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Matteo_B (Kent UK)

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The Road to Oxiana (Penguin Classics)
The Road to Oxiana (Penguin Classics)
by Robert Byron
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Flashman does Persia etc, 25 May 2014
I know this is a period piece and I know that one must make allowances for this but I just could not finish this book. It is set out in diary form and the descriptions are perfunctory and lack vividness. Byron is fairly good on the architecture he comes across but he is completely useless in describing the people and their customs. When he does turn his attention to them, his views reek of arrogance and patronising superiority. One gets the impression that the damn natives are more of a nuisance than a cultural interest. This is about all I can say about the book. Byron strikes me as a cad and a snob and I really would not want him as a travelling companion. Anyway the book is certainly not the best early 20th Century travel book. Norman Douglas' Old Calabria or Alone beat this book hands down for colour and local empathy.


The Life of the Automobile: A New History of the Motor Car
The Life of the Automobile: A New History of the Motor Car
Price: 5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and comprehensive but a few silly mistakes., 10 Mar 2014
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First of all let me get the grumbles out of the way. Firstly as far as I know the Sunbeam Alpine was never launched with a 1.8 litre V8 engine, Pontiac has never been part of the Chrysler Group and the new Porsche Cajun is not a three door vehicle but a 5 door and based on the Audi Q5. This sounds like nitpicking but when you have a book like this that is otherwise very well written and researched, such errors stick out like a sore thumb. To be honest though I get the impression that Dr Parissien is not really a car enthusiast and this book will not really be read by car enthusiasts primarily. It is a work of social history and it covers its brief very well. Looking at the fairly comprehensive bibliography at the back you will see Dr Parissien draws on a wide range of experts and good quality books to produce an up to date history that charts the rise of the car from its beginnings right up to questions of alternative fueling and the future of the car that we face today. Where the book is particularly incisive is in its coverage of motor industry failings both here in the UK and in the United States. With a few exceptions, motor manufacturers are not shown in a very positive light and, in some cases, come across as downright sinister. Where the book sometimes falls short is on the practical benefits of motoring to the world at large and in the technical developments of the auto industry, but there again i suspect that this falls outside the author's intention anyway. If one wants further detail in this regard I would suggest reading LJK Setright's excellent "Drive On:A Social History" in conjunction with this book.

All in all then a recommended read and a very worthy book on the subject, save for the few glaring errors. I liked the book well enough to buy it after borrowing it from the library and that does not happen very often.


Death Will Have Your Eyes (No Exit Press 18 Years Classic)
Death Will Have Your Eyes (No Exit Press 18 Years Classic)
by James Sallis
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written but somehow unsatisfying as a thriller., 22 Feb 2014
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I was put onto this book after looking for good thrillers set in small town America. I find it a very difficult book to rate because on the one hand the scene setting is absolutely superb and you do get a real sense of place from James Sallis' prose. On the other hand however the promised tension and drama that you are led to expect at the beginning never materializes and I got to the end of the book thinking "is that it then"? The book also has a lot of literary name dropping which is good if you know your poets but a lot of it does detract from the story. You are led to believe from the beginning that the main character is a tough character like Andy McNab's Nick Stone but as the book progresses he becomes more of an intellectual dreamer. I would say give the book a try is you like word painting and want an evocative description of back woods America from the road. However if you are expecting a tense thriller you are bound to be disappointed.


And the Revs Keep Rising: Great Drives in Fast Cars
And the Revs Keep Rising: Great Drives in Fast Cars
by Mel Nichols
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic and evocative., 2 Feb 2014
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I must confess that I read the whole of the book over the course of a few evenings. I grew up with Mel Nichols writings for Autocar and Classic and Sports Car (being a little too young to be reading him in CAR) and I always found his articles to be beautifully written, detailed and full of passion for cars and motoring. Back then (I am talking about the 80s and 90s here) the journalist had a generous word limit allowance and could produce these wonderfully detailed and satisfying pieces that you could immerse yourself in and get a real idea of what the car and the journey was like. Sadly now mainstream motoring magazines are either are full of dull, short pieces trotting out statistics or are full of macho posturing and though the Classic Car Magazines tend to be not as bad, they are more adverts than copy now.

