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Vanessa F "Vanessa" (Somerset, England)

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All 4
All 4
Price: £0.00

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Annoyed., 30 Dec. 2015
This review is from: All 4 (App)
Please bring this to Kindle Fire Stick. I'm sick of having apps cut off to me because I didn't choose a Google Chrome Cast.

Price: £1.78

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lag. Lag lag LAG!, 29 Sept. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: AirReceiver (App)
This app works... in only the 'functional' side of things. Sure, you can bring up your screen... but the lag is absolutely awful. I tried to watch a streaming movie from my laptop to my TV. The stutter and lag were sometimes two or three seconds BEHIND the video on the laptop screen. I thought that might have been an issue with the streaming provider, so I used some video files from my hard drive that should NOT have had any issue playing on a decent AirPlay connection. Still stuttered and lagged.

The Class Book of Baby Names
The Class Book of Baby Names
Price: £1.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely awful., 26 Jun. 2015
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To all budding writers of the world: I have a challenge for you.

Open up your word processor of choice. Put your finger over the keystroke for your favourite letter of the alphabet. Keep your finger held in place until you eventually hit 40-45 pages. Save, and put this document on Amazon for the criminal charge of £1.53. At least your book will be considered a postmodern work of art, and not the rantings of a smug, bellicose harridan who is desperately trying to cling to some modicum of cultural relevance, despite the general public growing tired of her schtick.

Scrolling through her Twitter feed, which is somehow less painful than this entire book, you’ll discover a few things about the esteemed author.

Katie Hopkins hates women who want maternity leave.
Katie Hopkins hates the idea of gender-specific prizes and shortlists.
Katie Hopkins hates working class women who are tasteless enough to name their child Tyler.
Katie Hopkins outright despises left-wingers.
Katie Hopkins hates working class people.
Katie Hopkins hates middle class people.
Katie Hopkins hates upper middle class people.
Katie Hopkins hates Muslims.
Katie Hopkins hates people who are overweight.
In fact, we could go on for hours. Katie Hopkins just seems to be a hate elemental. If we could harness the energy she puts into being vitriolic for the sake of TV ratings and column inches, we could illuminate our corner of western Europe like a supernova for years to come.

There’s a disclaimer to begin with, of course. Katie Hopkins insists that more politically correct people actually say exactly what she spews behind closed doors, and thus, are ‘closet Hopkins.’ I think she’s describing a different kind of creature altogether – the ‘closet Hopkins’ is actually some breed of hobgoblin that spouts xenophobic regurgitations whenever you open the cupboard under the sink. “Eastern European plumber. Ain’t right, support British trade,” it grumbles, glaring its hateful little eyes out from behind the waste food bin, and sticking its nose back into The Sun newspaper.

Also, there’s the fact that, unlike Hopkins, I was raised with basic human decency and taught at a very young age to not judge others, or be a nasty little bully.

You’ll learn in this book that judging little children by their names is perfectly de rigueur in Hopkins’ twisted view of the world. Little kids who had absolutely no say in what they were called. Little kids who, despite the chance that they could grow up to be very respectable and responsible working adults, will be turned away by Hopkins due to being saddled with a name like Wayne or Tanya.

Maybe Hopkins lives in a fantasy world where children are nameless until they acquire language skills and magically blurt out the one name that becomes theirs from that day forward. That’s perhaps the only way this could work, because unless little Kyle learns about changing one’s name by deed poll and gets legal aid to do just that, Hopkins is basically picking on a small child for something that is completely out of their control. If you don’t see how that’s wrong, please tell me how a 40 year old ‘television personality’ and ‘businesswoman’ sneering at some little kid’s name is somehow correct in your universe.

This book is, from what I can tell, a very lazy fabrication cobbled together by some rubbishy digital publishing house who made their interns scrawl through Hopkins’ timeline, back when she jumped on an opportunity to ‘rate names’ with a hashtag that provoked morbid curiosity at first, which soon turned into snobbery and the fact that Katie Hopkins’ brand of ‘comedy’ is about as funny as Jim Davidson at rock bottom trying to impersonate Dane Cook.

You see, as Hopkins tries to say, she doesn’t just make a snap judgement on the kids’ name when she pulls away her kids from the riff-raff they attend school with. (Which begs the question – if you hate state schools so much, why not home educate your children with a tutor, or send them off to an upper-crust private school?) She also judges based on the mother stood behind the child. If she’s wearing leggings at all, is a bit overweight, or perhaps looks like a hippie, Hopkins institutes a code red for her children to never play with that ruffian Tyler, or his friend Jayden.

