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Susila (Italy and Norway)

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The Stars: A New Way to See Them
The Stars: A New Way to See Them
by H. A. Rey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for would-be star-gazers, 1 Mar. 2015
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I've treasured this book ever since I was given the original edition, way back when. This star-gazing child was transfixed: AT LAST a way of seeing and remembering all those constellations that fascinated me but that didn't look like anything. I could make sense of the constellations now. The viewing charts were invaluable, and the scientific explanations at the back were fine in small doses.

And now? An updated edition, with the same great pictures, the sly humour, revised charts, plus what I assume is the latest scientific knowledge.
Highly recommended!


Do What You Will Essays (The Thinker"s Library)
Do What You Will Essays (The Thinker"s Library)
by Aldous. Huxley
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A Huxley Feast, 1 Mar. 2015
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Thanks heavens the various essays of Aldous Huxley are still available today. This particular collection - in the original small format from 1936/37, issued as no. 56 in 'The Thinker's Library'is a gem - also because the back pages have adverts for such sadly-vanished institutions as 'The Rationalist Press Association Ltd [subscription application enclosed, 'minimum subscription 5s']

And the contents: his masterpiece, 'Wordsworth in the Tropics' (my main reason for buying this volume), as well as 'Francis and Grigory' (which rather demolishes the 'humble' image of the Assisi saint, 'The Holy Face' (13 September in Lucca) ... and nine others A feast! .


The Velveteen Rabbit
The Velveteen Rabbit
by Gennady Spirin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and timeless, 1 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Velveteen Rabbit (Paperback)
Let me add my voice to the chorus: this childhood classic is every bit as wonderful today as it was when I read it as a little girl in the late 1940s. The original illustrations - how I loved them! and how I cried when the rabbit found himself discarded, 'a mass of scarlet fever germs' .... and then he cried himself, and thus brought about the appearance of the Fairy. A wonderful, timeless book. Thank you.


Tragic Muse: Rachel of the Comedie-francaise
Tragic Muse: Rachel of the Comedie-francaise
by Rachel M. Brownstein
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the expected biography, 1 Mar. 2015
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This is an excellent study of the phenomenon of 'stars' or highly feted artists (in this case, a famed actress) - but not the straightforward biography I'd been expecting. I still want to know about the life and person of Rachel, and not just how she was received by the public of the time. Hers must have been a truly fascinating life - but that is not the focus of this book. In fact, the author makes it clear that she is interested in the 'star' phenomenon - but that I discovered only after the book arrived.


First Four Years (Little House (HarperTrophy))
First Four Years (Little House (HarperTrophy))
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, a disappointment, 1 Mar. 2015
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Coming from the other ‘Little House’ volumes to this posthumously issued Ingalls Wilder book, I admit to deep disappointment.

Gone are the lively dialogues, the in-depth accounts of memorable happenings (like the visit of the two Indians in Little House on the Prairie, or the spelling bee in Little Town on the Prairie), as well as all the details that make the other books ‘real’.

Here, dialogue is wooden, and events follow one after the other with little reflection or insight. Laura herself emerges only because we know her from the other books; Almanzo/Manly remains a distant figure…. In other words, this is just what the introduction explains it to be: a totally unretouched, unrevised book edition of pencilled notes found, after the author’s death, in a school copybook.

No, I won’t enter into the academic controversy on the extent to which the various other books were heavily edited (if not written) by her daughter Rose, who had impressive literary and other careers – but the fact remains: these are basically unrevised, unedited sketches that never got the final touches that make the other books so memorable this day today.

Am I being petty? I hope not. But there are several scenes here that cry for the deep, lively presentation we find in the other books – like the time a group of Indians comes to the house when Laura is alone; or the episode – mentioned almost in passing – when the Boast family (whom we know from before) hesitatingly suggest that they could take care of Rosa, since they can’t have children themselves, whereas Laura and Almanzo can have others….

Not all posthumously discovered manuscripts have to be published. Sometime it is a better tribute to the memory of the author to let them rest in peace in their cupboards.


Kyrgyzstan: Including its History, Bishkek, the Osh Bazaar, the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountain Range, the Chu River, and More
Kyrgyzstan: Including its History, Bishkek, the Osh Bazaar, the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountain Range, the Chu River, and More
by Martin Neron
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good information, but not original, 5 July 2013
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For those looking for information on a wide range of topics linked to Kyrgyzstan, this book would appear to fill the need. Chapters on history, geography, culture and arts, things to do and see, as well as presentations of both the Russian and Kyrgyz languages.... BUT - I at least was not forewarned that the 'Earth Eyes Destination' series is based on taking information available online, and collating these sources into book form. With Kyrgyzstan, this means seeing all the related Wikipedia entries, now gathered together in a format that is admittedly easier to handle than piles of A-4 print-outs. The back cover describes this as 'a new publishing paradigm, allowing disparate content sources to be curated into cohesive, relevant and informative books.' Well, maybe. Caveat emptor is all I say.


A Treasury of the Familiar: 001
A Treasury of the Familiar: 001
by Ralph L. Woods
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A VERY PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO A VERY PERSONAL COLLECTION, 30 Jan. 2013
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I grew up with this book. Here I first encountered Maugham's Appointment in Samara, the Rubaiyat, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner... as well as the dastardly Abdul A-bul Bul A-mir, Drake's Drum... and much more. Because this is not a little-snippet dictionary of short quotations, but an idiosyncratic collection of whatever took the fancy of the compiler, Ralph L. Woods. And that became, as John Kieran notes in his introduction, `this astonishing collection of rhyme and reason, Scripture and satire, fun and philosophy, fact and fiction'.

