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Black Tent "zareeba" (Stockton-on-Tees, UK)

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Heart Beguiling Araby: The English Romance with Arabia (Tauris Parke Paperbacks)
Heart Beguiling Araby: The English Romance with Arabia (Tauris Parke Paperbacks)
by Kathryn Tidrick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Heart beguiling..BUT, 6 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a compelling account of Victorian travellers and their fascination with what was loosely termed 'Araby'. I enjoyed it very much. However, it has a hidden flaw which was immediately apparent to me and spoiled my enjoyment (hence only 3 stars). This is a monumental gaffe which Tidrick makes in her account of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and his involvement in Arab affairs. Tidrick describes Blunt's wife, Lady Anne, in a manner which betrays over-reliance on Wilfrid Blunt’s biographer Edith Finch:

She was a capable horsewoman and reliable but unimaginative companion on the Arabian journeys. For some reason it was her accounts of these journeys which were published. Blunt mainly contributed chapters to her rather pedestrian narratives; his own accounts came later in his published diaries.

The irony is that Tidrick evidently does not realise that, although the books 'Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates' and 'A Pilgrimage to Nejd' were based on Lady Anne’s journals, they were actually almost entirely Wilfrid Blunt’s work. James Fleming, who together with Rosemary Archer edited and published extracts from Lady Anne’s journals and correspondence, says, ‘It is no exaggeration to say that it is often difficult to match Lady Anne’s Journals with the relevant pages in these books.’ He goes on to say that 'one can only guess at Blunt’s motives for not revealing the extent of his own contribution. It would have stood to his credit to have done so for the books are finely written and vividly evoke desert life in the last century. It would also have spared Lady Anne the embarrassment of acclaim and a false reputation from which she derived no pleasure at all.' One wonders whether Kathryn Tidrick would have written so disparagingly of those ‘pedestrian narratives’ had she known that they were mostly the work of Wilfrid Blunt and not the wife she so determinedly consigns to the shadows. (Since Lady Anne’s Journals were published in 1986, and Heart Beguiling Araby was published in 1990, there seems to be no excuse for Tidrick’s gaffe. Had she done her research more thoroughly she would have realised the extent of her error.)

Tidrick compounds her error by attributing to Lady Anne Wilfrid’s attitudes toward the Bedouin tribes they came into contact with on their journeys. She refers to the ‘artless snobbery of Lady Anne’s narratives’, again unaware that what she is commenting on had actually been written by Blunt himself, not Lady Anne.

All this would be amusing if it were not so annoying. It not only traduces the character of Lady Anne, it calls into question the depth of the author's research. One wonders, if she got this wrong, what other errors has she made throughout the book?

Of course no book is entirely error-free; but this is a serious error, because it shows that the author has mistakenly attributed certain qualities to Lady Anne that properly belong to Blunt himself. In fact Blunt never understood the Bedouin as well as Lady Anne did, and he never spoke Arabic as well as she did. His involvement in 'Araby', like so much else he turned his hand to, was superficial and yielded little by way of results


Think Tank Airport Security V2.0 Rolling Case
Think Tank Airport Security V2.0 Rolling Case

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, a case that holds all my gear, 11 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've tried a number of cases previously but none of them held all the gear I usually carry on a shoot without threatening to burst at the seams. The Think Tank Airport Security V2.0 Rolling Case easily holds everything is usually take out with me with room to spare. It's not light, but it is easy to manoeuvre and appears to be very tough and strong. The inner compartments can be easily rearranged and there are plenty of inner pockets for stuff like filters, remote leads, spare memory cards etc. Thoroughly recommended.


Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit
Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit
Price: 306.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nikon's flagship Speedlight ticks all the boxes, 27 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like many Nikon users I was a little peeved that not long after I bought the SB-910's predecessor, the SB-900, they brought out the SB-910. As the name suggests, it's not so much a new concept in speedlights as an upgrade - where the SB-900 was far better than the SB-800 (itself a superb speedlight), it's not immediately obvious what the differences are between the SB-900 and the SB-910. The performance and specs are vritually the same, so why upgrade? If you are happy with the SB-900 there might not be any real reason why you'd want to. But for serious amateurs, pros and semi-pros the SB-910 offers greater ease of use (more intuitive controls) and - a bit plus if your speedlight gets heavy use - the SB-910 handles the problem of overheating better than the SB-900.

