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review 2019-01-18 22:22
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire - Lawrence James

The largest empire in history ended less than a century ago, yet the legacy of how it rose and how it fell will impact the world for longer than it existed.  Lawrence James’ chronicles the 400-year long history of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, from its begins on the eastern seaboard of North American spanning a quarter of the world to the collection of tiny outposts scattered across the globe.


Neither a simple nor a comprehensive history, James looks at the British Empire in the vain of economic, martial, political, and cultural elements not only in Britain but in the colonies as well.  Beginning with the various settlements on the eastern seaboard of North America, James describes the various colonies and latter colonial administrators that made their way from Britain to locations around the globe which would have an impact on attitudes of the Empire over the centuries.  The role of economics in not only the growth the empire but also the Royal Navy that quickly became interdependent and along with the growth of the Empire’s size the same with the nation’s prestige.  The lessons of the American War of Independence not only in terms of military fragility, but also politically influenced how Britain developed the “white” dominions over the coming centuries.  And the effect of the liberal, moralistic bent of the Empire to paternally watch over “lesser” peoples and teach them clashing with the bombast of the late-19th Century rush of imperialism in the last century of the Empire’s exists and its effects both at home and abroad.


Composing an overview of 400-years of history than spans across the globe and noting the effects on not only Britain but the territories it once controlled was no easy task, especially in roughly 630 pages of text.  James attempted to balance the “positive” and “negative” historiography of the Empire while also adding to it.  The contrast between upper-and upper-middle class Britons thinking of the Empire with that of the working-class Britons and colonial subjects was one of the most interesting narratives that James brought to the book especially in the twilight years of the Empire.  Although it is hard to fault James given the vast swath of history he tackled there were some mythical history elements in his relating of the American War of Independence that makes the more critical reader take pause on if the related histories of India, South Africa, Egypt, and others do not contain similar historical myths.


The Rise and Fall of the British Empire is neither a multi-volume comprehensive history nor a simple history that deals with popular myths of history, it is an overview of how an island nation came to govern over a quarter of the globe through cultural, economic, martial, and political developments.  Lawrence James’s book is readable to both general and critical history readers and highly recommended.

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review 2019-01-05 03:23
Strong debut novel
Murder on the Old Bog Road - David Pearson

A strong debut novel, not trying to reinvent the wheel but creating a dynamic murder mystery with compelling characters you'll want to get to know more about in future novels, in a beautiful setting the author knows and loves.

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review 2018-12-27 15:07
A magical book for readers young at heart. Highly recommended
Tales from the Irish Garden - Sally Cronin

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher, and I freely decided to review it.

I have followed the author’s blog Smorgasbord Invitation for quite a while. She is an expert on many topics, including health, media, publishing, and she is a great supporter of other writers and artists. She has also published a large number of books, non-fiction and fiction, and she has shared many of her short stories in her blog. I read and reviewed her book Tales from the Garden a while back (you can check my review here) and had been looking forward to this book since I heard about it.

While the original book contained pictures from the author and her relatives’ gardens, for this book she counts with the collaboration of talented illustrator Donata Zawadzka, who provides a black and white ink illustration for each one of the stories/chapters of this enchanting book. The style of the illustrations suits this wonderful realm perfectly, and the images helped bring the stories to life more fully.

The book follows on from the stories of the fairy realm of Magia. Queen Filigree and her subjects have to leave their garden in Spain due to a new property development. Although some of her stone guardians cannot follow to the new location, in Ireland, we get to meet some fantastic new characters, like the Storyteller, a man with his own magic, who helps our friends in need. We have a prince charming for the queen, magical dressmakers; we also learn more about how the palace works, from the royal pigeons and their carer, to the magical spiders, Queen Bee and her subjects, and the frogs who also help with pest control and building work. Some of our old acquaintances are up to no good, and we also learn more about the queen’s daughters (pretty but not always wise).

The stories follow the seasons of the year, and we have many occasions to join in their celebrations, with new musicians and banquets, and we can enjoy stories set in particular times of the year, from local fairs to Halloween. I cannot choose a favourite because I enjoyed them all, from the piglet races to the touching story of the Storytellers’ daughter.

The style of writing is accessible, fluid and suitable to all ages. These fairy-tales contain gorgeous descriptions of places, costumes, foods, and also characters that go beyond the standard cardboard cut-outs we have come to expect. We have witches suffering from age-related aches and pains, princesses who care for each other but can get into serious trouble, fairy queens concerned about their age, foxes that refuse to kill other animals, jealous bulls… Only some human beings are allowed into the magical realm, and I felt privileged to be one of them.

Another magical book from this author, suitable for anybody who is a child at heart and needs a little inspiration to recover the sense of wonder. Queen Filigree has a magical fountain, and we have Sally Cronin’s books to ensure our imagination keeps us forever young. Highly recommended to everybody.  

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review 2018-12-21 16:44
Repeal The 8th
Repeal The 8th - Emmet Kiran,Aisling Bea,Tara Flynn,Lisa McInerney,Louise O'Neill,Caitlin Moran,Anne Enright,Sinéad Gleeson,Una Mullally

They’re our bodies and it’s our choice.


Repeal the 8th was a collection of short-stories, poetry, personal accounts and articles relating to the movement that mounted in response to the referendum. It was written by a collection of people from across Ireland. One specific article was written by a woman from Northern Ireland and discussed the impact of the result of the referendum here, which I was particularly interested in. Being a lover of fiction, I really liked the short-stories, especially the one by Lisa McInerney. I haven’t read any of her work before, but I will now.


What do we mean by women’s equality?...The right to chose what? Abortion? No. Accessible abortion is fundamentally not about being able to choose abortion. It is about a woman who becomes unexpectedly pregnant being empowered to retain control of her body, to be able to make choices about her life – her education, her career, how many children she can afford, how many children she wants, if any


There’s not too much to say about this collection, other than it was illuminating and eye-opening to what women have gone through for years to avail of a human right. Please read it. You won't regret it.


I’ll leave you with this final quote that I found particularly pertinent, made by Caitlin Moran:


I cannot understand anti-abortion arguments that centre on the sanctity of life. As a species, we’ve fairly comprehensively demonstrated that we don’t believe in the sanctity of life. The shrugging acceptance of war, famine, epidemic, pain and lifelong, grinding poverty show us that, whatever we tell ourselves, we’ve made only the most feeble of efforts to really treat human life as sacred.

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text 2018-12-12 14:19
Reading progress update: I've read 75%.
Repeal The 8th - Emmet Kiran,Aisling Bea,Tara Flynn,Lisa McInerney,Louise O'Neill,Caitlin Moran,Anne Enright,Sinéad Gleeson,Una Mullally

As someone who comes from and lives in Northern Ireland, this statement is very pertinent to me. People seldom acknowledge that the law that governs the Republic of Ireland doesn't operate in the North. There's a border that separates the North and South. Basically, what I'm saying is that even though abortion is now legal in the South, we are still subject to archaic laws that categorise abortion as illegal in the North.


Despite being the Republic of Ireland's closest neighbour and having almost identically harsh abortion laws, Northern Ireland is seldom acknowledged by most within the Repeal movement.

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