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A Brief History of the Amazons: Women Warriors in Myth and History (Brief Histories)
A Brief History of the Amazons: Women Warriors in Myth and History (Brief Histories)
by Lyn Webster Wilde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The Amazons - a very good overview, 26 Mar. 2016
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It's hard to read more than a few pages of this book at a time, because it is densely filled with ideas and suggestions which need time to integrate themselves before we press on. Lyn Webster Wilde summons up a dazzling vision of how women could be, what they were, in the Bronze Age, those eras before writing started.
She combines an admirable crusade to visit in person the places which may have been home to the Amazons (and some are quite difficult to reach), and to meet and question the archaeologists who have been labouring to excavate and understand the cultures of those long-lost days, with a very accessible overview linking everything together through a long period of time and over vast distances.
We start to feel what it must have been like - in what is now Anatolia, or the Ukraine, or in Crete, or north Africa - to be part of the ancient matrilocal world, and see it crumble as patriarchal and violent incomers and their heroes swept the old cultures away. The goddesses became consorts, the queens became priestesses, females gave up being warriors and became possessions, the essential female spirit of shakti is subverted to domesticity and pornography.
She discusses ancient places, shards of pottery, surviving vases and other images, jewellery, weapons, burials, myths, legends, religious practices and more, to explain how the powerful female principles were driven underground, into the dark, so that heroes and gods could take over, and men could rule the world. She refers to one event in particular as a rich example: one final small band of Amazons led by Penthesilea has escaped to Troy and are fighting on the Trojan side against the Greeks. Penthesilea launches herself against Achilles himself, but even her courage and skill are no match for this heroic fighting machine. He kills her with his spear, and then wrenches off her helmet to reveal her face - and falls in love with her... The story survives in various versions like an echo of a lost opera.
It's plain there was not just one group of 'Amazons'. The matriarchal and matrilocal nature of life was widespread, but now nearly extinguished. This book gives a broad overview of a fascinating subject, and is one to read and re-read, and keep on the reference shelf.

Evolution: The Whole Story
Evolution: The Whole Story
by Steve Parker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.56

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life on Earth!, 23 Oct. 2015
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Full and fascinating account of life on earth. Wonderful photos and illustrations.
One tiny quibble - it's very heavy, because it has so much in it, but not easy to read in bed!
Brilliant browsing and a serious reference book.
Would suit anyone from a small child who loves dinosaurs through to college-level researchers.
One of my best buys this year. Thoroughly recommended.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good knife, 15 July 2015
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Very nicely made knife, very sharp. Well packed and promptly delivered.

Wolf Garten DAS Multi-Change Soil Miller
Wolf Garten DAS Multi-Change Soil Miller
Offered by Price Attack Ltd
Price: £26.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars v pleased with the tool and its design, 14 May 2015
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Works very well indeed, v pleased with the tool and its design.
Unfortunately it was quite difficult unwrapping the long handle which was tightly bound in bubble-wrap and sticky tape and in trying to cut that off, I damaged the handle with my snippers - two or three scars or scratches on the surface. This does not affect the efficiency of the tool, but I was sad about it (damaged before it was even unwrapped) and cross with myself for having done it.

Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dickens would have something to say, 30 July 2012
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This review is from: Capital (Kindle Edition)
First, I want to get a big grumble out of the way. I thought the point of buying books on Kindle was that they'd be cheaper - after all, no paper, no print costs, no transport costs, etc., and an infinitely repeatable selling process. I had to get this because it was the chosen book for my reading group, and it was as I clicked the button I realised I was paying an eye-watering £9 for it. Ouch!!!!
Still that is probably not John Lanchester's fault.
I read this in 2 days, so it works as a page-turner, but I admit I was skipping through a lot of it.
I loved the prologue, found it pacy and exhilarating.
We are given a quick history of a typical south London street called Pepys Road, and an insight into the lives of people living and working in the various houses. We have a slice into the cake of time - Petunia (the only person still living in the street from 'the old days'), Roger - a handsome banker and his ghastly wife Arabella, a Pakistani family running the corner shop, a Polish builder and decorator, an illegal immigrant from Zimbabwe working as a parking warden, etc. etc. You get the picture.
Lanchester reaches into one or two of the modern horrors of life in London: the deluded life of the investment bankers, a prison cell in Paddington Green police station, how it is to die of cancer, the loneliess of so many people.
I found it very easy to distinguish each character as they pop up, no mean feat when so many stories are interwoven.
But - one of the main precepts about writing a novel is: Show, don't tell. That is, let the reader deduce for him or herself what is going on, understand the inner world of the protagonists or their predicaments. For the most part, Mr Lanchester exercises all his authorial powers and tells us everything, often resorting to lists of things or ideas. The dialogue plays relatively little part in moving the story on, but merely shows us that his characters can and do talk sometimes. So, I was left with the feeling that this is a book written by a very good journalist, who has diligently researched what goes on inside banking houses, or in the studios of famous artists, or in police stations, and then described it for us.
There are one or two very serious or sad situations in this book, but nowhere did I feel myself getting angry about them, which I think would have happened if Charles Dickens had taken this on. Dickens seems to be the inspiration for this book, or maybe Mayhew - in other words, a work of fiction revealing some of the modern horrors which we suspect are still there in our capital city. But it's not shocking enough.
Still, I enjoyed this book, and so did my book group. It would make a good holiday read, but it's unlikely to get you writing to your MP about how immigrants are treated in those impersonal holding pens while they wait for the vagaries of 'justice' to determine their fate. In the end, we have been shown a little bit of the lives of various not-very-interesting people, chosen or created for their typical-ness. Pepys Road itself stands out as a bit of a hero - but, where is it? who cares? The staggering rise in the price of the houses is not news any more.

Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese
Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese
Price: £6.49

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mani, 30 July 2012
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I knew about this book for years, but was only prompted to read it when we went on holiday to the Mani last year, staying in one of the fabled tower-houses which Leigh Fermor writes about with such gusto. His visit to the region was in the early 50s, before there was a road down the peninsular. The Mani is the central rocky spine of the three great fingers which reach down towards Crete from the near-island of the Peloponese in western Greece.
Its terrifying mountain remoteness and harsh landscape meant that throughout history, this part of Greece was almost completely undeveloped. From ancient times, the Cretans, Hellenes, Romans, Turks, Venetians, Greeks, French, British, Germans, etc all just went round it, and it became a haven for runaways, bandits, pirates, ruffians, warlords and fighting men. It was never really conquered, being too difficult and 'not worth it'.
The resulting breed of truculence and resourcefulness, violence and pride was remarkable.
One outcome of this was the construction of houses in which families sought to out-do each other by routinely smashing their neighbours' dwellings in any way they could. Apart from periods of truce, such as harvest-time or weddings, and safe passage for doctors, women and children, any man seen out of doors at any time of day was fair game to be shot at, stoned or otherwise violently attacked.
It was always an advantage to have your house taller than your neighbours, so you could rain rocks down onto their rooftops. No-one would have an ordinary door into their house - rather, the entrance would be a tiny hidden ingress, giving into a narrow or low space, so that enemies could not storm in. Getting upstairs to the sleeping quarters or cool rooftops would be by rope ladders, which could be drawn up for safety.
These houses look like pretty English church towers from a distance, but were in fact hornets' nests of extreme personal violence, so that the little villages clustered on the dry rocky mountain sides were solidified personal warzones. Leigh Fermor found that the hostility and suspicion of one village for its near neighbour was of almost mythic proportion, and this within living memory.
The book is brilliantly written, by an Englishman who loved the Greeks, spoke their language and dialects fluently, took a heroic part in their resistance to German occupation in the last World War, and chose to live there once the war was over. His recent death led to an announcement that his house will become a cultural shrine and museum.
This is a truly marvellous book, written at the last moments when this ancient and remarkable way of life was just coming to an end. His visits along the inhospitable and rugged coast, with his wife, by rowing boat along the sea and on foot or by donkey up into the ravines and cliffs, gave him the chance to report on an astonishingly other-worldly way of life right on the edge of Europe.
Now, of course, there is a road which leads all the way south from Calamata down to the tip of the Mani, with some of the consequent trappings of hotels, tavernas, buses, tourists, art galleries, etc etc.
But you can still wander round the villages with their brutal tower houses - now often left in ruinous condition and uninhabited except for very old ladies who glare at you as you go by. And you can see where some of the old gods and goddesses held court - deep caves, hidden springs, desolate temples. And you can go freely into literally dozens of crumbling orthodox churches with astonishing frescoes of Christian divines. And you can try walking up the steep mountain paths among the olive groves, and imagine what it was like for farmers trying to screw a living out of the rocks when your neighbours were intent on shooting you at any hour of day. And you can see the tiny beautiful springs with their little grottoes of rocks and basins, now all too often dried up because of the scale of modern water-extraction from the mountains.
Do go to the Mani if you can. But if you can't, then read this terrific book. Then go.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 30, 2013 5:39 AM GMT

Kind of Cruel: Culver Valley Crime Book 7
Kind of Cruel: Culver Valley Crime Book 7
Price: £5.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Family thriller, 30 July 2012
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I heard this novel reviewed on the radio and bought it for reading on holiday. It did the job.
The gradual uncovering of a sick personality in a family context is perhaps not such an unusual situation; the idea of 'the mad woman in the attic' touches a nerve.
In this case, the malevolence comes from someone with a narcissistic personality, in which a cold and unrelenting viewpoint overwhelms any other relationship, and all other lives or experiences are of no account whatsoever.
I did not identify what was going on until quite a long way into the book, found myself puzzled and troubled by the scenario presented, which was quite a pleasant experience.
But having a friend who actually has a parent with this kind of personality, and seeing how utterly ruthless and manipulative a narcissist can be in real life , I thought the book does offer a chilling insight into the pain and distortion this can lead to.
I used to think that psychopaths were the most frightening kind of personality disorder, but narcissism must come pretty close.
This book is easy to read, compelling, a page-turner, and mystifying.

