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Reviews Written by
Chris Bourne (London UK)

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Ghost Army
Ghost Army
Price: £2.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Catch-22 for The Balkans, 1 Aug. 2015
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This review is from: Ghost Army (Kindle Edition)
A terrifying, compelling story of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, as seen through the eyes of a group of the town's residents who try to escape. It's full of black humour too, and delivers an important, life-affirming message from the depths of human cruelty and suffering. A Catch-22 for the Balkans: yes, it's that good, and I think it will haunt me for a very long time to come.

Certainly one of the best self-published novels I've ever read, and should be available to a wider public: conventional publishers take note.

mercury Switched Clip on Lamp Holder
mercury Switched Clip on Lamp Holder
Offered by Select Online
Price: £3.63

2.0 out of 5 stars Tiny flex and clip angle spoils OK product, 3 Aug. 2013
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Two problems with this:

Firstly, the length of the flex is a miserly three feet. Previous reviews refer to a longer flex but the ones I have are so short that power sockets have to be placed high to have any overhead illumination even when sitting at a table.

Secondly, the nature of the clip angles the bulb towards the clip end, so that when clipped on a horizontal shelf or the side of a bookcase, the light is pointing towards the shelf and wall, not out into the room.

Apart from those issues the product is OK, but there seem to be better ones on the market.

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2
Price: £1.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, vibrant, personal..., 28 Oct. 2012
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Ukrainian-born YouTube diva Valentina Lisitsa demonstrates in this, the first release of her digital "Rachmaninoff Project", that she has the character, authority and technique to take her place as a major talent among today's concert pianists.

This is a fresh, vibrant Rachmaninoff with an elegant, flexible line which sings in long rubato phrases where the piano seems to float miraculously over the beat without ever taking liberties with it. The pulsating, brisk tempo of the opening provides an energy that is echoed throughout, driving the music forward rather than pulling it back: grand without being paralysed by its own grandeur.

The second movement shows the LSO strings playing with exceptional sweetness in their exchange of the long singing theme with Lisitsa's tender, lyrical phrasing. The cadenza and the magical coda are played with great clarity and moving sentiment.

This great clarity, the product of a cast-iron technique and a functioning musical brain, is especially evident in the third movement with its virtuoso runs and almost continually busy, chattering piano accompaniment. This is glittering, at times icy playing, an exciting (and necessary) contrast to the almost excessive romanticism of the big tunes. The finale breaks through like a river in flood - all the glitter swept away in the passionate, headlong rush.

The LSO under the young conductor Michael Francis - not long ago, a double bass player with the same orchestra - are clearly in tune with Lisitsa's vision of the concerto, based, she says, on Rachmaninoff's own playing which she sees as more aristocratic and refined than the thunderously portentous perfomances this repertoire sometimes attracts. There is an excellent rapport with the orchestra, and you'd think they had been performing with Lisitsa for years rather than meeting for the first time in the studio.

This is an absolute steal at the price, for a digital recording. Can't wait to hear what she does with the other, even more musically demanding, concertos in the "project".

Moving On
Moving On
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Zen and the Art of Kayaking?, 23 July 2012
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This review is from: Moving On (Kindle Edition)
A charming, intelligent novel about survival and self-development in a hostile contemporary world. Summer Foovay writes with a kind of integrated sensuality: the natural world, people good and wicked, sex and affection are all experienced through the eyes of Melanie, an abuse survivor who reflects on her difficult but ultimately rewarding life while taking a kayak journey into a new and exciting future.

Melanie's story is not an easy one, and there is a hard edge to the story which doesn't pull punches. Foovay structures her tale well, alternating between meditations from the kayak, direct advice to the reader on how to cope with life's struggles, and flashbacks to Melanie's previous life from an abused childhood through periods of living rough, prostitution, and the forming of more dependable friendships and goals.

Foovay writes from a pagan perspective with a strong dash of the Tao and readers are gently introduced to a number of concepts of practical value. Melanie herself is an engaging, tough, sexy heroine: her characterisation is very strong, confidently written and affecting, sometimes at the expense of other characters, in that we learn more from Melanie's thoughts about them than from their own part in the story. But this is Melanie's story, she's telling it herself, and she deserves her pride of place at the head of the narrative.

