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Iphidaimos ""The History Man"" (Birmingham, England)

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Olympiad
Olympiad
Price: £3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Olympiad (Kindle Edition)
Hilarious and, I suspect, an accurate account of the beginnings of the Olympic Games.


Blandings - Series 1 [DVD]
Blandings - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jennifer Saunders
Price: £9.97

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Woodhouse Would Love It!, 15 May 2013
This review is from: Blandings - Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
I've read some of the other reviews on "Blandings" and have been left completely puzzled. Why would Woodhouse be spinning in his grave as some have suggested? Guy Andrews script was faithful to the original dialogue by Woodhouse and the tone was authentic. The characters are faithful to those in the books and are played wonderfully by the cast in this series. Timothy Spall as Lord Emsworth, his sister Connie played by Jenifer Saunders and The Hon. Frederick Threepwood played by Jack Farthing are marvelous. But the shining member of the cast is Mark Williams who plays Lord Emsworth's long suffering butler, Sebastian Beach. The occasional appearance of David Walliams as Rupert Baxter is simply an added bonus. And, lest we forget, the pig playing Empress gave her life for the production, dying of a massive heart attack before the filming of the last episode. The secret, of course, is to forget the movie that played in your head while reading Blandings and, instead, simply enjoy a typically excellent British film production of an old favourite.


Tides of Fortune
Tides of Fortune
by Jack Beeching
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Good solid stuff., 11 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Tides of Fortune (Hardcover)
I picked this up from a library excess stock sale and then left it lying around for several months. I picked it up when I ran out of things to read without much hope that it would be much good. It turned out, however, to be rather a good and enjoyable read. Essentially it deals with the period between 400 AD and 450 as the Roman Empire in the west is crumbling and tells the story of two British slaves and the people, great and small, that they come to know during their lifetimes. Characters include Stilicho, the last great Roman general of the west, Claudianus, the last great poet, Honorius, the latest in a long line of inefectual Emperors, his sister, the enigmatic Galla Placidia and St. Augustine, the Christian philosopher from North Africa. A big book painted onto a big canvas I doubt it ever enetered the best sellers list when it was published in 1988 but it should have done. Well worth the read if you can get hold of a copy.


The Windup Girl
The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Piece Of Work., 23 Jun. 2012
This review is from: The Windup Girl (Paperback)
I have found it increasingly difficult over the last twenty years or so to find really good Science Fiction writers and books. I think I was spoiled by the golden age of Science Fiction story-telling, too used to writers like Isaac Asimov, Poal Anderson, Larry Niven and Ray Bradbury. There is a lot of dross out there now, fantasy tales that rely heavily of The Lord of the Rings or are derivative of various films and previous novels. When I saw the Windup Girl and read the blurb on the back my first though was "Huh, Blade Runner," but my son was looking for a SF novel set in the Far East so I bought two copies - one for me, one for him. And I was right - there are definite overtones of Blade Runner. But there the resemblance ends. This is a very, very good novel in its own right and offers the vision of a future dystopia that is all too believable. Having read Paolo Bacigalupi's biography I could see why. It is a novel with no real heroes or heroines in which the main characters operate from the basest of human desires and instincts but who, from time to time, do something because they know it is right thing to do. In a way this is a novel about the eternal struggle within us all - the struggle between our selfishness desires and our higher ideals, the place where we judge what is right and what is wrong and choose to either act upon it or not. But it is the background against which the novel is set that really elevates this into the realms of a really good read. The story is strong enough on its own but the description of a future Thai dystopia is both believable and incredibly rich. An excellent "first" novel - I look forward to seeing this author's future work.


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Garbage of the worst kind., 12 Mar. 2012
Taleb takes an idea, that some events are random, cannot be predicted but have a major impact. Duh! There are such events of course - a volcanic eruption, an earthquake or a comet striking the Earth. These events are randon, inasmuch as their exact timing is difficult to predict. But thinking about this for one second uncovers its basic flaw. I predict there will be another major earthquake in Japan and another in Turkey. That's not much of a prediction given the geological history of these countries. So would earthquakes in these places be truly random? Hardly. But where the author and I really part company is his analysis of the present economic disaster. He would suggest that this was a random "black swan" event, but that is complete rubbish. Many people predicted what was going to happen but were ignored and marginalised. The author would have us believe that those who predicted it didn't actually do so but simply claimed that they had after the event. This is untrue and I for one read many predictions about the disaster that was facing us many years before it actually happened. The banking crash was not a random event, it was a case of wilful not to say criminal blindness. He is now claiming that austerity is a necessary precaution against another "black swan" event. Except, of course, its not those who caused it who will be facing the austerity - that will be down to me and you. I have a theory that I think is at least as "true" as Nassim Nicholas Taleb's - "Dinosaurs were thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle, and thin again at the other end - except when they were not." Don't let this man's rare ability with words fool you - his idea is simplistic and he uses it to serve simplistic ends.


