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Dr. S. A. Mitton "Simon Mitton" (Cambridge UK)
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Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England
by Thomas Penn
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant introduction to the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII, and the early modern period, 10 Mar 2013
This is an outstanding debut by Thomas Penn, and it has me hoping that he is already at work on sequels (Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, ... ?). As a writer of biography myself (e.g. Fred Hoyle, Georges Lemaître, and other astronomers) i am always keen to get into books that use engaging literary devices to draw in the reader and to propel the narrative at a good speed. Therefore I did enjoy the many passages where Penn creates in the reader's mind a feeling that you're actually there, alongside Henry VII, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Prince Henry, Catherine of Aragon, and the supporters and conspirators at court. This is popular history at its best. The detail is really helpful, in my opinion, to understanding the life and times of the English court in the early sixteenth century.

I doubt that there is new scholarship here, but that's not the point: the author has sifted the sources with great care and skill, in order to produce a biography that is informative and entertaining. You'll learn a lot about the importance of jousting and tilting for example. Also the amazing number of tricks Henry used to screw the cash out of "the rich". A lot of that was barely legal. One of Henry VIII's first acts was to make the working of the exchequer more transparent. There's interesting detail too on the enclave at Calais, and how it operated. Henry is the first monarch to make serious use of international banking, and he takes a serious interest in international trade (he likes to follow the money!) You can also learn how the Groom of the Stool (look it up!) became a powerful official at court

As a non-historian I would have appreciated a crib sheet in the back matter reminding me of the key points about the many courtiers in the book. For those not already familiar with the material is can be a bit tricky keeping track of the nobility, courtiers, and advisers.


Torch LA4055 5 LED Carrier Fit Rear Bike Light
Torch LA4055 5 LED Carrier Fit Rear Bike Light
Offered by bikemadness
Price: £9.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent safety feature at a great price., 4 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Can only be stolen by using a screwdriver.

The light is very bright

Easy to fit, and the best rear light I've ever purchased. Much cheaper than going to a high street shop


Small Wars
Small Wars
by Sadie Jones
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great clarity, intensity and simplicity, 26 Jan 2013
This review is from: Small Wars (Hardcover)
I won't repeat the plot summaries of other reviewers. I'll concentrate instead on what I liked about the book. The setting -- Cyprus on the eve of the Suez crisis, great civil unrest, large presence of British military -- is novel (pun!). Because I had recently visited Cyprus as part of a Mediterranean cruise I felt immediately at home with the book, particularly when the author is giving pen pictures of the rural landscape, the heat, and the racial tensions. The structure of the book is straightforward: a limited number of characters with contrasting backgrounds and views on "what is right". There are many tense incidents that involve moral judgments, and the author handles these with courage and verve. The voices here are authentic, but without the squaddies' f-words. The narrative is easy to follow. The book is a page turner and is gut-wrenchingly realistic in the descriptions of terrorist attacks. The book struck me as being well-researched (she spoke to surviving serving soldiers). I recommend that before you start reading it you should spend ten minutes looking at the Wikipedia entry about Cyprus since the end of the Ottoman empire. You'll find it helpful to have some background knowledge of the period of Protectorate, the Crown Colony (from 1925) and the EOKA movement.


1,000 Character Writing Prompts: Villains, Heroes and Hams for Scripts, Stories and More (Story Prompts for Journaling, Blogging and Beating Writer's Block Book 3)
1,000 Character Writing Prompts: Villains, Heroes and Hams for Scripts, Stories and More (Story Prompts for Journaling, Blogging and Beating Writer's Block Book 3)
Price: £1.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good starting point for character building, 12 Nov 2012
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I write biography of scientists so I'm aware of the necessity of writing about character, particularly in a manner that gets the reader sympathetic for the subject (I do not write about villains etc). There are many good ideas here, so the book repays careful reading. I certainly found it helpful, but slightly predictable / formulaic after a while


Home Brew & Wine Making - Wine and Beer Hydrometer
Home Brew & Wine Making - Wine and Beer Hydrometer
Offered by Balliihoo Homebrew
Price: £4.15

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine English wine from my own grapes, thanks to this kit, 4 Nov 2012
When I was a research student in a famous university I started to make my own wine from kits, and became rather good at it. Then I progressed through an interesting career in the famous university and found I could afford to buy wine from the supermarket. Eventually, on holiday, I discovered French wine, and then started a new interest of visiting by car (a large car!) all the major wine districts in France, returning from each trip with a car full of stuff from small producers. The home wine kits was not being used so I threw it out. But then, when visiting the Three Choirs vineyard in Herefordshire I noticed they had vines for sale. I bought one (Phoenix) and planted it on a south facing wall. Last year it yielded 7 kg of grapes so I decided to make my own. I bought all the kit to do so from this supplier. I squeezed the grapes by hand. I added sugar to get a potential strength of 12%. The result was 5 bottles of English wine which we are drinking now. I had a bonus as well. Rather than chucking out the squeezed grapes, I put them in the fermentation bin, added four litres of pasteurised 100% white grape juice from Aldi, some sugar, and fermented on the skins for 48 hours, then racked off and finished fermentation in about 20 days. That produced another 5 bottles of wine that I had intended for the kitchen, but it turns out to be remarkably drinkable as a table wine

In conclusion: This supplier is good for anyone who wants to make six bottles of wine at home. All items were well made, reasonably priced, easy clean, and great fun if you've never tried it before. There are countless recipes / methods on the internet, so a first time user does not need to buy an instruction book

