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Sanderson: The Essence of English Decoration
Sanderson: The Essence of English Decoration
by Mary Schoeser
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.95

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Joyless and uninspired vanity publishing, 3 Jun. 2010
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Sanderson is celebrating its 150th anniversary so you'll see a lot of glowing reviews of this book in the various glossy magazines. Having gone through it several times, I'm almost sure those reviews are all PR releases inserted by lazy journalists: I'm really very disappointed with it, despite being a huge fan of Sanderson's fabrics and papers.

Firstly, it's far too wordy, dry and academic for its coffee-table-book format. I'm utterly obsessed with domestic and art history, and interior and graphic design, but all the commentary is way too much even for me; if you were simply buying this as a visual sourcebook, or even as a guide to choosing your new wallpaper or fabric, you'd be absolutely gutted with it.

And it's not just the words that are a problem...I don't much like the pictures either.

The layout is awful, with lots of big scale patterns reduced down into tiny spaces, so they look fussy and excessive. The paper feels lush but - bizarre this, considering the subject matter - the colour reproduction is absolutely terrible. One of the things that makes Sanderson products so beautiful is the subtlety of colour and the multiples of colour they have, but here everything looks so flat and joyless.

And many of the examples of Sanderson creativity selected for the book are, quite frankly, hideous. It's almost as if they picked the featured samples at random, and I'm so sad that they've ignored many of their bestsellers and some of their very prettiest. Go to John Lewis and check out the pattern books in-store instead.


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars feel-good film that introduces you to bollywood and to cricket, 26 May 2010
Really enjoyed this film. It's not just about cricket - there's fantastic Bollywood singing and dancing, and a love story to divert you as well.

The actors playing the British Raj are a little too panto-hammy, but generally the acting is not bad at all and the story is great.

This film is very definitely told from an Indian underdog point of view, and the Brits don't come out of it too well, but the criticism of British colonialism is fairly good-humoured and, let's face it, well-deserved.

About a quarter of the dialogue is English, but the rest is all subtitles, so it does require a bit of concentration. Otherwise, great fun for a Sunday evening sofa night.


Jane Austen in Context (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen)
Jane Austen in Context (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen)
by Janet Todd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best reference work on Jane Austen, 2 May 2010
I have a huge passion for Jane Austen's novels, her life and early 19th century women's history, and have read nearly all the important critical works, biographies, monographs and commentaries. This one (along with 'Regulated Hatred', D.W. Harding's psychological reading of her works) is one of my very favourite reference works on Austen. Each chapter is written by an academic specialist in the field, and subjects covered include consumer goods, Austen's publishing history, money, disease, agriculture, and landownership.

Some of the detail will be familiar, but even experienced Austen-philes and Jane-ites will learn something new. Each chapter is really engaging and well-written, and the scholarship very trustworthy. You won't just learn about context; this book will completely illuminate Austen's subtext for you, and increase your admiration for England's greatest novelist.

Though 'Jane Austen in Context' seems to be intended for an undergraduate audience, it is nevertheless immensely readable and regular Austen enthusiasts would love it. I recently lost my 2005 copy and paid full price - despite having already read it from cover to cover - to replace it, just because I felt my Jane Austen bookshelf was incomplete without it. HIGHLY recommended.


Sheer Opulence
Sheer Opulence
by Nicky Haslam
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dated and ugly faux-toff style, 12 April 2010
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This review is from: Sheer Opulence (Paperback)
I'm reading Nicholas Haslam's autobiography, 'Redeeming Features' at the moment, and so enjoying it that I decided I'd treat myself to his interiors book, 'Sheer Opulence'. It's recently been re-issued in paperback so I figured "no great loss" if I didn't like it. I live in a titchy little terrace myself, but I do like my property porn, and Haslam's reputation as the best in the business suggested something really quite fantastic.

Well, what a disappointment. The cover of this book shows a really lovely, restrained yet homely and restful interior, and definitely whets the appetite for more; then you get into the body of the book and discover it's full of some of the naffest, most dated rooms you ever saw in your life.

If you are a faux-toff desperate to make your newly-minted money look old, Haslam seems to be your man. Unfortunately he loves his frilly-knicker curtains, gopping rococo antiques, and fussy fabrics and upholstery; never layers the passing of time or incorporates the patina of age and wear; and he absolutely doesn't know when to stop. It's like a caricature of 'posh', and exactly how a sink-estate dweller who's won the lottery might furnish his new country pile.

Haslam's colourways are also very dated (I suspect the publisher didn't bother to incorporate any of Haslam's newer work), and his room treatments devoid of any real interest because everything is simultaneously excessive and totally bare of any real personality. Even in paperback, and even if you merely bought this book to accustom your design eye to tastes that aren't your own, this book is a complete waste of time and money. I'm returning my copy to Amazon, and you should save yourself the trouble of even borrowing it from the library.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 7, 2012 5:46 PM GMT


American Modern
American Modern
by Thomas O'Brien
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning interiors with an opulent and unusual early/mid 20th century vibe, 9 April 2010
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This review is from: American Modern (Hardcover)
It amazes me how few design inspirations there are for houses built 1900-1950. A huge number of Britain's suburban family homes date from this period, yet British interior designers and retailers seem incredibly reluctant to engage with them, and there are very few looks available to those wanting to avoid wholesale modernisation.

