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S. Robinson "Read more at Amazon's S.C.Skillman Page" (Warwick, UK)
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Born Survivors
Born Survivors
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living Embodiments of Hope, Born From the Horror of the Holocaust, 18 May 2015
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This review is from: Born Survivors (Kindle Edition)
This is the story of how three young women – Anka, Rachel and Priska – hid their pregnancies from Dr Josef Mengele on the ramp at Auschwitz, and went on to suffer in the concentration camps and give birth to their babies just before Liberation in April 1945. All three of those babies then met for the first time at the age of 65 and became very close because of the astonishing similarity of circumstances in which they had been born.

I’ve read several books about and by Holocaust survivors, and yet each time I read the detailed account of an individual’s experiences I feel the horror afresh. This account, brilliantly told by Wendy Holden, spares none of the terrible details; the one thing that keeps you going, as the reader, through the grotesque inhumanity of the Nazis, is the knowledge that “this story is only being told because the three women and their babies survived.”

As survivor Esther Bauer put it: “The first twenty years we couldn’t talk about it. For the next twenty years no-one wanted to hear about it. Only in the next twenty years did people start asking questions.”

When reading these books I have two immediate responses. One is to try to imagine how I would have coped with those kind of circumstances, and how I would have behaved. The second response is always to ask what this tells us about the nature of human beings, of good and evil, hope and despair.

This time, I had the following thought: The essential requirement for “hope” seems to be “macro” thinking. For many of us, when life’s “normal” we live our little lives with our small goals. But when Force Majeure intervenes, throwing us into a survival situation – be that earthquake, tsunami, terrorist atrocity, or Nazi Holocaust – our goals shift from “micro” thinking to “macro” thinking, at the point where lives and hopes and dreams are torn apart – a shift takes place. A new goal replaces the old: to survive; or to know that your story might be known in the future. And these three women would have hoped that their as yet unborn babies would be the living embodiment of that.


Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House
Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House
by Susan Law
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into eighteenth society social history, 11 May 2015
It seems part of the psychological make-up of the English people to bestow power upon the wealthy and privileged; whilst at the same time depriving them of the right to privacy. Today's obsession with the private lives of celebrities finds its parallel in Georgian and Regency England, where the public was hungry for moral lapses among the aristocracy. This fascinating and scrupulously researched book shines a spotlight onto a universal aspect of human behaviour - but the scholarly focus is upon how eighteenth century society reacted to it, thus enriching our knowledge of the social history of the time.

Aristocratic rakes are the stuff of novels set in Regency England. One of the most striking things about the book is how intensely the opinion-makers of the time wanted to hold on to the idea of "rank co-existing with honour", despite all evidence to the contrary. Another outstanding aspect of Susan Law's account is the hypocrisy of the society as the popular press indulged itself in moralising and judgementalism, along with minimal respect for confidentiality, slander and libel, thus feeding a voracious appetite by the public. But I was also surprised by the disregard that the adulterous aristocrats themselves paid to covering up their tracks, and their failure to have due regard to the ominipresence of their servants. Tumbled bedclothes, two dents in the bed, and hair powder on the pillowcases seem obvious tracks to cover up!

Susan Law examines the craze of the 1790's for printed court reports of adultery trials, which continued through to the late 1830's with the popularity of the "Crim Con Gazette". She examines the changes that took place up until the 1832 Great Reform Act which altered the way the nation saw itself in terms of social hierarchies - opening up "previously unthinkable possibilities for the middle class". Certainly in the early part of the period it is very noticeable that often "cuckolded" husbands (themselves equally guilty of adultery) might be awarded huge damages and then go on to an honourable career in high office, while adulterous women were far more likely to be "sent away" in shame and have their lives ruined.

Chief among the adulterers later on of course was the Prince Regent, and I was amused to read the opinion of Theresa, sister of the Earl of Morley, who wrote in a letter "'tis dreadful to think of the open profligacy of that Monster.... we must all go to the dogs should he ever unfortunately come to the throne."

To the non-academic reader, the most interesting parts of this book are when the author gives accounts of specific cases, such as that of Lord Ellenborough and his young wife Jane. There are among these stories accounts that will draw a variety of different responses from the reader; for as the blurb points out, the different stories are passionate, scandalous, poignant and tragic.

A fascinating insight into eighteenth century social history, with plenty of material which will give us cause to reflect upon the preoccupations of today's Britain as well.


