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nigeyb "nigeyb" (Hove, England)

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5:2 Your Life:  Get Happy, Get Healthy, Get Slim
5:2 Your Life: Get Happy, Get Healthy, Get Slim

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A hot-potch of various tools and techniques to create change in your life, 19 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this book on a whim. It was a cheap kindle book and, having enjoyed great success with "The Fast Diet: The Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer", I was also attracted by the 5:2 reference.

The 5:2 part of the title is misleading. The book is actually a hot-potch of various tools and techniques to create change in your life and, as such, is very similar to countless other self-help books. The style is easy, chatty and encouraging.

Given my circumstances and life stage, most of the exercises were irrelevant to me, however I imagine for some readers, particularly those who have not previously tried to take a step back, and think of ways to improve their lives, it could be very helpful. At the current price of £1.99 it's great value for anyone who is tempted.


Elsie and Mairi Go to War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front
Elsie and Mairi Go to War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front
by Dr Diane Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flippant and demeaning, 19 Mar. 2014
The jolly hockey sticks style jarred with me. To an extent the "larks" described in the book, at least in the early stages of World War One, were in keeping with the prevailing mood. It had been a long time since Britain had been involved in a proper war and, with so many people desperate to do their bit, Mairi Chisholm, an 18 year-old upper-class Scottish motorcyclist, and her friend Elsie Knocker, a 30 year old single mother, were no different. Somewhat improbably Elsie and Mairi were recruited by a socialist, vegetarian, idealistic nudist to work in a privately managed ambulance corps. Their lack of medical skills didn't inhibit them, and they spent much of their time handing out patent medicines and mugs of soup and hot chocolate.

There are some interesting aspects to this book. The extent to which, in the war's early stages, so much was improvised. And, as I've already hinted, the extent to which the war was exciting and fun for these two women, indeed it seems to have been something of a playground for them. Elsie and Mairi enjoyed playful conversations with German soldiers, and lovely suppers with flowers, chocolate and champagne. Before long Elsie and Mairi became celebrities, collecting medals from Belgian and English dignitaries. At the Battle of Passchendaele, Elsie and Mairi were gassed and finally evacuated, and they returned home.

I have read ten books about World War One in the last few months and much of what is described in this book comes over as a completely different conflict. There is a fascinating book to be written about this aspect of World War One, perhaps using Elsie and Mairi's experiences as the springboard for a broader study, however this book felt flippant and lacking in substance. Perfectly readable, but too much like a ripping fun-filled yarn, which is completely inappropriate and demeaning for a story that takes place during World War One with all of its associated suffering and tragedy.

2/5


Alone in Berlin
Alone in Berlin
by Hans Fallada
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a truly great book: gripping, profound and essential., 18 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Alone in Berlin (Paperback)
Hans Fallada was all but forgotten outside Germany when this 1947 novel, Alone in Berlin (US title: Every Man Dies Alone), was reissued in English in 2009, whereupon it became a best seller and reintroduced Hans Fallada's work to a new generation of readers.

I came to this book having read More Lives Than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada by Jenny Williams, which was the perfect introduction into the literary world of Hans Fallada.

Alone In Berlin really brings alive the day-to-day hell of life under the Nazis - and the ways in which people either compromised their integrity by accepting the regime, or, in some cases, resisted. The insights into life inside Nazi Germany are both fascinating and appalling. The venom of Nazism seeping into every aspect of society leaving no part of daily existence untouched or uncorrupted.

Alone In Berlin is also a thriller, and the tension starts from the first page and mounts with each passing chapter. I can only echo the praise that has been heaped on this astonishingly good, rediscovered World War Two masterpiece. It's a truly great book: gripping, profound and essential.

5/5


Alone in Berlin (Penguin Modern Classics)
Alone in Berlin (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Geoff Wilkes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a truly great book: gripping, profound and essential., 18 Mar. 2014
Hans Fallada was all but forgotten outside Germany when this 1947 novel, Alone in Berlin (US title: Every Man Dies Alone), was reissued in English in 2009, whereupon it became a best seller and reintroduced Hans Fallada's work to a new generation of readers.

I came to this book having read More Lives Than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada by Jenny Williams, which was the perfect introduction into the literary world of Hans Fallada.

Alone In Berlin really brings alive the day-to-day hell of life under the Nazis - and the ways in which people either compromised their integrity by accepting the regime, or, in some cases, resisted. The insights into life inside Nazi Germany are both fascinating and appalling. The venom of Nazism seeping into every aspect of society leaving no part of daily existence untouched or uncorrupted.

Alone In Berlin is also a thriller, and the tension starts from the first page and mounts with each passing chapter. I can only echo the praise that has been heaped on this astonishingly good, rediscovered World War Two masterpiece. It's a truly great book: gripping, profound and essential.

5/5


The Railway Man
The Railway Man
Price: £5.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional memoir, 12 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Railway Man (Kindle Edition)
The Japanese treatment of their Prisoners Of War during World War Two is about as monstrous as it's possible to imagine. Curiously though, and despite some horrific personal experiences at the hands of his captors, Eric Lomax's account is most memorable as an inspiring, humbling and remarkable reminder of much that is good about humanity.