Snuff: (Discworld Novel 39) (Discworld Novels)
Snuff: (Discworld Novel 39) (Discworld Novels)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is Discworld Becoming Formulaic?, 2 Feb. 2012
I have read every Discworld novel that Terry Pratchett has written but I've never written a review for any of them. Why? Because I could never think of anything to say that would add anything of value. The whole series has been one long delight for me with even ephemeral characters staying in my imagination long after they disappeared from the books. How could you ever forget Gaspard the Wonder Dog, the Duckman or Foul Ole' Ron for instance? I've had my favourites - "Moving Pictures" is still the best for me - and others that I wasn't so keen on, though I would never name them since even at his worst Terry Pratchett is a genius. One question, however, has continued to worry me over the years - have the books become formulaic? Reading "Snuff" I came to the conclusion that they have, but also came to the conclusion that I didn't care. The reason is quite simple - the formula is so good, so "elegant" that it is of itself a work of sheer genius. To say that I am bored with Terry Pratchett's Discworld formula would make as much sense as saying that I am "bored" with E=MC2. It is what it is and has given rise to a wonderful set of books that are an entire genre in their own right, a formula that allows the further discovery of a strange and largely unknown universe in which each new discovery adds to my pleasure and sense of wonder. I love Discworld and cannot imagine a time when I won't.


A Murder on the Appian Way (Roma sub Rosa)
A Murder on the Appian Way (Roma sub Rosa)
by Steven Saylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Work, 8 Jan. 2012
Cutting to the chase this is an excellent piece of work - well researched, well written and completely believable. I've read Steven Saylor's books "Roma" and "Empire" and enjoyed both but have avoided the Roma Sub Rosa series because I regarded them as just another set of "ancient detective" stories. What I didn't realise, but was delighted to find out, was that his books are based on real events and not simply contrived crime novels. I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent book and will now take time to read the rest in the series. The author displays a firm grasp of the historical context in his work, something I always look for (often in vain) and was delighted to find here. The murder of Clodius on the Appian Way is one of those historical mysteries that continues to tease even after 2,000 years and Steven Saylor has captured it well and given a twist that is so good I for one hope that its true. There's a symetry in his rendition that is strangely satisfying. Now for the rest of the series.....


Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy Book 1)
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £4.19

4.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Downton Abbey., 8 Dec. 2011
My first reaction to this book was that it was all a bit Downton Abbey. On further reflection, however, and given the subject matter of the story, that was probably a little inevitable and, therefore, forgivable. Having studied this period and taught it as a subject at university level I was impressed by the author's grasp of the subject. That said, I did find his characters to be a bit cliched and found his treatment of Woodrow Wilson in particular to be overly kind. Still the author is entitled to his opinion and entitled to treat his fictionalised characters, even if based on real people, as he sees fit. There must have been many people who acted in the background during these momentous events and witnessed what the characters in Ken Follet's story saw. That these people, from such diverse backgrounds, would be intimately familiar with one another strains credibility somewhat, but this is a work of fiction and its main criteria is to entertain rather than inform. Those minor gripes apart, I found the book well-written, well-researched, intetesting and entertaining. Well worth buying and reading - I look forward to the next books in the series.


Galileo's Dream
Galileo's Dream
by Kim Stanley Robinson
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars A Book of Two Parts, 20 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Galileo's Dream (Hardcover)
A curious book by Kim Stanley Robinson and one that is badly flawed. It is set in two time periods, the 17th century and the 30th century, and is a curious mix of historical fiction and science fiction. The historical sections are quite superb, atmospheric, persuasive and well drawn. The science fiction sections, however, are boring, derivative and badly drawn. I have read a previous work by this author, the "Mars" trilogy, and hated it. That, too, I found tedious and thoroughly unbelievable. I loved the idea behind this book but seriously disliked the delivery. My only conclusion from this work is that the author has missed his true calling. As a writer of historical fiction he is superb, as a writer of science fiction he is abyssmal. I would quite happily have skipped the science fiction in this book for the historical sections which I enjoyed immensely.


Shadows In Bronze: (Falco 2)
Shadows In Bronze: (Falco 2)
Price: £5.22

4.0 out of 5 stars No Agatha Christie, 20 Aug. 2011
I'm afraid that Lyndsey Davis is no Agatha Christie - her mysteries tend to be no mystery to the reader. At the same time some of her details with regard to Roman customs and culture are often wide of the mark. Her habit of giving women easily identifiable personal names is a good instance of this. Daughters were named for their father's family so, for instance, Gaius Julius Caesar's daughter was called Julia. If he had had another daughter she, too, would have been named Julia. To distinguish one daughter from another they might often be reffered to using a diminuitive - thus Agrippina and Agrippanila. So why do I like her books so much? It has to be the character of Falco. A cynical romantic and pragmatist with a soft spot, the author has created a character that we'd all like to be. Looked down on by most of his clentele he nevertheless contrives to be better than they are, smarter and more humane. It's not often that you come across an author who can drive a book forward with the power of her main character only but Lyndsey Davies has done so with great skill. Well worth the read for this alone.


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