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Maggie (UK)

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Written in Blood
Written in Blood
Price: £4.35

3.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable casebook, or a good autobiography?, 7 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Written in Blood (Kindle Edition)
I've given this book only three stars because I'm not allowed to give it three and a half.

The cover says that Written in Blood is "the remarkable casebook" of the author, but a more accurate sub-title would be "Mike Silverman's life in forensics". An autobiography is not a bad thing, but it isn't a casebook, and if you're reading this book for the case-histories it can be frustrating.

Take the example of Robert Napper, a murderer and prolific rapist. The story of how he was eventually brought to justice is fascinating. 41% into the book (it's Kindle - I can't give you a page number) there is a thumbnail sketch of Napper's early life, to the point where his mother tried and failed to alert the police to his crimes. But this is Mike Silverman's autobiography so it's chronological: Napper drops off the radar and comes back again at 58%, and again for its finale at 84%. At each stage, the story stops suddenly, and a new subject starts without even a sub-heading. When you're engrossed in the narrative and keen to see what happens next, that's a serious irritation.

The Case of the Babygro was particularly frustrating. The story is told around 45%, and seems complete - but we don't hear the punchline until we get to 92%, when we learn how a similar case would be managed in today's profit-oriented forensic science service, possibly with a very different outcome.

Mike Silverman weaves the chronological development of 20th-century forensic science into the story of his own life in an interesting and informative way, but the focus is on the life and the science, not the cases. When he writes a casebook, I'll read it.

Made in India: Cooked in Britain: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen
Made in India: Cooked in Britain: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen
by Meera Sodha
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eat like an Indian..., 16 Aug. 2014
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I bought this book after hearing Meera Sodha talk through her Daily Dal recipe on the radio. That was the first one I tried out, and (unlike the uninspiring dals I remember from Indian restaurants) this one had a good texture, and I could taste the individual ingredients. Since then I've tried badshah kitchari (a vegetable kedgeree), aubergine and tomato curry, and butternut squash and tomato curry - all tasty and simple to make, with readily-available ingredients. The butternut squash was especially delicious.

I've started to work my way through the vegetable dishes, and look forward to the sections on meat, fish, eggs, and pulses & grains. Then there are the starters, breads, chutneys, puddings, drinks... and there's even a chapter on leftovers. Not to mention an amusing page of non-cookery hints headed "Eat like an Indian, think like an Indian".

I have several books on Asian cookery and have found only two or three recipes in each which I have added to my regular repertoire. In contrast, Made In India is packed with recipes that I know I will be able to cook, and I'll have great fun trying them all out.

Mykal Sticky Stuff Remover 250ml
Mykal Sticky Stuff Remover 250ml
Offered by Dealsdirect247
Price: £4.48

5.0 out of 5 stars From pictures to porcelain - a good job well done., 23 July 2014
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My sticky stuff remover arrived in the post a few minutes ago and it's already done two useful jobs for me. It was immediately effective in removing sticky gunge from the back of old photographs - no need to wait for the 5-7 minutes recommended on the bottle, though it takes a little while for the product to evaporate after the gunge has gone. I've also managed to remove the stubborn labels left behind by a plumber on the porcelain of my new bathroom, but that job really did need the full 7 minutes.

Adobe InDesign CC Classroom in a Book (Classroom in a Book (Adobe))
Adobe InDesign CC Classroom in a Book (Classroom in a Book (Adobe))
Price: £23.81

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful addition to the Classroom in a Book library, but..., 17 Aug. 2013
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My experience of desktop publishing software goes back to Aldus PageMaker and Quark Xpress, so I had some idea of what this application should do, but DTP has come a long way since the 1980s, and I found it difficult even to begin a new document with InDesign. Having used Classroom in a Book successfully with other Adobe products, this seemed like a good choice to help me get started.

As with other books in the series, this one held my hand through basic tasks, and gradually built up my confidence with more and more sophisticated exercises. At first, my problems were less with the book than with the software - there are often several ways of achieving the same result, and I found it slightly irritating to follow a new instruction only to find that I had just done in a different way the same thing I had already done in a previous chapter. On the whole, however, the exercises are useful and the instructions easy to follow, with the screenshots showing me exactly what I should be seeing on my screen. (Having two monitors helped enormously, with the application open in one and the Kindle version of the book in the other.)

