Thursday, 29 September 2011

New Kindle

In response to Amazon's ad campaign, I have revisited the possibility of buying a Kindle, but just cannot see what may be in it for me. I like the basic idea, since carrying heavy books on a trip is a constant issue for me, but the Kindle versions seem to be more or less the same price as a proper book, whereas surely they should be much cheaper, and there are some very surprising omissions from the list of available books.

To name but three examples, there is no Patrick O'Brian, no Lawrence Durrell and no Margery Allingham. I looked no further!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Philippa Gregory

I have recently been sent two Philippa Gregory books by her publishers (thank you, Simon and Schuster): The Lady of the Rivers and The Women of the Cousins' War. Incidentally, I should probably state something of a personal interest here, since this is very much my period of history and covers part of of the proposed third volume of my own trilogy on the Plantagenets. 

The former is one of Gregory's excellent historical novels and features as its heroine not Elizabeth Woodville but her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, about whom I knew relatively little apart from the fact that she was Elizabeth's mother, and was originally married to John, Duke of Bedford, younger brother of HenryV and therefore much older than Jacquetta. Gregory builds a wonderful story around Jacquetta and the various intrigues at court. I'm not sure to what extent any of this is supported by direct evidence but, hey, this is fiction and very good fiction it is too. Anybody who likes historical fiction will love this book.

The latter features three biographies, co-authored with David Baldwin and Michael Jones. Jacquetta and Elizabeth, but also the redoubtable Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor. I really enjoyed this too. To be honest I did not learn much that I did not already know about Elizabeth, having read fairly extensively about her already, but I have never really considered the historical narrative from the viewpoint of either of the other two women, and was genuinely enlightened by reading as to the roles which they played. Thank you again to Simon and Schuster for being prepared to publish a work like this which is genuinely important but, alas, likely to appeal to a fairly limited audience.

I thoroughly recommend both these books.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Croatia - best avoided

In times of yore the Croatians were feared pirates, darting out from behind the many islands which line the coast of Dalmatia to snap up unsuspecting merchantmen and sell their unfortunate occupants into slavery. More recently, they have hung up their cutlasses and have taken to onshore piracy instead, which is just as lucrative but far less strenuous. Having set up hotels, cafes and restaurants they now charge exorbitant prices without offering any comparable quality in return.

As you can see, I am just returned from holiday, which will hopefully explain the recent blog silence. Special mentions go to the Arsenal restaurant in Dubrovnik, which served me frozen fish carpaccio; not just carpaccio which had been frozen, which would have been bad enough, but carpaccio which was still frozen. The Bistro Teatar, also in Dubrovnik, for ripping us off for an orange juice and a small, gassy local beer. The Toranj restaurant in Cavtat, which served a bottle of rose which tasted like dry sherry and then refused to admit there was anything wrong with it.

I would strongly suggest that anyone considering holidaying in Croatia think again. This is a country which cuisine seems to have passed by (we had to complain about something every single meal). It is hugely crowded, even out of season, and the Croatians seem to be intent solely on gouging as much money out of the unfortunate tourists as they can. I have been to Italy many.many times and regardless of what quality of package I have chosen I have always felt I was getting value for money (sole exception perhaps restaurants in Venice), but that certainly wasn't the case this time.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sad Day

I am finally getting around to rationalising my 1,700 or so books, though will be using a highly arcane system which chiefly involves just moving them from one pile to another.

Sadly I have jsut had to throw out all my Hardy and Trollope, all of which were paperbacks from my schooldays and were literally crumbling away. After several false starts I did finally make it to the recycling bin and bid them farewell.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Two new books

Rather overdoing things this month as I have two new books which are by coincidence both being published in September.

No Fear Finance, published by Kogan Page, is a non-threatening and (so far as possible) non-mathematical approach to learning about finance and investment, designed especially for those with no quantitative skills or background. It is believed to be totally unique. No such other "alternative" finance book exists.

Cricket at the Crossroads, published by Elliott and Thompson, sets the happenings of Test cricket from 1967 to 1977 against the backdrop of social change, and particularly class, colour and commercialism.