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Practice Makes Perfect: Spanish Vocabulary (Practice Makes Perfect Series)
Practice Makes Perfect: Spanish Vocabulary (Practice Makes Perfect Series)
by Dorothy Devney Richmond
Edition: Paperback

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Say goodbye to learning by rote, 11 Feb. 2009
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In the 'Practice Makes Perfect' series, a beginner/intermediate learning Spanish finds a structured approach to learning that's easy to digest. Dorothy Richmond's latest book, 'Spanish Vocabulary', does not present laundry lists of vocab on every page to learn by rote, but structures relevant wordlists around helpful exercises.

The book makes the learning of vocabularly stimulating and takes it away from simple, repetitive memorizing of single words. Richmond absorbs the learning of vocabularly into the learning of verbs, pronouns and prepositions.

In this way, you should improve your lexicon whilst also improving your all-round knowledge of the language. Typically, the book will present a box of vocabularly on a particular theme (for example, foods), and then provide an exercise where you will form a basic sentence using these themed words.

The book is broken down into 10 distinct chapters, which makes it easy for a learner to set themselves clear objectives before they begin the work. The actual presentation of the excercises is impressive and with the book being a chunky paperback, there is plenty of room to write things down on the page.

All in all, an effective book for improving your spanish and another great addition to a contemporary and refreshing series.

Edward Thomas. Collected Poems.
Edward Thomas. Collected Poems.
by Edwards Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive Edition of Thomas' Poetry, Great Attention to Detail, 11 Feb. 2009
Edward Thomas is regarded as one of the most important British poets of the twentieth century, and this detailed publication by Faber will provide readers with not only his complete poetic output, but also incisive critical and biographical depth.

Thomas represented the best of the Georgian Poets, an early-twentieth century group who wrote primarily about the pastoral landscape. Often criticised for being lightweight and lacking orignality, Thomas' work stood out from his contemporaries for its grave emotion, clarity of description and honesty.

As the world went to war, his concise poems about the British landscape underlined the value of what stood to be lost. Concerned with the countryside, his work can be seen as representing the deepening fracture between past and present, the shriking of rural life and the growth of modern cities. It depicts a particular turning point, socially and economically, in British history, as the economy became concerned with mass production. The tone is melancholy, but there is pride instead of hopelessness.

In terms of the presentation of Thomas' material, Faber deserve plenty of credit. This text will appeal to both casual readers, scholars and students alike. The introduction by Peter Sacks is a highlight: this offers a biographical sketch of the writer and also a refined and critical appreciation for his poetry.

In addition there are notes on each of the poems (that include the author's comments), Thomas' war diary and four appendices. By reading the book, you sense that those involved were genuinely concerned with handling the legacy of a great writer in the right way.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 17, 2011 3:47 AM GMT

Selected Poems
Selected Poems
by Robert Browning
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction to Browning's Oeuvre, 11 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Selected Poems (Paperback)
Along with Tennyson, Rosetti and Clough, Robert Browning ranks as one of the great poets of the Victorian age; although many argue that his wife, Elizabeth Barrett, wrote the better work. Browning's poetry ranges from the obscure (and early) epic poems of Sordello to the mature dramatic monologue's of 'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover', poetry that is much more distinguished, stylish and confident.

Generally speaking, Penguin have succeeded in compiling Browning's output into a 'Selected' volume that is representative of his accalimed mature work, whilst providing an aperture into the more densely allusive work, by including difficult poems like 'Caliban upon Setebos'. From reading this volume a reader should be able to make an informed decision as to whether they want to dig deeper into Browning's oeuvre.

In a 'Selected' there will always be one or two omissions that are a bit of disappointment ('Rabbi Ben Ezra' is not included), but generally the selections here make good sense. There's also an excerpt from 'Pippa Passes' which provides a glimpse of Browning work as a playwright.

The book features a brief introduction from Daniel Karlin and in-depth notes on each of the poems, making the book particularly geared towards students. The emphasis is very much on providing the reader with a grounding in Browning's work and an extra layer of depth on top of that, so readers should be able to develop their knowledge of one of the most important poets of the nineteenth century.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 24, 2011 3:26 AM GMT

Sea and Sardinia (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
Sea and Sardinia (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
by D. H. Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended Travel Literature, 11 Feb. 2009
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Following the First World War, D.H. Lawrence spent much of his life on the road and visited places as far apart as New Mexico, Sri Lanka and Australia, making him one of the most travelled of literary greats. Much of the reasoning behind Lawrence's peripatetic nature was his health: a tuberculosis sufferer, Lawrence was constantly alert to potential threats in the atmosphere and would move locations at the drop off a hat.