This book is a throwback to those days when reading a motoring magazine was a real treat, when one looked forward to the day when you would go down to the newsagent to pick up your reserved copy or wait for the brown envelope to deliver your subscription to the door. Mel does go in for a "New Journalism" style and most of the time it works well and his imagery is beautifully drawn (although do find the introduction to his famous "Convoy" article a little too flowery) as is his feedback on the character of the cars he drives. He misses nothing and it does feel like you are on the journey with him. Indeed back in the 1980s one was spoiled for good journalism with excellent journalists such as Phil Llewellin and the immortal LJK Setright to look forward to as well. it makes one wonder why we do not have the same sort of quality today. I can only surmise that it is tighter work limits (something Steve Cropley mentions in his introduction), shorter attention spans of readers or the fact that a lot of the younger motoring journalists want to be Jeremy Clarkson.

Thankfully the production of books like this does give those of us who miss the old days a chance to wallow in nostalgia and for that I we must really thank Haynes for putting it into production. It really does fill the hole only partially filled by the recent release of the "Best of CAR" books of the 70s and 80s which I found disappointing in their selection of articles and size ( and led me to start trawling ebay to find original 70s and 80s copies of CAR). There are also some other terrific books of great drives that I can recommend if you liked this book. Firstly Phil Llewellin's "The Road to Muggle Flugga" is exellent (though more travel orientated than Mel's book) as is the American journalist Peter Egan's "On the Road" (he is another super writer in the style of Mel). Another off the wall choice is Denis Jenkinson's "Porsches Past and Present later re released as "A Passion for Porsches". From the title one thinks that it is a history of the Porsche marque. It is nothing of the kind being accounts of Jenks on the road in his beloved Porsche 356.

All in all then a great job and thoroughly recommended for all car nuts. My only criticism would be the rather cheap paper and shoddy binding but you can't have everything I guess.


The Devil's Tune
The Devil's Tune
by Iain Duncan Smith
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Should never have made it into print, 23 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Devil's Tune (Hardcover)
I have now read this after finding it in the 50p honesty box section of a local secondhand book store (people would not even nick it it seems). The plot is predictable and the characters are cliched as said. I am very very surprised thatbthis actually passed quality control, and mace it into print and it angers me that it did so when so many gifted writers cannot get into print. It was probably high powered Tory friends in the industry that saw it published

Truly shsmeful and I bet the publishers rued the day given how this book has sunk without trace. If only the man had done the same...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 24, 2014 6:06 PM BST


Habibi
Habibi
by Craig Thompson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and kaleidoscopic., 10 Jan 2014
This review is from: Habibi (Hardcover)
It is hard to describe this graphic novel in a review given the many layers on which it operates. It is deeply meditative and moving.It tells of love and loss, faith and tradition both Islamic and Christian together with human lust and greed. The art of Craig Thompson is nothing short of genius. The work that must have gone into this book must have been extraordinary in terms of time and detail. Each page draws the reader in to such an extent that you feel that you have physically entered the world that Craig creates for the reader. It is strange, beautiful and moving and I would recommend this book to anyone.


Carnet De Voyage (Travel Journal (Top Shelf))
Carnet De Voyage (Travel Journal (Top Shelf))
by Craig R. Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful medative travel journal., 10 Jan 2014
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I am a huge fan of Craig Thompson's work. Not only is he an artist of supreme talent but his writing and scene setting have a huge power to move. This book has Craig's usual high standard of drawing but also has plenty of soul searching about Craig's loneliness in travelling alone while promoting his books and doing research. As a fellow lone traveller I can relate to the isolation one can feel watching people going about their daily lives while you feel as though you are drifting through. Craig captures this but he also manages to capture the happiness and joys of travel too and the pictures give a real atmosphere of place, especially those covering Craig's time in Morocco. I