On the hydrometer itself, it is great. All the scale are easy to read (I did make it easier by using a magnifying glass) and you can trust the instructions on how much sugar to add.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 13, 2013 2:35 PM BST


How to Observe the Sun Safely (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)
How to Observe the Sun Safely (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)
by Lee MacDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best guides for safe viewing of the Sun and solar activity, 4 Nov 2012
This is a splendid second edition of the standard work for amateur astronomers wishing to observe the Sun. The new edition comes ten years after the successful first edition. So what's new? Digital SLR photography has transformed astronomical observing but ten years ago digital SLRs were not an affordable option. In this edition the author takes care to give a splendid introduction to the new photography. Another technique that amateurs have taken up is the use of H-alpha filters and also webcams. There's so much new kit out there it can be quite confusing for the newcomer. Macdonald's book is the place to start because the author concentrates on equipment, gadgets, and gizmos that can easily be obtained, at no great cost, and come ready to run. Fortunately, this is not a book that teaches how to design and build a solar radio telescope from first principles. That's because the emphasis is on practical observing, in a safe manner, using kit that works straight out of the box. Solar observing is a very pleasurable hobby, particularly suited to those who live in cities that are blighted by light pollution. It's suitable (of course!) for daytime projects, like practical astronomy in a school.

Lee Macdonald has a huge reputation in the UK as a great speaker and helpful enthusiast. Professionally he works in the history of astronomy.

The Springer Series of books on practical amateur astronomy has developed into a remarkable library of practical books on how to do astronomy without needing win lottery cash as the first step.


Last Train from Liguria
Last Train from Liguria
by Christine Dwyer Hickey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.67

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping tale from the 1930s on in Italy under Mussolini, 29 July 2011
I always like novels that are set in places or periods that I have experienced. I am familiar with the French and Italian Rivieras, as well as southern Italy. So my enjoyment of this novel may well be influenced by my familiarity with the landscape (and history)

Okay. I found this a wonderful novel, a real page turner for me. I liked the way in which two narratives set in different periods (1930s; 1990s) are interwoven in eight parts.

I agree with the reviewers who have said that the end piece is not satisfactory, but that did not put me off the main narrative

The historical content of the novel has clearly been meticulously researched, and it gives penetrating insights into the life styles of wealthy Brits who decamped to Italy in the 1930s.


Secrets of the Universe: How We Discovered the Cosmos
Secrets of the Universe: How We Discovered the Cosmos
by Paul Murdin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar discoveries artfully revealed by a master of the universe, 5 May 2011
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This is one of the best introductory books about the universe that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It has a great story to tell: how the universe - the cosmic landscape beyond the solar system - was discovered. That storyline takes us from Galileo's discovery of the Milky Way ("a congeries of stars") to the astonishing finding that the expansion of the universe is speeding up, powered by mysterious dark energy. This fascinating tale of discovery is supported by beautiful illustrations and photographs (as we expect from Thames and Hudson). Paul Murdin's prose is, as always, superb, poetic, and accurate. Professor Murdin, a distinguished professional astronomer, has a real gift for bringing the people involved in discovery alive, and for showing how science is done. This is a highly accessible and enriching book, which beautifully showcases the awesomeness of the cosmos, without using technical language or (heavens forbid!) the biggest turnoff in popular science written by professionals: equations and calculus. I can strongly recommend this book as inspiring reading for younger people who are considering taking a degree level course in physics or astronomy, and for all watchers of the skies who want to know "what's up there?"


The Provencal Cookbook
The Provencal Cookbook
by Marie-Pierre Moine
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I bought two copies of this for myself, 22 Dec 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Provencal Cookbook (Hardcover)
I spend about three months a year in southern France, mostly in Provence, Alpes Maritmes and Cote d'Azur. Here's my take on this book. It is entirely authentic, clearly written and beautifully illustrated. Everything we have tried has worked just fine. We've had the book for about three years at our property in Nice and we just bought a second copy to use in Cambridge. I don't think recommendations get much better than that! Buy, cook, enjoy!!


The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius
The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius
by Graham Farmelo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.59

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I knew this stranger and attended his lectures, 22 Dec 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I attended Dirac's lectures on quantum mechanics in the last year (1966) they were given at Cambridge. Dirac was a careful lecturer. I met him only once, on High Table at St John's College, where he passively ignored my light weight comments. Graham Farmelo has done amazingly well to write such a captivating biography of this enigmatic physicist who was one of the greatest intellects of the twentieth century. I am the biographer of the Cambridge cosmologist Fred Hoyle, Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science whose Ph D in quantumelectrodynamics was supervised by Dirac. There was a curious symmetry about this because Hoyle was always self-propelled and felt he did not want a thesis superviser and Dirac had a dislike for supervising Ph D students, so they got on very well together by not interacting. Dirac must have been influential in getting Hoyle a research Fellowship at St John's. I deeply admire this biography because it has so much to tell us about Dirac, Cambridge, and quantum mechanics. In biographies of 20th century scientists the stage can get very crowded because the biographer must relate how his subject is influenced by discoveries and discoverers elsewhere. Farmelo has a rather good approach to this tricky task. What I got out of this biography was some lessons for myself on how to write a page-turner. I thank the author for that. A small incident is missing. Dirac's textbook The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (International Series of Monographs on Physics), first published in 1930, was rejected by the Syndics of Cambridge University Press on the grounds that the Dirac approach was not generally accepted. So he offered it to the Delegates of Oxford University Press who published it as the first title in their Monographs on Physics. First editions now sell for £500+ I am an enthusiast about this book


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