'Sea and Sardinia' narrates a short visit to the island in 1921. At the time, Lawrence was living in Sicily and agitated by its crowded atmosphere and commercialisation, its dilettantes and arrogant commercial travellers. Sardinia was therefore sought as a potential antitdote to modernity, and this preoccupation chimes throughout the book with various references to returning to the good old days.

As a travel narrative told in the first person, Lawrence's forceful personality and attitudes naturally command centre stage. Although much of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of markets, festivals and landscapes, there's a strand of polemic against modern society that some readers may find tedious and brow-beating. However, there is also plenty of humour (unusually so for Lawrence) and self-parody that gives his first person narrative an air of self-reflection and depth.

The key thing for me is that this book contains some of Lawrence's best writing. It's beautiful and intoxicating stuff. There are passages of sustained, descriptive prose that rank with the best of Lawrence's writing and place this book high in the list of early-twentieth century travel writing. There are turns of phrase, witty characterisations and a luscious musicality to the prose. This gives a freshness to the scenes of island life; and although readers more concerned with objective facts of Sardinian life may be disappointed, the text does reveal more insight to customs than first apparent.

It's unsurprising that Philip Larkin regarded this text as one of his favourites. Like Larkin's verse, Lawrence's 'Sea and Sardinia' is funny, true to life and gilded with an edge of mystery. Readers will be able to get lost in Lawrence Freudian landscapes and then be able to chuckle at a local scene. In terms of what it covers, the book is limited to a small portion of Sardinia's overall landscape, but I've read accounts of scholars who've enjoyed retracing Larkin's own journey, so maybe this book is worth buying in addition to a conventional travel guide.

I would therefore recommend this book as the best of Lawrence's travel writing and an underrated gem in his ouevre. It is a sustained study of island life through the lens of a romanticist and should be enjoyable to anyone who appreciates good writing.

The Poems of Georg Trakl
The Poems of Georg Trakl
by Georg Trakl
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good translation of a unique writer, 10 Feb. 2009
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There will never be another Georg Trakl. Although part of an Impressionist 'group', Trakl's work will always be instantly recognisable for its trance-like cadence and frightening solipsism. The occasional grace of Trakl's poetry, seen in poems like Helian ('In the lonely hours of the mind/ It is lovely to walk in the sun/ Along the yellow walls of summer') provide hard-earned moments of solace and contentment amidst the terror of poems like 'Grodek', giving a sense of balance to his vision.

In this volume, Margitt Lehbert has presented us with Trakl's two collections in their entirety, plus the poems that would've formed part of his planned third volume. By including the poems in a sequential state, it's easy to see the progression of Trakl's style between the volumes, and the scaling down of formal structures that dominated 'Poems' to the pure free verse of 'Sebastian in a Dream'.

Generally speaking, the translation is good and preserves the melancholic tone that his trademark fragmented sentences structures evoke. There is also a succinct biographical introduction of Trakl that prepares new readers with a backstory to the harrowing and nightmarish poetry. This sketches not only the inbuilt turmoil of his depression but also the way that war and misfortune compounded his problems.

One thing the book lacks is the original german on the pane opposite the translated english, which is slightly disappointing. That said, the presentation of the poetry is effective and each poem, regardless of length, is allotted a full page to its own: there's no compression of several short poems onto one page.

Neglected for most of the twentieth century, Lehbert's translation should hopefully continue the growing appreciation for Trakl's verse across Europe. In terms of providing psychologically-charged imagery, there are few writers who can match Trakl. Most free-verse poets ought to find something to like here.

The Woman Who Rode Away/St. Mawr/The Princess: WITH St. Mawr
The Woman Who Rode Away/St. Mawr/The Princess: WITH St. Mawr
by D. H. Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effectively two long short stories and a novella, 10 Feb. 2009
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In the latter half of his writing career, dipped way below the standard set by 'The Rainbow' and 'Women in Love'. However, while the novels suffered, the short stories and novellas became more interesting and adventurous, so that Lawrence, successfully bottling the trademark intensity inside more compact forms, wrote some of his best work in his later years. Even the travel writing of 'Sea and Sardinia' (1922) was an accomplished and successful achievement.

All three of these stories typify the qualities of Lawrence's later work: abundant description, interest in leadership and gender roles, complexity of style.

The two short stories, 'The Woman Who Rode Away' and 'The Princess', open and close the book. Both being set in New Mexico (where Lawrence lived on a ranch for a few years) they share descriptive, structural and thematic similiarities, and in some form or other describe a woman's desire for emancipation and liberation. In both cases, Lawrence's presentation of the 'free' woman is layered by a strata of male objectification and chauvanism. However, on a stylistic level, Lawrence's prose is as enveloping as ever. The immensity of the landscape, drawn into Lawrence's imagery, is a joy to read.