There is so much in this book: early Scottish childhood memories; a lifelong obsession with railways; joining a Christian sect as a teenager; travelling to India as a Royal Signals soldier; the disastrous fall of Singapore in 1942; torture and beatings by the Kempetai (the Japanese secret police); Changi, the notorious labour camp in Singapore in 1945; survival against the odds; liberation; Eric's undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Eric's eventually rehabilitation; an unlikely love story; and finally, acceptance, forgiveness, and friendship and reconciliation with one of his captors.

The writing is simple and accessible, the contents profound and memorable. An exceptional memoir.


Put Out More Flags (Penguin Modern Classics)
Put Out More Flags (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Evelyn Waugh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, funny, flawed, and inessential, 8 Mar. 2014
I recently read, and very much enjoyed Sword of Honour, like this book, Sword of Honour is a satirical novel about the Second World War.

The books that comprise the Sword of Honour trilogy were written in the 1950s and 1960s when Evelyn Waugh was able to put the Second World War into some kind of perspective. Sword of Honour also happens to be one of Evelyn Waugh's masterpieces.

Put Out More Flags, an earlier war novel, opens in the autumn of 1939 and all takes place during the twelve months of the war. It was published in 1942.

I have read most of Evelyn Waugh's major works now, and, as usual, the quality of the writing is a pleasure. The story follows the wartime activities of characters introduced in Waugh's earlier satirical novels Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies and Black Mischief.

The uncertainty and confusion of the so-called "phoney war" are brilliantly evoked, and - as is so often the case - the satire and humour are very black. Basil Seal, who readers may recall from Black Mischief, is the star of the show. His opportunism creating all manner of mischief for those he runs into, and his scam involving a troublesome family of evacuated children sums him up perfectly. To suggest this book is full of humour would be misleading: one scene involving the troubled and tragic Cedric Lyne visiting his estranged wife Angela, with their son Nigel, for once impressed by him in his army uniform, is absolutely dripping with sadness and melancholy, and demonstrates Waugh's extraordinary skill.

Overall the book felt slightly uneven and a bit rushed. There is much to admire and enjoy, however I conclude this is one of Evelyn Waugh's less successful novels (against his exceptionally high standards). It's of most interest to Waugh completists (of whom I am definitely one) and should not be prioritised ahead of his key works: (Brideshead Revisited, Sword of Honour, Decline and Fall, and A Handful of Dust.


English Journey
English Journey
by JB Priestley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really beautiful book - and one I heartily recommend, 4 Mar. 2014
This review is from: English Journey (Hardcover)
It was Victor Gollancz who commissioned two pieces of English travel writing from two gifted but very different writers. One was "The Road to Wigan Pier" by George Orwell, the other was "English Journey".

"English Journey" is subtitled...

"English journey being a rambling but truthful account of what one man saw and heard and felt and thought during a journey through England during the autumn of the year 1933 by J.B. Priestley."

...which sums it up very succinctly.

In 1934, J.B. Priestley published this account of a journey through England from Southampton to the Black Country, to the North East and Newcastle, to Norwich and then back to his home in Highgate, London. His account is very personal and idiosyncratic, and in it he muses on how towns and regions have changed, their history, amusing pen pictures of those he encounters, and all of this is enhanced by a large side order of realism and hard-nosed opinion. The book was a best seller when it was published and apparently had an influence on public attitudes to poverty and welfare, and the eventual formation of the welfare state.

The book also makes a fascinating companion piece to "In Search Of England" by H.V. Morton, which was published a few years earlier, and was another enormously successful English travelogue, however one that provides a far more romantic version of England, an England untroubled by poverty and the depression. Like H.V. Morton's book, "English Journey" has never been out of print.

"English Journey" is a fascinating account, and the edition I read, published by Great Northern Books, is also illustrated with over 80 modern and archive photos. It's a really beautiful book and one I heartily recommend.

The introduction by the always readable and interesting Stuart Maconie made me chuckle too...

"If, as a writer, J.B. Priestley had just been brilliant, humane, elegant, virile, intelligent, witty and technically dazzling, he'd be arguably considered the pre-eminent British literary talent of his age. Sadly from him though, he also laboured beneath the crushing burden of being accessible, engaging, crystal clear and enormously popular. The mandarins of the metropolitan elite like their 'provincial' voices to stay just that if possible, or at least to have the decency to be faintly troubled and attractively doomed, like say D.H. Lawrence or John Lennon, rather than rich, successful, boundlessly gifted and ordered like J.B. Priestley or Paul McCartney. The riches and success must have been some consolation."

I shall be reading more of J.B. Priestley's work.


The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War
The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War
by Lara Feigel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original, inspiring and informative, 3 Mar. 2014
Lara Feigel, the author of The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War, was one of the interviewees on a very interesting, 2013 episode of BBC's The Culture Show entitled "Wars of the Heart". "Wars of the Heart" explained that whilst for many Londoners during the Second World War, the Blitz was a terrifying time of sleeplessness, fear and loss, some of London's literary set found inspiration, excitement and freedom in the danger and intensity. The imminent threat of death giving life an immediacy, spontaneity and frisson absent during peace time.

