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PD Miller "Scribbler 81" (France)

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Philips SHS4700/10 Mid range EarClip Headphones -  Black
Philips SHS4700/10 Mid range EarClip Headphones - Black
Price: £11.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite there, 1 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Good sound quality, but needs to have possibility of clipping more tightly over the ear, so as to exclude background noise.

The Boat That Rocked [DVD] (2009)
The Boat That Rocked [DVD] (2009)
Dvd ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Great little film, 1 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great performances, and a plot set in an atmosphere that reminds me of my youth, Another credit to the British film industry!

The Poisonwood Bible
The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, 19 April 2010
This review is from: The Poisonwood Bible (Paperback)
I have just finished reading this intriguing and complicated book for the second time in three months - and what a book it is. By turns amusing, sad, shocking and tragic, yet unfailingly thought-provoking throughout, Kingsolver's writing is excellent. We are beckoned on along the jungle path, impatient to see what new development awaits us around the next bend, lurking behind the next tree.

This is also a modern-history lesson. I clearly remember hearing BBC newscasters using the expression ".....the breakaway province of Katanga....". I must have heard it so often that it is engraved on my memory, although at the time I was too young to be remotely curious about it. Poisonwood" tells what it was all about, which in a nut-shell was exploitation, principally by the U.S. Government, of mineral wealth - diamonds and cobalt. What a messy and squalid business. No prizes for guessing why they wanted the cobalt.

Poisonwood is written almost entirely in first-person-singular narrative, and I love the way in which this gradually and cleverly reveals to us the widely differing personalities of the speakers, who are all members of the same family. I found it easy to visualise each one of them. I would have liked to hear the voice of the father, though. The author paints him as a monster, but a man like that would of necessity have been driven by an iron-rigid point of view, and it would have been interesting to hear it.

Kingsolver has obviously done not only a great deal of hard research, but a fair amount of deep thinking as well. She has reached some intriguing conclusions, and these she shares with us through the voices of her characters. Revealed at the very end of the narrative, the reason behind the choice of title is a fascinating one.

I know I shall be reading this book again.

Mutant Message Down Under: A Woman's Journey into Dreamtime Australia
Mutant Message Down Under: A Woman's Journey into Dreamtime Australia
by Marlo Morgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it anyway!, 7 July 2009
I set out to review a book that I very much enjoyed, and had taken as "gospel" : but having just read Amazon reviewer T. Fawcett's comments, and Googled Marlo Morgan as suggested, I am feeling a bit confused.

I had taken 'Mutant' seriously because it seemed to me to have a ring of truth about it. Mason did write another - openly fictional - book about the Australian Aboriginals (was it called 'Message from Forever'?), and I didn't get past the second page, so badly was it written. 'Mutant' just flowed along, and I had assumed that this was because it was the truth, as opposed to pure invention. So yes - having just learnt that Morgan has apparently 'fessed-up, I am feeling disappointed and disillusioned ; yet I would recommend the book nonetheless.

I have long believed that in common with certain other groups who to this day remain relatively untouched and untainted by our somewhat grotesque Western ways, the Aboriginals have indeed retained knowledge and abilities that once were freely available to all : knowledge that most of humankind has gradually lost in the ugly rush towards 'civilisation' (which is, after all, a word that merely describes a society centred around cities - not always that high a recommendation, eh?).

So - pure fiction, or fiction based upon fact? Who knows? But why not read it anyway, for the little bit of magic that is missing from our lives, and which can lift our spirits beyond understanding. If you enjoyed watching (for example) 'Ghost', and 'Field of Dreams', then you know what I mean.

Travels on My Elephant
Travels on My Elephant
by Mark Shand
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars What a super little book, 7 July 2009
This review is from: Travels on My Elephant (Paperback)
On elephant-back across India. Dream on. Mark Shand is fortunate enough to be able to indulge the type of whim that most of us can only fantasise about, but he writes about his experiences with down-to-earth honesty and simplicity. The title says it all, of course, so there were no surprises there ; but I hadn't expected to be so intrigued by his anecdotes, nor so moved by the sense of his growing relationship with Tara - the elephant in question.