After opening with chapters on getting accustomed to the workspace, the book deals with setting up a document and handling graphics, before getting to my main interest - text-handling - in Chapter 5. The next few chapters mainly involved learning new techniques for doing tasks which are second-nature to me in Microsoft Word, and I must admit that InDesign is so flexible that I am looking forward to relegating Word to text-entry, and doing all my formatting and display in InDesign in future. The chapters on Flowing Text, Editing Text, Working with Typography and Working with Styles have been especially useful.

I was keen to reach Chapter 15, Creating and Exporting an ebook, which is my main reason for using InDesign, but in this chapter and the following one, Working with Long Documents, things went slightly wrong - for example, there are careless confusions (such as using the expression "selection tool" in conjunction with the icon for the text tool) and the odd occasion where the screenshot doesn't match the instructions. The earlier part of the book is a model of clarity, but these last two chapters suffer from a lack of careful proofing. It is still possible to follow the instructions, but the errors lead to time-wasting and irritation.

The book has given me a good kickstart with a complex application, but I'm afraid the last two chapters have lost it one star in this review.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2013 8:34 AM GMT

Valentine Vox (1854) The Ventriloquist. His life and adventures
Valentine Vox (1854) The Ventriloquist. His life and adventures
Price: £2.54

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the usual Kindle standard, 29 Dec. 2012
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I read my mother's copy of Valentine Vox fifty years ago, and was looking forward to reading the book again.

Seeing the appalling typographical errors in the product description of this version, I assumed this must just be a glitch. It isn't - the product description is representative of the whole product. The book has been scanned in from the original, and nobody has bothered to proofread it. You might just about work out that "oommana" is "command", but I defy anybody to interpret "the jpsaaaoB of men".

I have returned this version of Yalbntikb Vox for a refund, and recommend Amazon to remove it from their catalogue, but I shall look out for a corrected Kindle version in the future because Valentine Vox really is worth reading.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2015 10:50 AM BST

Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America
Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America
Price: £7.99

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is about more than capital punishment, 24 July 2012
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Clive Stafford Smith is a name I know and respect, but I didn't know what to expect from this book. What I found was a compelling read, a book I didn't want to put down until it was finished.

The core of the book is the story of Kris Maharaj, a British businessman convicted in Miami of the murder of Derrick Moo Young and his son Duane in 1986. For Derrick's murder he was given life imprisonment. For the murder of Duane he was sentenced to death. Clive Stafford Smith takes us through the whole story of Kris's involvement with the Moo Youngs, and how he came to be convicted; in doing so he lifts the lid on every aspect of the American legal system and what can go wrong with it, including the Defenders, the Prosecutors, the Police, the Witnesses (including the Experts), the Jury and the various legal processes, from arrest through trial and appeal to execution. And we get an insight into how illicit drugs are trafficked, and how (in all likelihood) they led to the conviction of Maharaj for murders which (in all likelihood) he did not commit. I have to say "in all likelihood" because all of his appeals have failed, and he long ago reached the end of the legal road, despite the fact that Clive Stafford Smith has produced enough evidence to convince any reasonable person that Kris Maharaj is an innocent man. (And, in case you're wondering, not just innocent of these murders, but also innocent of any other criminal offence.)

What appals me, as a UK citizen, is the strong similarity which Clive Stafford Smith points out between the US legal system and ours in the UK. We no longer indulge in judicial killing, but there are many depressing ways in which the UK matches the US in promoting injustice, and as a result keeps people in prison who really should not be there. Just one example: the procedural bar, which is applied in the UK appeal system as strictly as in the US. If your lawyer had access (or could have had access, if he were bright enough) to information which he then failed to use at the time of your trial - for whatever reason, with or without your knowledge - you may not use that information in any subsequent appeal: so, as Clive Stafford Smith says, "if you have an inept lawyer, your chances of a fair result at trial are slim, and you have little or no chance of winning a new trial on appeal: your lawyer 'waived' the claims by failing to raise them during the original trial, so you are 'procedurally barred'." The US appeals system does not want to hear about evidence that proves you innocent, yet it is comparatively easy for a person, whether innocent or guilty, to win an appeal on the grounds of a technical impropriety in the original trial. Read Michael Naughton's book The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the Innocent? for proof that the procedural bar works equally effectively (?!) in the UK.

