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J. Grundy "Jim Grundy" (Hucknall, Nottinghamshire)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

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A Little History of the World
A Little History of the World
by E. H. Gombrich
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible...Means Good!, 23 Dec. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When reading the preamble of a book that makes great play of how it makes the subject 'accessible', it is usually a signal for me to put it down and find a 'proper' book instead. What I found was a real delight, with great learning condensed without being condescending.

There's plenty here to entertain and hook your interest in the many topics, perforce, only touched upon relatively lightly in the text. After reading it, I was interested to read the views of other readers and was delighted to learn of Andrew Roberts' reported dismissal of the book. It might have retrospectively pandered to my own prejudices but it made me feel more secure in my assessment of the book!

Recommended.


Mark Steel - Vive La Revolution [2007] [DVD]
Mark Steel - Vive La Revolution [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Steel

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making History, 23 Dec. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I read Mark Steel's book, "Vive La Revolution", and saw one his gigs before seeing this DVD. What you get is intelligent, informed, excellent story telling with great jokes! What's not to like?!

The word 'history' is an immediate turn-off to many. I've shown this to some people who would never admit to finding a history of the French revolution interesting. They've now borrowed the book. Great stuff.


Philips HQ8290 Speed XL2 Rotary Male Rechargeable Shaver
Philips HQ8290 Speed XL2 Rotary Male Rechargeable Shaver

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Close Shave, 23 Aug. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this after wet shaving for years. I used to use an electric razor but I didn't think I was getting as good a shave compared to ordinary razors. This one certainly does that and saves the occasional cut, tissue and blood on your nice clean shirt collar!

It performs really well, shaves very closely, is lightweight and, being rechargeable, is very handy. I'd recommend it.


1918: A Very British Victory
1918: A Very British Victory
by Peter Hart
Edition: Hardcover

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1918 - A Forgotten Victory, 20 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There is a perverse aspect to the British character that, whilst firmly believing everything British to be the best, at the same time positively revels in its failures. The ultimate example of this trait is the even more bizarre ability to turn what was the greatest achievement in British military history, the victories over the German army in 1918, into some kind of defeat. For too many, including very many historians, the history of the Great War seems to stop in March/April 1918 amidst much reverent expressions of admiration for German stormtroop tactics, clearly so superior to anything the staid old British could come up with (sic). The truth, though, is that the old fashioned stick-in-the-mud British did actually develop the all arms battle that so eluded the Germans - until 1940 anyway - and this is made brilliantly clear in Peter Hart's latest book.

Peter Hart once again displays his skill at telling the story from all angles, from the higher levels of command to the private soldier. The perspective gained by this approach helps explain what happened and why but, all importantly, what this meant for those quite literally in the firing line. And this is where, I feel, Peter Hart's work is unmatched by any other historian of the period writing today (and there are some very, very good ones too!).

What comes across time and again is how this book is rooted in a deep respect for those who went through experiences that most of us, fortunately, will never have to. That respect does not wallow in tales of 'mud, blood and endless poetry'; those that get trapped in that particular quagmire do no justice to the men of 1918. These were no passive victims blindly following a bunch of red-faced, stupid generals but first class, professional soldiers who achieved in 1918 what had been learned at such cost by the British army through the Somme, Messines, Third Ypres and Cambrai. But, as anyone reading this book will be left in no doubt about, war is hardly ever glorious, honourable or noble. And lessons learned or no, the cost was never cheap.

Time and again, after elegantly outlining the reasons for tactical and strategic success or failure, Peter Hart brings the reader back to the price paid by the ordinary soldier. You're never allowed to become an arm chair strategist pondering the events of 1918 in the abstract. What took place happened to real people and the author's clear passion to keep their memory fresh shines through each and every page.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It should be read alongside the author's earlier book about the 1918 air war, "Aces Falling", to get an even more complete appreciation of the events of 1918. My own grandfather was a young 1918 recruit who served in the final advance to victory. I can think of no higher tribute to him and his generation than this superb book. Outstanding!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 6, 2009 8:26 PM BST


Shostakovich: Symphony 5, Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok
Shostakovich: Symphony 5, Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok
Price: £10.89

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Odd Pairing, 24 April 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I find Shostakovich's 5th Symphony to be one of his most interesting works. Sub-titled as a 'Soviet Artist's Response to Just Criticism', it was written at a time when Stalin was busy offering holiday accommodation to whole lots of people who never knew they needed it. Shostakovich had incurred the wrath of the regime and had real fears that he might be caught up in the ongoing purges. Interesting background but is this performance worth listening to?

I always benchmark any Shostakovich recording against those of Yevgeny Mravinsky, a man who knew the composer very well and could be expected to know as much about the work as anyone. More recently, I have admired the direction of Neemi Jarvi, a student of the great man. The symphony, in my view, is performed very well and in - at least on my rather sorry CD player - rather excellent sound. The sound quality of any Mravinsky performance cannot compare to this but I find this latest offering less involving than the old master or his student. This is a piece to be listened to and I shall take time to listen to this several more times but whether it will improve in the hearing is difficult to say but for now my benchmark hasn't changed.

As for the pairing, I can't say that 'Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Bok' will be something that I will return to often. As a result, I cannot comment on the quality of the performance.