Wonderful. Have a couple of Kleenex ready before you turn the final few pages.

If you are looking for a present for someone, you could certainly do worse. And look out for the sequel, "Queen of the Elephants".

A New Earth: Create a Better Life
A New Earth: Create a Better Life
by Eckhart Tolle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something of value, 4 Jun. 2009
It is very easy (isn't it?) to dismiss this type of book as "New Age rubbish", "hocus-pocus", "psycho-babble", or whatever ; because so very many of them are precisely that - fanciful nonsense, and a waste of money. But in this reviewer's opinion Eckhart Tolle's works stand head and shoulders above the crowd, and this one is certainly no exception.

Brace yourself, though, because if you are to make the most of what "New Earth" is offering, you must be prepared to stand back, take a long, hard look at yourself, and be honest about what you see. I am still finding it quite painful ; yet curiously enough it is at the same time a relief, and well worth the effort.

In this book, Eckhart Tolle, whose "Power of Now" was such a major eye-opener, eases us towards recognition and acknowledgement of all those false layers of self that we hide behind ; and in simply coming to an awareness of our own play-acting, we are already taking a step towards finding our way out of the maze, and being honest and open with ourselves : becoming contented and at ease with who we are.

Wonderful stuff, then. But for me the most valuable insight provided by this extraordinary book is the clear description of what Tolle labels "the pain body" : that thing that we all carry around with us, that bit of us that reacts in anger and in fear to various triggers, most of them quite trivial - a word, a look, a gesture from someone else. A newspaper headline. A TV programme. A windy day. A broken shoe-lace.

Sounds a bit potty? Yes. It does. Yet on honest investigation it proves to make perfect sense. In so very few pages, he describes a human state to which psychiatrists and psychologists have over the years dedicated hundreds - perhaps thousands - of weighty, indigestible tomes, impenetrable to all but a few. Tolle, on the other hand, deals with the matter simply and directly. He explains why this negative state exists ; how it ruins lives ; how to deal with it ; and how eventually to conquer it by recognising it and putting a space between ourselves and this fairly destructive aspect of the human personality. And this is my own small-scale truth : having taken the "pain body" chapter on board, and made a real effort to recognise the thing when it starts to activate itself, I have had no major arguments with my husband for several months now. No sulking. No resentful silences. None of that stuff that appears, in my experience, to be a component not only of most marriages, but also of most parent-child relationships.

So I would say that "A New Earth" is invaluable reading for anyone who is ready to accept what it offers. And if, like some Amazon reviewers, having bought it you find to your irritation that it doesn't really speak to you, then for what it's worth, my advice is to put it to one side, and open it again later. A month. A year. Two years. Five years. It doesn't much matter. But whatever you do, don't throw it away. One day you will open it. And one day you will surprise yourself.

Good luck. And bon courage.
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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
by Marina Lewycka
Edition: Paperback

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tasteless, 23 Aug. 2007
Funny? Yes, it is very funny - at the beginning. I was laughing aloud, and thinking how marvellously witty the author was. But then something happened. The witticisms grew somehow less entertaining, and I started to feel a bit depressed.

The old man was in fact very pathetic, and as his condition deteriorated to the point where he was soiling himself, I actually found something rather distasteful in the fact that Marina Lewycka was apparently still trying to make me laugh with wisecracks about - among other things - his impotence.

It was as if the author, having quite quickly exhausted her ability to be genuinely amusing, had desperately cast around for some 'funny' remarks to make. In my opinion she succeeded only in making herself sound like an embarrassingly grotty stand-up comic.

Not a book I would care to read again.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Edition: Paperback

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost lost for words, 23 Aug. 2007
This review is from: The Kite Runner (Paperback)
Other reviewers have discussed the plot, so there is no need for me to do likewise. All I can say is that this is one of the most beautiful and deeply moving works that I have read in a very long time.