Apparently, if my mother had named me Ruby like she originally intended, Hopkins would look down on her as a cursed vegan cyclist. Neither of my given names are in this book, which is rather amazing. You’d think that at least some effort would be put into a digital publication, rather than blithely printing the results of what Hopkins could reasonably respond to that one day on Twitter when #ratemyname was being bandied around. The introduction is less than one hundred words, and about the only thing the publishing house have really done that differentiates this book from a .pdf file of Hopkins’ timeline is added in a table of contents, and perhaps created the most half-assed book cover that has ever existed.

Reading this book is akin to having the Spanish tickler scraped across your frontal lobe. Hopkins’ vitriolic pigswill actually gets boring after a while, and almost totally predictable. Oh look, this name is a vaguely ‘common’. Yep, there’s some comment about fat mothers. Oh, this name is vaguely exotic or hippie-sounding. Yes, the mother probably has ‘hygiene issues,’ according to Hopkins. Yawn.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Price: £1.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating., 20 Jan. 2015
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In the early 2000s, science journalist Rebecca Skloot set out on a journey to reclaim the life story to a woman who had died fifty years ago. Researchers and scientists had robbed this woman of her agency and dignity in death over the following decades, marking her seemingly-immortal, replicating cells with the clinical abbreviation “HeLa”. Some newspapers didn’t even bother to get her name right when reporting on this new biological discovery that they warned was going to allow scientists to “play God.”

Henrietta Lacks was a woman living in the 20th century in the racially segregated United States. Her family had to beg for treatment when Henrietta was dying from multiple cancerous tumours inside her body, and they were barely told that doctors had taken cell cultures from her, nor that they were profiting at least $100-200 each time they sold a vial of HeLa cells to researchers.

‘”Hopkins say they gave them cells away,” Lawrence yelled, “but they made millions! It’s not fair! She’s the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?”‘ (Loc. 2408)

The history of African-Americans being considered so sub-human that they were fair game for medical experimentation goes back to the 19th century, with slave owners making threats about “night doctors” who would kidnap people of African descent in the name of medical research. It’s disgusting to hear that a mere 20 years after the Tuskegee Study (carried out on African-American males because, I kid you not, ‘whites at the time believed black people were: “a notoriously syphilis-soaked race”‘), a living, breathing person was turned into a cell culture that has gone on to do so much in the world of biomedical research, while her family saw absolutely no recognition or profit whatsoever, and continue to live in poverty.

‘”The American Type Culture Collection — a non-profit whose funds go mainly towards maintaining and providing pure cultures for science — has been selling HeLa cells since the sixties. When this book went to press, their price per vial was $256. The ATCC won’t reveal how much money it brings in from HeLa sales each year, but since HeLa is one of the most popular cell lines in the world, that number is surely significant.’ (Loc. 2746)

Many people know the story of Jonas Salk, the man who developed the polio vaccine and refused to monetise such a life-saving treatment, even though he could have earned billions of dollars. Few know about Henrietta Lacks’ cells, which were in fact used to create the polio vaccine. They’ve also been shot up into space, cloned, and used in multiple areas of medical research.

A warm, vibrant Southern woman, Henrietta had nobody to write down her story while she was still living. It’s only now that she’s physically nothing but a cluster of cells in multiple laboratories around the world, that her real biography can be written. By a white woman.

While there were those in Henrietta’s extended family who had opted to forget and ignore the painful memories of being ignored by medical authorities, or watching Henrietta succumb to her illness, there were those who were insistent that Henrietta’s story be told. Skloot tackles such a harrowing subject extremely deftly, although I did wish she didn’t prod some of Henrietta’s relatives quite so harshly, even if it was done in earnest, as she claims. Sometimes the Lackses just wished to let sleeping dogs lie, and yet Skloot barged into their lives to demand their painful memories out of them.

The narrative of trying to reclaim Henrietta’s life from those who have reduced her to a mere label on a petri dish is fascinating, and done respectfully. Skloot never intrudes and makes the story about herself, which is a real danger with a lot of biographies — especially when they aren’t being penned by the person who actually lived that life. Some parts of the book are worded rather dryly, but considering Skloot’s background as a scientific journalist, that’s to be expected. She otherwise delivers this account of Henrietta’s life and her cell line in a captivating way, and it’s an absolutely fascinating read.

Cracked (Soul Eater Book 1)
Cracked (Soul Eater Book 1)
Price: £2.08

4.0 out of 5 stars The most fun you can have with a snarky protagonist!, 20 Jan. 2015
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Yes! This is how you do a paranormal YA, guys.