Beethoven - Symphony No 3, \'Eroica\'
Beethoven - Symphony No 3, \'Eroica\'
Price: £15.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Performance of a Towering Work, 19 April 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew Manze's 'Eroica'. The recording is excellent and the bright performance of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra makes this well worthing adding to any Beethoven collection.

Would it be my no.1 choice? Probably not (I always return to Harnoncourt, personally) but, whilst the field is crowded to say the least and the period-sensitive approach with modest forces hardly under-represented in the catalogue, this is no mere curiousity. I will be returning to this often and look forward to being repaid by repeated listening. Recommended.


Eating
Eating
by Jim Mason
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why Only Vegans Can Save the Earth...., 20 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Eating (Paperback)
The authors follow three different American families tracing the source of the food that these very different people collect from their, mainly, supermarket shopping. As such, it's an interesting examination of how even the more 'aware' consumer can have problems identifying food that hasn't been produced at an unacceptable cost to the environment or the workforce (but there's VERY little about the actual people labouring to produce the food here). But as the authors take you along, there are some things that don't quite chime. I got the impression that what they were doing was setting up a series of extreme scenarios to contrast with what is the main conclusion of the book, i.e., that veganism is the only correct way to live your life both for the future of the planet and, of course, as the book states rather boldly, practically all vegans live into their 90s, keep a full head of hair and have better dress sense than the rest of us.

At the end I was left feeling this was a polemic disguised as a debate about how food is produced. Yes, there is a cost to be paid for factory farming but the authors are silent on why poverty exists across the world, how global corporations exploit the status quo and, ultimately, why low earning families will keep coming back for chicken at £2 a go even if that means they're bred in quite appalling conditions. Right now I can afford to choose to buy free range eggs and I grow my own vegetables, whilst stopping short of knitting my own yoghurt, but there is a price to those choices that not everyone can afford. Yes, they'll be one hell of a price if things do not change but people have to deal with the here and now before that change can take place. More about how to do that would have made for a better book - in my view.


Spanish: Beginner (Collins Language Revolution)
Spanish: Beginner (Collins Language Revolution)
by Tony Buzan
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £19.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction, 13 Mar. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have thoroughly enjoyed using this new beginners' Spanish course.

I was a little doubtful but, wanting to visit Spain (I have never done so before) and not wanting to be the stereo-typical Englishman and stare blankly at the locals unable to even come up with the basics, I thought I'd give it a go.

The system developed by Tony Buznan seeks to take away some of the fear behind learning a new language and start with what's familiar and then move onto more challenging material. I found the 'traffic light' approach, where words are given a 'green', 'amber' or 'red' rating according to their familiarity to an English speaker helpful and a good way of getting started.

Of course, the real test will be with trying what's been learned on a true Spanish speaker! And there will always be a need for a dictionary and to practice proper pronunciation of unfamiliar terms (clearly the course cannot cover everything!) but I think I've been able to get my head around this without too many headaches. All of that might prove misplaced when I try and communicate in Spanish but it would've much harder without being able to listen to the accompanying CD and to work from a traditional phrase book.


The Nasty Bits: Collected Cuts, Useable Trim, Scraps and Bones
The Nasty Bits: Collected Cuts, Useable Trim, Scraps and Bones
by Anthony Bourdain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Tasty Bits Amongst the Scrap, 13 Mar. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Whilst I agree with the previous reviewer that this isn't the author's best work, I still found it an interesting collection of his journalism. You do get the impression that the idea for the compilation was the publisher's and not the author's, capitalising upon his earlier successes, but I think there is more than enough here to warrant any fan of Anthony Bourdain's writing taking a look.

I enjoyed it and, as ever, Anthony Bourdain's writing gives you the real deal about the lives of chefs, not the faux celeb-orientated world that so many live in (or have us believe).


Andalus: Unlocking The Secrets Of Moorish Spain
Andalus: Unlocking The Secrets Of Moorish Spain
by Jason Webster
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Taste of Moorish Spain, 17 Feb. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I enjoyed this book. Knowing little about the subject, and having read the author's book about modern Spain's attitude to the Civil War, I thought this would be a good introduction.

Some of the negative comments here perhaps come from the expectations that readers might have of the book. If you want a historical discourse about Moorish Spain, then this clearly isn't for you. If you want to learn about the country's current political landscape, then there are doubtless better sources than this. But if you want to begin to see modern Spain and its connections to the Islamic past in the company of an informed outsider, then you can certainly do much worse.

This book left me wanting to learn more about the 800 years of Muslim rule in Al Andalus. It reminds me of having a conversation with a friend in a pub. They tell you something, share their interest in a subject and you follow it up to satisfy your curiousity. It's a conversational work and that's not a pejorative description. Writing in this style is informal but it takes talent, the ability to communicate well, to do so.

Perhaps the author does romanticise Spain's Islamic past; perhaps he doesn't present a fully rounded perspective on the relationship between the invading Muslims and the indigenous population; but if he does, then perhaps that's a reaction to the overt hostility and ignorance towards Islam that is found in the modern world today. I'll be reading more.

One thing's odd, though. The author makes clear that one aspect of today's Spain that has no Moorish roots and that is bull fighting. Why does the cover of the book depict this, then? I suppose that's one for the publishers and their take on what the average non-Spaniard will identify with Spain but it doesn't exactly fit in with the content of the book!


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