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Chocolate: The Bean that Conquered the World
Chocolate: The Bean that Conquered the World
by Vivian French
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book, 17 Jan. 2012
Vivian French has created a fantastic, informative and entertaining book about chocolate, its history, origins and developments: it is superbly researched and written in a style which is interesting for adults and older children - the illustrations and layout only go to help this book be even better. Highly recommended for all children, adults and schools


The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)
The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)
by Jean Liedloff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars everything you know is wrong, 30 May 2010
Liedloff, no doubt, wrote this book as a much needed radical diversion from the "modern" methods of bringing up babies in the 60s and 70s.

Unfortunately, it reads like she is shouting - and she is shouting out opinionated and unfounded socio-waffle (for want of a better word). This may have fallen on hungry ears in the 70s, but not so today.

One can't help but feeling she sees only positive things in the way of the Yequana (a tropical rain forest tribe in Venezuela) and only negative in the Western/civilised culture. For example, when a Yequana child is injured, she praises the mother's coolness - why not see this as disregard for the child's well-being? She attempts to starkly contrast the two cultures, but not all babies/parents are as she describes and so paints a very false picture by presuming to know how we are and how we see ourselves (one wonders if she sees herself like this).

There are, of course, vast cultural differences between the Yequana and the West, but many of the Yequana's child-caring methods find easy parallels with Western upbringing: she describes in detail the happy children of the Yequana - but if we change the canoes for bicycles and the bow and arrows for footballs, it is not much different from a description of children in the West.

Many parts of the book are rather hard to accept: she criticises praise; states that children have (fatal) accidents simply because that is what adults expect of them (a parent says "you're going to drop that plate" and the child drops the plate); and shows a complete misunderstanding of homosexuality which could easily be seen as homophobic! She even goes on to explain that a child will release pent up energy via mastur bation (is she writing about babies or teenagers?).

She writes "if one wants to know what is correct for any species, one must know the inherent expectations of that species". And from reading the book, one feels that Liedloff believes she knows!
Far too often, the books reads as if written by a psychotherapist looking for one thing which causes all problems: the deprivation of the "in-arms" experience. She presumes that carrying babies is the reason for the differences between the Yequana and civilised culture; that when not deprived of expected experiences one has a happy folk; that Easterners are less deprived (of in-arms experience) than the average Westerner and therefore have more serenity! She is believes that the Yequana live in real joy but that we (Westerners) do not. All of this is completely unfounded. Nevertheless, she is convinced her continuum theory is best - and yet she can't (or won't) explain why one group of Indians is peaceful and another is aggressive.

She does realise that it is unrealistic to change our culture to another - but unfortunately only because we are the "wrong" sort of people. There is a course a vastly differently social structure: the "civilised" world is lacking the advantages of tribal unity - we have only compact family-focused groups which are often not even together - and this causes deprivation for both children and parents.

But what is the central message of the book?

She is against overprotecting a child but all for keeping it close and loved and, primarily, in doing what feels right or natural or instinctive. In essence: hold your baby. There is some good practical advice in the last chapter and one can happily surmise that a child is part of our life and should not be separated from it. But this sound advice is so heavily burdened with the rest of the book, that it is hard to appreciate.


Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Penguin Classics)
Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Penguin Classics)
by Mary J Shelley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

10 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Failed Attempt; or the prolonged Prometheus, 3 Mar. 2010
What begins as a possibly interesting book (and the basic story - a man creates a being which rebels against him - is appealing) turns into a long-winded epistolary novel: Robert Walton writes to his sister of his journey to the North Pole during which he meets Victor Frankenstein who in turn recalls his life story, the story of creating a so-called "daemon" who also goes on to tell not only his story but that of a family he lived near. The form is not particularly well executed and even contains complete letters.

The style is rather naive and one feels Shelley has simply looked up alternative words in a thesaurus and used them regardless of their suitability.

The story is convoluted, full of unbelievable coincidences and verbose - although one should perhaps take into account that the book was first published in 1818. Surprisingly enough, the "monster" is created and disappears again within just a few pages.

