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Bill Tell (Norwich, England)

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Prince: And Others 1850-1940
Prince: And Others 1850-1940
by Libby Hall
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book for dog-lovers, 19 Dec. 2016
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This is a wonderful little book which made a perfect present for a dog-lover friend. Apart from a short, thoughtful introduction by the author it consists of some highlights of a lifetime's collection of old photographs of dogs, often taken with their owners. They are a mixture of funny, poignant and plain lovable. These old sepia and black-and-white photos show dogs and people looking out at us, or at each other, from bygone times. As such they perfectly capture the canine pull on our psyche and the emotional bond between them and us which any modern dog-lover will wholly understand. Thoroughly recommended for anyone who loves dogs.


Jeremy Corbyn: Accidental Hero (Squint Series)
Jeremy Corbyn: Accidental Hero (Squint Series)
by W.Stephen Gilbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.14

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A welcome challenge to negative media coverage, but otherwise limited, 17 Nov. 2015
Two basic claims are made for this book: to be an informative portrait of the man; and to explode some of the myths accompanying his rise. For me it fell short on the first claim but partially delivered on the second.

Gilbert is best in exposing the shallow and negative media coverage of Jeremy Corbyn. His challenges to this are very welcome and helpful for making a more balanced assessment of the new Labour leadership. It is disappointing however that so many of the sources for these challenges are just drawn from the media or the author’s own speculations with little original or less partisan material to back up some otherwise promising points.

Unfortunately, no clear portrait of Corbyn emerged from all this for me. Instead he remained a relatively indistinct character in the background. I learned about the campaigns he joined, the causes he supported and what he criticised or rebelled against, but little life was breathed into the character who did these things, how he did them and how effective he has been. I found little fresh insight or new perspective here and was left feeling a bit let down in relation to the claims made of the book.


Relaxdays 150 kg Steel Saw Horse
Relaxdays 150 kg Steel Saw Horse

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quality refelcts price but it does the job - watch the sharp edges though., 1 Oct. 2015
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This saw horse probably represents reasonable value for what it costs - which is not too much. It's just sturdy enough and works ok for hand-sawing logs up to a decent size. The teeth grip well and the off-set central strut allows me to cut logs just short enough to fit my wood burner. Putting it together is not a brain teaser despite the tiny instructions - just study the picture on line and it becomes clear what you have to do. However. I repeat and stress the warnings given by other reviewers about the very sharp edges which are on every part of this item. You need to be careful when assembling it and I would advise against having it around anywhere near children. There is also a strong likelihood of cutting yourself when moving it or using it so I taped all the edges over with a couple of layers of duct tape. This took a bit of time but I think its worth it. I also put a blob of grease over the nuts and bolts which are used to fold and adjust the horse because I think it will rust up fairly quickly. I don't expect it to last more than a few years but for what I paid that's probably fair.


No Illusions: The Voices of Russia's Future Leaders
No Illusions: The Voices of Russia's Future Leaders
by Ellen Mickiewicz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 5 July 2015
This work claims to provide a window into the mindsets of the next generation of Russian leaders using data from a series of focus groups of university students in Moscow, profiles of up and coming leaders and explanations of protests and nascent political movements. Ellen Mickiewicz is clearly a thoughtful and balanced analyst and her study yields some helpful, though mostly unsurprising, insights, but I don’t feel she delivers the unprecedented insights her publishers promise. I also found the overall narrative disjointed and, at times rambling, losing the thread of what points she was trying to get across.

The idea of focus groups of elite students sounded promising and the methodology looked sound. However, I felt the findings were mainly universal contemporary student themes – e.g: they are sceptical of the current order; rely heavily on the internet for information; distrust PR and the authority of the older generation; and are sympathetic to political change but are not prepared to protest about it. Pre-occupation with, and ambivalence towards, the US is equally unsurprising and fear of being bombed by them would be shared by many outside the US and its immediate allies. What is missing here is any comparison from which we can judge the uniqueness of these views, including the rather more surprising admissions of racism.

The profiles of up and coming leaders is rather disappointing. Alex Navalny is exposed as an opportunist and we are introduced to a few protest figures and nasty fascists, but mostly these are not in-depth profiles which can be said to reveal mindsets.
The context sections focus mainly on protests and protest movements and I found some helpful, balanced analysis here, particularly on the fascists and racists. Refreshingly, in the sections on Georgia and Ukraine crises, Ellen Mickiewicz avoids blaming Putin for everything. However, I found the narrative disjointed and it is not always clear how and why some substantial passages contribute to the aim of understanding the mindsets of the people who are the subjects of the study.

I was left with the impression that the focus group exercise, although well conducted, produced relevant but unspectacular results appropriate for a journal article. Extending it into a book with pumped up expectations demanded more work, data and re-editing than we are given here. Nevertheless, there is some topical and quotable material for students and researchers in this area.


The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies (Woodrow Wilson Center Press)
The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies (Woodrow Wilson Center Press)
by Dennis Kux
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A level-headed and reliable diplomatic history, 9 Feb. 2015
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This is a level headed, well-constructed and well- researched diplomatic history of events in the US-Pakistan relationship up to 2000 by a well-informed participant in South Asian affairs. It is a reliable source of information, facts and insights about the events and decisions which have shaped this difficult but essential geo-political relationship. The fact that it only goes up to the year 2000 is a disadvantage in one way, since it does not include the difficult period in relations brought about by the attempted US invasion of Afghanistan. However, this is also an advantage since we can follow a methodical and objective narrative free of the alarmism, recriminations and justifications which cloud many post-9/11 accounts. This helps us understand how and why the bilateral relationship was already not fit for the key role the US demanded of it in 2001 and after.

