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N. de Cort (Suffolk, UK.)

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A Walk through the Heavens: A Guide to Stars and Constellations and their Legends
A Walk through the Heavens: A Guide to Stars and Constellations and their Legends
by Milton D. Heifetz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most productive half-hour in my garden, ever!, 15 Jan. 2007
For years I've gazed up at the stars and wondered how I could start to find out about the constellations; if only I'd known about this book I'd have had my answer.

It's brilliant, half an hour in the back garden and I'd found the Big Dipper, Polaris, the Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, and several others. Similarly, for ten years I'd seen a series of three stars in the sky and wondered what they were, now I know; the belt of Orion!

Simple steps, clear diagrams, measuring techniques, everything that you need to start is here. If you want to get to know the night sky, you could do no better than start here.

World War Z
World War Z
by Max Brooks
Edition: Paperback

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and compelling and utterly believable, 4 Oct. 2006
This review is from: World War Z (Paperback)
The premise of the book is that the author has written the official UN report on the Zombie War, but complained that the facts and figures presented were just too large and too horrific for people to grasp. They needed to read the human story that made up this vast array of horror, but this wasn't allowed in an official report. It was suggested that he go and write a book of his own, and World War Z is the result.

This back story is only the first indication of the thought that's gone into this; from the first infections in rural China, through the global panic, the turning of the tide and the final resolution, the story is told through personal interviews with people who were `there'. This means ordinary people, camping in northern Canada or escaping from their flat in Kyoto, Japan; through military personnel, US pilots or Chinese sub-mariners; to the people making the decisions such as the new Director of Strategic Resources in the US, or the author of the infamous Orange Plan in South Africa, which provided the blueprint for the survival of the species.

As there would be under the circumstances, people refer to other incidents around the world, some of which we have already read an account of, so the whole thing hangs together far better than a series of disparate accounts might indicate, and they're ordered to reflect the overarching progress of the war.

But it's the detail that really makes this so utterly compelling. Brooks has obviously done most of the groundwork in his The Zombie Survival Guide, but this is a brilliant realisation of that theory. The progression of what happens, what people try, what works and what doesn't; such as the failure of cutting-edge weapons technology, leading to the mothballing of the US's combat aircraft (which cost too much money for too few kills) and people adopting tried and tested medieval weapons, walking around with Samurai swords or claymores at their sides; all is brilliantly laid out here in fascinating and utterly absorbing detail.

If one suspends disbelief and accepts the premise that the dead can actually rise up from the grave, everything in this book is completely and utterly, frighteningly believable.

Of course, we know the dead can't rise up from the grave. . . can they?!

Joe: The Only Boy in the World
Joe: The Only Boy in the World
by Michael Blastland
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book, but not exactly what it says on the tin!, 13 Jan. 2006
This is a heart-warming book. The author, writing about his son, candidly discuss the problems, the tantrums, the obsessions, and also the glee, the energy and the boundless, if temperamental, enthusiasm. It’s realistic about the problems and pitfalls, but ends on an amazingly upbeat note.
One point that is important to note, though; it’s more philosophical treatise than biography. Each of the ten chapters use an incident as a springboard for a discussion of Joe and of autism, and what it means for the humanity of all of us. This is acutely observed and absolutely fascinating, but it is not a biography, despite what the blurb implies.
Having said that, I enjoyed it no less for that.

Just A Boy: The True Story of a Stolen Childhood
Just A Boy: The True Story of a Stolen Childhood
by Richard McCann
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, 10 Aug. 2004
I first heard about this book from an Amazon email, and went out and bought it immediately, but I was somewhat disappointed.
McCann's life has undoubtedly been tough in a way that most of us, thankfully, will never experience; what he calls the 'ripples on the pond' from the murder of his mother have certainly been felt through the years; and by the end of the book he does seem to have come through it. The fact that he got onto the property ladder and started creating a neat and ordered life for himself seems to me to have been the driving force in his life; a grim determination to hold onto what he'd earned and not to be cast back into the disordered, drink-fuelled cycle of domestic violence that he'd escaped but which seems to have held onto his siblings.
However, I was expecting the agony and the ecstasy, and didn't find it here. Maybe it's a failing in my capacity for empathy because of a happy and contented childhood and family life, or maybe it's the quality of the writing, which is good but not great, but, after the first few chapters describing the murder of his mother and the short-term fall-out I didn't really engage with the writing. Those first chapters can't help but elicit shock and dismay, and make one grateful for having ones family around, but that level wasn't maintained for me.
It's clearly a work that comes straight from the heart, he's obviously opened up entirely to try and exorcise his demons, and from the sound of it by the end of the book he's succeeded. I went along with him on the journey, but rather than being next to him through it all, I felt I was watching from another car that happened to be going in the same direction.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 6, 2012 4:56 PM BST

Alamein: War Without Hate
Alamein: War Without Hate
by Colin Smith
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully evocative account, 23 Mar. 2004
This book is a fluent and gripping account of the North African campaign, beginning with the Italian invasion of Egypt (well prior to the arrival of Rommel), and finishing with the decisive battle of el Alamein. It's perfectly pitched on the detail, enough for those keen on the divisions and weapons, but never getting bogged down in them.
There's a great mixture of the larger picture; troop and tank movements, overall strategy; with the smaller personal details of history and experiences that fill in the gaps as far as the real people and real lives are concerned. This is augmented by footnotes throughout that fill in the details of the fates of many of the figures very satisfactorily.
Overall a fascinating account of an almost unique campaign. Heartily recommended.

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About
Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About
by Mil Millington
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but ultimately unsatisfying as a novel, 18 Nov. 2003
Good stuff first: very funny throughout. Sharply observed and well-written on the family relationships that define us all. Some really touching passages, especially on the children. Worth reading for these reasons.
My criticisms, though, are that the plot is ultimately unsatisfying. Pel gets into trouble, but it's nothing he's done that puts him there, he's just (very) unlucky. He does little or nothing to get himself out of the problems, and nothing is resolved. It's like some sort of plot has been grafted on to make the (really funny) situations (shopping, work, parent's evening, buying a house) hang together. As a novel it doesn't work. As a series of picaresque situations, it's really very funny.

Secret Agent: The True Story of the Special Operations Executive
Secret Agent: The True Story of the Special Operations Executive
by David Stafford
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and fascinating introduction., 27 Feb. 2002
Having long been vaguely aware of the existence of SOE I was looking for an introduction, something showing the sweep of the operations. I found exactly what I was looking for in this book. It was well written, and made detailed and extensive use of first-person accounts which made everything seem that extra bit closer.
My only criticism was that there was a lack of detail, particularly noticeable in the run-up to D-Day where we don't find out much about what happened. However, as a book can't do everything, I would be happy to recommend it as a first read, and the bibliography and footnotes give ample opportunites for further reading if you want them.

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