So if you're wanting a sophisticaed speedlight with superb perfomance that's easy to use, or upgrading from the SB-800, I'd thoroughly recommend the SB-910. It ain't cheap, but then real quality never is.


Livescribe 8 GB Echo Smartpen Pro Pack
Livescribe 8 GB Echo Smartpen Pro Pack

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does exactly what it's supposed to, 5 Jan 2013
For years I've despaired of taking notes because after 20 years in the Civil Service, constantly scrawling notes at speed, my handwriting had deteriorated to the point where it looked like Zend written backwards. If I didn't transcribe my notes to my PC (entailing having to type in what I'd already written), I found that after a relatively short while I couldn't read my own handwriting. Voice recognition software helped to some extent, but of course could only be used in conjunction with a PC or laptop. Enter the Livescribe Smartpen! Now it's true that I do have to take a little more care with my writing (not a bad thing), but I find that my notes taken with the Smartpen can easily be read by the conversion software (which ahs to be purchased separately), MyScript, which converts handwriting into editable text. It really does work - and if it can read my handwriting it can read anyone's. I love it - I can now take notes secure in the knowledge that even when I can't get to my PC or laptop for a while, my notes can be stored on my Smartpen for when I have time to download them.


Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Offered by Britain Deals
Price: 1,779.95

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing piece of kit, 27 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The D800 is a truly amazing camera. I got mine not as an 'upgrade' from the D700 (which I also have and love), which is how some people seem to view it, but to complement the D700. Don't be fooled by the similarities - they are very different cameras. I use my D700 to capture fast-moving subjects such as horses, birds, wildlife etc, and the D800 for static or near-static subjects such as landscapes, still-lifes,portraits etc. The D800 renders subjects in stunning detail, and in fact is so good that any flaws in the photographer's technique are magnified mercilessly. That's not necessarily a bad thing if it encourages people to refine their technique!

So far I haven't had any problems at all with it. You need a PC (or laptop) with plenty of RAM, as the D800 produces very large files (as you would expect from a 36 Mp camera), especially if you're shooting in RAW (which I do all the time) and fast memory cards (I use Sandisk Extreme Pro 16Gb).

This camera is so packed with features that I'd recommend Darrell Young's book, 'Mastering the Nikon D800' in which he goes into more details about the camera's many features than you find in the user manual (which is also pretty detailed).


ATOMIC TWISTER:[DVD]~ ALL REGION~..NTSC..SHARON LAWRENCE
ATOMIC TWISTER:[DVD]~ ALL REGION~..NTSC..SHARON LAWRENCE
Offered by Seedhouse-Rare-Movies
Price: 9.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Atomic Twister? More like Atomic Twaddler..., 4 Dec 2012
This made-for-TV movie plays on people's fears about nuclear power by confirming what many people fear: nuclear power plants are inherently dangerous and vulnerable to natural disasters. So when a nuclear plant set in tornado country is hit by a 'twister', naturally disaster looms...or not.

Apart from the writers apparently having no idea how a nuclear power plant works (only 1 security guard? only 4 people to run the plant? Ok, it's Saturday, but the reactor doesn't get weekends off, does it? Power plant vulnerable to weather conditions? the list goes on and on) the characters act in totally unbelievable ways. On learning that they have 3 minutes to shut down the reactor, do they spring into action? No, they stand around agonising about it...or alternatively, just stand around. On learning that her house has been hit by a tornado and her son has been seen cycling away from the area, the plant supervisor - responsible for its safe operation and for minimising disaster when things go wrong, gets hysterical and wants to go running after her son, abandoning her responsibilities with a staggering lack of, uh, responsibility ('But he's my son!'), even though she knows that a deputy from the sheriff's office is on his way to intercept the dim kid.

A potential (or real) meltdown in a nuclear power plant is never a laughing matter, but with modern reactors and safety systems, it's extremely unlikely (Fukushima and Chernobyl apart - and those were special cases) that a major disaster would result. One things that definitely COULDN'T happen was the scenario postulated in the film: a nuclear explosion. The fuel used in nuclear reactors simply doesn't contain enough fissile material (i.e. having the capability to sustain a chain reaction) to create a nuclear explosion; typically the fuel for nuclear reactors contains about 4% of enriched uranium (uranium-235)as opposed to weapons which use about 90% or uranium 235, nor would it be possible to bring sub-critical material together with sufficient force to create an explosion. Furthermore, nuclear reactors are contained within, well, containment buildings with concrete walls so thick a tornado would probably not even be felt on the inside. So straight away the most disastrous effects of the situation in the film become, well, not disastrous at all. Sure, if the reactor core melted through into the earth below and reached the water table, that would be a disaster, but the effects wouldn't be immediately felt.

