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M. Mallia (England)

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Money: A Suicide Note
Money: A Suicide Note
by Martin Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Money, Bad Money...a bit of both, 22 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Money: A Suicide Note (Paperback)
This book is, for want of a better phrase, very 'Martin Amis'; heck he even stars in it as a character. Having read reviews of Money I got the impression this was one of his best novels, however I would tend to disagree. It starts well and finishes well but I found myself really having to take a breath and force my hand away from starting another book during the middle chapters (of which I would say there were a few too many). If you are reading this as an English literary critic / student (which I am neither) you may have a different opinion, but for me it was too self indulgent in places to compete with some of his other titles.

The book tracks the life of essentially one man, John Self, and his travails and interactions with a few others. This is very much in keeping with the other Amis novels I've read. The struggles and failures of the main character for whom things will never go right. However, my gripe is that there is just not enough to keep me interested. It's just a little too - post modern.

I wouldn't say 'don't read this book' and perhaps my four star rating is not in keeping with what I have written. With Martin Amis I can't help it. The start and the end kept me turning pages at a more frantic pace and he does dress the book with dollops of literary genius; some of his sentences compel me to read them several times to truly appreciate them. It is well written and has a very real and gritty feel set off against the hilarious irrelevance and hopelessness you would expect.

In summary, a good read if you can last the distance. Some great use of language, but in places written for the author not the reader methinks. If the review reads as two separate reviews then that's because that's how I felt the book to be. Enough of the good to overcome the bad, but not his best.

Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell
by Ian Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dandiacal masterpiece, 28 Dec. 2008
This review is from: Beau Brummell (Paperback)
A great book and a fantastic read suitable for those who know nothing about George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, or for those who have an interest in the enthralling life of the ultimate dandy.

The book charts the whole life of the Beau whilst masterfully putting it into perspective with life and attitudes of the time. Brummell was born into money which was dubiously obtained by his hard working father and with this inheritance set about spending lavishly and redefining what it meant to be a gentleman (in the Regency meaning of the word). He re-wrote the book on dress emphasising quality of cut and fit and the use of subtle colour; which pretty much led to the modern suit.

The man also loved to gamble and his latter days were spent in exile then as consulate in Caen (a very natural progression for a syphilitic former dandy with serious debts to pay and just enough friends left in high places).

The book really illuminates the man who helped define how we dress today, and although he was called a dandy at the time, the name tends now to allure to someone with far less class, style and wit which Brummell possessed in ample amounts. My only slight issue with the book is the style is slightly laboured in some places and has a tendency to repeat certain passages, however, this does not significantly detract from a great read.

So, if you want to read about an early 18th century celebrity who dallied with the upper echelons of society, spend wildly, was renowned for his wit (which got him into trouble on more than one occasion) and dealt with it all with an assured self confidence and cool this is the book. A most British of dandies but one who knew far better than to take himself seriously.

by Michael Wood
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to a period in time which shaped our world, 15 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Conquistadors (Paperback)
The time of the Conquistadors not only re-shaped European politics in it's own time, but also has had an enormous effect on the world of today. Even at the time those involved with it knew they were witnessing events unparalled and later Historians have agreed; Karl Marx called it the greatest event in history and he has a good arguement.

Michael Wood has produced a great read which combines historical fact with breathtaking descriptions of the beautiful and special place which is South America. For those of you unfamiliar with the television series this was produced to accompany, Wood follows the trails of four of the great stories of conquest and exploration during the Spanish 'Conquista' of the sixteenth century. In doing so he retells the stories in a way which really helps to get a feel for the lands through which these adventures, and catastrophes, took place; and offers us some stunning photographs of the landscape as well as images from the time. Wood manages to capture the awe and wonder as well as greed of the Conquistadors and offers an insight into how the Native peoples felt, through careful and thorough research twinned with actually being in the places he is writing about.

The book does not either claim to nor does it, offer a comprehensive account of the actions of the Conquistadors. Instead it gives a very good introduction and summary of Spanish presence in the 'New World' which covers the blood shed, violence and greed as well as the extraordinary hardships and (occasional) friendships which occurred. It also gives good accounts of the overthrow of Incan and Aztec civilisations and the incredible journeys of Francisco Orellana and Cabeza De Vaca.

The book ends by trying to turn our thoughts to how the two civilisations perceived one another and the injustices which were not wholly supported by all in Spain. Finally, Wood summarises by linking the Conquista to the start of globalisation and all that goes with it; and by drawing parallels with today's world. This is a very well written, and thoroughly gripping read for a period in history which little heed is paid to nowadays. This time was a period of exploration which could only be rivaled today by the discovery of an alien civilisation, and which shaped the world as we know it.

A real must read if you don't know much about the subject or if you want a more tangible story of the Conquista then those offered by other books.

Pirate Queen: Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventures: Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventures and the Dawn of Empire
Pirate Queen: Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventures: Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventures and the Dawn of Empire
by Susan Ronald
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting look into the life of Queen Elizabeth, 25 May 2008
The Elizabethan era is one of great interest and intrigue, and shows England struggling to survive in a time when Spain was the dominant European power. This book is a very insightful look into how a young lady, thrust into a precarious position for the country she loved, managed to steer England towards the beginnings of prosperity with limited resources.

Having read a few other books on the period this book offered a more personal and intimate view on how the power balance in Europe was dangling and how England dealt with it. It is a well researched and interesting read whilst retaining an air of a good story. Well written and a certainly worth buying if you want a flavour of England in the 16th century. As implied by the title, there a large portion of the book is dedicated to Elizabeth's 'Pirates' and their adventures, which is tied into the effects of these adventurers on the politics of the nation. The section on Francis Drake is informative and engaging, although with a tendency to side with 'the legend of Drake' at times (For a superbly written and well argued biography of a more 'real' Drake I would recommend Harry Kelsey's Sir Francis Drake: the Queen's Pirate).

Overall a really good overview of the Elizabethan era which manages to inform, educate and enthrall. If you're interested in the beginnings of Britain's rise to supremacy in the subsequent centuries, this is a great place to start.

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