Finally, there is PJ, the kayak: she is perhaps the only other character who is as fully-formed and lovingly detailed as Melanie. She courageously heads into unexpected white water, survives near-death encounters with floating logs, finds space for the water bottle and rarely hides her graceful lines beneath a skirt. Only a few pages into the story, and I wanted to rush out and find a PJ of my own. An unlookedfor treasure of a book!

The Scarpetta Factor: Scarpetta 17
The Scarpetta Factor: Scarpetta 17
by Patricia Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much soap, 10 Mar. 2010
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Somewhere down the line Cornwell stopped writing crime stories and started writing soap opera. The result is a bloated book in which not a lot happens, but what does happen has to be seen reverberating in the private lives and increasingly extreme neutoses of each of the main characters. So instead of action, we get angst, and instead of an intricate plot we get intimate psychodramas.

Technobabble seems to substitute for cutting up bodies and examining exit wounds. Lucy's uber-hacker stuff should always take a back seat to the Doc's scalpel, which it's not doing here. When you get to the end, it's clear the story's only halfway through. I'm sure there will be more to come, but Cornwell is spreading the jam very thin. She used to be so much better than this.

Railway Signalling and Track Plans
Railway Signalling and Track Plans
by R. J. Essery
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

71 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the real railway was designed., 8 May 2008
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Bob Essery's series of essays on the working of the steam railway is becoming an essential reference for steam railway practice in the UK with a view to providing modellers with the prototype information necessary to build and operate layouts in a realistic way.

This latest is not a book of track plans in the C J Freezer mould, but an account of how track came to be built the way it was, and the requirements that Parliament laid on the operating companies. So you will learn about the proper positioning of catch and safety points, the rules relating to facing points, running lines and goods loops, with examples of operation from training manuals of the steam era. You will be able to design layouts that contain elements drawn from the real railway, rather than copying what appears in the model railway press.

The account of signalling and block working is also very strong, with practical information about the changes that took place over time. Again, unusual subjects such as the railway telegraph network (and thus telegraph poles) are also covered. There is a further section on signal boxes, point rodding and locking signals with points. Throughout, the text is related to the statutory Requirements of the day and the development of technology - such as vacuum brakes - that significantly changed operating practice.

Sometimes the text is a little dense, but that is mitigated by a profusion of photographs, packed with detail and often demonstrating startling truths about the prototype railway that don't show up in most models. The photographs are worth the cover price alone and the glossy art paper used throughout allows the detail to remain largely unobscured.

Bob Essery has the distinct advantage as an author of being a former steam railwayman, and a leading historian of the LMS. We have come to expect a certain bias in favour of matters LMS in these books, and it is hard to complain about this bias when it goes hand-in-hand with such expertise. However, modern image enthusiasts should be warned that this book is about the steam railway and has nothing to say about post-1968 matters.

The book is only 112 pages long, and this is a cause for some criticism: not because the text is too short but because the typeface is so small that it is not easy for those with less than perfect eyesight to read unaided. I'd prefer to see a book with more pages and a rather larger typeface - and would gladly have paid an extra fiver or so for that relief, especially if it meant more photographs to go with the extra pages. Ian Allan might consider this with future publications. I was tempted to lower the rating on this account, but it seems unfair to review on the basis of my poor eyesight rather than that of the average man.

Piano Music, 1888-1905 (Dover Music for Piano)
Piano Music, 1888-1905 (Dover Music for Piano)
by Claude Debussy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.95

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Repertoire at a silly price, 9 Mar. 2006
High-quality reproduction from the original Durand editions, this is a superb (and huge) collection of Debussy piano music including some of his most popular works - Clair de Lune, Reverie, Reflets d'Eau. Some of the pieces are just a step or two up in difficulty from the "Children's Corner" series, but the range extends to the concert repertoire. It is a collection a pianist can return to many times over the years and still find something new to tackle.
I bought my copy in 1976 and it has lasted all this time. I don't suppose I paid much less for it then than Amazon's price today. It is an absolute steal, one of Dover's best, at a ridiculously low price.

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