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A Fine Balance
A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars A fine balance (between three and four stars), 8 Sept. 2011
This review is from: A Fine Balance (Paperback)
I wish I could give this book five stars. It has all the elements of a Great Novel - a group of interesting characters, beautiful writing and set in a time and place people should know more about. But I can't.

I read this book while travelling through India and never got bored of it. That's a start. The writing is very, very good and the novel flows properly. There aren't overlong chapters or extended descriptions in order to increase the word count. This book is long because it needs to be rather than because the writer thought it should be. The characters are also well developed and realistic. But there's a catch.

For all the good points, this book is a collection of miseries which increase almost exponentially as the book progresses until a denouement which tops them all. If the reader's capacity for misery-taking were to be plotted on a graph against time, the graph would show a steep downward slope descending ultimately to despair. Too much? Maybe.

This book was a strange read for me, I enjoyed the language but not the story itself. Rohinton Mistry is undoubtedly a great writer but not (in this book at least) a great storyteller. For a Great Novel you need to be great at both. Meh-commended.


Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial
Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial
by Simon Singh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important book., 13 Feb. 2010
Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst are a formidable team and apply incredible rigour to the plethora of alternative medication available to the public. They analyse in detail acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic therapy and herbal medicine and their conclusions are not pleasant for those in the alternative medicine community. They make several important points about the nature of alternative medicine and why it is so popular even though the science behind them can be deconstructed by schoolchildren. I found the book useful, interesting and erudite. Highly reccommended.


Medical School Interviews: A Practical Guide to Help You Get That Place at Medical School - Over 150 Questions Analysed
Medical School Interviews: A Practical Guide to Help You Get That Place at Medical School - Over 150 Questions Analysed
by George Lee
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and very useful., 11 Feb. 2010
As a medical school applicant, I found this book incredibly useful during interview preparation. It does not present the answers to the reader but merely stimulates thought and gives useful information that an average medical school applicant may not know. The only problem is the slightly raised price tag. Nevertheless this is the only book you will ever need for interview preparation. Highly reccommended.


Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need to Know About It
Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need to Know About It
by Simon Singh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top class popular science., 11 Feb. 2010
Simon Singh is a physicist by nature and so it is apt that has finally published a book about physics (his previous two books deal with mathematics and cryptology). The first thing I noticed was that this book is substantially larger than his other books, although initally wary, I started to read. The book's length suddenly became no problem, the writing style propelled me through it at an incredible pace. Singh makes the reader understand initially complex ideas - which is no simple feat.

The book essentially charts one of the simplest, yet trickiest question of all - 'how did the universe begin?' The author tackles this by examining, chronologically, the progress of scientific thought. He also provides the reader with an important lesson in the nature of science i.e. how evidence is the driving force of scientific progress. The book then moves on to talk about the two competing theories for the emergence of the universe. The author never patronises the reader, but explains clearly the merits of both theories and the eventual paradigm shift towards the title of the book.

I really enjoyed reading this book, I can't remember a dull momemnt. This book is a top class example of how difficult scientific concepts can be made simple, accessible and enjoyable. Highly reccommended.


Fermat's Last Theorem
Fermat's Last Theorem
by Simon Singh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest popular science books., 11 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Fermat's Last Theorem (Paperback)
It is a commonly referenced rule in journalism and writing, 'for every equation one adds to the text, one loses half of their readers.' However with Simon Singh's magnum opus, this is not the case. In fact, this one equation is so enigmatic that I would predict the opposite of the aforementioned rule.

The basis of this book is to explore the history of Fermat's Last Theorem - which in essence is to explore variation of indices in the famous Pythagorean equation. This equation is taught to school children yet the subtle variation that Fermat proposed has baffled the greatest mathematicians of the last four centuries. It encompasses a fascinating story about the dedication, imagination and frustration of finding a proof to this unexpectedly complicated conjecture.