No, seriously. I’m surprised at just how worth the hype this book was. So many of my friends on GoodReads adored this book. I was a little apprehensive going into it that I’d probably have little patience for Meda, or the storyline in general… But I came out absolutely adoring it, and I’m definitely going to check out the sequel.

Cracked‘s premise is, to be rather blunt, quite generic from the outset. [Character] is introduced to a secret society of demon hunters after a run-in with one of the unholy beings, and from there must learn about [their] destiny. Yes, there are some differences (if you’ve read the book) but that’s the basic skeleton of the plot. And I’m amazed how Crewe was able to take it and just completely make it her own. She inserts perhaps the best POV character one could ever ask for: Meda. She’s really funny, and wise-cracks at the best moments. Her inner monologue had me laughing so many times.

Worries are for people who can’t pull grown men apart with their bare hands.

It’s rather humanitarian of me, helping them to count their blessings. Appreciate what they have — like their heads. Too many people take them for granted.

Now, Meda is a monster and she makes no bones about that. She’s super strong, super fast, and eats the souls of the wicked, but she’s neither fully demon nor human.

After a run-in with some demons intent to claim her as their own, she falls under the protection of the Templars, an ancient order of Christian demon hunters who assume Meda is a “beacon”, a soul born into the world to improve humanity, since they can’t quite work out what she is on a spiritual level. Meda, appropriately, finds this hilarious, and just goes along with it until she realises that she’s got a lot to learn about herself.

Jo, Chi and Uri are great characters to. I love how Jo is just a complete fire-spitter, and the narrative never seeks to demonise her for it. Her relationship with Chi is wonderful, although I do wish it hadn’t resorted to the bit about disabled people getting upset about being such a burden on their partners. Jo has one leg in a brace, and while she’s shown to be a really capable fighter and can protect herself, she does talk with Meda at one point about how she’s harbouring a lot of anger deep within simply because doesn’t feel like she can pursue her relationship with Chi because Templars always go fighting demons in pairs and she won’t be able to keep up with him. :/ I mean, sure, it’s better than the “WAH IF I’M DISABLED NO MAN WILL EVER WANT ME!!” histrionics in one of the Tiger’s Curse books, but I wonder if it could have been handled just a little better. Otherwise, I do love Jo’s character, and I was cheering for her and Chi by the end. The ship still sails!

Still, I have to commend this book for being such an enjoyable ride from start to finish. It could have been so generic with the whole ‘secret society of demon hunters’ premise, but it kept things fresh and original, and it’s narrated by an awesome main character, so there’s that!

H is for Hawk
H is for Hawk
Price: £5.49

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but flawed., 20 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: H is for Hawk (Kindle Edition)
When I first picked up this book, I almost immediately set it down again.

I know the old adage about never judging a book by its cover, but for some reason, this book struck me as another Eat, Pray, Love-style biography. [Character A] goes through a [personal tragedy] and [discovers themselves] in [exotic country/obscure hobby/a new pet/a challenge they set out to do], before finally concluding what changed people they are now that they’ve overcome this struggle.

I was talking with a GoodReads friend about this and she brought up how it really sounded (from the blurb, mind you) like the author was picking up a really, notoriously difficult-to-train bird just to fill a hole in her life. What happens then, after she’s conquered this mountain of grief?

It’s not like Macdonald purchased her goshawk Mabel on a whim (if you read the book), but her obsession does come across as a little… well, fleeting. Even if she has always had a vested interest in falconry, and is hardly a neophyte, you have to wonder just… why?

Well, I guess that’s the job of a good synopsis; it gets you to ask questions and have them stick in your mind until you eventually pony up the money to see what all the fuss is about. I downloaded the e-book shortly after it won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction, and while I’m glad I did, I was still a little bit underwhelmed by the whole thing.

The writing in H is For Hawk is gorgeous. MacDonald is wonderfully gifted with words, making certain passages absolutely gorgeous to read. Macdonald’s really able to make obscure subjects like the history of falconry sound absolutely fascinating, bringing in her academic interest and just how she’s using her knowledge as a coping mechanism, a regression back into a happy childhood when she had an interest in birdwatching and raptors. She’s also really able to capture the feeling of grieving and depression, and the frustration of training animals, then the joy of realising they’re finally able to perform that trick you’ve been agonising over teaching them for the past few weeks.

‘Their existence gives the lie to the thought that the wild is always something untouched by human hearts and hands. The wild can be human work.’

