Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Profile for NARV > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by NARV
Top Reviewer Ranking: 360,104
Helpful Votes: 265

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
NARV (Hereford, The Marches)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3
pixel
I, Coriander
I, Coriander
by Sally Gardner
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of everything leading to not much at all., 12 July 2013
This review is from: I, Coriander (Paperback)
I, Coriander is a mix of history (sort of) and fantasy, and while principally aimed at children, it has enough in it to draw the eye of adults. Gardner has some nice turns of phrase and the concept overall is imaginative. The narrative hops between the historical world of 1650s London and a fairy kingdom. The characters of the historical world are fairly strong - Coriander and her faithful housekeeper, her scheming stepmother (at one point also a prostitute - but only adults would spot that) and a bigoted puritan preacher, Arise Fell. I enjoyed the setting of the scene and the first stages of the plot.

I found the fantasy element far less convincing, which was unfortunate as it became the backbone of the story. The fairy world was peopled with half-baked personalities: a characterless evil queen with no real reason for her evilness, and a handsome prince who I was supposed to sympathise with because...well...because he's handsome. The only interesting character was a bearded chap called Medlar who looked like he was going to play an important role and then didn't: after a detailed introduction, he was referred to once or twice as though he were important, but he did not play another significant part.

The worst thing was that the fairy plotline just wasn't interesting. The evil queen was searching for a half thought-out object (a fairy shadow), which I didn't care about. It all seemed so narrow and inconsequential, largely because the characters didn't spring to life. I was relieved when it returned to 1650s London again. The trouble was, without the fairy element, there would be no story. I really wanted to like this book, so it is a shame I ended up feeling this way. So why 3 stars? I am not sure. Perhaps I respect the effort and the quality of the prose, and I can imagine that there would be plenty of people who would enjoy this.


The Graduate
The Graduate
by Charles Webb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure - good but dated, or just not very good?, 23 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The Graduate (Paperback)
The phrases 'The Graduate' and 'Mrs Robinson' have pretty much entered modern parlance, and most people know what they mean even if they have not read the book or seen the film (though most must have come across the song). I have still not seen the film, and I am glad that my reading of the book was not coloured by someone else's interpretation.

I enjoyed the first hundred or so pages of this as the well-rendered, awkward love affair got going. But then the story seemed to lose its way. There's a few spoilers in the next paragraph, which you may want to skip, but I can't vent my frustration without mentioning them:

After the affair, the central characters (now Benjamin - the graduate - and Elaine, the daughter of Mrs Robinson) began to behave utterly unrealistically (to my 21st century mind): I was not there in the 60s, and possibly people did regularly propose after the first date, but somehow I doubt it. Even shortly after the man had said that he had slept with the girl's mother and the girl had said that she never wanted to see him again? Really? And were girls happy to let a brushed-off suitor tag along with them to meet another date? Even if the girl's mother had said that the suitor had raped her? Possibly things were like this - in which case, this is a masterpiece. Or maybe it wasn't like this, and it's not.

The writing is also fairly poor. Everyone is constantly frowning and clearing their throats, to the point where it jumps out of the page each time. Add in the number of times people are 'stepping through the door' and saying 'what', and it became less style and more naivety. Certainly when I read that the author had just graduated when he wrote it, I couldn't help but feel that the work did seem like that of a promising writer still spreading his wings.


100 History Lessons for Ages 7-11
100 History Lessons for Ages 7-11
by Pat Hoodless
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great resource - just look out for possible errors in photocopies, 17 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Covering the major History topics in the Primary National Curriculum (as was), from the Indus Valley to the Aztecs, this is a very useful resource for either those starting out in primary teaching, or those who have years of experience but are eager for some new ideas.

Each lesson has a historical background introductory paragraph for the benefit of the teacher, and to set the lesson in context. As each lesson has a clear, stand-alone theme, it is easy to pick and choose what you want to cover, and in so doing the important areas of a topic are made clear (very useful for a novice who wants to put their own alternative plans together). You could follow the lessons and resources by the word, but because the lessons are flexible, I tended to use the topics as a backbone, on which to hang my own ideas for lessons, sometimes using the photocopiable resources in a way not suggested by the lesson plan in the book.

There are errors here and there which you need to look out for (for instance the photocopiable Victorian timeline is completely muddled and useless). Nevertheless, a very useful resource overall.


