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India (Footprint India Handbook)
India (Footprint India Handbook)
by Robert W. Bradnock
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars if the new edition is anything like the previous one...., 9 Jan 2005
...then this is overall the best guidebook to India. Of course I need to qualify this, as there is never a single 'best' guidebook to anywhere - if possible I'd suggest taking along two very different ones.
The advantage of this book is that it covers a lot more ground than any of the other ones I've seen. Robert Bradnock is a geography professor and brings a depth of knowledge of the country that the usual 'professional backpackers' at Lonely Planet simply don't have. The book is primarily geared to people travelling by car and who have the time to explore an area in-depth - and most definitely to travellers who want to really get off the beaten track and learn a few things about the economy and society of the area.
On the other hand, this book doesn't give you detailed descriptions of hotels and restaurants or all that much information on railway/bus options. So if you're mainly interested in finding the best beach bar in Goa, the most convenient hotel in Pushkar, or the location of the bus station in Madurai, by all means buy LP and give this one a miss. Your loss.


The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Unique Look
The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Unique Look
by Kendall Farr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.25

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If it doesn't fit and you can't fix it, toss it., 6 Nov 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The reviewer on Amazon.com that said Farr `instructs women how to honestly assess their wardrobes and logically pinpoint their individual body type' is right on the money. The Pocket Stylist is very useful when it comes to advice on fit, measurements, accessorising and the uses of tailoring; for these points it is worth the price of purchase. It is also written in a friendly tone. I find it refreshing that Karr speaks to her readers as if they were individual paying clients.
Her advice is solid: think primarily of what fits your silhouette and your measurements; determine the right scale for your accessories; use a tailor to get the best fit; if it doesn't fit you perfectly, don't wear it. These are simple rules, but I've never seen a stylish woman who didn't follow them all.
About her proposed body types: A, B and C fit almost every woman I know, of any size. So why the other three types, which are simply the same silhouette in `plus-size'? It would have made more sense to add a section for plus sizes in each of the first three types (rather than risk implying that plus sized women are some kind of distortion of the original...)
Farr warns readers against prominently displaying logos and initials not the bearer's own (special thanks for that!). But she sure likes the classics - Hermes scarves, Vuitton handbags, etc. Many women may find this off-putting from a book that promises to help you find your own style. I suppose her priority is to raise people's standards and steer them towards good choices. After all, people with a very developed sense of style don't need this book in the first place... Seriously, though, Farr should have explained WHY the iconic handbags she mentions are iconic. It may be obvious to a self-confessed bagaholic like herself but, being unenlighted, I'd rather have a sturdy tote (with a shoulder strap) than a Hermes Birkin.
Farr says 'scarves are often overlooked' - and then proceeds to dismiss them in half a page. How about showing us good ways to wrap a scarf? There are plenty, and the various seffects are very different. She also dismisses hats in half a page. Diamonds, on the other hand, merit over a page...what are they even doing in this book?

The lists Farr provides of brands and online shopping sources are of some use to those of us living in Europe, though the shops and specialists are only of interest if you live in the US (or rather in New York!)I suggest the publishers include metric conversion in the next edition for Canadian and European readers.
I think the book could usefully include more information on how to establish what the right colours are for you - after all, it can make a big difference to your look. (Having undergone a colour consultation myself, I discovered that the trick is to sit near a good source of sunlight, wipe off all makeup, frame face with perfectly white cloth and hold up various colours - look at your face NOT the colour you're holding up - to check whether they make you look more alert or more tired (more shadows on your face). Decide between cool and warm tones (Silver or gold? Pink or orange?) and between strong contrasts or blends of similar tones).
The drawings are themselves stylish, though I would have liked more of them. Info on makeup and hair is minimal but useful. The book sometimes assumes too much knowledge of clothing/ accessory terminology - I would have appreciated a glossary!
The advice on storing, cleaning and organising clothes is succinct but right on target. The format of the book is excellent - sturdy and handy enough to take along on shopping trips. And with Farr's help, you'll be able to tell what fits without trying it on.


Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House: The Art and Science of Keeping House
Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House: The Art and Science of Keeping House
by Cheryl Mendelson
Edition: Paperback

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new take on keeping house, 3 Nov 2004
This book is a treasure. Mendelson's writing is simple and elegant, but it is also thoughful. No attempts to joke around or talk down to the reader here. She gives you the facts, explains clearly what needs explaining, goes into as much detail as you care to pursue, and covers just about everything that makes a home run smoothly. Being a person who likes to know the whys and wherefores of anything, I enjoyed her explanations of various aspects of housework.
However, the originality and value of this book lie not in the detailed instructions about how to do anything in the house (using the hoover attachments, properly laundering your delicates, avoiding cross-contamination in the kitchen, ironing various fabrics, to mention some of the basics); this material is, I'm sure, covered in other books too, though perhaps not as thoroughly. It is rather the new attitude it brings towards the home. I realised, after reading her wonderful introductory essay, that though cooking is considered an art form we see every other household job as just a chore. In essence, Mendelson rehabilitates housework. The importance of well-maintained clothes and clean living quarters for our state of mind has never been more eloquently put.
She inspired this single woman to treat her home as her sanctuary, rather than her temporary digs, and to perceive that there is much more to making the bed and cleaning the counter to domestic drudgery. Suddenly, even hoovering seems much easier.