‘Here’s a word. Bereavement. Or, bereaved, bereft. It’s from the Old English bereafian, meaning ‘to deprive of, to take away, seize, rob.’ Robbed. Seized. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone. Shocking loss isn’t to be shared, no matter how hard you try.’

‘[…] Imagine your whole family is in a room. Yes, all of them. All the people you love. So then what happens is someone comes into the room and punches you all in the stomach. Each one of you. Really hard. So you’re all on the floor. Right? So the thing is, you all share the same kind of pain, exactly the same, but you’re too busy experiencing total agony to feel anything other than completely alone.’

But, I found the book fell flat after quite a while, and never quite picked itself up again. Macdonald and Mabel forge their bond, go out flying a few times, Macdonald muses over nature or an obscure tome of falconry/natural history, and then picks up Mabel and that’s the end of the chapter. I don’t want to give out spoilers here, but the ending of the book was incredibly underwhelming too; as Macdonald just returns to her mundane life.

I appreciated all the information on falconry too — it never oversaturated the book, and you can tell that Macdonald has a real passion for her hobby. My fears going into this about her just adopting a bird of prey and having no idea what to do with it were completely unfounded. I particularly liked the appendix at the back — I’m definitely going to try and pick up several of the books Macdonald brings up, including T.H. White’s The Goshawk. It’s always good when a book provides a springboard into something you personally find interesting, but have never had the opportunity to look into. Falcons, owls, etc., are my favourite birds, and my dad even bought me a raptor experience day at a shelter for my birthday… Only to realise that neither of us would be able to make it in time before I moved to university. Still, while I’m probably never going to be a falconer, it is a fascinating subject to read about.

Verdict: 3.5 stars.

American Gods
American Gods
Price: £5.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea. But I like Gaiman's other works!, 20 Jan. 2015
This review is from: American Gods (Kindle Edition)
Ooh, boy.

Back before I decided to read this, several friends of mine suggested avoiding Neil Gaiman’s longer works entirely. “He’s better at short stories,” they reasoned, and they were generally correct. I thought Coraline and The Graveyard Book were pretty great, and another one of my friends said she adored Stardust, even more so than the fan-favourite movie!

But, I said to myself, American Gods has this amazing premise. The old gods are in America, and they’re in very real danger of being ousted from existence by the ‘new guys': money, television, the Internet, etc. It’s not some snarky, fluffy take on old gods living in a modern day city, like Marie Phillips’ Gods Behaving Badly, it’s highly acclaimed and the cover quote is from Philip Pullman. Moth to a flame, I tell you. Of course I was going to get around to reading it some day.

Now, when it comes to writing styles, I really do like some restraint in my description. Don’t strive for the most flowery purple prose, but do make sure you are descriptive in some way. Gaiman rarely ever stops to smell the roses. He does occasionally string together a really lovely sentence, but for the most part, it is one of the most blandly-written books I have ever read. Describe a few more things than just the odd change of scenery, mate. It often plays out like: Shadow goes here, Shadow goes there. Shadow encounters a somebody, Shadow goes out again and drives off. I don’t mind when books play out in a very filmic way, but I was aching for more description of the setting and the characters’ emotions and for the plot to stop dragging its knuckles.

Speaking of characters’ emotions, though, was there any reason for Shadow to be quite so bland as he was? I accept that he was recently bereaved and is likely finding it difficult to adjust to life outside of prison, but this never felt adequately communicated by the text itself. Shadow just bums around following Wednesday’s orders and rarely questioning him. Occasionally Wednesday or Mr. Nancy leave Shadow to his own devices, and he just… goes through the motions. There’s more than just the one stage of grief, you know.

I did like some of the tidbits that Gaiman throws in, even if they are a little groaningly obvious at times. I knew Wednesday was Odin (or, at least, an incarnation of Odin) from the moment he was introduced, and Mr. Jaquel (Anubis) and Mr. Ibis (Thoth) as Egyptian death gods who now run a funeral home? Seriously?

Perhaps in 2001 (when this book was originally published), this was a clever idea. As I was reading, however, I wondered about how the gods are actually handling the huge upswing in pagans who became interested in their faith after getting Internet access and joining groups of like-minded people to help them on their spiritual path? I mean, I knew there were Wiccans and other pagans before the advent of the Internet, but I’m quite sure that the Internet has been a great tool in helping people to discover the religion that is right for them. Sure, you can’t exactly sacrifice a bull to Mithras anymore, but there are still groups of Greek and Roman pagans around. I have a friend who believes in the Ancient Egyptian pantheon of gods, and Odin can’t really complain about the growing popularity of Ásatrú, can he? Or the fact that the stories of these gods still inform popular culture to this day.