The characters are shallow and it is hard to sympathise with the character of Victor Frankenstein - moreover one feels more compassion for the monster he has created.

What was initially to be a short story should have really stayed that way. The expansion to a novel has, in my opinion, made the story tiresome and weak.

All-in-all, this is not a book I would ever recommend: discursive and painfully prolonged.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2014 11:14 PM BST


Ulverton
Ulverton
by Adam Thorpe
Edition: Paperback

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars impressive but ..., 12 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Ulverton (Paperback)
despite the fact that the author has impressively written a book about a village in the south of England spanning over 300 years, and that each chapter is a story on its own in its own unique style, the whole book is very challenging to read and at times almost impossible to understand as it is written in dialect (chapter 9 - Stitches - 1887). Thorpe is obviously very intelligent, and some of the chapters are brilliantly written (chapter 3 - Improvements - 1712) - but the fragmentary nature of the book (and indeed some of the chapters) leaves the reader feeling a bit "left out". Clever as the book is, it is a shame the author hasn't made his tales more digestible and entertaining.


Tim the Tiny Horse
Tim the Tiny Horse
by Harry Hill
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not really for children, 31 July 2009
This review is from: Tim the Tiny Horse (Paperback)
another children's book which doesn't appeal to children
really, it is more for adults who want a very quick read and a bit of a smile - the stories are very short and simple, the drawings nicely done ... but the book isn't anything exceptional


Babe - the Sheep Pig (Penguin Readers (Graded Readers))
Babe - the Sheep Pig (Penguin Readers (Graded Readers))
by Dick King-Smith
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delightful story, 28 Jan. 2009
This is a delightful tale about a pig which becomes a sheep-pig - a classic story which as been filmed as "BABE" - which is a great film - but the book is much simpler and conciser than the film and thus has more power - it is fun to read (but the accents, esp. of the sheep, can be tricky) - both me and my children enjoyed the film very much, but found the book slightly better.


Baudolino
Baudolino
by Umberto Eco
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars a tall tale, 15 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Baudolino (Paperback)
Eco certainly knows how to spin a tale, and this is what he has done here, using the character of Baudolino to tell stories (or lies?) all the way through the book. Full of fantastic detail, the book's 500+ pages are also filled with long discussions about belief, religion, philosophy, poetry, the vacuum ... and much more besides. This can become tedious, and often the dialogues are long-winded. Nevertheless, at times it is a gripping tale, somewhere between medieval adventure and fantasy with a good dash of religion, love, battles and lots and lots of history.


Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
by Fil Hunter
Edition: Paperback

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essential reading, 13 Aug. 2007
This is a book about light: how it works, and how to use it.
It teaches you to understand what you see (in fact, what you have always seen, but perhaps never realised). Diffuse reflections and direct reflections and how to use each (or both) to optimally illuminate what you are photographing. How to photograph metal and glass: explaining dark- and light-field set-ups, and white-on-white and black-on-black ...
The information contained in this book should be a standard for all photographers: it teaches by helping you understand the concept of light, and not by showing you how award-winning images were made.


The Last Englishman: The Life of J.L.Carr
The Last Englishman: The Life of J.L.Carr
by Byron Rogers
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars only for the interested, 13 Aug. 2007
This book isn't anything for anyone who knows nothing about Carr -- it is unfortunately clumsily structured: at times not chronological, leaving the reader a little confused. Despite some well-written and entertaining anecdotes, it is easy to lose interest, with quite a lot of the beginning of the book being more about Carr's father and, predominantly, his brother.
For people already intrigued and wanting to know more about Carr, I would give the book at least 3 stars, for others only 2.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2013 12:48 PM BST


A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics)
A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics)
by J.L. Carr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a hidden classic, 13 Aug. 2007
Carr's novel is a sort of idyll and pastoral novella.
After experiencing WWI a man (Birkin) goes to Yorkshire to restore a medieval painting in a church. It is in this countryside with these country folk where he again comes to terms with normal life.
Written in retrospect by an old man, the novel is evocative without being over-sentimental.
At times poetic, but always with a sense of realism, this is a beautiful book which should treated as a classic.


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