Either you go down the Cath Kidston route (way too girlie and twee for most blokes); or the retro Pedlars look (shabby AND expensive, a combination to make your mother weep); or the whole-hog Utility or Art Deco re-creation (the Geffrye museum via Ebay, for those who really want to dedicate years of their life to replicating an Agatha Christie stage set).

Well, folks, now there's an alternative. And it's BEAUTIFUL. 'American Modern' - which has nothing specifically American about it, and is absolutely not what Europeans would call "modern" at all - is the signature style of the book's author, a New York decorator called Thomas O'Brien, who is very famous in the US apparently, though I hadn't heard of him until now.

O'Brien's interiors have a very polished and opulent style that incorporates a ton of "stuff": piles of interesting travel relics and eclectic gewgaws surrounded by early 20th century antiques, dreamy line illustrations and photography, sumptuous upholstery, foxed mirrorglass furniture, chrome, marble, linen, silk and velvet, all in divinely muted colour palettes. (If I ever re-do my sitting room, I'm going his 'shades of blue hydrangea' all the way). Think pre-war Hollywood movies, the great grand hotels of the world, and deposed royalty living it up in Park Avenue and Cadogan Square mansion flats. Dahlink, I kennot tell you, it's etterly febulous.

This book is not for the faint of heart, or the light of pocket. Its ideas are way too luxe for owners of teeny-tiny pre-war semis and bungalows (who should check out the 'Domino' book or Ann Grafton's 'Interior Transformations' instead). And if you're a minimalist, or think 20th century modernity should be all Eames and brutalist architecture, you'll almost certainly hate it. But for those who prefer a richer and more overtly decorated look, this really is the most stunning property porn I've seen in a long while.

'House & Garden' addicts who, like me, salivate over the work of Emily Todhunter, Neisha and Charlotte Crosland, Nina Campbell or Guy Goodfellow will adore 'American Modern', and will soon be adding Thomas O'Brien to their list of design crushes (he's also absurdly handsome if his author photo is anything to go by). As for those of you who have, or aspire to have, a BIG early 20th century house, and want a glamorous, impressive, sexy yet comfortable interior, do not dare pick up even a paintbrush until you've checked out this gorgeous book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2012 7:08 PM BST


Richard Bandler's Guide to Trance-formation: Make Your Life Great (Book & DVD)
Richard Bandler's Guide to Trance-formation: Make Your Life Great (Book & DVD)
by Paul McKenna
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A misleading title for a sometimes amazing, sometimes peculiar, often hard to follow book, 16 Feb. 2010
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I have very mixed feelings about this book and the accompanying DVD.

I should say that I have found all of Paul McKenna's books extremely helpful and have been enormously impressed by professional clinical hypnotherapy, which has helped me manage PTSD and related wide-ranging phobic anxiety far more effectively than prescription medication. I have also read Richard Bandler's 'Get the Life You Want' which I found to be both fascinating reading and useful in many practical ways.

I am still hopeful of being able to cure my PTSD completely and am always open to new and more advanced self-hypnosis and NLP techniques. So I came to this already receptive.

Unfortunately, this book is a fairly significant level of difficulty beyond the McKenna books and the earlier Bandler book, and I feel the title - which is typical of "help yourself" language with its 'Make Your Life Great' claim - is really quite misleading. The book is less about helping yourself and more about working on others (for example, the section called 'Patterns of Induction' is about how to induce hynotic trance using people's own "sub-modalities", whilst Section 4 is entitled 'Client Sessions'). This is all quite exciting I guess, particularly if you're training to become an NLP therapist or counsellor, and I did learn a lot, but it all requires a lot of time and patience to work through.

It's certainly very cynical to market this as a self-help text when there is a lot of information to absorb, some of which is highly abstract, and very little of which is actually directed at the end-user wanting to benefit from "trance-formation".

I found the enclosed DVD entertaining and amusing, but that was all. It's really just like a pub hypnosis show with tamer antics. I must also admit to being a little grossed out by Richard Bandler himself, who letches all over his female clients and looks like an ageing druggie hippie biker - leather jacket, check, greasy rat's tail hair, check, strange jewellery, check, dirty fingernails, check. He's clearly been repackaged on the covers of his recent books to be more attractive to a wider range of readers, just as this title has.

Overall, I'm glad I read this book, but it's a fairly specialised text and therefore will have very limited appeal; I wouldn't recommend it to anyone in my own position, but I can see it being a very useful text for those wanting to make NLP or hypnotherapy a career. As a hypnotherapy patient, however, I'd say Bandler should absolutely not be your role model!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 8, 2012 4:49 PM GMT


Music to Enhance Concentration & Memory
Music to Enhance Concentration & Memory

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't understand it, but I love it, 5 Feb. 2010
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I bought this download along with several other 'concentration' tracks after a recommendation on an online forum. I'm always looking for things to help me get 'in the zone' as, like most people in a creative job, I find it hard to be productive to order.

