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Profile for Gillian Jack > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Gillian Jack (Edinburgh, Scotland)
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Stop Procrastination - 25 Simple Habits To Increase Your Productivity, Get The Work Done And Finally Stop Procrastinating
Stop Procrastination - 25 Simple Habits To Increase Your Productivity, Get The Work Done And Finally Stop Procrastinating
Price: £1.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Banal, 15 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A hodge-podge of obvious tips which could have been gleaned from a web search. Nothing new or interesting here; no insight or originality. Appropriately priced at free.


The Anchoress
The Anchoress
Price: £2.84

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and captivating, 11 April 2015
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This review is from: The Anchoress (Kindle Edition)
This was a captivating book, one which I both couldn’t put down and dreaded finishing. It is a testament to the author’s skill that she turned a story about a woman willing walling herself into a cell and renouncing the world, something which should have been uneventful and difficult to sympathise with, into something utterly compelling. All the characters are complex and flawed which makes them so much more believable, unpredictable, and human. They are all very much products of there time- something many writers of historical fiction fail to achieve, preferring feisty twenty-first-century women in old frocks. The depth of the author’s historical knowledge is worn lightly: there are no clumsy info dumps here. It is a beautifully written and evocative book.

I love this and look forward to more from this author.


The Girl with Emerald Eyes: A heartbreaking historical novel of love, tragedy and secrets
The Girl with Emerald Eyes: A heartbreaking historical novel of love, tragedy and secrets
Price: £1.99

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad history; worse writing, 11 April 2015
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I’m rather surprised by the volume of extremely positive reviews of this book, but many of them seem to have been of free preview copies. It suffers from all the problems of these sorts of parallel stories between the modern and historical. In particular, the modern story is rarely as interesting as the historical and this is very much the case here. However, in this case, neither woman is particularly appealing either. Berta, the historical lead, is especially unpleasant, using her social position and patronage to press an attractive young mason into a sexual relationship with her. He develops some feelings for her during the course of what can only be described as the coercion. That’s all right then. Sam, the modern lead, is just dull, definitively so. She gave up her career to look after her three children and, as is so often the case with these stories, she vaguely resents this, but not enough to do anything about it.

The men in the story are fairly hopeless. There’s Sam’s husband who has had an affair, followed by a stroke, which brings her to Pisa in the first place. Berta’s husband is virtually a characterless cut-out there to finance Berta’s whims. The young mason we are expected to believe grows to love the woman who exploits him in what looks more like Stockholm Syndrome than a romantic subplot.

Historically, there are some fairly glaring inaccuracies. In the twelfth-century storyline, wealthy Berta is at liberty to wander freely around the streets day or night, cunningly disguised in an inexpensive woollen dress. Thus concealed, she proceeds to spend inordinate amounts of time drawing buildings and giving unwanted attention to the mason. I am at a loss as to who could be fooled by her disguise: a rich woman would not have been able to act that way without causing a mild scandal; a poorer woman wouldn’t have had the time, skill, or equipment to hang around a public square sketching. Berta is, in fact, improbably skilled in drawing and architecture. This is explained away by the fact that her father was an architect and imparted to her all the knowledge of his craft before her teenage marriage. Improbability is par for the course though. Sam meets and old man who has spent his life researching the tower but it is not until Sam takes a wander round the museum that an important revelation is made. Of course, the silly old Italian man was probably too busy drinking espresso, eating pasta, and raising an improbably suave and attractive son to think about doing research at a museum dedicated to the subject of his investigations. Thank goodness for Sam’s near-preternatural journalistic instinct.

Above all, though, the writing is clumsy and unskilful. Evidently, “show don’t tell” is an adage the author has never heard. She seems to have little faith in her readers and spells everything out rather than employ any subtlety. Parts of the story are terribly clichéd, especially description of modern Italians, which read like the comments of the worst sort of expat. The characters, too, rely more on stereotypes than the complexity of human life. Aurelia is the naive foil to Berta’s calculating selfishness. Violetta is the healing woman, more knowledgeable than the male doctors in matters of health, life and love. Sam’s would-be love interest is the suave, charming, good-looking Italian who is conveniently on holiday so can drop everything at Sam’s whim. A decent editor could have resolved most of this but it doesn’t seem like one was employed. Passages like this remain: “Sam soon found herself deep in conversation with a fascinating woman in her mid-fifties. The woman was fascinating. In her mid-fifties, elegant, wearing a loose white shirt with narrow black pants, she was the epitome of Italian chic.” It’s not even clear why she’s describing “pants” instead of “trousers” when Sam is the epitome of middle-class Englishness.


