Profile for S. Robinson > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by S. Robinson
Top Reviewer Ranking: 13,154
Helpful Votes: 105

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
S. Robinson "Read more at Amazon's S.C.Skillman Page" (Warwick, UK)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9
pixel
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
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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

4.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth Flynn again demonstrates her elegant and fluent writing style, 3 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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!


Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life
Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life
Price: £6.02

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenge Both Intellectual and Spiritual, 2 Feb. 2015
Metaxas is renowned as the author of a much-admired book on Dietrich Boenhoffer (published in 2011). In this new book, he turns his attention to a vitally important subject: our worldview and how it affects our perception of reality.

In the first half of the book Metaxas examines the rules by which we may determine that an event is “a miracle”. One of his most compelling early chapters is about the miracle of life on earth. As a counterpoint to Stephen Hawking’s observation that "We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star" Metaxas gives us a taster of the vast number of fine-tuned characteristics which are necessary to support life. As I read this chapter it put me in mind of one of my own favourite quotes, which comes from Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim:

"This is Nature – the balance of colossal forces… the mighty Cosmos in perfect equilibrium produces – this."

Beyond this, Metaxas goes on to consider the picture of God breaking through into the natural world with miracles, like a great tree bursting through concrete. He examines the questions of God’s apparent “selectivity” – why do some people’s lives benefit from miraculous intervention, and others not?

In the second half of the book Metaxas gives accounts of miracles which happened to himself and to people he knows personally. These stories of miracles are robust and compelling. Some are disturbing, creepy and challenging. Near the end of the book he relates a 9/11 story which holds you transfixed. And he ends with a challenge both intellectual and spiritual.

I found this book thrilling, uplifting and enormously encouraging. Throughout my life there have been times when I’ve instinctively felt something to be true, without having the necessary resources of intellectual argument to lay it on the table before others. In this book, Metaxas encourages us to fully engage our minds on a subject which is far too easy to talk or think about in a “loose” or “woolly” way.

If you possibly can, find time to read this book and to consider what Metaxas says.


The House at Midnight
The House at Midnight
by Lucie Whitehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Great potential but sadly flawed, 13 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The House at Midnight (Paperback)
I liked the idea of this story, a sinister and disturbing atmosphere in an old house, gradually controlling and driving the actions of the people who come together in it, but although the novel did keep me reading, I felt it was flawed. The major problem seemed to be the characters' behaviour, which constantly balanced on the edge, just about to be tipped over into "unconvincing". I felt it was important for me to like Jo, the narrator, but found her strangely flat and I didn't quite believe in her actions or her motivation. Yet there was something there in this novel which did keep me reading, as if I was expecting the author to explore Jo more deeply and reveal her true angst.

The novel is too long and slow. It read to me as if the author had had several different editors/beta readers saying to her, "You must go deeper into this and that character.... but show us, don't tell us!" And then the author added another carefully crafted chapter, taking her characters swimming in a woodland pool, sending her 2 lovers on a camping break - and it adds nothing to the plot. Instead it slows the novel down, and it doesn't deepen the characters either.

As I tried to work out what the problem was with the book, I felt that Jo the narrator was just not sharing with the reader about herself in the way the reader wants her to. I didn't feel that the author properly built up Jo's desire for Greg before they came together. When they did, in London, I felt her love for Greg and her regret for Lucas were not fully explored, and I didn't quite believe in them, and certainly didn't feel that the things going wrong with her relationships were anything to do with the house in the Cotswolds.

In addition I felt none of the characters took responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and that irritated me. And there were too many passages of self-indulgent descriptive writing. As I read through the story one thing in particular nagged me; why should Lucas be so important to Jo that she would allow him to emotionally manipulate her. I didn't feel Lucas's fascination or pulling power. We are told that Jo identifies him with her university years and her twenties, but that alone did not convince me.