The Culture Show documentary seems to have been inspired to some extent by The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War as they both cover similar territory, albeit Lara Feigel's account goes into much more detail.

In this book, Lara Feigel explores the war time experiences of five writers: Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macaulay, Henry Yorke (aka Henry Green), and Hilde Spiel. During the Blitz, and with the very real chance of not surviving the next 24 hours, the social classes mingled more freely, in the underground and the streets, and, in some cases, with partners and/or children evacuated, there was the opportunity for extra marital affairs.

Between them, the writers profiled were variously ARP wardens, an ambulance driver, and an auxiliary fireman. Hilde Spiel was the odd one out, being an Austrian exile, with responsibility for her parents and a young child. Her story is an interesting and informative counterpoint to those of the other four writers.

Lara Feigel uses letters, diaries, and fiction, along with historical information, to illuminate the lives of these writers during and after the Second World War, before summarising what became of them all.

I enjoyed this book very much however I think Lara Feigel chose to go into a bit too much detail. My edition was 465 pages, with another 55 pages of notes and acknowledgements. I would have preferred a more succinct account. That said, I come away from this original book, more knowledgeable about five interesting writers, and keen to read more books by these writers, in particular these books specifically inspired by this period...

Caught by Henry Green
The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene


More Lives than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada
More Lives than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada
by Jenny Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable insights into the social history of Germany and the life of a tortured artist, 26 Feb. 2014
A stunning, if somewhat depressing, biography of Hans Fallada.

Hans Fallada was all but forgotten outside Germany when his 1947 novel, Alone in Berlin (US title: Every Man Dies Alone), was reissued in English in 2009, whereupon it became a best seller and reintroduced Hans Fallada's work to a new generation of readers.

Jenny Williams, here refers to Hans Fallada as Rudolf Ditzen - his real name, and the name he used throughout his life. Where this biography scores especially highly for me is in its clear eyed depiction of Germany throughout the first 50 years of the twentieth century.

Rudolf Ditzen grows up in the rigid, authoritarian German society of the pre-World War One Wilhelmine era and this biography throws up all kinds of fascinating details about everyday life and social trends. Here's one example, when Rudolf was a teenager there were an extraordinary number of suicides in Rudolf's class. This was part of a much broader wave of suicides and suicide attempts that swept through Germany in the years before World War One. Germany's strict society during this period apparently inducing despair and hopelessness amongst many of the young.

Ditzen was a deeply troubled individual, prone to bouts of mental torment resulting in regular periods in psychiatric care. He was also variously addicted to drugs and alcohol, stole and spent time in jail, and was unfaithful to his first wife. All of these behaviours were exacerbated during the Nazi era and, again, Jenny Williams perfectly evokes the living hell of everyday life for many ordinary Germans under this regime.

Ditzen is denounced by neighbours on numerous occasions throughout the 1930s and 1940s and, on one occasion, this results in a spell in prison, the confiscation of the house he owned, and plunges him into another of his regular nervous breakdowns. Ditzen is generally viewed with suspicion by the Nazis and therefore has to severely compromise his work by retreating into children's stories and innocuous historical fiction having been declared an 'undesirable author'. Whilst many contemporaries emigrated he chose to stay in Germany and was therefore perfectly placed to witness, first-hand, the everyday horrors during this era.

I read this biography before reading any of Hans Fallada's work. I now feel very well informed about his life and work, and I am feeling very enthused about reading his books. Ditzen's friend and colleague, Paul Mayer, is quoted at the end of the book: "German literature has not many realistic writers. Hans Fallada is one of them. His work, mutilated by political terror, is even as a torso important enough not to be forgotten."

This book works on so many levels, and includes memorable insights into the social history of Germany, the life of a tortured artist, and the subtle but insistent day-to-day horrors of life under a fascist regime.


Bryant and May On The Loose: (Bryant & May Book 7)
Bryant and May On The Loose: (Bryant & May Book 7)
by Christopher Fowler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My first Bryant and May book - and certainly not my last, 19 Feb. 2014
This is the first book I have read by Christopher Fowler and so (obviously) the only book I have read in the Bryant & May series. It is the seventh of the ten (so far) books and, if this book is indicative of the quality, then it is an excellent series.

The story is an enjoyable tale of a ritualistic killer who appears to be evoking pagan rites in the Kings Cross area of London whilst the area is going through an important period of major redevelopment. Modern day London is brilliantly evoked, and there is plenty of historical detail along with old myths and legends. The Peculiar Crimes Unit (or PCU) for whom Bryant and May work, was disbanded shortly before this story starts so there is also a sub-plot around getting the old team back together.

There are some great twists and turns and a surprisingly dark ending too. An entertaining, intriguing, wry, well written detective novel that made me feel very keen to read more of the Bryant and May books.

4/5


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