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Marius Gabriel "Author" (London)

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Once Upon a Time Live in South America (4 cd set)
Once Upon a Time Live in South America (4 cd set)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £25.83

4.0 out of 5 stars For hardcore ELP fans, exhilarating music, excellent sound quality, let down by flimsy packaging & a limited selection of songs., 1 July 2015
This is obviously aimed at hardcore ELP fans, pretty much coming down to four versions of the same concert, recorded at different venues in South America -- or looked at another way, two or three live versions of their best tracks, differing in length and improvisation, put together as four collections, a total of almost five hours of music.

Musically, this is a great set, with excellent sound quality, but it loses a star for me for three reasons -- flimsy packaging (a great shame for a 4-CD collection), a high price (considering the packaging) and finally (I know this is unfair) because of the number of repeated tracks. Considering the vast range of ELP tracks to choose from, this is a limited selection. But it is what it is.

Recommended to ELP fans, but not a good place to start if you're new to this historic band.

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
Price: £5.70

3.0 out of 5 stars As addictive as a bag of cheap sweets, and leaving the same kind of aftertaste., 18 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a hell of a performance for a first novel. But in the way of first novels, it's uneven, and at the end one finds oneself hoping the author will try again, challenging her undoubted talent to produce something better and more original next time.

And, in the way of first novel bestsellers, one gets the impression of a big publishing house rushing breathlessly into print before the thorough editing and mature consideration which might have turned this into a much better reading experience.

It's not just that the characters are all unattractive in the extreme, and the plot nonexistent: the big problem for me was that this is much too static a novel. Scenes were repeated too many times without bringing the story forward, none of the characters developed in any interesting way, and both the beginning and the ending were clangingly formulaic.

But the middle section -- yes, that was as addictive as cheap sweets, and for a while it keeps one digging avidly into the bag. The penalty is a feeling of rather nasty stickiness when the bag empties.

I finished the book with the thought that Paula Hawkins really has something, and the hope that she makes more of it in her next book.

Atheism After Christendom: Unbelief in an Age of Encounter
Atheism After Christendom: Unbelief in an Age of Encounter
by Simon Perry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book. Brilliantly readable, witty and thought-provoking., 18 Jun. 2015
Dr Simon Perry is a dangerous man. I am pretty sure that in previous incarnations, Dr Perry was made to drink hemlock in Athens, burned at the heretic's stake, and probably locked up in the Bastille.

In his present incarnation, he leads an apparently blameless life as the chaplain of a Cambridge University college, but don't be deceived. Dr Perry is a muscular Christian, and possessed of a brilliant, supple mind of the sort treasured by the Jesuits. (Ah, what a loss to the SJ when Dr Perry became a Baptist!)

Having issued this warning to disbelievers, I can't remember when I last enjoyed a book so much, or was more stimulated by one.

Dr Perry has set out to trace the history of atheism over the past two millennia -- not the fuzzy agnosticism of the man in the pub, but the sort of hard-core unbelief that is essentially, as Dr Perry argues, a reaction against religious or political tyranny.

A refusal to accept the status quo, a willingness to use one's own mind, and resulting intellectual progress have always been, Dr Perry argues, the hallmarks of atheism in every age.

The era of Christendom (emphasis on the 'dom' and not so much on the 'Christ') is Dr Perry's main focus, but he ranges far and wide. He elucidates and demystifies a formidable collection of philosophers and theologians, from Socrates to Martin Luther, from Descartes and Nietzsche to Dawkins and Singer. But Dr Perry wears his considerable erudition lightly, making this an extraordinarily readable and (in many places) witty book. I found myself laughing aloud several times, not something one would expect from a book entitled 'Atheism After Christendom: Disbelief in an Age of Encounter.'

And this is an important book, which deserves a wide audience. I have never wished to be a bishop until now; were I one, I would endorse this book to clergy and laity alike. It should be read by Christians, freethinkers and atheists. It's not just a history of religion and reformation, it's also a history of western thought, with a number of fascinating asides and conclusions, as well as (quite casually) a brilliant essay on how to read the Scriptures in the 21st century.

