Review: A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d encountered Hemingway through his ‘Death in the Afternoon’ foray into bullfighting. I have always wanted to tackle some of his pure fiction and thought I’d delve into this shortish novel, with catchy title. I expected a book on war and the protagonist’s journey on the Italian front of World War 1 did not disappoint. The book is a romantic novel though and the blossoming love between soldier and nurse in the heat of conflict is a contrasting dichotomy that Hemingway weaves wonderfully in a myriad of descriptive prose. As the story progresses you find attachment to the characters and Hemingway will ever so suddenly sweep the carpet from underneath you and cast the direction into another unforeseen direction. The book builds and builds and we see the conflict dying down and as the birth of their firstborn approaches one can only expect a nice happy conclusion. War over and happiness ever after. But alas, the tragedy of the finale leaves one dumbstruck and aghast. It really does leave you hanging. The tragedy of war is matched with the tragedy of life and our main character’s heartbreak hits you as a reader with devastating effect. A fantastic read and I cannot wait until I grasp hold of the next Hemingway adventure.

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Review: The Will to Survive. A History of Hungary

The Will to Survive. A History of Hungary
The Will to Survive. A History of Hungary by Bryan Cartledge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a daunting book in terms of size yet at the conclusion of it, I feel its in depth detail and full historical coverage make it a definitive volume of those interested in the country of Hungary and its environs. I travelled through Hungary in 2005 and spent some tie in Budapest and was quite surprised by the capital’s affluent nature despite it being my first glimpse behind the Iron Curtain. The author was a British ambassador to Hungary in the early 1980s, at the dawn of the modern political era. If I had any criticism of this work it is that it sometimes gets a little overbearing politically with less emphasis on general history. I found the ancient history amazing and was fully intrigued by the Habsburg monarchy. The twentieth century brought a new angle on both World Wars and the subsequent peaces. I was surprised at the impact Trianon has on Hungary and the key revolution in 1956 exposed some of the feelings of true life behind the Iron Curtain. I think that Hungary’s history as a central European nation has been troubled due to its geography yet the continuation of the Hungarian people and language demonstrates that this struggle has succeeded. I feel that Hungary invokes romantic notions in how it is generally perceived in the West. That is despite, allying itself with the losing side in both World Wars, its location on the Danube at where East meets West, means that it has a unique position in terms of world heritage. After reading this book I feel more enlightened about Eastern Europe and feel that I would like to further my study on the region by visiting it once more.

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Review: The Last Narco: Hunting El Chapo, The World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord

The Last Narco: Hunting El Chapo, The World's Most Wanted Drug Lord
The Last Narco: Hunting El Chapo, The World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord by Malcolm Beith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fast-moving story of the rise of Mexico’s most feared and influential drug lord, El Chapo. The Sinaloa cartel occupies the number one position in terms of prestige of drug organisations and Guzman Loera has hit the Forbes list of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world. After a daring prison break he hides out from Mexican and US authorities as well as rival gangs in the hills of his native Mexico. Beith is a journalist who attempts to piece together the myths surrounding this elusive character and he weaves a very readable and exciting story together which combines romance, bloodthirsty homicide, big business administration, corruption and the life of the modern day Mexican Robin Hood and his associates. The situation in Mexico is extreme and unbelievable in may ways. It has certainly transcended all the boundaries first witnessed during the rise of the Colombian cartels decades ago. This book is perhaps lacking in truth in some ways as the evidence is so difficult to establish, yet it is well-written and gives the reader a good insight into one of the greatest plagues of the modern world.

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Review: China Road: A Journey Into The Future Of A Rising Power

China Road: A Journey Into The Future Of A Rising Power
China Road: A Journey Into The Future Of A Rising Power by Rob Gifford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a thoroughly absorbing study of modern China and its vast population. The author embarks on a pilgrimage along Route 312, China’s Route 66, heading West from Shanghai, deep into the deserted Asiatic frontier in the northwest. En route, he documents his mainly chance encounters with the general populace and impromptu, un-monitored interviews, bring out the true feelings of the Chinese and their views on modern life and the future. The book is quite scathing of the Chinese government in many ways, yet it appraises the newfound freedoms many Chinese have and explores the amazing pace of development that has propelled China into a dominant world power. Almost no stone is left uncovered and every aspect of culture, life, politics, industry, family and education, are probed. I found that the deeper West that Gifford reached the more extreme and amazing the travelogue revealed itself. As he headed out into the Gobi desert, the remoteness of this region was apparent and I found his meeting with the Uighur people, particularly enthralling. It is clear that the author is a deep sinophile and is obviously well-versed to make such a study, having worked in the region for many years as a leading journalist. I think that this book is very accessible and is a good light introduction to anyone who is studying China. There is a good bibliography and plenty of references. It is a well written tale and is fast-flowing. It combines well with other books I have read about the rise of China and its potential in the future of our planet.

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Review: Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications

Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications
Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications by Jeremy Munday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahead of embarking upon a Translation (BA) at Cardiff University, I thought I’d prepare by investigating one of the course textbooks. This introduction to Translation Studies was a revelation in how it introduced me to the new terminology I will be working with. I initially found the introduction of new models and ways of thinking a little daunting, but by the end of chapter twelve I felt that I was making progress in understanding the general gists of translation studies. The chapter on machine translation was the most appealing to me and I see this as an area in which I might specialise. The case studies at the end of each chapter were particularly thought-provoking and useful in allowing you to grasp the concepts at discussion in each chapter. I felt that this book was an ideal way to anticipate my future degree and I look forward to referring back to this text as my studies progress.

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Review: The Albanians: A Modern History

The Albanians: A Modern History
The Albanians: A Modern History by Miranda Vickers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Albania is one of those countries that have a colourful history and is a place that was a bit of an anomaly to me. I know that it is publicly perceived as a poor backwater of Eastern Europe but I wanted to read this well-written book to glean further information. After the fall of the Ottomans in the Balkans, Albania came into being as an independent entity. This came out of the back of several Balkan conflicts. The Albanians are one of the rainbow of ethnic tribes in the region, with their own language, culture and religions. The new country was plunged into a period of turmoil, facing the brunt of two world wars as it attempted to establish itself. The ancient ways of Ottoman times left a great deal of difficulty for any ruling power to modernise and Albania seemed destined to become isolated and a haven for political extremes, reaching a zenith under the charismatic tutelage of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha. His forty year rule paved the way for Albania to develop in its own unique way, relying at different times on the patronage of Russia, China, Yugoslavia and Italy. With the fall of communism in the modern era, a new democratic age was heralded, though the much anticipated improvements were not quite so instant with the country facing many political crises, the collapse of pyramidal banking schemes, the rise of organised crime and ongoing disputes about the ethnic Albanians in neighbouring countries. I found this book particularly enlightening in helping me to understand the Kosovo situation and all that it entails. As we move into the twenty-first century Albania holds Kosovo’s hand and makes inroads into its own emergence as a balkan power. It is now a member of NATO and has high hopes of full EU accession. The region is an interesting one and to understand Albania and its peoples this book is heralded as the cornerstone text for English-speakers.

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