The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life
The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life
by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Manic violence and measured thoughts, 30 Jun 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Ignatieff is right - Kapuscinski does turn reporting into literature. But maybe he oversteps the boundary sometime....I catch myself wondering if things happened quite the way he describes them. His imagination is attracted by the the baroque, the sensational, and the extreme. That said, this was probably the reason he fell in love with Africa in the first place - his need for heightened emotions and extreme situations.

Even so, it's very worth reading this book, not so much for the reportage as for the analysis. His dispatches from civil war zones are amazingly lurid, especially from Liberia. But maybe too lurid to be food for thought beyond 'heart-of-darkness' similes.
What I particularly value in this book is his very lucid and measured analysis of the rise of Amin; of the ubiquity of the warlord and child soldier; of the genocide in Rwanda; of the class structure of independent Africa; of the perils facing even the most patriotic of African leaders (here, Eritrea; in his book The Soccer Wars he makes a similar point about Ben Bella in Algeria). And his vignettes of daily life are also fascinating: the witchcraft he used against burglars in Lagos, the merchant lady in Senegal.

In notice the cover of this book is plastered with glowing reviews - but not one is from from an African source or african writer. What do Africans make of it, I wonder...


Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
by Orlando Figes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russia, after this book I want to get to know you better., 16 Dec 2003
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an excellent book. Though it is arranged thematically rather than chronologically, timelines are not confusing. The great debates of Russian culture - between East and West, between peasant and aristocrat, between Orthodoxy and the Old Belief - are presented vividly and clearly. The countryside and cities come alive with characters, not just of the great figures of Russian literature and art but of the nameless millions and their beliefs, culture, attitudes and preoccupations. Natasha's Dance made me want to learn much more about Russia, its people, its history, its literature and art. And that, to me, is the measure of success of a cultural history such as this.


Ikiru [DVD]
Ikiru [DVD]
Dvd ~ Takashi Shimura
Price: £8.05

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To savour and to think about, 2 Dec 2003
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ikiru [DVD] (DVD)
I'm prepared to concede that Seven Samurai, rather than Ikiru, is Kurosawa's greatest film; beautifully paced, funny and profound, it was hugely influential for a reason. However, my personal favourite is Ikiru - maybe because I'm desk-bound, like the main character. I knew the bare bones of the story before I saw the film, so I was unprepared for the brilliant non-chronological order in which the story unfolds. The cuts to the funeral, where collegues comment on the hero's life and death, seem to stop the action; but in effect they make you question your own attitude toward your work in life. A great entertainment that also makes you think - the perfect work of art.


A Fine Balance (Oprah's Book Club)
A Fine Balance (Oprah's Book Club)
by Rohinton Mistry
Edition: Paperback

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wretched of the earth, 1 Oct 2003
Though beautifully written, with a page-turning plot, this is a hard book to read: it offers no illusions, no 'happy end'. But it is - apart from a wonderfully human story with characters you really feel you know - a crash course in the extreme struggle for survival of the poor, and of the not-so-poor, who wish to lead an independent life. I feel that "this is how life itself would speak, if it could speak".
Though not an Indian, I know a few things about the country, having a degree in Indian history and several trips there under my belt. Mistry's book could serve as a perfect introduction to studies on underdevelopment or Indian social studies. But make no mistake, it's a real work of literature. No characters here are made of cardboard - the 'bad guys" are not cinema villains - in fact I think Mistry did some of his best work with the character of Beggarmaster.
Another masterful touch, I felt, and the only thing that survives the characters' efforts to make a life for themselves, is the final little act of defiance. Perhaps Mistry is suggesting that only such acts will make things better, no matter what their cost. A very fine book indeed.