Facts and events are assembled in clear chronological sequence making it easy to follow the sharp fluctuations in the relationship. Mr. Kux makes a good effort at balancing US and Pakistani perspectives with material from actors from both camps, but, given his background of a career in the US State Department, it inevitably feels a little more sympathetic to the US cause. Nevertheless, it is much more balanced than several other accounts and I recommend it as a reliable starting point for researching and understanding how this key relationship developed up to the point just before Bush conscripted Pakistan into his Afghan invasion.


Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History
Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History
by Catherine Merridale
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, authoritataive and accessible., 12 Feb. 2014
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Catherine Merridale’s idea to explore Russia’s epic saga through the perspective of the Kremlin works extremely well. The Kremlin has an intriguing story in it’s own right but it really comes to life as the focal point for the great sweep of events and characters which shaped both it and Russia over the centuries. For this alone the book is well worth reading by anyone interested in Russia. I had a patchy understanding of Russian history and found lots of new things in it and new angles from which to consider them. I think newcomers to the topic will also find this a fine starting point.

But the book also introduces us to another aspect of the Kremlin: the way it has been used, abused and adapted by successive regimes as a representation of power, nationalism, ideology, faith, fear, vengeance or even indifference. Merridale's Kremlin is not just a passive product of history. It is both a manipulated political spectacle and a shifting reflection of how heritage has been conscripted to suit whoever happened to be in charge.

I also give special praise for Catherine Merridale’s refreshing style of writing. She achieves an admirable blend of authority and accessibility. As an academic historian she gives a reliable account built on professional research. Sources are given and there is a valuable bibliography with recommendations for anyone wanting to explore further. At the same time the book is comfortable, and sometimes gripping, to read without being dumbed-down in any way. If more academics followed this example they would have a greater impact and we would all be better informed.


The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev
The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev
by Daniel Treisman
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome alternative to the alarmists, 29 Aug. 2012
This is the best book on Russia I have read for a long time. It is both measured and broad-minded and is welcome relief from the alarmist literature which has dominated and restricted understanding of modern Russia. It has two main strengths: balance and context.

A lot of accounts focus predominantly on failures and mistakes. Treisman doesn't ignore these but makes a balanced assessment by also acknowledging what went right and what potential disasters were avoided. For example, although the break-up of the USSR was fractious Yeltsin successfully corralled all the nuclear weapons back under relatively stable control, and, whilst he clearly misjudged Chechnya he dealt with other multi-ethnic republics and regions to avoid widespread fracture and potential civil war.

Where many accounts tend to analyse Russia in isolation, or just in comparison with the US/EU, Treisman puts it in global context and finds it is not as alarmingly exceptional as some would have us believe. Many of the economic and political trends we find in Russia are common to other middle income economies which we don't get so excited about. In fact, amongst that group of states Russia seems quite average.

These two perspectives build a reflective and nuanced view of Russia's post-communist development. How this stacks up against other analyses is for you to decide but it will help you question some of the alarmist assumptions.

I agree with the previous reviewer that this is not a good primer on the topic since it builds on previous work. I think it is unfair, however, to say it is `pro-Putin propaganda'. Its scope is much wider than that (spending more time on the Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras) and when it discusses the Putin era it clearly acknowledges his resort to authoritarianism with associated concerns for the future. The fact that it also contains contrary evidence and questions orthodox opinion does not make it propaganda.

I recommend you read it and make up your own mind!


The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
by Masha Gessen
Edition: Hardcover

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome RUSSIAN account of Putin, 16 July 2012
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The strengths of this book is that it is written by a Russian journalist living in Russia and it is up to date. Most accounts of Russian politics, and Putin in particular, are by non-Russian analysts so I was intrigued to see if a Russian account would throw up anything different. Masha Gessen's view that Putin schemed, bullied and manipulated to establish an authoritarian regime with himself at the centre is not new. However, she suggests some interesting insights into Putin's mind-set and the processes through which he was recruited to, and then took control of, the power networks that claimed Russia. Along the way she tells some good stories about people and scams from the chaotic post-soviet period that enabled Putin to rise unseen to the top. She also tells us what it was like to be part of the opposition protests that took place between the Duma and presidential "elections".

This is a journalistic account and Gessen makes it clear from the outset that she is strongly opposed to the Putin regime. It is not an impartial analysis that you could quote for an academic essay but it is very readable and, in the end, quite optimistic. I recommend it to anyone interested in Russian politics.


Explaining And Understanding International Relations (Clarendon Paperbacks)
Explaining And Understanding International Relations (Clarendon Paperbacks)
by Martin Hollis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £36.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Combination of Authors, 5 Mar. 2012
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The strength of this book lies in the combination of authors and the insight you get from following the complementary and differing elements of their respective approaches to International Relations. There is nothing new or ground-breaking here but it provides clear perspectives on the problems at the heart of studying this field whilst leaving you to make up your own mind about it all.

This is an excellent introduction. For anyone wanting to progress to a more comprehensive and contemporary survey, but one that is still eminently readable and clear, I would recommend Savigny and Marsden "Doing Political Science and International Relations"


99 Words
99 Words
by Liz Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really lovely book, 31 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: 99 Words (Paperback)
A wonderful little book with a selection of wisdom and reflections - some profound, some poetic and others funny. It is more than a book of quotations -most of the people in it have contributed their own original ideas. It's good to explore, easy to dip into and makes a brilliant present for a thoughtful person.


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