But the real standout of the book is undoubtedly the novella, 'St. Mawr'. Thematically, the book contrasts the opulence of West London with the historical beauty of rural England, which is represented symbolically by the horse, St. Mawr. Considering Lawrence never returned to England after the war, it's an incredibly detailed and convincing critique of post-war society.

The novella is about much more than satire, however. Lawrence's presentation of the countryside is as rich as anywhere in his canon, and minor characters such as the welsh groom, Lewis, are ambiguous and full of genuine depth. This is clearly a work that Lawrence threw everything into.

Without wishing to spoil the plot, there are certain shifts that will delight readers and also subvert some of the traditional novella rules, identifying Lawrence as a real master of the genre.

By structuring the text with two short stories sandwiched by a novella, Penguin have done a good job in demonstrating the variety, experimentalism and similarities in Lawrence's later work. As a whole, the collection demonstrates the best of his writing in the mid-20s, New Mexico years. Read this before going onto the laborious 'Plumed Serpent'.

Offered by cdbear1
Price: £30.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilled and detailed electronica from Greece, 8 Feb. 2009
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This review is from: Lullaby (Audio CD)
Liberto is Lefteris Kalabakas, a greek DJ affiliated with the impressive greek record label, Klik. On 'Lullaby', his debut album, he has produced a work of depth, subtlety and innovation that stands up well to repeated listens.

On the whole, the mood of the album is deep, melancholic and chilled. 'I'm Sorry,' one of the standout tracks, is swathed in minor-key melodies. 'Plus Something', meanwhile, is deep and funky and features blurry sounding vocals and strings. Both tracks clock in over seven minutes but rarely is there a feeling of stagnation in the composition of the music: like his Klik stablemate, Ion, Liberto's electronica has an organic and natural feel to it.

The music demonstrates a wide palate of influences. In 'Conclusions of a Mad Man' we see Liberto's classical background coming to the fore with a rich tapestry of strings and keys. 'Analog Catalog' meanwhile is pure balearic with its rich delayed chords pattering across the beats. This is music to relax to, but there is an added depth of technique and composition that you will not get on an ordinary chillout record. For instance, the album's title track has detailed beats that provide a neat counterpoint to the melancholic feel of the synths.

What will probably surprise you is the nuances. The great thing about Liberto is that he rarely neglects his songs once they've found a groove. There are backwards melodies, breakdowns, flickers that don't fall into the pattern but, at the same time, don't distract the song.

All in all, 'Lullaby' is an interesting record for anyone who enjoys atmospheric, warm, tech- housey electronica. It is the patient work of an artist with an appreciation for the pacing and range of moods needed to create a successful electronica record.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 3, 2012 12:58 PM BST

Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £14.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars glitch from Latin-America, 30 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Eco (Audio CD)
Skipsapiens are Daniel Nieto and Daniel Bucci, an electronica duo who hailing from Chile, Latin America. On Eco they've produced an album that should appeal to anyone interested in standard 'clicks and bleeps' electronica.

While there's nothing wildly original here, this album is intelligently crafted and contains some gorgeous melodies: 'Rastafari Droids' is a standout: beginning with a bright xylophone melody, the detailed beats soon gather intensity, chirruping and burping around it. 'Dilatacion Neuronal' has a folksy organ that is the perfect canvas for the duo's beats to squelch over.

The later half of the album sees the focus become more ambient. The closing tracks clock in over six minutes and feature long, drawn-out synth patterns. 'Compresion Infinitesimal', meanwhile, has a fuzzed-out bass and eerie, eastern style plucked strings sounding ominously in the background. 'Microbios de Silicio' yanks up the bpm briefly before falling back into a soporific, spaced out groove.

Despite the location, the album has no real references to traditional Latin-American music, which probably counts as a good thing. That said, the duo do (perhaps inadvertantly) call to mind summer days and the archetypalm dusty setting - 'Doctor Silla' has a filtered synth that has plenty of warmth and mediterranean sunshine running through it. This could be slapped onto an adventurous chillout, maybe.

So this is music for solitary listening, mostly contemplative but with a fair amount of explosive moments packed in as well. If you like stuff like Autechre, this is something with steadier time sigs but a similar obssession with detail. The heavily granulated synths add something different and give this an enveloping deepness.

My only complaint with this album is that it does feel rather samey and lacking in a definite standout: there isn't a 'eutow' or a 'clipper', basically. That said, for anyone interesting in this field of electronica or ambient music, there should be plenty to enjoy and appreciate.