The blurb of my copy promises a ‘storm of epic preternatural proportions’, but really? That ending was so horribly anti-climactic. Perhaps it would have been better if Shadow were a more interesting character. Hell, he barely even reacts to these two bombshells that are dropped on him, towards the beginning and towards the end (to remain spoiler free).

Some of the side stories were a welcome relief, though. There was a particularly sweet story about a Cornish woman transported to America, and who brought along all the stories and beliefs from the homeland, and I went “d’aww” at the conclusion of it. But seriously, a lot of the time, my enjoyment came from the fact that I wasn’t dawdling around small-town America with Shadow for the umpteenth time.

Sorry, maybe this just wasn’t my cup of tea. I do like Gaiman, I was just sorely disappointed by this one. The pacing is fine, but the writing style was just so bland it became nearly insufferable, apart from a few gems here and there. I cared little for Shadow, and thought the general idea was so much better than the execution, even if it is often flawed. I think I’ll be sticking to his short stories and collaborations from now on.

Verdict: 2.5/5.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (The Oatmeal)
The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (The Oatmeal)
Price: £6.63

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seriously helped me make resolutions this year!, 20 Jan. 2015
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Every year, people promise themselves that they’re going to finally conquer that mountain that is the New Year’s resolution. This is the year they get into peak physical fitness, or stop drinking caffeine, or stop themselves from continuing with bad habits… the list goes on and on.

I’m familiar with all of these failed resolutions. And every year I wish I had more willpower to fulfil them. As any gym owner will tell you, though, the rate at which people buy memberships in January and then simply stop going back after two weeks is incredibly high.

Well, we’re only a few weeks in 2015, and yet I’m doing very well with my resolutions so far. I’ve lost a kilo or two, I’m eating healthier (buying fruit and vegetables and making salads, stir fries and chicken dishes rather than eating processed crap), and I’m walking a lot more than I used to. As a result, I’m feeling less sluggish and my anxiety’s slowly starting to decrease day by day. And believe me, that’s saying something.

Want to know why? I read this book.

In fact, I read this in the book store (the doofus who forgot her wallet that particular day? That’s me) and pretty much placed my order on Amazon the moment I got home.

I’ve always found that many books like this fall into the trap of becoming very patronising or over-simplifying the root cause of the problem. Not here. Matthew Innman is hilarious and incredibly relatable. He’s a man who started long distance running as an adult and found that it awoke a feeling of pure bliss within him. He was no longer tied behind a computer, coding websites and writing articles. He could eat whatever he wanted, too. And the euphoria he experienced knowing he was getting out and seeing more of the world and accomplishing great things led him to an enormous sense of self worth. It’s really quite inspiring.

I suppose it’s really corny to say that this book changed my life, but so far, it really has. Shock tactics have never worked on me. Even when I was at 115 kilos I just shrugged it off and returned to comfort eating. But now, for the first time in years, I’ve actually paid attention to what I eat, and stuck to my exercise regimen for the day. No need to do crunches and hurt your back, or go to a gym where you feel vaguely ashamed amongst all the fit people. This book is like having a friend in your head, the kind of friend who imparts really good advice and makes you feel as if you’re doing really well at your own pace rather than expecting you to drop an entire dress size within a week.

Okay, this book hasn’t turned me into a long distance runner, and I’m hardly going to participate in the Bath Half in a few months’ time. I’m medically exempt from running due to various factors: flat feet, loose ankles, twisted shins, etc., but I love walking and hiking, so I can do that instead. I’ve also made plans to start swimming and cycling again, and okay, I’ll stop there before this turns into “Nessa’s First Ever Successful New Year’s Resolution” rather than an actual review.

The comics are hilarious and resonate really well. They can feel a little bit repetitious after a while, but that’s neither here nor there. I loved this book and I spent time on The Oatmeal website itself after finishing it, and surprise surprise, it’s now one of my bookmarked pages.

Undivided (Unwind Dystology Book 4)
Undivided (Unwind Dystology Book 4)
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing., 11 Nov. 2014
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A stellar send-off to the series. I tip my hat off to this book -- THIS is how you do a finale to a series.

Tiger's Voyage: Tiger's Curse: Book Three
Tiger's Voyage: Tiger's Curse: Book Three
Price: £4.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful, 25 Jun. 2014
Stupid characters, a tepid "romance" which takes up far too much of the plot, and extremely weak writing and editing. Apparently we're supposed to swoon over the violent brat Prince Ren. Colour me disinteresed.

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