Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop Cyber Monday Deals Week in Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen in Prime Shop now Shop now
Profile for A. J. Russell-pattison > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by A. J. Russell-...
Top Reviewer Ranking: 11,235
Helpful Votes: 186

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
A. J. Russell-pattison "Tony" (Manchester. U.K.)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11
The Crusade of Darkness
The Crusade of Darkness
by Giulio Leoni
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not that thrilled, 16 July 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Crusade of Darkness: Giulio Leoni (translated by Shaun Whiteside)

The cover of this book proudly proclaims it "a medieval murder mystery" and so it proves to be. Our main man and medieval sleuth is non other than Dante Alighieri of "Inferno" and "The Divine Comedy" fame; famous Florentine and sometime lover of Beatrice. The outline of the plot being that Florence sends Dante to Rome to bargain with Pope Boniface (while leaving behind a city in civil war mode between two factions). En route Dante meets a poor family whose daughter has been gruesomely murdered, city functionaries loyal to the shady but bright Senator Spada , the same senators rather weird and exotic daughter and all too briefly, the inquisition, Pope and sundry others. To the poor family he pledges justice and his help. The senator and his daughter with the aid of their muscle man attempt to recruit Dante to a new crusade to free the Holy Land supposedly supported by all and sundry including the Pope, but all is not as it seems. The murder and the mystery are inexorably linked and our sleuth spends the novel unravelling the connection and its consequences. So far, so mysterious and I have no intention of spoiling your read by letting any cats, medieval or otherwise, out of any bags.

The overall experience of the read I will discuss. While there is certainly a story here and its pace is fair, the style of writing is odd. This could well be something that arises from the translation of the book from its original Italian, I don't know, but most characters, including the hero seem ill defined and very two dimensional. The action does not so much flow as feature vignettes of Dante interacting with characters for specific parts of the plot who then disappear until when and if they are required again. For example, Dante during this adventure is also in the process of writing his poem "inferno". This, unsurprisingly brings him to the attention of the Inquisition (after all Virgil, famous Greek poet and pre Christian, is his guide for the afterlife, this is likely to upset rabid Dominicans hell bent on Christian orthodoxy). The vignette featuring this encounter is short, a little dreary and so easily resolved it seems laughable almost as though this was just a section to inch in references to Dante's poem.

This disconnectedness and poor character colouring is a pity because there is intrigue enough here to drag my rating to "it's O.K." on the Amazon scale. The evocation of the Rome of the period is quite good and interesting to those of us who have visited the city a few times, but as professor of Italian literature and history and resident of Rome it would be very sad if the author had not managed this. The translator appends three and a half pages of notes at the end of the book which fill in many gaps in characters and context. Given that the notes are so short, why on earth were these details absent from the novel in the first place? The translator even helpfully says that the notes will allow the reader to "understand" the novel. An accurate assessment made invalid by putting the notes at the end of the book and not at the beginning! It's O.K. about sums it up, I am afraid I will not be rushing to read any further Leoni books.

Torchwood: Department X (BBC Audio)
Torchwood: Department X (BBC Audio)
by James Goss
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Vocals not visuals, 9 July 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Torchwood: Department X (audio story. Run time 2 hours)

For those who have lived isolated in a box for some years. First there was Doctor Who on the telly and in one recently aired episode the origin of the Torchwood Institute was revealed as Queen Victoria inaugurated it to defend the empire from alien powers. Torchwood became the telly spin off from Doctor Who featuring the (literally) indestructible Captain Jack Harkness and his team based in Cardiff fending off said aliens with gusto and wit. I have enjoyed both televisual serial delights, if anything enjoying Torchwood more, largely because it doesn't rotate around one central character (The Doctor) but features team interactions which seem to give more scope for the plot lines. If you only remember Doctor Who from the 60's with clunky scenery and ham acting you should stay in more and catch a current episode of both Doctor Who and Torchwood, both have sumptuous visual effects and are now very slick.

The visual delights of these two, now great, sci-fi series are undoubtable but how good are the stories without the visuals? I confess I have never had the desire to read any of the available book adventures so it was with some trepidation that I approached "Torchwood: Department X" on CD. Written by James Goss and read by Kai Owen (Gwen's husband in the series) it is a well crafted and somewhat spooky story of the alien incursions into our plain of existence as manifested in the fading glories of a Cardiff department store. As Queen Victoria must have hoped alien incursion equals arrival of Torchwood and in this case an intriguing addition of another organisation vying for the prize of sorting the situation out. The promotional blurb gives more of the story than I am willing to; I hate spoilers!