Sense & Sensibility
Sense & Sensibility
by Joanna Trollope
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Combines Jane Austen's genius and Joanna Trollope's brilliance, 6 May 2015
This review is from: Sense & Sensibility (Paperback)
Joanna Trollope's updating of Sense and Sensibility works wonderfully well. Translating these classic characters and plots into a modern context highlights Jane Austen's perceptions about human nature in a new way. For me, this book combines the genius of Jane Austen and the brilliance of Joanna Trollope, whose contemporary novels I love. Of course, the fine nuances of Jane Austen's irony cannot be replicated by any other author, but Joanne Trollope supplies plenty of dry humorous observation, and overall I found this a highly enjoyable reading experience. I loved the way social media is woven into the storyline, with little details like Marianne and Elinor sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table both with their laptops open, and Marianne bemoaning the fact that she's sent Willoughby so many texts and emails but had no reply to any of them.The only slight reservation I had was that all the characters do come across as very privileged, and taken out of the context of Jane Austen's times, it's difficult to compensate for this in a convincing way, despite the fact that we see Elinor going out and getting herself a job. I also feel Edward Ferrars come across as more weak and passive than he does in the original, as I view him through the eyes of a modern reader, used to the kind of man authors believe their feisty heroines deserve. But then I remember how Hugh Grant played him in the film; diffident, hesitant, unassuming, and Joanna Trollope's Edward is pure Hugh Grant (in his most popular on-screen persona of course!)


Away With The Fairies
Away With The Fairies
Price: £2.67

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and page-turning story which nevertheless fails to exploit the full potential of the subject, 3 May 2015
An absorbing and page-turning novel interweaving several elements which are of great personal interest to me. The author is skilled at building up atmosphere, which she does to great effect with her account of creepy events in a remote cottage. I loved the author's descriptions, and her attention to details such as the swirl of dead leaves which is always at the door when Isobel enters. But, though the novel deals with a fascinating subject, I feel the author ultimately fails to exploit its full potential. I anticipated that the story would build up into something really harrowing and terrifying, but it loses pressure and tension with too much explanation after Isobel meets the old man.

In addition, I wondered about the attitude that Isobel takes to the events in the cottage. I found her resistance a bit annoying and puzzling; it seemed to me that a sensitive person - which she, as an artist, surely is - would have picked up on the paranormal nature of the repeated incidents very quickly. Later the author explains this by saying Isobel was "in a trance" which I found rather unconvincing. Isobel comes over to me as, on one hand, a rather defensive person, with a tendency to be negative, and on the other quite sassy, with plenty of attitude. I was also surprised at the rather vapid approach her clergyman husband takes to the situation, not even wanting to admit the events had happened to him; I found that a bit pathetic and unbelievable. However, my response to this may be because I've only just finished reading another of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels; and there we have a member of the clergy who fully engages with paranormal events!

A second point: in the explanation at the end of the novel, the discussion of "fairies" criticises those shown in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, implying they are on the same level as Victorian storybook fairies. I think this is based upon a very superficial view of Shakespeare's play. I've seen productions of the play where the fairies are wild, quirky, anarchic, amoral beings - there is nothing in the least sentimental about them. I believe this accords with the author's depiction of the invisible beings whom Isobel encounters.

My other reservations about the book are weaknesses in the copy-editing and in the ebook formatting. I believe ebook readers are very forgiving, in that if a story is compelling and page-turning - as this one is - they will read it right through to the end and give it 5 stars and forgive sloppy formatting and editing. But there comes a time when this kind of carelessness detracts from enjoyment of the story.


Wool Overs Women's Cashmere & Merino Classic Cropped Crew Cardigan Blueberry Medium
Wool Overs Women's Cashmere & Merino Classic Cropped Crew Cardigan Blueberry Medium
Offered by Wool Overs Ltd
Price: £36.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Met my expectations, 3 May 2015
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The product has met my expectations.


Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail
Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handles historical events and legendary material with great skill; commitment and dedication needed but you'll be well rewarded!, 1 May 2015
Having visited Glastonbury and loved the Abbey, I was keen to read this novel. As a reader of her monastery mysteries, I admire the way Donna Fletcher Crow interweaves her skills as an imaginative fiction writer with her love for English history. She has undertaken a huge task in seeking to fictionalise the history of Christianity in England; and this novel is correspondingly very long. I admit that in common with a number of other reviewers, I found the early sections of the book rather slow-going, as the author takes us forward from the legendary arrival at Glastonbury of Joseph of Arimathea, and leads us through the centuries, unfolding the advancing and retreating Christian faith. But as the historical material becomes more and more familiar to us, it's much easier to become emotionally involved with the characters; in each era we focus upon one individual and their relationships, as they're affected by the momentous events of the time. The author handles historical events and legendary material with great skill; her attention to detail is scrupulous, and she engages all the senses with her narrative. Her account of the dissolution of the monasteries in Tudor times is breathtaking. Near the end of the novel I found one scene profoundly moving; it reminded me of how I felt at a certain key moment in the classic novel "Quo Vadis" (which I read in my teens). Glastonbury Abbey, most ancient Christian sanctuary in England, and a place of pilgrimage, has a strong spiritual resonance for many who visit it; Donna Fletcher Crow has paid tribute to it in the most impressive way. You will need dedication and commitment to read "Glastonbury", but will be well rewarded.


