Archive > October 2011

Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 5

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Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 5: book reviewLandscape Photographer of the Year is the publication that features the winners and other commended entries from renowned photographer Charlie Waite’s Take a View competition. The contest is run in collaboration with the AA, who publish this book. Both amateur and professional photographers may enter, and they do not have to be UK residents. All photographs submitted, however, must be taken in the British Isles. There is a separate section entitled Youth Class for photographs taken by children under the age of sixteen.

The competition gives photographers the opportunity to enter all or some of four categories. First is the “classic view,” which should demonstrate the ‘beauty and variety’ of the British landscape.


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The Bloody Meadow

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The Bloody Meadow, William Ryan, book reviewThe Bloody Meadow is the second novel by William Ryan to feature Aleksei Korolev, a detective Working for the Moscow Criminal Investigation Division in 1930s Russia. It follows on from The Holy Thief which was very well reviewed and shortlisted for a number of crime fiction awards. The Bloody Meadow could be read as a stand-alone novel, but I would recommend that a reader starts with The Holy Thief, as it provided some of Korolev’s background; he continues to grow as a character through the second novel.

The Bloody Meadow starts with Korolev in Moscow, but he is quickly dispatched to Odessa to investigate the death of a young woman on the scene of a film set.


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How To Be a Woman

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How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran, book reviewHow To Be a Woman may seem an oddly titled book for a 33 year old woman to be reading – surely with 33 years of practice I must have figured it out by now? Yet despite this ample experience, being a woman is something I feel I’m a bit rubbish at. I only own one dress (the one I got married in, never to be worn again). I only own one pair of heels that I can’t walk in (putting me apparently way below average on this count). I never wear, and never have worn, make-up (not even on my wedding day – I drew the line at having to wear a frock). I don’t have a handbag, either (why would I need one when I have a perfectly serviceable rucksack and pockets in my clothes?). And the biggest failing of all – I don’t want babies.

How To Be a Woman is described as being part rant, part memoir, and part The Female Eunuch rewritten “from a barstool”. Yes, that’s right: a lot of How To Be a Woman is about FEMINISM. Before a lot of you flee before the very mention of this word, let me say that Moran is far from being one of those scary, aggressive men-hating feminists


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The Blackhouse

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The Blackhouse, Peter May, book reviewThe Blackhouse is a novel by Peter May, set on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, the first in a series (trilogy according to Amazon) featuring Detective Fin Macleod. Having escaped Lewis at the age of eighteen, Fin is packed off to the island from Edinburgh when a murder is committed in a similar manner to one he has been investigating in Edinburgh.

The story alternates between the present and flashbacks to Fin’s childhood and adolescence, with the present being in third person and the past in first person. Although packaged as a crime novel or thriller, the whodunnit isn’t really the focus of the novel. Fin never wanted to return to Lewis, and is frequently confronted by bad memories.


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Don’t Let Me Go

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Don't Let Me Go, Catherine Ryan Hyde, book reviewI have just finished reading Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde and feel quite emotionally drained because of this wonderful book. It is thought-provoking and poignant and makes subtle observations about the state of twenty first century living. It’s also most uplifting and to me felt like a testament to the power of human kindness.

In Don’t Let Me Go we meet Grace who is a small girl with big problems. She lives with her mother in a small apartment block in LA but her main problem is that her mother is a drug addict and if she does not clean up her act very soon, Grace could very likely be taken away by the ‘woman from the county’.


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The Stranger’s Child

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The Stranger's Child, Alan Hollinghurst, book reviewThe Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst is a large book which spans the majority of the 20th century. It tells the story of a young poet, Cecil Valance, although he dies relatively early in the story during the First World War leaving behind a modest group of poems, mainly secondary rate, but one or two of which enter the public consciousness in the English-speaking world. The fulcrum of the novel is a weekend in the late summer of 1913 when Cecil comes to stay at the house of his close Cambridge friend, George Sawle. The actions of Cecil during that weekend and the ways in which he interacts with the Sawle family members and their retainers sends out ripples which penetrate the remainder of the novel and eventually extend into the late 20th century.

The Stranger’s Child is Hollinghurst’s first novel since The Line of Beauty won the Man Booker prize in 2004.


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Billy Connolly’s Route 66

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Billy Connolly's Route 66: The Big Yin on the Ultimate American Road Trip, Billy Connolly, book review“Get your kicks on Route 66” goes the song. As someone who grew up on rock and roll and dreamt of the wide spaces of America from Glasgow, Billy Connolly has always had a fascination with the iconic Route 66. In Billy Connolly’s Route 66, he travels the famous Mother Road, and invites us all along for the ride.

Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 travels through many famous places, and is an integral part of the California dream – travelled by millions in search of a better life on the West Coast, particularly by the “Okies” escaping the dust bowl of Oklahoma during the great depression. Now however, with much of the small towns which relied on passing trade bypassed by the Interstate highway, the road is dying. Some towns and businesses are enterprising and manage to continue to attract visitors, but there are many more abandoned houses and premises.


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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

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Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich, book reviewAmerica has long been billed as the land of opportunity, a place where the streets are paved with gold and anyone who is prepared to work hard enough can buy themselves a part of the American dream. “I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that `hard work’ was the secret of success,” Barbara Ehrenreich writes. “No one ever said that you could work hard – harder even than you thought possible – and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.”

On 22nd August 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act brought about major welfare reform in the US. Couched in terms of promoting a work ethic amongst those in receipt of welfare payments, this act brought about significant change to the American poor, removing any automatic entitlement to payouts and restricting any that were received to a lifetime limit of five years. This reform meant that almost overnight, 4 million women (many of them with children) had to enter the work force in low-paid entry level jobs.


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Aids Sutra

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Aids Sutra: Untold Stories from India,  Prashant PanjiarI suspect that many people think that a ‘sutra’ is a smutty book due to the only one they’ve ever heard of being the ancient guide to sex known as the Kama Sutra. That’s not the case. Sutra is a Sanskrit word which means a wise saying or aphorism or a collection of such things. In the case of the two sutras I’ve read – Gita Mehta’s River Sutra and the book I’m reviewing here, AIDS Sutra – the term is used more broadly to mean a collection of short essays or stories. The closest suggestion I could give for the word would be ‘Anthology’.

AIDS Sutra was published in 2008 and was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and they open the book with an introduction and a ‘thank you’ to the writers whose work follows. In the introductory chapter, written by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, we learn that nobody’s too sure exactly how many cases of AIDS and HIV there are in India but best estimates put the figure at something like 3 million – just imagine 3 million people living under the shadow of a disease which could be treated and controlled if they lived in a country with greater affluence and access to Anti-Retroviral drugs and without the societal constraints that prevent many sufferers from seeking treatment.


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Deconstructing the Divine

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7 Secrets Of Shiva , Devdutt Pattanaik: Book reviewDevdutt Patnaik has moved on from coaching management students and finding the links between management and mythology to mythology full time. This pair of books talks about the philosophies of the two most powerful gods in the Hindu pantheon, Vishnu and Shiva and the reasons why they are as they are in Hindu philosophy. Vishnu is referred to as the Preserver while Shiva is known as the Destroyer. Alternatively Vishnu is the householder, worshipped with sprigs of tulsi, a household plant, while Shiva is the hermit, worshipped with leaves of bilva, grown outside the house. Occasionally, however, they appear to change their roles – Vishnu in his Kalki avatar takes on the form of the destroyer, while Shiva, the most detached of gods is the only one with a wife and children.


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The Cross

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The Cross Scott G. Mariani, book reviewThe Cross is the second novel in Scott G. Mariani’s Vampire Federation series. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first instalment, The Uprising, when it was a Kindle freebie, I was more than happy to pay for The Cross – although currently it is only 99p on Kindle.

The Cross opens more or less immediately after the end of The Uprising. Our leading man, Joel, is still in Romania after the showdown with Gabriel Stone and his “traditional” vampires, which were rebelling against the Federation, which polices vampire behaviour. Joel is not the same man as he was in The Uprising however, and has to come to terms with the monumental change in his life. Alex, a vampire and Federation agent, returns to London to report on what happened. However, the story is far from over, and neither is the battle against the traditionalists.


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Out of My Depth

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Out of My Depth, by Emily Barr, book reviewOut of My Depth, by Emily Barr, tells the story of four former school friends who meet up years later for a reunion. Right from the start the reader is aware that something dark and sinister occurred in their past which means that this reunion is never going to be easy – but this is at first only hinted at and gradually through the book the truth comes out. This really had me hooked right from the start!

All the women are now thirty two. Suzy, a successful artist is the one who instigates the reunion by inviting the others to her luxurious farmhouse in France. She is very surprised and also more than a bit nervous when everyone agrees to come. The others are Amanda, Isabelle and Tamsin. All have changed greatly since their school days and because of this they are like strangers to each other.


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