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Cole Davis (London)
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Easy Russian for English Speakers Vol. 1 & 2: Learn to Speak and Understand Russian; From everyday essentials to Chekhov, Pushkin, Gagarin and Shakespeare
Easy Russian for English Speakers Vol. 1 & 2: Learn to Speak and Understand Russian; From everyday essentials to Chekhov, Pushkin, Gagarin and Shakespeare
by Max Bollinger
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 15.25

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Easy to produce, perhaps, 22 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was poorly organised and lazily produced.

The author produces a haphazard set of phrases for you to reproduce, together with some cultural snippets. At no point will the user get any idea of the grammar (which is rather important in this language). He bothers with some areas of pronunciation and, to be fair, the concept of key vocabulary clusters (this was worth knowing).

A clue to the author's approach, which seems to be to come up with a good idea and then to get bored with it, is suggested by his use of English. This is sophisticated but he fails to use articles ('the', 'a' and 'an' to the grammatically uninitiated). Sure, it does not affect the meaning and is not relevant to his real supposed value, being a native speaker of Russian, but the failure to allow an English speaker to proof the work smacks of complacency. The impression of being less than thorough is truly stamped on the work when you get towards the end of the second CD. The last few tracks consist of repeats and minor expansions, without any explanation, of quotes from Gorki, Gagarin and that other great Russian writer, William Shakespeare.

By 'interactive' the author seems to mean 'on a CD ROM'. Before writing this review, I went to the website so often referred to; it was not available.

My suggestion for a more thorough grounding (although 'Easy Russian' it most certainly isn't) is the Penguin Russian course.


Oxford Take Off in Russian (Paperback with CDs)
Oxford Take Off in Russian (Paperback with CDs)
by Nick Ukiah
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars functional approach, 31 Jan 2012
This package adopts the functional approach to language teaching, basing its chapters on different everyday needs such as shopping, eating and doing business. Each chapter has an integrated grammatical feature. There is a well-structured flow between listening exercises and textual support.

I think this may suit some. I found the package rather uninteresting, with few cultural or historical references. Functional it certainly is. Also, and this is subjective, I did not find the explanations of grammatical structures particularly clear.


The Offshore Islanders: A History of the English People
The Offshore Islanders: A History of the English People
by Paul Johnson
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that makes sense of English history, 20 Jan 2012
To some extent, few histories that go beyond a specific period of history make any sense. Life is a matter of circumstances, personalities and chance and generally not at all a matter of straightforward linear progress. I have generally found English history to be very much like this, at least in its details. Offshore Islanders succeeds in creating a meaningful narrative, interestingly told. Sure, in order to do this, a history cannot reflect all the vicissitudes and an accurate measurement of everything important that occurred, but this gives one a feel for the continuity as well as change that influences our heritage.

I found of particular interest the way in which our overlords, in particular Vikings and Normans, tended to become absorbed into the English culture.


The Sense of an Ending
The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The right book by the right author, 30 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
For once, I think the judges got it right. The best Barnes has written in my opinion. I re-read books rarely, but I will in this case.

As with the finer books, this gets the reader thinking about his or her own life. Reevaluation takes place throughout this often funny but emotionally sensitive book. History as personal and history as perspective is a theme which I personally find more important than the unreliable narrator motif, but this was well worth reading.


Snowdrops
Snowdrops
by A. D. Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was a participant in one of these scams, 30 Dec 2011
This review is from: Snowdrops (Paperback)
As most of the other reviewers agree, this evokes Moscow and, to some extent St Petersburg rather well. At the same time, practically everybody in the book is a bore or a boor and I think Russia gets too bad a press.

As for my own experiences, this sort of a scam did go on, as did the city as brothel, but there were lighter moments. Before I realised that things weren't right, declared 'ne normalny' and took my chances with partially disappointed participants (the deal went on without me, but the villains were beaten in the end), I met the eternally late lawyer who had to drive through all the traffic, the friendly and ambiguous property agent, Russianised Chinese meals, wild dogs on the streets, long-distance phone calls followed by lengthy train journeying and a range of drunks and lovers' arguments, another foreigner being tourist-guided by a prostitute, several hasty changes of accommodation and meetings with some people of genuine charm and yet searing honesty.


Christmas Holiday (Vintage Classics)
Christmas Holiday (Vintage Classics)
by W Somerset Maugham
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.44

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the rise of the superhero, 4 Jun 2011
This is an intricate, characterful reworking of Crime and Punishment. A young middle class man visits Paris for a holiday and is introduced by an old friend to an impoverished young woman whose family has fled the Russian Revolution. One character is a man who murders as a symbol of his own personal fulfilment, but the more dangerous man is the visitor's friend, whose Nietzchean hero to be emulated is the communist police chief Dzershinsky. Written just before the second world war, this carries a warning to a complacent England of the rise of fascism.


A Long Way Down
A Long Way Down
by Nick Hornby
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 11.57

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars psychologically acute, 29 Jan 2011
This review is from: A Long Way Down (Audio CD)
Four very different people find each other at the top of a tall building, each intending to jump. Psychologically acute with excellent characterisation, this was readable and valuable.


Chocolat
Chocolat
by Joanne Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read if rather limited in perspective, 1 Jan 2011
This review is from: Chocolat (Paperback)
Joanne Harris writes beautifully and, without being a great creator of character, does engender feeling in the reader for her characters. I enjoyed the development of a feeling for the small French town and each chapter was a pleasant read. However, the plot is Manichaean in setting up the hypocritically puritanical priest against persecuted but magical travelling types and while demonstrating the ahistorical irrationality of the claims of the Roman Catholic church, the author seems fairly accepting of the virtues of Jungian archetypes and, of all things, Tarot cards, which have a rather recent occult history and primarily appears to 'work' because of the relatively few number of cards in play. The author attacks one form of obscurantism only to promote another.


The Bone Man's Daughters
The Bone Man's Daughters
by Ted Dekker
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars crude, 24 Dec 2010
While the story is a good one, it is crudely written. Lots of obvious points are made, sometimes as numbered lists. Its supporters point to its being a fine psychological novel. Hmm... Daughter thinks she hates her dad because he spends a lot of time away on ops; villain at the heart of it is obsessed by religion. As I say, a good story, albeit rather Hannibal Lecterish, but very crudely written and, I thought, limited even within its own remit.


The Finkler Question
The Finkler Question
by Howard Jacobson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.08

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 21st Century Race Hatred, Mourning, Betrayal and Guilt, 24 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Finkler Question (Hardcover)
Finkler is a Jew, one who is ashamed of his fellow Jews' attachments to an Israel which has become unacceptable. The plot is formed around his friendship with Libor, an elderly Czech Jew and with Treslove, a gentile who increasingly identifies himself with Judaism. Winner of the Booker Prize of 2010, this is very much written with early twenty-first century events running through it, but is seen as remarkable by the press in being chosen whilst being a comic novel. The author may joke and is his characteristically witty self, but this book is about the saddest things: race hatred, irrational identities and clique-maintenance (there is some bitter political satire here), mourning, betrayal and guilt. Splendidly written and increasingly mournful as it goes on, it is very accurate and at times evocative about the peculiarities of Jewish living. I'm not sure about the characters: the old man Libor I could see, but the others were not easy to imagine except (usually as Finkler) as facets of Howard Jacobson. An extremely intelligent book which in itself is a worthwhile thing to be.


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