Danny was a malicious manipulator; Lucas came across as weak. It was only at the end - which was shocking and very tense and strong - that I got a real sense of Lucas' inner torment. Ultimately, as I considered the problem with the novel, I felt it might have helped if the paranormal element had been pointed up much more strongly, driving the characters' actions.

Altogether a novel with great potential but, for me, sadly flawed.


Killer's Countdown (A DI Shona McKenzie Mystery) (The DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries)
Killer's Countdown (A DI Shona McKenzie Mystery) (The DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries)
by Wendy H Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and Unputdownable, 7 Jan. 2015
I found this book riveting and unputdownable. Police procedurals are not a genre I am at all familiar with and I found this aspect of the book fascinating and illuminating. I liked the repartee of the police and the development of their different characters and relationships, along with the clear depiction of the hierarchical structure and the tensions that arise and pressures that are upon the police. I loved the movement of the story, the pace of the narrative, and I warmed to Shona's character. I found the writing earthy and robust with plenty of flashes of humour. I particularly enjoyed the references to the food the police eat when under all the stress and challenge of an ongoing murder investigation! The amount of doughnuts, cakes, pizza, and bacon and egg rolls they put away certainly gave me a sense of the energy they need to keep going under intense pressure. I also liked the cameo of the vagrant who comes into the station for a feed; and of course he is very significant to the denouement of the plot.
Only one thing let this novel down, and I am not going to blame the author for it; it lies in the copy-editing. I found a number of typos and repeated phrases that a professional copy-editor should have picked up. I also felt the ending could have been tauter. Nevertheless, this is Wendy Jones' debut novel and she has achieved in this book everything we can ask of a skilled story-teller.


Amazing & Extraordinary Facts: Sherlock Holmes (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts)
Amazing & Extraordinary Facts: Sherlock Holmes (Amazing and Extraordinary Facts)
by Nicholas Utechin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Compendium of Quirky Information, 27 Dec. 2014
A compendium of quirky information highlighting the impact Sherlock Holmes has made on the public imagination since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published his first story for Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887. The story is taken right up to the appearance of the current BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. An astonishing sequence of events demonstrating a cycle of rebirth which Conan Doyle could never have imagined or believed possible for his hero - and, as Utechin points out in his book - certainly would not have embraced.

This little book is a delight to read, and a very effective resource for lovers and students of Sherlock Holmes either to dip into, or to read through from cover to cover as I did.


Being Miss
Being Miss
Price: £2.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly, sometimes painfully funny, 24 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Being Miss (Kindle Edition)
I found this account brilliantly and sometimes painfully funny. Fran has the classic stance of the comic writer; that self-deprecating humour, that gift for presenting yourself as "no better than you should be".. I feel this short book should be required reading for anyone on a B. Ed. course, so that they might have a true sense of the realities of life as a schoolteacher. Although I don't believe, of course, that any teacher would genuinely encounter all these situations in one day, and it's clear Fran has amalgamated probably several months' worth of experiences in one intense, highly comical day, nevertheless this does give fascinating insights into the life of a schoolteacher. I haver a sense that to succeed in this profession you have to be a master of mind-games and psychological tricks; for those unskilled in this, it must be unbelievably stressful! I particularly loved Fran's dialogues with her Scottish colleague in the staffroom, and some of the more picaresque tales in the book, including the moment when you as the reader think, "Oh no, she isn't going to do what I think she's going to do...." and then of course she does do it.

Her account of invigilation was particularly amusing; though I must admit, from my own personal experience of invigilation, I have confined myself to switching my attention to the faces, hairstyles, body-language, clothes and make-up of several students in the room, wondering about what their futures hold for them, and what mistakes they will make in their lives and whether any of them are destined to make the same mistakes that I've done. I have never deliberately set off down an aisle while another invigilator is heading up it in my direction, with the intention of sweeping a student's exam paper and stationery off onto the floor. However, having read Fran's anecdotes, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief that she has actually done the things she describes! (Or maybe there is some use of poetic licence here).