Military Blunders: The How and Why of Military Failure
Military Blunders: The How and Why of Military Failure
by Saul David
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ...because history is all about learning from mistakes., 16 July 2012
There's nothing quite like an unexpected disaster. This book is full of them, grouped under relevant sections such as 'meddling ministers' and 'failure to perform'. Episodes from different periods of history are included (e.g. The Battle of Crecy in 1346; Bravo Two Zero in the first Gulf War; the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876), showing that mistakes in history really do repeat themselves.

It isn't the type of book that most people will read cover to cover, but picking out certain chapters now and then is very rewarding.


The Reavers
The Reavers
by George MacDonald Fraser
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A 230 page pantomime., 16 July 2012
This review is from: The Reavers (Hardcover)
George Macdonald Fraser's lust for life is evident on every page in this book, but unfortunately the cumbersome, half-hearted style of 'The Reavers' makes it fall flat on its face.

'The Reavers' is deliberately full of anachronisms and asides from the author, and I felt a little like it was George Macdonald Fraser giving a personal two fingers to the writing world. It's set in the 16th Century, yet each page is sprinkled with references to current affairs or pop culture - Kylie, the Blair government, Real Madrid, the QE2 - and to be honest, none of them particularly clever. It reminded me of pantomime humour: all in good spirit, but rather plain.

If you had given me this book with the author's name scribbled out, I would have had no hesitation in describing it as packed full of boring action and unfunny gags, and awarded it one star. But as I know it's GMF, I have looked for and can spot his aplomb for scything witticisms beneath the drivel, so two stars, but no more.

It's hard to say who I'd recommend this to. I wouldn't recommend it to people who have enjoyed Flashman, nor would I suggest it to people who have never read GMF (it may put them off). But if you like pantomimes - and I do not mean to make that sound condescending - you might well get something out of this. I hope so.


Yours to Reason Why: Decision in Battle
Yours to Reason Why: Decision in Battle
by William Seymour
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic idea - perhaps too far ahead of its time., 3 July 2012
This book contains a description of ten battles or campaigns from different times in history, the earliest being the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the latest Anzio in World War 2. There is breadth to appeal to readers with interests in different periods, but really the imaginative format of the book results in one happily reading about battles from periods in which one might not be at first interested.

The device that sets this book apart from other military histories is to present the reader with the options faced by the commanders on both sides at crucial points in the battle. The options are numbered, with each accompanied by a separate map indicating movement, and followed by a summary of the choice taken by the commander in reality and a description of the result. In truth, there is no detail here that would not be included in a 'traditionally' formatted history book, but I found the explicit listing of options really did make me stop and think. It felt very involving, a little like an interactive museum exhibition as opposed to a display case.

So why only three stars? Basically, I found the maps limiting. The book was published in 1982, and so it may have been a victim of being ahead of its time. Perhaps line maps were all that could be produced at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, to make informed battlefield decisions, I wanted far more information on topography, land cover etc. Arrows showing the direction of troops is simply not enough, and I found my decision-making to be effectively little more than guesswork.

If this book were to be revisited by a publisher today, and given some glossy treatment, I think it could be something very special. Certainly, it is surprising that there are not more history books written in this vein: after all, it is simply a question of imaginative formatting. It may be a little much to hope, but it would it would be nice if, decades after publication, this book could inspire a trend in interactive and scholarly history writing.


Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November): The History of Britain in Bite-Sized Chunks
Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November): The History of Britain in Bite-Sized Chunks
by Judy Parkinson
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly compulsive and rewarding, 21 July 2011
I read quite a lot of history books which specialise in certain areas, but still appreciate books which aim to provide a brief over-view of events. These types of books fulfill a different purpose (and may be looked down on by some historians), but they do fill a very important niche. Sometimes what you need is a page outlining the narrative of an event rather than a book on it.

Remember, Remember does this very well. The book is set out in chronological order, and split into sections: Roman Britain; The Dark Ages; The Late Middle Ages; Tudor Britain; Stuart Britain; Georgian Britain; Victorian Britain; Edwardian Britain; the First World War Years; The Inter-War Years; and The Second World War. Each page is given over to a single topic under a new heading and date, and there are about 150 topics/events described.

Laying the book out in this way makes it rather compulsive reading, especially as it is chronological. Of course, given the chosen layout, there is plenty that is not covered, but that is the way it must be. The book would lose its compulsive appeal if there were several pages to each topic.

My copy has a pleasantly solid hard cover which is also a bonus, and I can forgive it for lacking illustrations and maps. I think this is one of the few occasions when I would consider a book an equally appropriate gift for someone with only a little or a decent knowledge of history.