First issued in 1942 and in the USA, the collection ranges wide but also features many American pieces probably less familiar to a modern UK audience - from FDR's 8 December 1941 speech requesting the Congress to declare war on Japan, to many selections from Lincoln and Longfellow, and a six-and-a-half page chunk of Thoreau's Walden.

With the Internet, locating isolated quotations has become simple. This hefty volume fulfils a different need: you settle down in a comfortable chair, put up your feet, and READ, making exciting little discoveries as you go. When, after more than half a century's separation, I got The Treasury in my hands again, the first things I checked out were - in that order - Plato's account of the death of Socrates, The Lady or the Tiger ... and then Bret Harte's hilarious account of a game of euchre. Incidentally, the latter happens to be positioned immediately following Bacon's essay on Reading and Writing. Enjoy!


Songs Of Praise: Much Loved Hymns
Songs Of Praise: Much Loved Hymns
Price: £2.31

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars BEEB BLOOPER?, 21 Jan. 2013
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SONGS OF PRAISE: MUCH-LOVED HYMNS, var. artists, issued by BBC music

This collection would seem excellent, a total of 21 tracks from various EMI recordings, covering many well-known and well-loved hymns, with a range of choirs and the occasional soloist. It opens with a (slightly reedy) Amazing Grace; then come favourites like Love Divine All Loves Excelling, Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, Crown Him With Many Crowns, Abide With Me (with all verses), How Great Thou Art; there are classics like All Creatures of Our God and King (Lasst Uns Erfreuen), Thine Be the Glory (Judas Maccabeus), and Blake's Jerusalem, as well as two hymns set to the haunting Slane melody.

And then it happens. Just after the York Minster Choir's delicate rendering of Lord of All Hopefulness (yes, Slane), the otherwise commendable London Community Gospel Choir explodes onto the CD with their definitely not-delicate version of What A Friend We Have in Jesus. Out with the organ and soft soloists, in with the drums, syncopation and boisterous chorus. The mood built up throughout the first 19 tracks is irrevocably shattered, not to be restored even by the mighty Holy, Holy, Holy (Nicaea) with King's College Choir that ends this collection.

A quibble, you might say? But everything has its place. And this bouncy, jazzed-up, syncopated version of What A Friend We Have in Jesus is simply, totally, out of place in these surroundings. Whatever was the mixer at the BBC thinking of?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 20, 2013 12:39 AM BST


Baroque Masterpieces
Baroque Masterpieces
Offered by Mattpuss
Price: £19.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A excellent collection!, 22 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Baroque Masterpieces (Audio CD)
I can only agree with the first two reviewers: this collection is an unexpected treasure. Well, since the Pachelbel Canon seems to be represented in every Baroque collection in existence, I could have done without it here, but this version is excellent.

The real surprises were another two frequently heard pieces - Bach's `Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring' and Handel's `See, the Conquering Hero Comes'. Here for once is a joyous, nicely paced Jesu Joy, instead of the usual lugubrious rendering. And the `Conquering Hero' is just as it should be: full of verve and celebration.

Otherwise: it was a delight to find the pieces from Bach's `Little Suite' (Anna Magdalena Notebook) - my goodness, so they are also played by real musicians and not only young children struggling to master the piano!

Yes, there could have been more Albinoni, and not just his excellent (but also very frequently anthologized) Adagio in G minor. Or more Purcell. Quibbles, because, in addition to the pieces mentioned above, there is more Handel, there is Mouret's Rondeau from `Fanfares', and a nice selection of Corelli (Pastorale from his Concerto grosso Op. 6, No. 8, plus the three-piece Suite for Strings). All in all, an excellent collection!


Olive Tree
Olive Tree
by Aldous Huxley
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection, with some of Huxley's best, 12 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Olive Tree (Hardcover)
Aldous Huxley - one immediately thinks of the cynical intellectual of the 1920s and 30s, Point Counterpoint, Brave New World.... And then D.H. Lawrence of Sons and Lovers, Women in Love, preoccupied with the `dark otherness', blood and nocturnal, numinous mysteries ... How could two writers be more opposed?

Yet they were close friends and frequent correspondents, each aware of the differences, and enriched by them. This comes clearly to the fore in Huxley's introductory essay to the 'Letters of D.H. Lawrence', reproduced in this excellent collection. (It is in that introductory essay that Huxley demonstrates his skills by neatly demolishing Middleton Murray's `Son of Man' - purportedly about DHL - as `that curious essay in destructive hagiography'.)

Both DHL and Huxley are responsible for some embarrassingly heavily written novels. But their short stories and essays - if only those were more widely read! `The Olive Tree' provides a good point of departure.

We meet the `travel Huxley' who, in `In a Tunisian Oasis', describes unseasonable rain followed by a sandstorm: `It was horrible. I felt depressed, but not surprised. The weather is always horrible when I travel. (....) Rain, frost, wind, snow, hail - I bring them with me wherever I go.' Hardly the cynical young man of 'Point Counter Point'.

All the essays here are memorable, but the title piece - which comes last - is the supreme tour de force, combining reflections on history (note the side-trip into greasiness and the Old Testament/Greek Classical world) with culture and art. As I sit here in Crete, the view from my window is the unbroken, evergreen grey-green of olive trees. And Huxley writes: `At all seasons of the year the olive achieves that sober neutrality of tone which the deciduous trees of the North put on only in autumn and winter (...) The olive is essentially a painter's tree. It does not tend to be transposed into another key, and it can be rendered completely in terms of pigment that are as old as the art of painting.'


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