Atheism, of course, is alive, well, and still kicking hard. And though Christendom may have disintegrated in Europe, in the United States a form of it still holds sway. What Dr Perry does is not merely ask whether atheism still has a future, now that God has been pronounced dead, but what churches and believers can learn from the atheists.

At a time when appalling horrors are all around us, when we have the first Jesuit Pope preaching tolerance among humans and respect for the world they live in, and when a whirlwind of fundamentalism approaches from the east, this book will strike resonances with many readers. As the clever cover design suggests, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Very highly recommended.

Midori Spring Organic Ceremonial Matcha - Gold Class - Premium Japanese Green Tea Matcha Powder [Certified USDA Organic, Vegan, Kosher] (30g)
Midori Spring Organic Ceremonial Matcha - Gold Class - Premium Japanese Green Tea Matcha Powder [Certified USDA Organic, Vegan, Kosher] (30g)
Offered by Life & Food Amz Uk
Price: £29.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smooth, creamy, beautifully flavoured Japanese tea -- highest quality Matcha., 8 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This makes a lovely cup of green Japanese tea, either for tea ceremony purposes, or as a health-giving drink.

Absolutely top-quality Matcha, I have not had better, even in Japan.

The high price reflects the quality.

Highly recommended to all lovers of Japanese tea.

Gourmesso Flavor Bundle - 60 Nespresso ® Compatible Coffee Capsules / Pods
Gourmesso Flavor Bundle - 60 Nespresso ® Compatible Coffee Capsules / Pods
Offered by Gourmesso
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars One star off for the Caramello, but the rest are excellent, and we will be back for more!, 8 Jun. 2015
I was given a sample of these to try. Overall, these were surprisingly good and enjoyable.

The only one which wasn't popular was the Caramello. It was subtle, slightly nutty, but we disliked the flavour, which got sickly after a few sips.

Cioccolato had a malted, Horlicks-ey flavour and was very nice.

Vaniglia was mild, and very enjoyable.

Nocciola was among the best, deliciously nutty with a strong hazelnut flavour.

Bolivia pura mezzo also excellent, a great breakfast coffee, with good strong flavour & aroma.

House blend espresso was mild and subtle.

So one star off for the Caramello, but the rest are excellent, and we will be back for more!

Drones [Explicit]
Drones [Explicit]
Price: £9.49

16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding, landmark album by a great British rock group who simply get better and better., 8 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Drones [Explicit] (MP3 Download)
The death of Freddie Mercury and the subsequent effective demise of Queen left a huge gap in the field of intelligent British rock music. There have been a few pretenders to the crown, but none of them have been very convincing -- until Muse.

The band from Teignmouth, Devon, have been garlanded with awards: a Mercury Prize nomination, five MTV Europe Music Awards, six Q Awards, eight NME Awards, two Brit Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, four Kerrang! Awards and an American Music Award. They've also been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and are guaranteed of more Grammy nominations for "Drones."

"Drones" is the very best Muse offering yet, an astonishing album, musically sophisticated, politically aware, showcasing a huge range of talent.

I don't usually take the lyrics or "message" of rock songs very seriously, but Muse are an exception.

The use of a fascinating historic sound track on "JFK" points up the political commentary on the cultivation of a state of constant paranoia.

In "Defector," Muse celebrate whisteblowers like Edward Snowden, who have stood against the mass-manipulation of intelligence gathering.

"Drones" is a call for the re-humanization of our society ("Show me mercy from the powers that be").

Other themes of this album are the dehumanization of a world which is constantly at war ("The Handler"), brainwashing ("Psycho"), the turning of young people into killing machines ("Drill Sergeant") and the industrialization of warfare ("Reapers").

All these themes may be familiar, but they are worth listening to and thinking about.

At the end of the day, however, it is the music which counts, and this album is an absolute blast.

Matthew Bellamy's unearthly vocals are sometimes reminiscent of the supernatural moaning of Radiohead's Thom Yorke (especially on "The Handler"), or the fragility of Jeff Buckley ("Aftermath"), or even the power of Freddie Mercury ("Dead Inside").

A classical music influence has always been a feature of Muse. It has to be said that "Drones" is more rock-oriented than previous albums, except for the title track, which is an amazing, Palestrina-like, acappella lament for a society which has progressed far enough to be able to kill its enemies by remote control at a distance of thousands of miles.