After the initial (and completely unreasonable) irritation that the story was read in only one voice and not with the voices of all the cast members (remember this is a first for me) I settled into the story well. Kai Owens voice with its melodious (and pertinent to the plot)Welsh accent is soothing, he reads well and although a Welsh man attempting transatlantic accents grates at first by then you are so into the story that you let it drift by. Only the evil alien's voice (featuring the special sound effect) is difficult to hear as the special effect makes it indistinct, a pity seeing as we approaching the denouement point when this voice arrives.

The story is fast moving and engrossing. The descriptions of the fading Cardiff store are particularly good and conjured for me all those great stores of your youth or at least mine that now appear as comic as Grace Brothers in "Are you being served". As always, the touching relationships of Gwen with her Husband and Jack with his lover Ianto are well played, the later being gently done and not over played. Evident too is the humour and wit which gives so much warmth to the characters and the story lines in all episodes I have seen on TV.

I was engrossed. My mind added the visuals while I listened and ironed (ironing while listening is obviously optional) and yes I would purchase and listen to other Torchwood stories. Enough said.

mc PRETTY BUTTERFLY BOOKMARK Art Deco Style Enamelled & Jewelled Pewter Book Mark in Giftbox - Ideal Mothers Day Gift Idea
mc PRETTY BUTTERFLY BOOKMARK Art Deco Style Enamelled & Jewelled Pewter Book Mark in Giftbox - Ideal Mothers Day Gift Idea
Offered by YGL
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little gift, 25 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I got two of these charming book marks (in different colours) for wedding gifts for the mother of the bride and grandmother of the bride. They are pleasant, sparkly and affordable. Some might consider them a little gauche but I found them to be a perfect gift for the occassion.

Smut: Two Unseemly Stories
Smut: Two Unseemly Stories
by Alan Bennett
Edition: Audio CD

5.0 out of 5 stars The Bonus of Bennett, 25 Jun. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Bonus of Bennett

I confess to being an Alan Bennett fan. From "Talking Heads" on telly to his short stories ("The Laying on of Hands" being my favourite) on through his autobiographical works (Untold Stories), plays (The Habit of Art) and probably his most popularist work "The History Boys", I have devoured them all.

Bennett's languid wit , sharp observational skills, northernism (with that very English Anglicanism) , gayness and his exquisite use of language make him somewhat of a hero of mine and so far none of his work has disappointed me. This continues to be the case having just completed listening to his two new short stories generically titled "Smut: two unseemly stories" courtesy of Amazon vine (many thanks).

The two stories, "The Greening of Mrs Donaldson" and "The Shielding of Mrs Forbes" are, as always, full of wry humour, rooted in the urbanity of what might be called common or everyday life, plotted beautifully and twisted and turned to bring the reader/listener to unexpected places which then delight. The marketing blurb provides an introduction to the basic plot which I do not intend to enlarge on, this work being far too good to lob spoilers at. I purred at the language, laughed out loud at the plot turns and sighed with content at the end of each you really need to know more than that? Get your own copy!

New to me was the format of audio CD (4 hours and 4 CDs or in my case 2 large loads of ironing! I suspect I ironed more than I needed in order to get to the end of each story. Now that's a recommendation and a bloody miracle!). I have heard audio CDs before but Mr Bennett's disembodied lugubrious voice has never previously tickled my ears. He reads his own work beautifully (I have no idea if he reads other peoples work as well or differently but that is certainly an experiment for the future) and I was lulled and delighted at the same time, not really an easy state to achieve. My companion however found Mr Bennett's voice to be somniferous and grating (again a difficult paradoxical state to achieve one would have thought) so it is obviously a personal thing. I confess that if I had been offered the book rather than the audio CDs I would have gone for that (more easily quotable for one thing) but was surprised by delight at this new way of enjoying this great man's work.

Queen of Kings
Queen of Kings
by Maria Dahvana Headley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy with Finesse, 26 May 2011
This review is from: Queen of Kings (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Queen of Kings: Maria Dahvana Headley

Well what an epic.

An epic struggle between order and chaos (not necessarily good and evil, although it's implied). An epic reworking of historical sources, an epic melding of myths from many nations and an epic of a story results

Cleopatra queen of the Nile. Lover of Caesar, beloved wife of Mark Antony, beleaguered by the legions of Octavian and betrayed into defeat by his less than honourable wiles. She dies in a closed room with only a snake bite to suggest how and that's what history recalls. Headley however takes over this base and weaves a mythological tale of possession, goddesses, fire and fury and makes the myth sing.

If you like Ursula K. Le Guin's writings (acknowledged as an influence by the Author in the end notes and acknowledgements, much to my joy as I kept hearing echoes of her works as I read) and perhaps less flatteringly the vampire novels of Anne Rice you will like this new saga star of an author. If you want to retreat from the mundanity of this world for a few hours (all it took to read this book for me, which would suggest that "page turner" is a suitable sobriquet) and ride high on the fantasy wings of the beasts of loves night and fire then this novel is for you.