Sunshine [DVD] [2007]
Sunshine [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Cillian Murphy
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.50

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many '2001' references to be a serious film, 19 July 2011
This review is from: Sunshine [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
I started off quite enjoying this film. The premise was interesting; the visuals imaginative; and the plot was unfolding nicely. But about half-way through the genre seemed to change from an ambitious sci-fi film posing a fairly interesting 'what-if' scenario to a rather mediocre horror, complete with a generic psycho-rampage, and too many references to an already respected sci-fi film.

It was still watchable, but I felt the film could have achieved so much more. It was almost as though the writer knew that he had come up with a great idea, but instead of giving time to developing it into something truly original and memorable, got over-excited and plunged straight into filming. What made it worse was the distracting host of 2001: A Space Odyssey references during and after the semi-psychedelic climax. I won't list them all, but there were even three monoliths in the closing scene! This distraction dealt such a blow to my suspended belief, that director Danny Boyle may as well have popped his head into shot and said 'Remember audience, this is just a film, it's not real! Look, here's the box of the 2001 DVD I've been watching.'.

What a shame. This could have been a household name, but it's no surprise that its neglected.


The Big Over Easy: Nursery Crime Adventures 1
The Big Over Easy: Nursery Crime Adventures 1
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but holiday reading fare, 2 April 2011
Jasper Fforde has turned the premise of juxtaposing nursery rhyme characters in a wonderfully grim world of crime, into a decent, absorbing novel. It is, however, of the holiday reading-level, and somewhat over-long for its subject matter. It did not make me laugh out loud as was probably the intention, but it did raise the occasional inward smirk. Worth a look, but I wouldn't be too surprised if it remains unfinished.


The Book of the Moon
The Book of the Moon
by Rick Stroud
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea, but too half-hearted, 29 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Book of the Moon (Hardcover)
I am interested in the moon scientifically and in the folklore and mythology that it has generated, and so Rick Stroud's 'The Book of the Moon' seemed like a worthwhile purchase. I certainly wanted to like it. The aim of the book is clearly to convey the wide-eyed sense of awe and wonder felt by the author (and to which I can definitely relate), rather than to be a point of reference for lunar geomorphologists or social historians, and it succeeds in this to an extent, but to be honest, not particularly far. I do occasionally thumb through the book, but only because I am interested in the moon, not because the book is written in a way that captivates.

The main reason for this is that the text lacks any real authority. The scientific chapters fare better than the ones on folklore, mainly because most people reading the book will know a little about the Apollo missions etc already. There is no reason to doubt what the author says or to question his sources, and it is straightforward to do further reading on the subject, so the lack of referencing does not matter.

However, this is not the case for the chapters on the lesser known subject of the moon's influence on human culture (the author explores folklore, mythology and the moon's influence on gardening and medicine). For example, the author happily describes how to make a 'moon mirror' in which to seek prophetic visions, but does not provide the source of his information, which renders it very dull reading indeed. If, for instance, he had said that the process was described in a 16th century volume from Chester or Dundee or Plymouth, it may have been remotely interesting. The same can be said for all the bumf on werewolves, gardening and myths. Where is he getting it all from? The author has done himself a complete disservice, turning what could have been an interesting read into a very bland one.

After these chapters, the author includes the miscellany. I do not have a problem with this, as long as there is sufficient miscellany to be purposeful. However, it is very threadbare. The page on 'Food and Drink', in which the author lists food products with 'moon' in the name, has just four entries. Here is one of those four:

"Blue Moon: a bright blue ice cream popular in the mid-west US. It has been described by the Chicago Tribune as a 'Smurf-blue marshmallow sweet, and tasting remarkably like fruit loops'."

Now, I for one don't find that particularly thrilling. But maybe if the author had attempted an exhaustive list, expanding his four entries to say, two hundred, it might just have indicated the food marketers' preoccupation with the moon...or something. As it is, what is the point of listing just four products with the word 'moon' in the name?

But for all its shortcomings, I wouldn't say that the book is completely not worth having. If you have several books on the moon or space already, you can thumb through this one and accept it as a flawed attempt to convey that almost child-like sense of wonder in the moon that some of us have, rather than to educate or entertain (there aren't even many pictures). If however, you are interested in lunar exploration, there are better books out there. If you are interested in folklore, again there are better books out there. If you want an exhaustive list of miscellany, then you may still have to compile your own. It could have been a very good book, but sadly, it simply isn't.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3