There are legitimate concerns about nuclear power, and the nuclear power industry needs to be kept on its toes by stringent regulation and regular rigorous checks to ensure the safety standards are adhered to. But playing on people's fears by creating concerns where none need exist - as this film does - is just irresponsible. Not to mention the fact that it's just soooo tedious.


Ladies Plus Size Waterproof Black Parka Coat With Sandy Brown Fur Hood #720
Ladies Plus Size Waterproof Black Parka Coat With Sandy Brown Fur Hood #720

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does everything it's supposed to, 4 Dec 2012
With the onset of really cold weather I've been wearing this item quite a bit, and it does everything it's supposed to: I've been warm, dry and comfortable, and could ask nothing more of such an item. Thoroughly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2013 8:04 AM GMT


The Bone Bed (A Scarpetta Novel) (Scarpetta Novels)
The Bone Bed (A Scarpetta Novel) (Scarpetta Novels)
by Patricia Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A thriller that doesn't thrill (Warning: contains spoilers!), 9 Nov 2012
I hate to be a killjoy, and I really, really wanted to like this book. Having read some glowing reviews on here I was looking forward to reading it, hoping that perhaps, at last, Patricia Cornwell had really returned to the form that seems to have deserted her ever since `The Last Precinct'. The title was intriguing, and reading the blurb I thought, `Hot diggety! Maybe we'll get some interesting details about the bone bed and the work of the palaeontologist murdered while working on it.' But alas, I was disappointed. The `bone bed' of the title was a huge red herring, only marginally involved in the main story and connected to it by the most tenuous of threads. And as with `Port Mortuary' and `Red Mist', far too much of the book is taken up with rambling conversations and the increasingly self-absorbed Scarpetta's angsty introspections. True, there is plenty of forensic detail, which was always one of the best things about the earlier Scarpetta books, but here it is simply too much: it swamps what little plot there is, and prevents the story from moving forward as a good thriller should.

The plot moves at the pace of sludge. Gone is the energy of the earlier Scarpetta books, where we would see Kay hurrying from one crime scene to another, travelling hither and thither with Marino in search of the evidence that will enable them to solve their cases. Now most of the action takes place over a couple of days (as it did in `Port Mortuary' and `Red Mist'). Instead of rushing off to court where she has been called as a witness, Kay faffs around in the lab, seemingly unable to trust anyone sufficiently to delegate to them. She keeps people waiting interminably while she obsesses about details - something the earlier Scarpetta would never have done.

Then we have the same situations as we have had in all too many of the recent Scarpetta books: people are out to sabotage Kay; she can't trust her staff, as usual being the last person to find out what her staff are up to (wouldn't that bring into question her competence to run a forensic pathology institute?); Marino is out of control; Lucy is being secretive and up to her usual naughty hacking tricks; Benton is being cagy about his work with the FBI (which he mysteriously rejoined several books ago, having apparently ditched his appointment at McLean hospital - surely he would be past the FBI's mandatory retirement age by now?). These elements have become tiresomely repetitive; the only new thing is Kay's attraction to one of her medical examiners (the nephew of her old friend, psychiatrist Anna Zenner - a link which goes nowhere and soon peters out, so that one wonders why the author bothered to introduce it). On top of all that, and out-of-control FBI agent is trying to steal Benton from Kay. I know that conflict of some kind is part and parcel of many good stories, but does there have to be so much of it? And why do the main characters have to be so relentlessly self-absorbed and miserable? One almost gets the sense that Cornwell hates them. Perhaps she does; maybe she dislikes having to continue to write about them. She certainly makes it difficult for us to feel any empathy for them.