Simon Singh is an incredibly talented science writer, he explains complex mathematical ideas in simple prose but never patronises the reader. He explores the stories surrounding the mathematicians - all of whom are inextricably linked to Fermat's Theorem - in a humourous and interesting manner.

Most of all, this book finally launched mathematical science writing into the mainstream. Modern mathematics is exceedingly difficult to understand but Simon Singh has proved that it is possible to appreciate mathematical work without a detailed understanding of it. Above all this book is about a young child's ambition to prove a theorem that eluded the greatest thinkers of countless generations. Highly reccommended.


Midnight's Children
Midnight's Children
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest work of fiction I have read., 7 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Midnight's Children (Paperback)
Salman Rushdie is a hero to some, a villain to some but a great writer to many. His works are searing, majesterial and beautiful and his grand opus is Midnight's Children. The story is of Saleem Sinai, a 'midnight child', who forms a group of similar, magic individuals all imbued with certain gifts on the stroke of independence. The book outlines the life of Saleem and all the perils and pains of being a truly gifted child. The story is wrought with emotion and symbolism, religion and spiritualism.

The writing is exceptional, beautiful turn of phrase follows profound metaphor, one feels humbled to be in its presence. Good writers make you want to write like them, great writers make you feel incapable of writing itself - and Rushdie is one of the latter.

The book is a challenge however. It is not a 'beach read,' and rightly so. It requires committment and perseverance and it took me a whole month to finish it. However, I never wanted to give up reading it, and neither should you. I heartily reccommend this magnificient work - if you give it time and have patience, you will be rewarded with a great read.


Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind
Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind
by V.S. Ramachandran
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong, but could be shorter., 7 Feb. 2010
VS Ramachandran is a highly respected neurologist whose body of research is vast. This book tries to cover the majority of it, with some metaphysics and psychology added as well. Although I very much enjoyed the initial chapters of the book (the ones dealing with neurological patients and understanding how us 'normal' people function by understanding the dysfunction in their conditions) towards the end I felt that Ramachandran wavered from the initial excitement to a more mellow, hazy abstraction on matters of philosophy.

Ramachandran understands the implications of all of his research in understanding how consciousness manifests itself. However, he tries too hard to form a grand unified 'neuroscientific metaphysics.'He also tries to use neurological means to substantiate personal beliefs and much of his hypotheses (he does emphasize the speculative nature of his theories, one must say) are currently tenuous. I suspect that he perhaps reduced the level of complexity of many of his theories to satisfy the layman and this is unfortunate if true.

To summarise, there are numerous positive points about this book e.g. the brilliant analysis of phantom limbs and the pratical solutions associated with it, the incredibly erudite and interesting exploration of neurological deficits in patients and therefore the improvement in understanding how our brains work and finally the substantial notes section in the back of the book for an interested reader. I must also say that the writing style is excellent, both engaging and humorous. However, I feel that Ramachandran has tried to extend his theories too far in the latter section of the book. They seem highly speculative and beyond the realm of conventional science at the moment.

Therefore, I reccommend that any individual may buy this to savour those early chapters however be wary of the latter three or four chapters.


The Wire: Complete HBO Season 2 [DVD] [2005]
The Wire: Complete HBO Season 2 [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Dominic West
Offered by MediaMine
Price: £9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible., 14 Jun. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
David Simon intended from the start of The Wire for their to be 5 seasons, like 5 acts in a Shakespearean play except the play is real life. This season tracks the effect of the drug trade of the docks of Baltimore along with the effects on the unions that run them. It is multi-layered and intelligent without being at all patronising. It doesn't neatly round off at the end of each episode and it is never the predictable Hollywood TV drama. It has a novel-like structure with the plot slowly unfolding and leading to a season conclusion, however by saying this I make it sound incredibly dull. It is not. After the first episode it had me hooked and within three days I had watched the rest of the series. It would be silly not to buy such an amazing series. Highly recommended.


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