Very tight arrangements and a blistering pace on tracks like "Reapers" make this an indie album with a big sound which will never work as background music. There are also echoes of Queen in the tight harmonies, thundering bass lines, and soaring leads on guitars and synthesizers. Muse have established themselves among the very best groups of our time.

This an outstanding record by a great British rock group who simply get better and better. Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2015 3:54 PM BST

The Life of Mansie Wauch Tailor in Dalkeith, written by himself
The Life of Mansie Wauch Tailor in Dalkeith, written by himself
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A hard-to-obtain comic masterpiece. Delightful 19th Century Scottish dialect novel., 6 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Many, many thanks are due to the people who compiled this almost-forgotten early-19th Century novel for Kindle.

"The Life Of Mansie Wauch" was celebrated in its day (1828) as a comic masterpiece. It was very influential -- even Dickens imitated its opening section in the first pages of Martin Chuzzlewit -- and so popular that pirated editions sold like hotcakes.

It is still one of the cleverest and funniest works in Scottish dialect. Describing a semi-fictional, late-18th century childhood, it is an account of rural Lowland life and ways. The episode known as "The Laird's Feast" was singled out by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch as one of the great short stories of the world. Almost 200 years later, it is still a delight to read. The book is full of life, wit, and wonderful words.

This free Kindle edition is very much appreciated. Highly recommended.

Big Love
Big Love
Price: £8.29

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, undemanding, pleasant album which will please a lot of listeners. Great to see a British success., 1 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Big Love (MP3 Download)
Over a couple of decades now, Simply Red has boiled down to what Mick Hucknall describes as "essentially a solo project." They/he have been one of the most enduringly successful British pop phenomena.

A tendency to blandness was present from early days, and has led to Hucknall being criticized by the sort of listeners who also despise Barry Manilow, Christopher Cross and Lionel Richie. However, there are a lot of people who love this kind of music. And Hucknall is very, very good at what he does.

After an official "retirement," Simply Red have returned with a new collection of love-songs.

Hucknall himself (now 54) croons through the songs without effort. Now and then there is a flash of his husky, soulful side, but it is getting rarer. One tendency with being "essentially a solo project" is that, lacking strong contributions from different band members, the life can go out of the music; and this shows in some of the arrangements on this album, which are more like karaoke tracks for the lead singer than funky grooves.

Tracks like "Daydreaming," "Love Wonders," and the title track, "Big Love," are classic SR. "Dad" is probably the best song on the album, followed by "Coming Home," and "The Old Man And The Beer," in all of which Hucknall pays more attention to his singing, and approximates the quality of the material he produced for his first five or six albums.

Simply Red have sold 50 million albums in their career, and this one is bound to do well. It's easy on the ear, and makes very few demands on the listener. It, and the tour, will be sell-outs.

Expect this to be a big hit with the fans, and good luck to it. It's great to see a British success in pop music.

Einstein: His Space and Times (Jewish Lives)
Einstein: His Space and Times (Jewish Lives)
by Steven Gimbel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise, lucid and brief, an introduction to Einstein's social and religious milieu., 30 May 2015
Einstein and Freud are among the most popular subjects for biographers. Many hundreds of books have been published about each over the past half-century, and with a few exceptions, there appears to be little new biographical material left to produce.

Steven Gimbel's book contains no new research. Rather, it attempts to round up what has already been written, and to relate Einstein's life and work to his Jewishness.

As with Freud, there is only so far one can go along this road. That each was proud of his Jewishness as a "racial" trait, without being overtly religious, is well-known. That each was subjected to antisemitism, especially in Germany, and that each viewed with horror the rise of Nazism and German militarism, are also in no doubt; nor is there any doubt that persecution compelled each man to consider his Jewishness more self-consciously than he might otherwise have done.

It is also likely that each inherited from his milieu a humanistic outlook which could be considered specifically Jewish in some senses. This can be overstated, of course, to the point of caricature (Einstein's first words, in an apocryphal account, were that the chicken soup was too hot) but we can understand this argument.