Dry historian's and overly pedantic classicists should look elsewhere for their fare. This is fun!

Living Well: Finding a 'Rule of Life' to Revitalise and Sustain Us
Living Well: Finding a 'Rule of Life' to Revitalise and Sustain Us
by Dr Alan Hargrave
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Read's good, 18 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Living Well: Finding A `Rule of Life' to revitalise and sustain us
Alan Hargarve(2010)

For a little book (136 pages) this one packs quite a punch. Ostensibly one mans distillation of the core characteristics of religious rules of life (both monastic and lay) and their potential application to the life of anyone seeking to follow Christ, this is so much more than that précis suggests.

Acknowledging the pivotal role of the Rule of St. Benedict in western Christianity the author roves over a number of rules, notably those of the emerging "new monastic" communities in the U.K (including: - The Community of St. Etheldreda, Ely Cathedral of which the author is Canon Missioner and also Ely Cursillo Rule of Life, The Northumbria Community, Iona and Moot) all of which are summarised in helpful appendices.

Rather than academic analysis the author seeks essences and illustrates them with his own life and search for a "rule". Anecdotes abound and are relevant, enlightening and above all human. A gentle humour pervades the discussion.

Much has recently been discussed about male spirituality. This book is not written for men specifically but what becomes evident is that it is written by a spiritual man. As a man I found that helpful and interesting, I wonder why?

At the end of each section (all of which are succinct and small enough to make them eminently usable for group work) are questions for self or group analysis. Did I do these? No. Then again, I never do, perhaps that's why my own personal written rule of life is still largely in my head and not on paper,

The layout is untidy and although the author references well (while wearing his obvious learning and wide reading lightly) and includes relevant web directions it is a mark of the text that by the end of it you don't mind because you realise the messiness saves paper and so helps creation sustain itself in the image of God. No small recommendation.

Accessible, readable and tasting of The Spirit, this is one book you really should read.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
by Joshua Foer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Info, Nasty Taste, 16 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Moonwalking With Einstein (The Art and Science of Remembering Everything)

A journalist is sent to cover the U.S. Memory Championships , is mildly impressed with the feats of memory, talks to some of the competitors who instil in him the idea that anyone who trains using certain (very old ..classical Greece, no less) techniques and has commitment can be a champion. Journalist undertakes to accept training as "an experiment" with a view to attaining a standard sufficient to enter the next years U.S. Championship. He succeeds.

This is the narrative thread/storyline on which some truly fascinating information about all aspects of memory are going to be hung in the next 271 pages. The facts/case studies and research data on memory (and its corollary activities like memory storage, forgetting, natural talents and conditions and enhancement techniques) are engrossing and our Author deals with them more than competently. His style of popular comparison and analysis is accessible and as befits a journalist his exemplars are brilliant and catchy (see chicken sexers) and illustrate the more academic data very well. These sections are strung on to the story line but are almost distinct papers in themselves and for me were the best bits of this book, neutral, informative and eye opening but the author wants to package them with the story as a whole. Understandable but not necessarily beneficial.

The story line sections, his training, his trainers, his life in the year up to the big event suffer, at least for me, because of their tones and feelings. While the "mental athletes" who share their techniques are dutifully thanked the description and depiction of them feels somewhat snide and patronising, these are sad geeks. I suspect that the author feels that his own attempts at self depreciation will counterbalance this when, in fact, it doesn't because he is not very good at it and the "and I became one too" approach feels insincere. At times the journalist within gets without and some topics are overplayed. The unmasking of a memorising savant by the name of Daniel Temmet as possibly not a natural talent, i.e. not a savant but a man who trained himself using memory techniques, who then cons the world that his talent is innate not learned is certainly germane to the topic but turns into a hatchet job. Even the author says he "agonised" as to whether to include it in the book or not. He shouldn't have. It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

All this dislike of the style of the story line is obviously personal to me and, indeed, may be somewhat of a pond thing but it did effect my enjoyment of the book. This should however not detract from the diligent research, fluid discussion of the data and sheer quirkiness of the subject mater. I just wish he had found a better suited medium for holding the factual stuff together or just wrote the book "an amazing journey through memory", I would have enjoyed it more.

Devil's Consort
Devil's Consort
by Anne O'Brien
Edition: Paperback

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Royal Romp, 26 April 2011
This review is from: Devil's Consort (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Devil's Consort
As a bloke I rarely wander in the unchartered waters of the "romance section" of book stores but when offered the chance by Amazon to try something different I thought why the hell not. I have a passing interest in both history and queens (both the crowned and the gay ones) so the fictional biography of Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine , one time wife of Louise King of France and ultimately wife of Henry Plantagenet King of England (via other capable and powerful lovers) seemed a good bet.