Sometimes a book can move us, but by the following week we have more or less forgotten it. This one had me in tears, and it will stay with me for ever.

Khaled Hosseini - well done. And thank you.

The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very clever, 23 Aug. 2007
A rare genetic disorder that forces a man to travel backwards and forwards in time, without warning, at the drop of a hat, always arriving stark naked at an unknown destination, yet managing - somehow - to muddle through? Do me a favour!

And yet, and yet....

It is a tribute to Niffenegger's standard of writing that from the outset I was able completely to suspend my disbelief, and to immerse myself wholly in this odd tale. Her characterisation and description are excellent, and with the help of the notes at the beginning of each chapter (e.g.'Henry is 28, Clare is 7'), I coped quite easily with the to-ing and fro-ing.

'The Time Traveller's Wife' is not up there with the greats, but it is intriguing, imaginative, well thought out, and intelligently written ; and as Niffenegger juggles with the intricacies of time and date, she never once drops a ball. All in all this is a gripping tale, and I found the ending quite moving.

If you are open-minded, and are looking for something a bit different, this book is for you.

The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857
by William Dalrymple
Edition: Paperback

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the superlatives, 21 Jun. 2007
I love India, and I love William Dalrymple. I have twice read 'City of Djinns' and 'The Age of Kali', and now have 'The Last Mughal' on my book shelf. I only wish that such gripping history books had been available when I was at school.

Seemingly without effort, Dalrymple brings to life a huge and colourful cast of real-life characters, both British and Indian. His research and his bibliography are breath-taking, and in quoting from an abundance of both private letters and official papers of the day, he conveys such a clear picture of the individuals concerned, and of their mind-set, their hopes, their aspirations, that one almost feels one has met many of them.

The author pulls no punches, and any open-minded Briton of Anglo or Celtic origin is more or less bound to squirm at many of the things he has to say about the events which culminated in the Indian Uprising, referred to in most of our history books as the Indian Mutiny. Many of us already knew about such episodes, of course, but to read them in such minute detail is quite painful. It's like African slavery and Irish dispossession and the Opium Wars - I was not there, I do not condone any of the errors made by successive British governments, and I personally have nothing to be ashamed of ; but the genetic conscience still twinges a bit.

Dalrymple is scrupulously even-handed, and while he takes a long, cool look at the British rôle in the lead-up to the Uprising, he makes no attempt at idealising or exculpating the Indians. The dubious political agendas of some of the Indian 'side' are honestly chronicled. So are the sickening atrocities - many of them involving the looting and rape and slaughter of their own people - committed by the sepoys and their ilk. This was war, these were soldiers, and this is what happens when men of any nationality run riot through the streets of a wealthy city ; but mindless butchery it was, and Dalrymple acknowledges it as such.

Numerous scenarios are knee-deep in gore, and this is my only criticism. After a while I began to find some of the descriptions a bit hard-going : many of them were essential to the development of the saga, but I did wonder how many of the others could have been omitted without detriment to the whole. Yet what made me cringe, far more than the harrowing descriptions of all that violence, was the sheer arrogance of the British, resounding as it does through the letters and dispatches reproduced on these pages.

Be that as it may, the step-by-step development of events is gripping, and for me it held some (somewhat confusing) surprises. For even though I disapprove of many of the actions of our long-dead compatriots, there are instances of mind-boggling personal courage on the part of some individuals, both men and women.

My post-war generation was brought up to believe that we were unquestionably the masters of this planet. The British were the benevolent rulers of the most widespread empire the world has ever seen. Vast tracts of the global map on my classroom wall were pink, signifying that they belonged to 'us'. 'We' could do no wrong - and the natives loved us. How many years has it taken us to face the fact that it ain't necessarily so? 'The Last Mughal' will certainly clarify matters for anyone who still clings to the old way of thinking.


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