I have to say I'd expected something quite trancy or Brian Eno-like, and it's nothing of the sort...it's snakecharming music!! It's an Asian instrument of some sort, not a sitar or a wind-instrument but utterly hypnotic whatever it is. Sort of like the kind of music they play in upmarket spas.

Anyway, I'm no music critic but I really like it. It chills me out massively and time passes incredibly quickly when listening to it. I imagine it would be brilliant for meditation.


Jane Austen and Marriage
Jane Austen and Marriage
by Hazel Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating social history, but less impressive on Austen herself, 21 Jan. 2010
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I enjoyed this book, but like a lot of social histories for this period, it does rather take Jane Austen's name in vain in order to appeal to a wider readership.

If you're a literature student wanting to write on Austen and marriage, beware of being led astray here: Hazel Jones's readings of her novels are simplistic in the extreme (Austen's romantic heroes indicate she advocates companionate marriage - er, right, thanks for that...) and sometimes just plain wrong. She barely mentions the Austen letters and juvenilia, and doesn't seem at all confident grappling with the sometimes awkward subtext of the novels.

Having said all that, Jones is clearly a very reliable historian, and has a lovely writing style. A lot of dry scholarly research on marriage - parish registers analysed, contemporary accounts exhumed - underpins this book, but it's still a really absorbing read. If you're interested in female social or domestic history, and have enjoyed the work of Amanda Vickery and Joanna Martin, this is highly recommended. If you're interested only in Austen, read it for background, but definitely don't rely on it for interpreting the texts.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2010 10:45 AM BST


Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging narrative diminished by risible dialogue and clumsy pronouns, 13 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
The early modern period is one of my very favourites in English literature and history, and both a good friend and my husband told me 'Wolf Hall' was the best novel they'd read in 2009. And of course, this was the Booker winner.

So I came to read full of enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, but perhaps partly due to my very high expectations, 'Wolf Hall' has not been a success for me. In particular, I found its language to be extremely frustrating: often uneven, and sometimes staggeringly clumsy.

The confusing use of improperly distinguished pronouns throughout has already been noted by a lot of readers here, and I can't agree with those reviewers suggesting it is a deliberate stylistic device. It just seems a pointless authorial affectation to me. After all, what does it actually add to the text?

But far worse is the dialogue, which is frequently ridiculously anachronistic, not just in vocabulary but also cadence.

Whilst I appreciate that Mantel is trying to bring the period alive for modern readers unfamiliar with the era, the speech (and Cromwell's stream-of-consciousness interiority) is occasionally so badly expressed I found myself becoming exasperated with the whole novel. I just can't understand why Mantel has made such a mess of this when other elements of the story are so well-written, and when there are so many dramatic resources from the early modern period she could have drawn upon for reference.

Populist historical novelists such as Philippa Gregory and Tracy Chevalier seem to negotiate the competing demands of verisimilitude and comprehension easily enough, so I was dismayed to see a Booker winner - with all the serious literary craft that implies - get it so very, very badly wrong.

Would I recommend this book to my friends? Yes; if you disregard the language (an aspect which is important to me, but may not be to those less familiar with the literature of the period), it is an engaging page-turner for whiling away this dismal winter.

Is it a worthy Booker winner? No, no, no. Compare it with the multi-layered satisfactions of Peter Carey's `Oscar and Lucinda', the sensitivity of `Staying On', the lyricism of `The Remains of the Day', or the importance of `Schindler's Ark', and you'll see why `Wolf Hall'- if it really is the best novel of the year - is proof that 2009 will not be a great literary vintage.


Zapf Creation Sally Toddler Doll 63cm
Zapf Creation Sally Toddler Doll 63cm

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hideous doll, but the kids seem to love it, 11 Jan. 2010
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
There's not much you can really say about a doll. I suppose all you need to know is that we don't regret buying it, and it's very good value for what it is.

It was bought as a Christmas present for our 3 year old niece, following strict instructions from the sister-in-law not to buy any doll with messy bodily functions.

This is a chunky doll, as tall and well-built as most toddlers, with shoulder length blonde hair but a waxen, really not very attractive face.

The niece seems to love it, playing with it as a friend rather than as a baby. The adults were (and continue to be) revolted (the reviewer who warned of "Chuckie" moments has it spot-on), but joking apart, be careful about leaving it lying around, covered in bedclothes etc, as its shape and size can give you a fright from a distance.

We bought Sally ballerina, equestrian and fireman outfits as well, and these have all been a success too. Again, surprisingly good quality - the doll's wellies looked just like the niece's. Somewhere I,too, have a Zapf doll dating from Christmas 1979, so it's nice to know some brands are still upholding old-fashioned standards.


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