Clive Stafford Smith follows the history of Kris Maharaj almost up to the present. His is a case that went wrong in every conceivable way from start to finish. Before we even start on Chapter 1, we learn that he escaped the death penalty and is still in jail after 26 years, but the reader is left wondering whether death would have been the kinder option. If you are interested in discovering how the "justice" system simply doesn't work, this book will be an eye-opener.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2014 12:00 PM GMT

Nina Balatka
Nina Balatka
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love means absolute trust - or perhaps not, 1 July 2012
This review is from: Nina Balatka (Kindle Edition)
This is a book about religious conflict, not on a national or international scale, but on a personal level. There is very little about theology in the story of Nina Balatka, but a great deal about prejudice.

It was not illegal in mid-nineteenth-century Prague for a Jew and a Christian to marry, but such a marriage was frowned upon by both communities. Which community will go further in the attempt to prevent the marriage of Nina and Anton? Which of the parties to the marriage will be more susceptible to the pressure? And when the crunch comes, who or what will intervene - a Christian... a Jew... or the hand of god? And if god intervenes, whose god will it be?

Judaism, Christianity and Love are equal themes in the story of Nina Balatka, and if you have any doubts about the wisdom of a marriage between Nina and Anton, it won't be because of their respective religions.

It's only a four-star book because it isn't top-drawer Trollope. But it's close.

Their Trade is Treachery
Their Trade is Treachery
by Chapman Pincher
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Approach with caution, 25 Jun. 2012
I read this book when it was first published because it named someone I had known well for many years.

The background was this: Josef Frolik defected from Czechoslovakia, and published a book about his alleged activities as a spy. It was difficult to verify the details because, with one exception (the tale about a planned honey trap involving Edward Heath) Frolik did not name names. Chapman Pincher obtained tape recordings of interviews given by Frolik, and re-used his anecdotes, this time including the identities of the British people allegedly involved.

Frolik appears to have had a vivid imagination. A BBC Radio 4 programme ("The Heath Caper", broadcast on 25 June 2012) investigated the alleged trap to trick Edward Heath, and found little to substantiate it. As regards the person I knew who was named by Chapman Pincher but not by Frolik, the anecdote about him was demonstrably untrue, and he was able to prove that he was never in the circumstances postulated by Frolik.

I don't know how much of the detail of Chapman Pincher's book is verifiably correct, but the snippets I know about from personal experience are the product of Frolik's imagination. I recommend taking this book with a Pincher of salt!

Thomas Heatherwick: Making
Thomas Heatherwick: Making
by Thomas Heatherwick
Edition: Hardcover

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can this book be bigger than the sum of its parts?, 7 Jun. 2012
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I confess that I'm a Heatherwick groupie, so I am predisposed to like this book. It features all the Heatherwick designs I know and love - including the B of the Bang, the rolling bridge and the handbag made entirely of zips - along with lots and lots of new ones.

The book is arranged chronologically, from 1989 to 2011, and every "chapter" deals with a separate project. I haven't counted the projects exactly, but there are getting on for 150 in all. Each chapter-heading is a question...

How can you make a sleeping policeman work harder?
Can friction alone hold the pieces of an object together?
Can a Christmas card be bigger than its envelope?
Can a tower touch the sky gently?
Can the complex programmatic needs of a spiritual building be brought together with a single idea?
Can you squeeze a chair out of a machine, the way you squeeze toothpaste out of a tube?

...and each question is answered by just enough text, supported by a wealth of images - photographs, sketches, artists' impressions, whatever is necessary to elucidate the answer to the question.

I haven't explored all 600 pages of the book thoroughly yet, but so far I love it.

(28 July: I was delighted to discover last night that the wonderful 2012 Olympic cauldron is a Heatherwick design. Pity it came too late to be included in the book.)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2012 11:22 PM BST

Clarity Shower Proof FM / MW Radio With LCD Clock - Water Resistant - Hook Design
Clarity Shower Proof FM / MW Radio With LCD Clock - Water Resistant - Hook Design

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Clarity? What clarity?, 28 Feb. 2012
If you need proof that you get what you pay for, this is it.

The best feature of this radio is the fact that it has a hook to hang it up in the shower, so one star for that. The second-best feature is that it doesn't seem to mind getting wet - another star for that. In the bathroom, the radio works in a fuzzy sort of way. In the enclosed space of a walk-in shower it suffers from serious interference, which sometimes makes listening to the spoken voice irritating, and at other times quite frankly impossible.

Not recommended, I'm afraid.

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