The Magic Dragon
The Magic Dragon
Offered by J4G
Price: £22.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid record, but nothing inspiring, 30 Jan. 2009
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This review is from: The Magic Dragon (Audio CD)
Caia's Magic Dragon is a record that pops up on a fair few lists, and it is a good downtempo record. It contains one song, 'La Telecabine', that captures the whole Ibiza/Balearic feel in one chord and just has this relentlessly uplifting feel. Elsewhere, 'Remembrance' has a contemplative mix of keys and acoustic guitar and 'Jericho' also stands out for its panoramic strings and relaxing melody. I also like the chilled retro-synths on 'Subway Freedom' and 'The Rose Room' is a good lead-off track.

However, much of this CD does fall under the radar and just feels a bit uninspired and inoffensive. The drums often lack involvement and are just 'doing a job', making a song like 'The Love Room' tedious after about two minutes. Then there's stuff like 'Afterwards at the Bar' which is just standard coffee table music, with virtually no attempt to create something new and invigorating. Also, you have the fact that a lot of the music now feels quite stale and dated: there aren't many arrestingly original synth sounds and the music usually slips into a pattern too comfortably. It's not an album that I've listened to from 1-11; instead I've selected the odd track from time to time.

So in summary this is your standard downtempo album: two or three excellent tracks, but surrounding that you'll probably find a lot of ballast. 'La Telecabine' is great, though.

Price: £14.23

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably their best, 29 Jan. 2009
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This review is from: J.A.C. (Audio CD)
Rondo Acapricio: with its locked in bassline, this opener features plenty of Tosca's trademark swirls and echoes. There's a sample of a lady at a poetry reading which is faintly amusing but you kind of think they could've come up with something better, and it detracts from the music slightly. 6.5/10
Heidi Bruehl: You've probably heard this song at a high street coffee shop, somewhere. Samia Farah offers some neat guest vocals but this is mostly unremarkable. So far quite an uncertain start to the album.
Superrob: Yay, Earl Zinger. This is not quite as good as 'Wonderful' (and features almost exactly the same beat), but this ought to at least get your head-nodding. Anna Clementi adds some gorgeous harmonies on the chorus. 8/10
John Lee Huber: Starts off with an indie guitar before slotting into a grinding tempo. More strong vocals and some pretty quirky lyrics too that throw phrases like Captain Beefheart. 7.5/10
Pyjama: The first genuine instrumental on the album. Features some excellent walking bass and jazzy cymbals. Sonorous organs and washes dominate, and the tempo is well-controlled throughout. Pretty good. 8/10
The Big Sleep: Wow. If you have good pair of speakers, look out for the bass at the start of this one. More up-front vocals on this one, but though the distorted stuff is cool, they're too up front at times and ruin the chilled aspect. Although the music is pretty good, it drags on for a while and becomes a bit annoying. 5.5/10
Damentag: A definite success that rescues the pace of the album after the drawn out last track. The way the retro synths are used on this one is very reminiscent of Daft Punk, a kind of knowingly geeky space-funk. 7.5
Naschkatze: Eerie, trip-hoppy atmosphere on this one. Lots of backwards guitar and African percussion, and then the modulated organs and synths washing over. Easily the most electronic song on the album so far. 'Shooby-do-wap-bap' vocals make this very difficult to place genrewise. 8.5
Zuri: Possibly the best song on the album and one of the best Tosca instrumentals. Impossibly mediterranean sounding acoustic guitar and one of the best selected vocals ever (even though there's no lyrics). The genre of this song is again difficult to place: there's elements of Balearic, Jazz and Folk all blended together. 9.5
Sala: OK, this is turning into a deep electronic album! Lots of gorgeous loops on this one, though after four minutes it cools down into a super-minimalist drone. Not sure if it's entirely successful but the first half is almost as beautiful as 'Zuri' and remind me a bit of Susumu Yokota's Sakura album - worth checking out. 8.0
Forte: Nearly the shortest song on the album, but also one of the best. The Balearic feel is again to the fore, although Tosca have given it their own spin. 8.5
No More Olives: Deeply contemplative, and again, very reminiscent of Yokota's 'Sakura'. Like on Sala, we have a mysterious melody and african-style percussion, but this is even more minimalist. There's a gorgeous Barry-De-Vorzon-on-the-Warriors-esque synth for most of the song, and more tasteful guitar. 8.0

This is a very strange album. The first half is filled with your typical Tosca vocal tracks, your Earl Zinger guest slot and coffee room music that steers a bit too close to convention for comfort. But following 'The Big Sleep' onwards you have six instrumentals that are individually fascinating and give the album a terrific depth. The feel of the album becomes very mediterranean and ambient, particularly the last four tracks.

What impressed me most is that Tosca seem to have found a way of melding different genres and giving their music are more organic feel. It's probably their best album.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2009 7:33 PM GMT

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