A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins 3) (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins 3) (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
by Phil Rickman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant story by Phil Rickman, 13 April 2015
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I love these Merrily Watkins novels. Phil Rickman combines brilliant evocation of setting and excellent characterisation with a range of interests in things weird and wonderful which keep me gripped. He refers several times to the psychology of "the border" and I am at one with his observations about this and the way it impacts spirituality and the emotional life of the inhabitants. In "A Crown of Lights", as with other novels in this series, I enjoy the way different groups of people - Merrily; Betty and Robin; Jane and her boyfriend; Sophie and Gomer Parry, all gather information separately and then about two thirds of the way through the story Merrily starts connecting into every strand through her own investigations, gaining people's confidences, learning new things, taking huge risks, finding herself in strange places... Then she's in real danger, holed up with fanatics and criminals. And the one piece of information she needs, in order to complete the puzzle, and possibly to save her life, is in the hands of Jane and Gomer, who don't know where she is...
Another brilliant story by Phil Rickman.


Dead Gorgeous: A Mystery For D.I. Costello
Dead Gorgeous: A Mystery For D.I. Costello
by Elizabeth Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth Flynn again demonstrates her elegant and fluent writing style, 3 April 2015
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In this second novel, Elizabeth Flynn again demonstrates her elegant and fluent writing style as D.I Angela Costello investigates a murder in the world of fashion. I found this story a little more difficult to grasp than Flynn's first novel: the ins and outs of the suspects' machinations with each other were much more complicated. During the first part of the novel, we are introduced to so many people who you cannot really like at all-everyone in this world seems to have at least three sexual partners on the go simultaneously. This picture of people treating each other as objects and trophies just to get what they want can become quite depressing. But then we meet Angie, the detective inspector and her team and we feel a sense of relief. I really like Angela and her husband Patrick and her young colleague, Gary; one of the most enjoyable things about the book is Angela's relationships and repartee with the colleagues in her team. It is also clever the way Flynn weaves the exploitation of Eastern European immigrants into the story, along with all the tiny little bit of information that are being revealed, building up into a significant lead for the investigating team. There is also a very tense and exciting scene near the end of the novel with a moment of real personal jeopardy for
Angela, demonstrating her courage and her strength of character. And once again, as with her first novel, Elizabeth Flynn shows a meticulous attention to detail in her portrayal of the world in which her story is set.


Game, Set and Murder (A Mystery for D.I. Costello)
Game, Set and Murder (A Mystery for D.I. Costello)
by Elizabeth Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An accurate and authentic portrayal of the milieu inhabited by sporting celebrities, 3 April 2015
I found this a very elegantly written crime detective novel which provides a wonderful recreation of the atmosphere of Wimbledon fortnight. The main protagonist D.I Angela Costello is a very attractive character-a kind, compassionate, sensitive and caring person. Throughout her investigation into the murder she shows a lot of emotional intelligence. Elizabeth Flynn is particularly good on showing how people react when they are caught off guard by a question and then compute whether to tell the truth or select more convenient information to reveal. All in all this is an admirable first novel offering an accurate and authentic portrayal of the milieu inhabited by sporting celebrities.


Bates Motel Season 1
Bates Motel Season 1
Dvd
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Most discerning portrayal of dysfunctional family dynamics, 13 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Bates Motel Season 1 (DVD)
This review is only for the first 6 episodes & I'm planning to watch the rest of the episodes tonight. Young Norman is played brilliantly by Freddie Highmore, (who looks like a young Anthony Perkins); his mother Norma is played by Vera Farmiga; and an additional character Norman’s older brother Dylan, is played by Max Thierot.

This is the most discerning portrayal of dysfunctional family dynamics. As a writer of psychological suspense fiction myself I cannot help but be mesmerised by the skill with which Norman’s early life is portrayed, and by the clarity and focus with which it accounts for Norman’s behaviour in Psycho. The series is highly focussed in what it says about unhealthy mutually-interdependent relationships, in this case, between a mother and son. In particular Vera Farmiga as Norma is outstanding, as she portrays the toxic mix of Norma’s psychological make-up. We watch mesmerised as the pace of events, and the choices she makes, precipitate her into rapid changes between being over-affectionate, unreasonable, controlling, proud and hard, aggressive and emotionally manipulative. Finely blended into this mix, we find flashes of callous indifference, mental cruelty and martyr complex, as she puts guilt on Norman.

Dylan, the older brother, is an inspired addition to the gallery of characters, one whom we didn’t see in Psycho. In Bates Motel he represents normality. As he says about Norma: “She’s always got a drama, and she always will. She’s like an addict. And when you have an addict in your life the best thing you can do for them is walk away from them…” “You’ve just got to get away from mum,” he says to younger brother Norman. “She’s just going to bring you down with her.” How prophetic of the events in Hitchcock's masterpiece 'Psycho'.

And as you follow the twists and turns of the plot, you see how Norma has a talent for creating alternative scenarios when things go wrong, which serves only to complicate things further and make them far worse. Dylan tries to persuade her to “stop making up stories”. As you watch the drama of the first 6 episodes, you just long for Norman to accept Dylan’s offer to leave his mother and go to live with Dylan instead. You start to persuade yourself that this could be the vital moment of choice, when, if Norman had taken this step, he might have been saved from the tragedy and horror of the future as presented in Psycho. And yet you still can’t help thinking: would that help? How would Dylan deal with Norman’s mental health problem? Would Norman end up killing Dylan instead? I will have to watch the final episodes to find out!


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