this book for a thoughtful child, who is interested in learning about an amazing and very different life.

Just Stationery Assorted Size Original Elastic Band
Just Stationery Assorted Size Original Elastic Band
Price: £1.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Description incorrect -, 21 Aug. 2014
These are NOT assorted sizes!

What they are, is a set of good quality, thick elastic bands, that are both strong and with a good range of stretch.
Neutral colour; no odour.
Does the job.

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson)
Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson)
by Patricia Briggs
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Return to form, 20 Aug. 2014
I still think Patricia Briggs is one of the most skilful writers of urban fantasy. She drew me in, as a fan of her straight fantasy work, despite this not being a genre that normally interests me much. The point is that she draws interesting and believable characters, and their interpersonal relationships form part of this characterisation, rather than being the raison d'etre of the book.

However, in the last two books in the Mercy Thompson series, I felt that the balance had shifted, and that the story was more about Mercy's relationship with her werewolf mate, with other supernatural events intervening inconveniently in their life. I kept reading, but had stopped waiting anxiously for the next instalment.

I am glad to say that "Frost Burned" marks a return to form. The peril is the prominent aspect of the story, with the relationship developments in the background (well, after this time, Mercy and Adam really should be functioning as a team). I think the political developments too, have a lot of potential for the future.

Perhaps there isn't the same sense of urgency as in the first books, though. I suspect that, with an ever widening army of friends and allies to call on, it becomes harder and harder to ever believe that Mercy might not save the day...

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-15