I'd love to see this kind of comic observation within the structure of a well-plotted full-length novel. There's a challenge for you, Fran, as an English teacher! You may even be able to steal and subtly adjust some of those wonderful Gothic ideas presented by your brilliant pupils in their essays for you...


Earthed: Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection
Earthed: Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection
by Bruce Stanley
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bridging the Gap Between Christianity and Paganism, 19 Nov. 2014
This fascinating book came into my hands because I belong to a Facebook group called Mystic Christ and heard about the publication of this collection of essays by authors with both Christian affiliation and a desire to express spirituality through nature connection. It sounded like a book after my own heart. For many years I was greatly drawn to a spirituality very close to pantheism/nature mysticism; and one of my chief objections then to the Christian faith was what I saw as its “black and white” stance and its refusal to recognise the validity of this kind of spirituality.

I remember years ago a certain Tory politician being asked if he was religious or a churchgoer, to which he replied, “No, I don’t go to church, I feel much closer to God walking in the Yorkshire Dales”. In the view of the authors of “Earthed” this is a valid spiritual position to take. The book, edited by Bruce Stanley and Steve Holllinghurst, brings together the views and experiences of several authors who have a range of different approaches and outlooks but all believe that Christianity’s relationship with nature matters. The earlier essays provide an overview and then move on to more detailed accounts of personal experiences. I must admit I found some of these read a little like vicars seeking to justify to their evangelical colleagues why they are moved by pagan religious rituals in nature.

However, I was pleased to see a chapter by Annie Heppenstall, “Do I Not Fill Heaven and Earth?” Annie led the Celtic Christian celebrations I attended at Morton Bagot church in Warwickshire. There is also a very good article by Anne Hollinghurst about St Francis of Assisi. “A creation-centred spirituality,” she writes, “should also include St Francis’ rule of compassion for the poor, a rejection of the pursuit of wealth, status or reputation in favour of simplicity and poverty of spirit.”

To me there’s no problem in the idea of worshipping God in and through nature.This has always been a spirituality very close to my heart. But I do acknowledge that some people find the natural world wild, disorderly and threatening. I enjoyed the chapter about The Green Man by Simon Cross, in which he draws a thread connecting the story of the Garden of Eden with the Legend of the Holy Rood, the Frankenstein story, North American Indian spirituality and its understanding of the Great Spirit, through the 1800′s resurgence of interest in occultism and onto fear of little green men from Mars, space research and exploration and the current fascination with wilderness survival skills (as demonstrated in various TV programmes).

The theme of this book was highlighted from a different source on Sun 16 November 2014: I was watching a BBC TV programme presented by Sue Perkins from a remote rural community in Cambodia, where she was spending time with people who have “a relationship with the natural world that many of us crave.”

Another outstanding chapter for me in this book is “Oceanic God” in which author Nick Thorpe writes about things he has learned from the power of the sea and from the people who earn their living by chancing their lives upon the sea. “After my sea pilgrimage,” he says, “I resolved to allow myself a broader, more open-handed belief; less fretful about the details of doctrine, more willing to let complex realities clash, and mysteries remain.”

There is also a lovely piece by Paul Cudby on “Friendships Across the Divide: A Theology of Encounter” which I strongly identified with. I have myself felt the spiritual sense of nature connection which he describes, on several occasions throughout my life. The experiences he describes follow the principle that whatever you practice regularly becomes almost intuitive and then new possibilities spring up.

In conclusion I’d say that the premise of this book is correct: that in western forms of Christian worship many habitually cut themselves off from this kind of nature connection; and this is a totally unnecessary source of alienation from those who find themselves naturally drawn to pagan and mystical spirituality.Instead, we end up creating a division between those whose spiritual practices might otherwise find many points of similarity. If any of this rings a bell with you, I highly recommend this book.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9