The Nazis and their supporters in the scientific community considered general relativity "a Jewish idea," and Einstein's mind was said to show a "semitic" cast, and this entrenched antisemitism, though regarded with ironic amusement by Einstein himself, delayed acceptance of the new ideas. Even among those who supported him, Einstein (like Freud) was confronted with familiar prejudices -- that Jews are cleverer than, or more cunning than, Gentiles. He himself rejected such ideas.

The strengths of the book are that it is short (I don't mean that ironically), extremely lucid, and eminently sensible. As a brief biography of a great Jew, it hits its mark accurately, and I think will find a place on many shelves. Gimbel is particularly good at explaining Einstein's evolving theories, and his struggles with the new ideas which came out of his remarkable mind.

There are, of course, more comprehensive (and much longer) biographies available, and though they all discuss Einstein's Jewishness to some extent, Gimbel's book is unique in that it attempts to explain how Einstein saw himself as a Jew.

Drawing on fascinating statements made by Einstein at various points of his life, Gimbel traces a relationship between Einstein and Judaism that was at times distant, even antagonistic, but which was indelibly marked, in the end, by persecution, the Holocaust and the World War. Of especial interest is the conflict Einstein felt between his Talmudic humanism and the fearsome weapon which his research helped to create.

His relationship with Zionism as a political ideal is of also particular interest, and here Gimbel does an excellent job of explaining Einstein's unique viewpoint. Einstein visited Palestine and worked energetically for the cause of a Jewish homeland over the course of his life, but was opposed to nationalism, aggression and land-seizures. This meant that more determined Zionists regarded him as something of a loose cannon. He was offered the Presidency of the newly-formed state of Israel, but turned it down. His view of Judaism was essentially secular and humanistic, and he was appalled by injustice of any kind.

As with all short biographies intended for a lay audience, more photographs would have been especially welcome.

A valuable book, particularly recommended to young Jewish readers and those interested in Jewish intellectualism in the 20th Century.

An Unnecessary Woman
An Unnecessary Woman
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cultured, deeply touching literary masterpiece., 26 May 2015
There was no reason to write this book, just as there was no reason for its main character, solitary, erudite and self-sufficient Aaliya Saleh, to translate a great European novel into Arabic each year, and store the manuscript away from all other eyes. No reason, that is, other than the love of literature for its own sake.

I can't remember when I last enjoyed a book so much as "An Unnecessary Woman." It's long (a good thing, for once) and discursive, and though it rambles through a few brief hours in the life of Aaliya Saleh, it is filled out with her lifetime of memories, opinions (she has lots) and speculations.

Anyone who has lived in the Middle East knows at least one Aaliya -- those women whose level of intelligence and culture is so much higher than those around them that they retreat into solitude, understood by nobody in their families, unnecessary because they aren't wanted by anyone, do not reproduce, keep house, or obey. As Aalia tells us, "Literature in the Arab world, in and of itself, isn't sought after. Literature in translation? Why bother?"

Waspish, too clever for her own good, Aaliya dwells in the past and in books. She has seen enough of sex, war, love and death to want to continue her life through reading. She confesses, "I slipped into art to escape life. I sneaked off into literature."

When the outside world bursts into her solitude, the most amazing thing intruders find is the quantity of books that surround her -- worthless objects, impossible to sell, valueless to the thief, unnecessary to life. Even her neighbours, sympathetic women whose lives Aaliya follows from her balcony like a radio soap opera, are puzzled. "My library has two books," one of them jokes, "and I have yet to finish coloring the second."

Her condition is a plaintive metaphor for the plight of a cultured mind in a barbaric world -- not just Aaliya Saleh in war-shattered Beirut, but any mind, anywhere. Rabih Alameddine has painted a stunning portrait of the disintegration of civilization, seen through the eyes of a blue-rinsed, 72-year-old Lebanese woman who has tried to hide from life until the day it catches up with her.

Forced to confront her own decaying mother ("There must be a word in some language that describes the anguish you experience upon suddenly coming face-to-face with your terrifying future") Aaliya is reminded of the approaching end of her own life, and the price to pay for never having connected with others -- a wasted existence, and a lonely death. But salvation may come for Aaliya in a most unexpected form.

Without a scrap of sentimentality, this is a book that will have you between laughter and tears more than once.

I recommend this book highly to all literate readers.

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