And - I hate to say this - Cornwell's writing style has deteriorated over the years. In the earlier books I always felt that Scarpetta was somewhat formal and rather old-fashioned in her speech, but that was part of the character, and I found it only minimally distracting. And unlike some reviewers I don't find the first-person singular annoying; after all, that was a device used right from the start; Cornwell only abandoned it in `Blow Fly', much to the dismay of many of her fans. What I don't like, and never have, is the use of the present tense. It's a device that is fine in small doses, but throughout the length of a book it can be extremely distracting. It's nowhere near as distracting, though, as Cornwell's use (or should I say misuse) of adverbs. I know an adverb can go either in front of or after a verb; the placement depends not only on the sense being conveyed but also on harmonious sentence construction. But Cornwell insists on placing the adverb between the subject and the verb virtually all the time. This results in some horribly convoluted constructions, such as `her owner had disappeared and possibly already was dead' (p.391). She also tends to misuse `and' instead of proper punctuation, and all too often I find myself distracted from what is going on in the book because I am rewriting the text in my head. This might seem like nit-picking, but if an author's style distracts the reader then it is not good style.

I'm sorry to be so negative about an author whose earlier books I loved. I know Cornwell has been dismayed in recent years by poor reviews of her books, even going so far as to claim that there was some kind of conspiracy involved. Sorry, Patricia; there is no conspiracy. Your many fans are simply disappointed that your writing is no longer what is used to be. Yet we continue to buy your books in the hope that the next one will show a real return to form. Please, take heed of your reviews: you are so much better than the stuff you've churned out in recent years. If you're tired of Scarpetta, then please say so. We'll understand. All we want is the Patricia Cornwell we knew and loved. Please come back!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2012 12:34 PM GMT


The Butcher's Theatre
The Butcher's Theatre
by Dr Jonathan Kellerman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing if flawed book, 13 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Butcher's Theatre (Paperback)
I am a great fan of Jonathan Kellerman and have read all his books, including this one, a number of times. What do I like about The Butcher's Theatre? Well, the descriptions of Jerusalem for one; Kellerman really captures the sights, sounds and smells of the city. And I love the main character, Daniel Sharavi (who also appears in one of Kellerman's later books, `Survival of the Fittest'), and his family - the descriptions of Sharavi's wife Laura, his children and his father, Yehesqel, give their characters and their home life real substance and charm. I also liked Sharavi's friends, Gene and Luanne Brooker - the former a detective in LA (the character also appears in `Survival of the Fittest') who helps Sharavi track down the Grinning Man, who is butchering (literally) Arab women in an attempt to start a race war (much like Charles Manson and `Helter Skelter'; this theme also recurs in another of Kellerman's books, `Time Bomb'). We are given some insight into what drives the Grinning Man through his personal history, narrated from his point of view as a counterpoint to the police investigation in Israel.

So why only four stars? Well, I hate to say this, because I do admire Kellerman's writing in general, but what disturbed me about this book was the horribly racist attitude towards the Arabs. One would expect ambiguity because of Kellerman's background (he is Jewish, and his wife, Faye Kellerman - whose books I also love - writes about an orthodox Jewish detective in LA; I am entranced by her descriptions of Jewish home life at its best, as well as - occasionally - at its worst). But the extent of his prejudice is shocking in someone whose writing generally displays great compassion and tolerance. The Arabs in this book are reduced to stereotypes (lazy, deceitful, whining, contemptuous of women) - apart from the Arab detective, Daoud (who is a Christian - couldn't have a sympathetic Muslim character, could we?) the Arabs in this book display no redeeming characteristics. Kellerman trashes T.E. Lawrence's romanticised view of the Bedouin, yet Kellerman himself displays no real knowledge or understanding of them (as an antidote, one might try reading the work of westerners who have actually lived among the Bedouin, such as H.R.P. Dickson, or Wilfrid Thesiger, or Gertrude Bell, who entrusted her life to them many times in dangerous situations). I have Jewish friends, and I have Arab friends, and I love both cultures, so Kellerman's depiction of the Arabs is really painful for me. For a psychologist (Kellerman's profession before he turned to writing) Kellerman seems to have no insight into his own prejudices. Maybe he really believes Arabs are like that; heaven knows, Arabs have been portrayed negatively in American (and to a lesser extent British) culture for many decades. But Kellerman seems oblivious to the lesson the Nazis (and centuries of anti-Semitism and any other kind of racism before them) have taught us: demonise people, portray them as contemptible, and this provides one with an excuse for treating them badly. One of the characters in the book, the Israeli detective Schmeltzer, despises the Arabs for their ingratitude for all the Israelis have done for them. Say what? For real insight into how the Arab community is affected by local politics read the Omar Yussef mysteries by Matt Rees. You certainly won't find such insight in `The Butcher's Theatre'.