Classic Indian Cookery
Classic Indian Cookery
by Julie Sahni
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious book on Indian cooking, 7 Feb 2003
This review is from: Classic Indian Cookery (Hardcover)
I own an older edition of this book, and am similarly astonished at the reviewer below who called it a "vanity" book. Nor do I have any recollection of coming across unexplained references to bhoonaing. He or she must be talking about another book entirely!
In fact, Sahni meets all the requiremenst for clarity, understanding of cultural background and good personal taste that reviewer stipulated. She has wisely chosen to concentrate on the cooking she knows best, Moghul cooking of North India.
Her book, along with Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, are my most useful (and used) cookbooks. In fact, Sahni is a good counterweight to Jaffrey. She tends not to offer the shortcuts that characterise Jaffrey, but i think she gives the reader a better understanding of what the dish should taste like and what the process of cooking Indian food should involve. Also, she has none of Jaffrey's breathless "i love this dish with a passïon' style that I, for one, find irritating. As a result, out of the fifty-odd cookbooks I own, this is the one I turn to when I want to please special guests.
I have cooked almost all of her meat, fish and main vegetable courses and some of the dals, and all were excellent. Standouts include chicken kabuli, shahi korma,zarda pilaf with peaches and an out-of-this-world keema with cashew nut butter and chickpeas.
All in all, a cook book worth having.


Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
by Louis de Bernieres
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Faking it, 17 Sep 2002
Initially I was very excited to hear of a best-seller set in an island where I've spent many summers since my childhood. But this book was a disappointment to me. What makes it interesting is the original story of what really happened to the Italians in Kefalonia. But the author's attempt at "authenticity" was laughable - can any Greek imagine a doctor in the Ionian islands in that period calling his friends "mangas"?!
You may say this doesn't affect the story-telling; but it immediately made me feel that this was an author who makes a buck simply by choosing interesting stories from the history books and 'exotic' locales. My hunch was confirmed with his empathy-free portrayal of Pelagia's fiance, the left-wing guerrilla as a cartoon baddie (at which point I gave up on this book entirely). Sorry, but this is not literature. It's just airport reading, made to attract movie and travel-industry tie-ins. Me, I'd rather read the story straight from the history books.


Platform
Platform
by Michel Houellebecq
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Soon to be a Major Motion Picture, 11 Sep 2002
This review is from: Platform (Hardcover)
... A good yarn? On the whole, yes. An interesting polemic? Perhaps. But is it literature? I'm not so sure. This novel is peopled with recognisable stereotypes rather than recognisable people - with the sole exception of the first-person narrator. A nihilistic but sex-obsessed loner when the novel starts, he describes a barren life full of trite rituals. He hasn't much respect for his job in the Ministry of Culture: toward the end he says that culture in the Western world is a necessary sop to make the meaninglessness of modern life bearable (so we can slough it off when we escape to Thailand. True, if culture is confused with TV games). The rougher suburbs of Paris are presented in bleak images of crime, devastation and fear, but the narrator dismisses the idea of trying to improve them and certainly asks no questions about how they got to be like that. Throughout, he complains about the absence of love in the West. His girlfriend - who is, of course, much younger, beautiful, sexually adventurous and, just to be 'modern', very successful in her chosen field - is presented as a rare exception. She alone, apparently, among Western womankind is a "giving person". Naturally, it never occurs to the narrator to do any "giving" himself...As for the sex scenes, they reminded me of George Steiner's observation, in Night Words, I believe, to the effect that to describe sex is to make it trite. Houellebecq's sex scenes (even the 'love' scenes) mostly read like a rather unappealing man's fantasies (the greatest of which is that, just when the couple settles down and the spectre of domesticity looms, fate intervenes...whew, close call.)
The author tries to bring the business world into the novel. An admirable idea, except his heart isn't really in it, or he simply doesn't really find a way to do it. The relevant passages read like company histories lifted from magazines. (Is the author making fun of himself with the sociologist character?) Ditto for the personal aspects of office life. Not enough is made of the workaholic executive: we hear much about his problems with his wife, but not enough on the effects of corporate power on his character - an equally interesting subject, to my mind, and one more relevant to a critique of modern society. The narrator wonders what makes him tick, but blithely dismisses him by concluding that 'Jean-Yves works because he likes working'. That passage rather made me regret that the novel wasn't about Jean-Yves.
There's been much talk about Houellebecq's portrayal of Islam, but actually, I'm not sure what Islam is doing here in the first place. Is it meant to be one more instance of globalisation gone awry (alongside the cultural confusion of immigrants and the dark side of the tourist industry)? Frankly, the final section reads suspiciously like a novelist's ploy to get his book into the talk shows and best-seller lists - even less forgivably, to attract movie industry attention by ending the story with a bang.
The one solid thing about this novel is the character of the narrator, an accurate depiction of the Westerner who only wants his/her ego stroked and passes facile judgements on West and East alike. This "protagonist" is actually a person to whom things happen, who refuses to take any responsibility for his world. Herein, perhaps, lies the reason for the popularity of this book.


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