Sweelinck, J.P.: Harpsichord Works - Fantasia Chromatica / Echo Fantasia / Toccata / Variations
Sweelinck, J.P.: Harpsichord Works - Fantasia Chromatica / Echo Fantasia / Toccata / Variations
Price: 4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Just magnificent from start to finish, 10 Nov 2013
Seeelinck was the father of the North German organ/keyboard school that was eventually to lead to the genius of Bach. Although not that much is known about his life, his music shows that he was a man of genius, especially in his variations of popular tunes and chorales and the magnificent harmonic constructions of his fantasias. This recording has some of the more famous of his works such as the Variations of Est ce Mars and Mein Leben hat ein End. They are lovely works and I had only ever heard them played on the organ until now.Under Glen Wilson's expert fingers the pieces come alive. His phrasing and tempo are perfect and the harpsichord (a copy of an early 17th century Ruckers: the Steinway of its day) has a rich resonant tone with a bright treble and one of the most pungently rich, profound and mellow bass tones of any harpsichord I have listened to. The recording is also first class. It is so detailed you can hear the plucking of the jacks and the dampeners as he takes his fingers off the keys. The acoustic of the medieval hall where the recording takes place is also wonderful and it means you do not have to set the volume of your hi fi too loud.

I would say then that for the money this is an essential purchase for any lover of early keyboard music. The price is extraordinary given the brilliance of the recording and the excellent and scholarly sleeve notes by Glen. It is a perfect compliment to his excellent Buxtehude recital and his wonderful recording of Louis Couperin: highly recommended!


Immigration Detention: Law, History, Politics
Immigration Detention: Law, History, Politics
by Daniel Wilsher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 63.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for anyone studying modern issues of immigration, 28 Oct 2013
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I would echo the reviewer on Amazon.com in saying that this book is required reading for anyone who wishes to become further acquainted with modern immigration issues and wants a broad and unbiased view of this very controversial and much debated subject. Dr Wilsher covers a great deal of ground, starting from an analysis of historical immigration patterns and the use of detention to control illegal aliens. He then moves on to study the USA,UK and Australia with an analysis of how the case law has developed in regards to rights for immigrants over time before moving on to study international and human rights law concerning immigration detention.

The second part of the book deals with the political problems face for liberal democracies in particular when trying to balance their obligations under international human rights law whilst dealing with pressure at home for tougher immigration control measures which are nearly always politically popular. The whole book is written in a rigorous and yet engaging style that would be accessible to any interested layperson while at the same time proving an excellent work of reference for serious scholars. To that end I would congratulate Dr Wilsher on this fine work and thoroughly recommend it.


Cowboys Can Fly
Cowboys Can Fly
by Ken Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.36

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ebchanting book: loved it, 27 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Cowboys Can Fly (Paperback)
I must say that I had never heard of Ken before and looking through his back catalogue I can see why! I like love stories, be they straight or gay, as long as the love is sincere and the emotions finely wrought as they are here. The book is a slow burner (and I suspect a little autobiographical) but it has very strong characterisation and a real sense of place and although set in rural Hampshire, brought back strong memories of time I spent living in rural Devon when I was younger. The lonely old country widows, the gruff but warm hearted farmers and warm and friendly country boys. Somehow, even now, boys brought up in a rural environment are more relaxed , more cheerful and have less guile than their townie counterparts, well at least I think so!

The atmosphere of the book reminds me very much of the much overlooked Irish writer Forrest Reid who loved the countryside and loved writing about boyhood. Many of his works centre around lonely boys in a rural setting who are sensitive and shaped by their beautiful surroundings. However this book being set in more modern times shows a boy much more direct and open in his longings. I am guessing the book is set in the early 60s pre Wolfenden/Stonewall and the only thing that slightly bugs me is whether a boy at that time would be so comfortable with his sexuality. Most books of the period (with the exception of Angus Stewart's recently released "Sandel") normally contain a lot of angst and end in tragedy. However I guess shielded by his rural upbringing this lad had a chance to grow up naturally. One other slight criticism is some of the physicality and urges in the book are expressed with a bluntness that jar with the otherwise lyrical tone of the book. That is a minor criticism though and did not detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. I read that a film is being made of this. I just hope they get the casting right if and when it is made.


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