True, the portrayal of the Jewish community is not all positive: the Hasidim (ultra-orthodox) in their more extreme forms also get a fair bit of kicking. But I feel the whole premise on which the book is based (the provocation of a race-war by a rabid anti-Semite) is weakened by the anti-Arab sentiments: we should care that both sides would suffer, not just one.

In spite of this, I still like this book. If you disregard the stereotypes as just that, this is a cracking good story. So in spite of my misgivings, I'd still recommend it to anyone who likes a good gory thriller.


Survival of the Fittest: Alex Delaware 12
Survival of the Fittest: Alex Delaware 12
Price: 5.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but still well worth a read, 6 July 2012
I am a great fan of Jonathan Kellerman and have read all his books, including this one, a number of times. What do I like about The Butcher's Theatre? Well, the descriptions of Jerusalem for one; Kellerman really captures the sights, sounds and smells of the city. And I love the main character, Daniel Sharavi (who also appears in one of Kellerman's later books, `Survival of the Fittest'), and his family - the descriptions of Sharavi's wife Laura, his children and his father, Yehesqel, give their characters and their home life real substance and charm. I also liked Sharavi's friends, Gene and Luanne Brooker - the former a detective in LA (the character also appears in `Survival of the Fittest') who helps Sharavi track down the Grinning Man, who is butchering (literally) Arab women in an attempt to start a race war (much like Charles Manson and `Helter Skelter'; this theme also recurs in another of Kellerman's books, `Time Bomb'). We are given some insight into what drives the Grinning Man through his personal history, narrated from his point of view as a counterpoint to the police investigation in Israel.

So why only four stars? Well, I hate to say this, because I do admire Kellerman's writing in general, but what disturbed me about this book was the horribly racist attitude towards the Arabs. One would expect ambiguity because of Kellerman's background (he is Jewish, and his wife, Faye Kellerman - whose books I also love - writes about an orthodox Jewish detective in LA; I am entranced by her descriptions of Jewish home life at its best, as well as - occasionally - at its worst). But the extent of his prejudice is shocking in someone whose writing generally displays great compassion and tolerance. The Arabs in this book are reduced to stereotypes (lazy, deceitful, whining, contemptuous of women) - apart from the Arab detective, Daoud (who is a Christian - couldn't have a sympathetic Muslim character, could we?) the Arabs in this book display no redeeming characteristics. Kellerman trashes T.E. Lawrence's romanticised view of the Bedouin, yet Kellerman himself displays no real knowledge or understanding of them (as an antidote, one might try reading the work of westerners who have actually lived among the Bedouin, such as H.R.P. Dickson, or Wilfrid Thesiger, or Gertrude Bell, who entrusted her life to them many times in dangerous situations). I have Jewish friends, and I have Arab friends, and I love both cultures, so Kellerman's depiction of the Arabs is really painful for me. For a psychologist (Kellerman's profession before he turned to writing) Kellerman seems to have no insight into his own prejudices. Maybe he really believes Arabs are like that; heaven knows, Arabs have been portrayed negatively in American (and to a lesser extent British) culture for many decades. But Kellerman seems oblivious to the lesson the Nazis (and centuries of anti-Semitism and any other kind of racism before them) have taught us: demonise people, portray them as contemptible, and this provides one with an excuse for treating them badly. One of the characters in the book, the Israeli detective Schmeltzer, despises the Arabs for their ingratitude for all the Israelis have done for them. Say what? For real insight into how the Arab community is affected by local politics read the Omar Yussef mysteries by Matt Rees. You certainly won't find such insight in `The Butcher's Theatre'.

True, the portrayal of the Jewish community is not all positive: the Hasidim (ultra-orthodox) in their more extreme forms also get a fair bit of kicking. But I feel the whole premise on which the book is based (the provocation of a race-war by a rabid anti-Semite) is weakened by the anti-Arab sentiments: we should care that both sides would suffer, not just one.

In spite of this, I still like this book. If you disregard the stereotypes as just that, this is a cracking good story. So in spite of my misgivings, I'd still recommend it to anyone who likes a good gory thriller.


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