The Vanishing Witch
The Vanishing Witch
by Karen Maitland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you've enjoyed Maitland's previous novels, 6 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Vanishing Witch (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Another enjoyable mixture of historical and supernatural fiction from Karen Maitland. This time, the setting is fourteenth century Lincoln and follows a typically wide cast of characters including cloth merchant Robert and his family, the mysterious Catlin, the river boatman Gunter. As the story unfolds we see how their lives come together.

If you've enjoyed Maitland's previous novels, you will probably enjoy this one too. It features her trademark mixture of dark, magical elements with a gritty historical setting and varied cast of characters. One of her strengths is her nuanced characters and portrayals of people from different walks of life in the past. This isn't a story of noble and court life that many historical novels focus on, but numerous "ordinary" people.

This is a dark tale, perfect as the nights draw in.


Rapesco Heavy Duty Hole Punch - P1100, 100 -sheet capacity
Rapesco Heavy Duty Hole Punch - P1100, 100 -sheet capacity
Price: £41.65

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 12 Jun. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was somewhat disappointed with this. On the plus side, it certainly will go through a large number of pages in one go but there are a few downsides. It's huge and heavy- storing it is a nightmare. Most importantly though, it's not always easy to tell when it's gone through all the pages. I had to re-punch several documents (this is a bit of a nuisance but the guide works well so I didn't end up with overlapping holes). After about 70-ish pages' worth of punching (not all at once), one of the punching boards snapped into 3 pieces, meaning I need to buy more if I want to use the hole punch as it does not come with any spares. This seems like poor quality for something with a price tag of over £50: I do not possess super-human strength and so doubt I was pressing on it unusually hard.


Rapesco Supaclip 60 Dispenser with 8 Clips
Rapesco Supaclip 60 Dispenser with 8 Clips
Price: £3.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Handy, functional, 12 Jun. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a nice little tool for when you need something more permanent (and less likely to fall off) than a paper clip, but not as permanent or damaging as staples. It has been said a few times here that bulldog clips are just as good, and you don't need a tool to fit them which is, of course, true. The only benefit this has over bulldog clips is that supaclips add a lot less bulk.

Overall, it's handy and neat but far from vital. I'll use mine but if it were to get lost I doubt I'd bother to buy a new one.


A Lovely Way to Burn: Plague Times Trilogy 1
A Lovely Way to Burn: Plague Times Trilogy 1
by Louise Welsh
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely Way to Burn, 22 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Louise Welsh continues to avoid pigeon holes as a writer and produce high-quality work in diverse genres. This is no exception. This is a gripping, intelligent thriller with, as ever, well-drawn characters and tight pacing. The combination of dystopian thriller and murder mystery is skilfully handled. Recommended.


Case Logic Griffith Park Backpack for 15 inch Laptop - Black
Case Logic Griffith Park Backpack for 15 inch Laptop - Black
Price: £23.30

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly spacious, 22 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was expecting a rather compact bag and that wasn't incorrect, but I have found that it will accommodate a surprising amount of stuff. There are laptop and tablet pockets in the main section of the bag, with several additional pockets in the front, as well as several on the outside. Items like laptops and tablets feel secure and cushioned. It will easily accommodate leads, cables and portable keyboards etc, as well as papers and notebooks. I use mine primarily for uni and can fit what I need in it.

In fact, I can even get my 17inch laptop in here. It's a tight fit, and it won't go into the laptop pocket, but it will squeeze into the bag. It's not ideal, and I wouldn't recommend it as a solution for those looking for a bag for a laptop of that size, but this may reassure those wondering if smaller equipment will fit in. I would certainly consider buying the bigger version of this bag to carry the larger laptop.

The only drawback I have found, and this is fairly minor, is that the straps tend to loosen. They are not held tightly to the length you set them so you find you have to adjust them frequently if you prefer them tighter. It's not brilliant for bulky items either, but it's not intended for that.


The 5 Minute Researcher: Doing better research is steps away
The 5 Minute Researcher: Doing better research is steps away
Price: £2.32

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unhelpful, 20 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Unfortunately, this book offers no real insight or any advice beyond the obvious. It reads as if the author's first language is not English which only makes matters worse.


A Burnable Book (John Gower 1)
A Burnable Book (John Gower 1)
by Bruce Holsinger
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting tale of medieval intrigue, 20 Mar. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This impressive debut novel is set in London in 1385 and the hero, Gower, is a compelling character. Holsinger's real achievement, though, is his vividly portrayed medieval world. This is a London of back streets, grime and genuine intrigue, rather than the sanitised royal courts which feature so heavily in many lesser historical thrillers.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The quality of historical fiction varies widely, and I was happy to find that this book is one of the better ones (perhaps even one of the best). Comparisons to C. J. Sansom are inevitable for any author of historical thrillers based in England: this book is superior to Sansom's generally over-rated work.

Highly recommended. I look forward to more fiction from this author.


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