The story embarks from just before her miserable marriage to the overly pious Louise and romps (and I do mean romps) through intrigue and gossip through to her producing a male heir for Henry. The redoubtable if not always admirable (although the author clearly finds her entrancing) heroine of the tale is what would be described as one "spunky" woman by our American brethren.

The style is eminently readable and the story as I said romps along. It seems to be all about sex but as her first husband hardly ever bonks her due to a surfeit of holiness and her last hardly ever because he always off sabre ratelling (if in fact sabres were around at this time! Whatever you feel about the book you cannot help but acknowledge that the historical research done by the author is both full and deep) it can't really be. Maybe it's just how it feels. Could this be my very first pot boiler?

Having romped to the end I felt slightly like I had sat through an x rated Disney film, only to be pulled up short by the "read all about it" section at the end. This is a sort of end notes with some further info about the great lady and her portrayal in various media but also questions obviously designed for book club discussion and quite some detail ( along with an interview) about the author. I like this bit a great deal but its style is, perhaps inevitably, at such variance with the rest of the book that you get a sort of terminal dissonance!

All in all an enjoyable romping (I know I have over used that word but it's the book that did it!) read and good fun plus expands (albeit a little because plot obscures fact acclimation, which is good or it would be somewhat dry otherwise and whatever else this book is it's defiantly moist) your historical knowledge to boot.

Totally Devoted: The Challenge Of New Monasticism
Totally Devoted: The Challenge Of New Monasticism
by Simon Cross
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Monasticism arises, 19 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There have been a gradual increase in the number of books about new monasticism, keeping pace with the growth of the movement. Simon Cross's 2010 contribution is an important addition to this growing canon. Important not because it is unique (overlap is inevitable in some respect) but because it is so accessible.

Simply written with feeling the book is really one of two halves. The first an introduction to the history of monasticism which is, of necessity, brief but provides the context from within which the exploration of new monastic movements which will be described in the later half of the book. Cross aknowledges and deals well with the fact that many of the groups he visited in the UK and described, are not directly comperable being of a diverse nature. He suceeds, however, in identifying sufficient traits in common to justify groups inclusion in the book and indeed in the "movement". He also does not shy away from difficult catagorisations and discussions. Some of the groups included have been seen as cultic rather than monastic but he gives an impassioned if rather too brief rational for their inclusion; Reader consider would seem the approach he favours here and readers should indeed consider carefully.

The new monastic "movement" is still defining itself and inevitably this leads to inclusions and exclusions in this book which readers may well quible with. This is no fault of the author but rather a difficulty of the nature of the "movement" itself. Intentional community is certainly a criteria (whether lived or dispersed) chosen by the author for inclusion. I was dissapointed to see that this did not include the more eremitcal new monastics (Christian solitaries etc) who are, admitedly, difficult to access but who do have dispersed communal contacts and are in my opionion an important if quiet (as they should be) part of this ground swell of God's people.
The author finishes his book with end notes and glossary, both of which are helpful. The real joy however is the list of websites of interest. These cover all the groups described in the book and allows a sort of "live" cross referencing with the text via the web which is excellent.
Readers and website visitors should however be prepared to analyse and judge the veracity of how various groups portray themselves. I am not implying deliberate misleading is going on but all groups portray themselves as they wish to be portrayed and uncrtical acceptance is not recommended.

I loved this book as it deals with a movement and phenomena which fascinates me. If you are new to these ideas and groups this text would be an excellent introduction.

Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich
by Amy Johnson Frykholm
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Introducing Julian, 7 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Julian of Norwich (Hardcover)
I am new to Juliana. I have, of course, heard of the great woman and her Revelations but this is my first attempt to get to know her life and work better. This text, the author correctly asserts, is a literary biography. Actual facts about Julian's life being considerably sparser than details of the time in which she lived. The author therefore constructs a hypothetical and devotional life story for our heroin based on her writings and relevant historical data of the period. The devotional nature and tone is never in doubt and while the factual basis of the story can and I am sure will be challenged the devotion and affection of the writer for the subject is never in doubt. The story itself is warm, well written and surprisingly low key in its approach. I found it a gentle introduction to both Julian and her works , perhaps so gentle that it didn't really spur me on to seek more, this may be a fault in this reader rather than the author but these "relaxed" revelations failed in the punch department when Julian herself, by her legacy alone, obviously punched well above her weight. Maybe gentleness is the defining characteristic of this great woman in which case the gentleness of this story reflects that very well. Stylistically (and I know everyone harps on a bit about style) the end notes are interesting in parts only, many references to Julian's own writings are neither helpful nor necessary

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11