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J. Mark Moore "catapan" (Hartford, England)

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A Song of Ice and Fire, 7 Volumes
A Song of Ice and Fire, 7 Volumes
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £32.50

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Focus and good editing needed. Characters are not a substitute for plot: and words are not a substitute for good writing., 16 May 2013
On the face of it A Song of Ice and Fire is a modern variant on the old-time episodic picaresque novel. In reality however it is the monstrous offspring of the unholy union between a soap opera and a spreadsheet. The keys to any story are plot, narrative, character and good writing. Martin is light-fingered on the first, second and fourth of these, and heavy-handed on the third. He makes the mistake of flooding the series with characters at the expense of everything else. Chucking in a job-lot, two-a-penny, barrow-load of characters is not enough to make a good book. There are far too many story-strands in each volume, with the result that each book reads like a collection of cameos. This makes it a dog's dinner of a series at best and at worst renders it totally unreadable. The work is hugely unrewarding to read. To slip and slide about between characters and storylines is risky. It's boring and doesn't work. Deep down there is the kernel of a good story here. The trouble is to get at that kernel requires a nutcracker the size of Westeros itself. A good editor should have applied the nutcrackers to the manuscript. That would have made it at least readable, and perhaps worth reading.

The Last Kestrel
The Last Kestrel
by Jill McGivering
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of the conflict in Afghanistan, 24 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Last Kestrel (Paperback)
We can read the stories coming out of Afghanistan in the newspapers. We can follow the talks to camera from the journalists embedded with the army there. We can read and listen and, to a certain extent, comprehend. But we haven't even the basic idea of what it's really like. We can't imagine what it's like because we carry no yardsticks from our own experience that can bridge the chasm between cultures and circumstances.

Yet sometimes a novel can fill in the gaps in our understanding. It can go a small but important distance in bridging the gulf between our world and the reported world. The Last Kestrel does this. Reading this book we get a real feeling of what it's like for the British army there. We get the beginnings of a real feeling of what it's like to live in Afghanistan and to be Afghani. It also helps us get a handle on what it's like to do what the British army has been doing for centuries: operating far from home with limited resources in conflicts it barely understands.

For being just one link in the chain that connects our lack of knowledge, our lack of empathy and understanding, to the real world; from ignorance to a kind of understanding, this is an important book.

Jill McGivering writes well. She has mastered a skilful and easy to read style. I look forward to her next book.

Shopping Environments: Evolution, Planning and Design
Shopping Environments: Evolution, Planning and Design
by Peter Coleman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £65.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If it didn't exist, it would be necessary to create this book, 14 Aug. 2006
Peter Coleman, specialist retail architect at design house Building Design partnership, was originally commissioned by Architectural Press to update and revise Nadine Beddington's original "bible for shopping centres". What in fact he has produced is a completely rewritten work to create a new and arguably better and more comprehensive book covering all types of shopping environment.

Throughout the new work, Coleman moves from the universal to the particular, from the general to the detailed. From overviews of all types of shopping outlets, plus shopping habits, he moves to detailed analyses of the design and planning of the various modern types of shopping malls.

The book is organised into three sections. Section 1 looks at a range of key issues, what Coleman calls "the big issues", influencing shopping environments, including the human issues - the way we shop and why - together with planning issues and economic issues. Section 2 takes a step back into history and provides a walk-through of the evolution of the shopping environment, the various types of shopping venue from ancient times up to the beginnings of the true shopping centre. Section 3 then goes into the design and planning details of the types of shopping centre available today. The final chapter looks at the future of shopping.

Such is the universality and broad sweep of Coleman's work, this book is a must for qualified retail designers and students alike.

The Closing Of The Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason
The Closing Of The Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason
by Charles Freeman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.90

30 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Warning From The Past, 7 Feb. 2006
In the current climate, Charles Freeman is to be greatly applauded for providing what is possibly one of the most shocking and thought-provoking books around today. At a time when a later rational, progressive and tolerant civilisation is again confronted by the self-righteous, ugly, irrational and vicious face of faith it is indeed cautionary to read this account of how the open enquiring Classical mind of Greece and Rome was converted into the closed, aggressive and crass certitudes of early Christianity. It begs perhaps the most despairing question that any society can ask: is history repeating itself?
For a society like ours that has passed through the infernal, infantile and bestial beatitudes of Christianity into the tolerant openness of modern secularism, this book is indeed a warning from the past. The warning is clear: science and secularism is the way forward; faith and religion is the way to Hell.
Perhaps the saddest thing in this book is the letters from late-imperial pagan senators and philosophers writing to various emperors pleading for tolerance, equal opportunity, fair dealing and a level playing field in the face of the Christian triumphal mind-vice. They made the serious error of imagining that their Christian opponents were as decent and progressive and tolerant and open-minded as they were. That was a bad and extinction-causing mistake. Let us not now make the same mistake again.
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