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
Price: £5.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Things ARE getting better, 30 July 2012
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If you listen to the news, it's hard not to get depressed about how awful things are in the world - war, famine, poverty, ecological disaster, climate change, pollution, global warming, etc etc.
But this book shows that actually, and perhaps counter-intuitively, things are actually getting steadily better in the world as a whole.
For more people, in more places, the indicators of improvement are gradually consolidating and growing - the defeat of childhood diseases, life expectancy and longevity, family incomes, standards of education, travel, growth of democracy or electoral freedom, life choices, and so on.
Each chapter gives statistics and references, and seems to be very thorough. The graphics are easy to understand.
No doubt the book is written from a right-wing-ish point of view, but it's a good antidote to the relentless gloom and doom of the media, which can only survive on bad news and disaster. It does not gloss over the difficulties still faced by too many people, but it provides a viewpoint over time, and not just responding to each crisis or peril as it happens.
In some ways, this is a rather shocking book. There is such a clumpish mass of received opinion about what's wrong in the world, and I have found it is quite hard to challenge the set views about it all, but this book attempts to do that.
It does not say things are 'good' or even 'good enough' but it does say things are getting better - for lots of people, in lots of ways, in lots of places.
I found it an invigorating read, and I wish I had bought it as a 3D version, and not on Kindle, where the whole footnote/indexing/referencing systems are so clunky.

Anticancer: A New Way of Life
Anticancer: A New Way of Life
by David Servan-Schreiber
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful, 30 July 2012
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When I was given the diagnosis of breast cancer last year, I shrank from 'researching' my condition on the internet, as that seemed to be too 'intellectual' and brain-based, and also I realised there would be an avalanche of information and opinion out there - too much for me to process. I wanted to nourish my emotional self and find out more about my body - what I could do to help myself get well.
Someone who had gone through the same as me a year or so before told me about this book, and I bought it. I found it immensely helpful.
Here we have a doctor, born and raised in France but working as a researcher in the United States, inadvertently discovering his own brain tumour and shocked to realise he is not treated as a doctor but as the totally passive recipient of a process of surgery, drugs, chemotherapy, etc.
When he asked what he could do to help his condition, he was told there was nothing he could do.
With his French/European cultural basis, this seemed to him to be quite wrong and he set out to research everything he could find about how his own choices and actions might improve his chances and his quality of life.
The book is therefore a humane and brave personal statement as well as a useful and highly informed guide to nutrition and self-care, and timely in its rejection of a passive or victim-like reaction to the diagnosis of cancer. It tackles full on the culture in which the food industry takes no responsibility for our health, and the medical/drugs industry takes no notice of nutrition as a means to acquire or maintain health.
With the help of this book I have changed my diet, kept up my morale, improved my daily life, and refused to be medicalised since my successful surgery. I am not a Luddite against medicines when they are needed, but I am deeply sceptical of a colossally powerful industry in which each pharmaceutical remedy has side-effects which then require further remedies, and each toxic treatment produces more and more horrible and debilitating side-effects.
The author gives a comprehensive reference section, including the famous 'China Syndrome' study and in fact I gave my first copy to my surgeon - I am not sure he read it, but it was my opportunity to try to change the working of the great panjandrum of modern medicine, which has become a 'sickness' service rather than a health service.
So far, I am well and would not have done anything different if I was in the same position again. For me, this book is an uplifting guide to anyone seeking an intelligent response to the dreaded diagnosis. I see it received a very good review from the Daily Mail when it was first published. It's all too easy to become part of the great sausage-machine of cancer treatment - 'cut, burn and poison' they call it (surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy). Meanwhile, our bodies are totally miraculous in their ability to self-regulate and heal - and anything we can do to understand what we can do to help is a good thing.
As an example: We have a diet high in dairy foods - and we are the only animal which continues to eat milk or milk products after infancy and using milk from other species, particularly cows. As a breast-cancer patient, for me, this relationship with milk has taken on a new focus. If you are eating beef or dairy products from cows fed on corn or soya instead of grass, you should know that their bodies are severely stressed on that (for them) un-natural diet, so their balance of omega-3, 6, 9 etc is wrong, and we are therefore taking in a food which is out of balance too. You can avoid that by eating only grass-fed beef products, or changing to (say) goats' milk because the farm diet of goats is less stressful to them, or avoiding beef and cow-dairy products.
The author writes lyrically about how cows were/are raised in his native Normandy - something I have seen for myself, where the animals are treated with respect and affection, and the milk, butter and cheeses produced there are works of art as much as anything else, in the artisan food sector.
I really do recommend this book. I have bought a new copy for myself and use it for browsing and for self-renewal. It has helped me out of any kind of victim-state I might have fallen into. People remarked on how resilient I was in my response to the diagnosis and treatment I had, and how well I look. This book is in large part responsible. It showed me how I could take a really active part in my own recovery, and gave me confidence when going to see my doctors and questioning them about their recommended treatments.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2013 5:11 PM GMT

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