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Blencathra (West Yorkshire.)

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Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain
Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain
by Charlotte Higgins
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ideal primer, 26 May 2014
The author, currently The Guardian's chief arts writer but with a Classics background, has over the past years developed a particular fascination with Roman Britain, travelling around Britain to visit most of the main sites and finds of the time, including walking the full lengths of both Antonine and Hadrian Walls. This book is, in part, an account of those visits and the stories behind the sites, both of their places in the history of Roman Britain and of their discoveries. To help follow the historical chronology, rather than following her visits in the order she travelled, the chapters each focus on a particular area that relates best to successive periods of that history, so it is more of a historical than travel piece. Thus the opening chapter focuses on Kent and Sussex and the early invasions, moving on to Norfolk with its association with Boudica's uprising, and so on westwards and northwards, until returning to East Anglia and the Saxon Shore forts representing the dying years of the Empire's presence in Britannia.

It is however, rather more than that, as the author herself explains: "This book is very far from a comprehensive account of Britain's Roman remains. Instead, I wanted to see what I could learn from an encounter with them. Not to discover what being in Roman Britain was like - for I was convinced of the irrecoverability of the lives of people from the deep past, except as manifestations of the historical imaginations of those who described them. Rather, I wanted to think about what this period means, and has meant, to a British sense of history and identity. I wanted to discover the ways in which the idea of a Roman Britain has resonated in British culture and still forms part of the texture of its landscape."

And, given the temporal distance, it rather surprised me how relevant it does appear. This was particularly highlghted by the section of the York chapter covering the 'ivory bangle lady', a skeleton excavated in the city in the early years of the 20th century. Much more recent work (it is particularly noticeable how much has happened in the past 5-10 years in Roman Britain research) suggests that she was of mixed-race ancestry, possibly from north Africa. The controversy surrounding the suggestion that Roman Britain may have been rather more multicultural than previously thought indicates how important even such distant history can be in comtemporary cultural belief, significantly influencing both sides of the divide.

Somewhat quirky and personal, it may not be as as good 'history' as some other books, but that wasn't the author's objective, as she clearly states. However, having never really taken more than a superficial interest in Roman Britain before, I found this an ideal entry point, vividly bringing the places and the subject alive, wetting my appetite to learn more about the detail of the period, whilst showing me how relevant it is to us today.


The Pirates! In an Adventure with Moby Dick: Reissued
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Moby Dick: Reissued
by Gideon Defoe
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.81

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious? Surely you're joking?, 1 Jun 2012
Having read the rave reviews of both The Pirates! series and the Ardman film, the appearance, it seemed as if the opportunity to download this book as a Kindle Daily Deal was an opportunity that couldn't be wasted. The book itself is very short, taking just over an hour to read, but even so, my overwhelming feeling by the end was why I had wasted even that short space of my life?

Reviewers have described this as hilariously silly. Silly, yes, I can't disagree. Hilarious? I don't think I even raised a smile, let alone a chuckle or (I wish!) a laugh. Humour is very personal, I know, but I have to say that even if I don't find a book funny, I can usually see why some people do. On this occasion, I just couldn't.

That maybe because the target audience are 9-12 year old children, and normally I wouldn't bother reviewing, even though, as a primary teacher, I do read (and enjoy) a fair few books aimed at this age group. However, I was assured by reviewers that adults would enjoy the "subtle" humour. I have to say the subtlety passed me by (and, yes, I have read Moby Dick - brilliant book). Rather, I felt as if I'd been hit in the face with a rather wet fish - or is it ham? - with the author's continued heavy handed efforts?

All in all, I have to say that this ranks amongst those books I enjoyed the least, leaving me somewhat (completely!) mystified as to why there are so many 4/5 star reviews.


The Sea Road
The Sea Road
by Margaret Elphinstone
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful discovery, 15 July 2011
This review is from: The Sea Road (Paperback)
It didn't surprise me that this has a solid row of 5 stars - one of those occasions where the grading is not devalued. Margaret Elphinstone takes the sagas surrounding the Viking explorations and settlements in Greenland and North America and adds warmth and humanity to it (and a great deal of realism) by seeing them through the eyes of Gudrid Thorbjornsdottir. NS And in the author's hands, she comes totally alive. This is my first encounter with Margaret Elphinstone, it won't be my last.


Mistress Of The Art Of Death: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 1
Mistress Of The Art Of Death: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 1
by Ariana Franklin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable nonsense, 15 July 2011
A thoroughly entertaining piece of story telling, even if, as others have already more than adequately indicated, riddled with anachronisms and slices of historical nonsense, although I was a wee bit disappointed with the denouement. Great for switching off after a hard day! I would disagree with those who compare Franklin with CJ Sansom. She's certainly enjoyable to read, but not in the same league otherwise.


Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
by Hermione Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Biography, Shoddy Publishing, 26 Jun 2011
This review is from: Virginia Woolf (Paperback)
In terms of the content, I can largely only echo the other 5 star reviews here. I have been put off Virginia Woolf's writing for many years and only come to it relatively recently (largely thanks to the superb film, The Hours). This was partly due to the formidable reputation of both author and her work. Having discovered that her writing (especially her essays, but also fiction) was actually far more approachable than the myths suggest, Hermione Lee has carried out the same transformation on the author. This is a highly readable, totally fascinating, biography of a very complex individual. The thematic approach largely worked for me, although I occasionally struggled with the chronology, allowing Lee to really develop different aspects of Woolf's life. She is a super writer, pulling so many different threads and characters into a highly coherent whole. Just as Woolf's writing reveals so much of her characters, I really feel that I have been getting to know a fully rounded individual. This has to be one of my all-time favourite biographies, and worthy of a full 5 stars and more.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Penguin's efforts, who have really let the author down badly. I first of all started reading the paperback version, to find it virtually impossible with cramped typeface (an increasingly perennial problem with paperbacks nowadays) and, far worse, every line disappearing into the gutter at the spine, making the book virtually impossible to read without breaking the spine. I therefore, reluctantly, forked out for the Kindle version - I resent Penguin's ripoff prices, but felt that this book was worth it. I find it amazing that Penguin have the cheek to charge the prices they do - the formatting was dreadful, with wrongly set up words on every page (the most common being where random mid-word 'i's were capitalised followed by a space and then the rest of the word, e.g. vI sit). If they are going to charge such steep prices, then the least Penguin could do is carry out basic proof-reading and sort out the formatting. Shoddy.

So 5+ stars for Hermione Lee, 1 star (and less) for Penguin. But as the main focus of these reviews is the contents, the full 5 go at the top of this review (but I do wonder whether what I really wanted was a second-hand hardback copy).

Later edit: I found a copy of the hardback in a charity shop only a couple of days after posting the review. It proved to be a far more pleasurable experience reading that than either the paperback or the Kindle version. And cheaper too!


Amazon Kindle Keyboard Leather Cover, Black (only fits Kindle Keyboard)
Amazon Kindle Keyboard Leather Cover, Black (only fits Kindle Keyboard)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another who found this cover crashes their Kindle, 24 Dec 2010
Initial reactions to this were very positive - it's a great design (the elastic has stayed sufficiently taut after 3 months of use), is very neat, and the price started to seem not bad at all. But then.....
My Kindle started playing up, with multiple freezes and hard resets needed every day. I was about to get in touch with Amazon, when I read some of the comments about the unlit Amazon cover affecting the Kindle with just the symptoms mine was showing. So I took the cover off and tried using it - no problems for several days. Tried it with the cover back on - problems straight away. Did this twice more, and both times things fell apart immediately the cover went back on.
So, my reluctant advice is to avoid this like the plague until it's sorted out. I don't know what Amazon are doing - I haven't been in touch yet, wanting to be sure of my ground first - but as things stand, the unlit Amazon cover looks to be a potentially serious liability.


Gentlemen & Players
Gentlemen & Players
by Joanne Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining diversion, if ultimately a bit of a damp squib., 26 Nov 2010
This review is from: Gentlemen & Players (Paperback)
Good enough that I wanted to read to the end, but whilst an entertaining diversion, ultimately this proved unsatisfying. I found the setting and the scenario unconvincing (in spite of Joanne Harris's background): I just don't see how Julian could have carried this off - certainly couldn't have done in the independent school I went to. On top of this, whilst I wasn't able to identify the murderer by page 50 as Jonathan Gilbert managed, it was practically given away by around half way through the book so that even I, one of the worst at this game, was able to work it out well before time for myself. Partly as a result of this, the denouement and ending proved a bit of a damp squib after all the preceding shenanigans.
All in all, borderline 2/3 stars, but as I wanted to read to the end, will give it the benefit of the doubt.
,


To Say Nothing of the Dog (Bantam Spectra Book)
To Say Nothing of the Dog (Bantam Spectra Book)
by Connie Willis
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a contrast....., 28 Oct 2010
.....to The Doomsday Book. Whilst I really enjoyed the latter, I have to say I found this a bit special - the humour and pastiche on Victorian country house life, the Victorian melodrama, added a whole lot more, and really made this a 'stand out' read. Quirky, even genuinely funny in places (and it's not often I find that in a book), it still managed to retain a sense of the adventure, of the uncertainly of travelling to a different time, and thus very different culture, and plenty of twists and turns! A great story, different to anything else I've read, and one I put down very reluctantly, knowing that there is little else quite like it.


French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
by Tim Moore
Edition: Audio Cassette

6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incompetent, patronising, and proud of it., 28 Oct 2010
Tim Moore obviously has little sympathy with cycling, France or the French, which begs the question as to why he even contemplated this project. The only reason seemed to be as a vehicle for writing a book, leading to the worst sort of travel writing, where the book is what matters rather than the journey or the people. He exacerbates this by employing a certain type of humour which relies on his reader enjoying his proudly incompetent efforts and his patronising attitude to both the country and the people he meets. I found this book almost indescribably awful, and binned it a few days into my own cycling holiday in France, to be replaced by a real travel writer. If I could have given zero stars, I would have done.


The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff
by Tom Wolfe
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too folksy for my taste., 3 Jun 2010
This review is from: The Right Stuff (Paperback)
Wolfe focuses on the culture and social mores that surrounded the Mercury space programme. He is excellent at developing the characters so that they come vividly to life. There are times when I wondered how real the characters were - they almost fitted Wolfe's angle on the story too well which left me asking how closely Wolfe's perspective matched those of others. But Wolfe does tell the story really well. Except that, after a while, I got rather weary of the folksy, chatty style, in particular when recounting some of the key incidents, when very specific perspectives were taken, thus leaving me with more questions than answers.

I can understand why it is generally regarded as a classic, and why so many people rate it so highly, but it just didn't quite work for me. I'm glad to have read it, but won't be rushing back to it in the future (I actually preferred the film - not a common occurrence).


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