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Reviews Written by
Sam Tyler "samueltyler" (Reading, Berkshire)

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Guy Martin: My Autobiography
Guy Martin: My Autobiography
by Guy Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Guy Mundane, 24 Jun. 2016
Reading a book about an enigmatic person can be a dangerous beast; will they be as interesting about themselves as they are on TV etc.? In the case of Guy Martin, the answer is no. This is an autobiography of the motorbike racer, but also increasingly, TV star. His first love is the motorbike and if you come into the book with a passion for this yourself, you may well just be in clover. The book talks a lot about bikes, in detail; boring, boring detail. Murray Walker’s autobiography did the same, but he was able to balance the bike and car information with some interesting anecdotes.

It is here that Martin lets you down on. You get a few stories, but mostly they are fun throwaway moments in between yet another bike race. Where the book does work is getting into Martin’s psyche as a racer. The way that he does not think too much when a fellow rider dies during the TT, or the sensation of flying through the air wondering if you will make it. It is very interesting to get an insight into a person who seemingly does not care if they live or die.

Towards the end of the book Martin talks about why he is so socially awkward and you start to understand his personality and some of the flaws with the book. He is not someone who likes to open up, but when you are reading an autobiography this is exactly what a reader would like. Whenever the book starts to move towards anything personal that would develop Martin’s character, he shies away and this is not really great in a book of this type.

Supermarket Gremlins
Supermarket Gremlins
by Adam Guillain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The New Batch, 24 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Supermarket Gremlins (Paperback)
Have you ever wandered down the aisle at your local Super Marché and found some frozen peas in the bread section, or a lonely carrot hanging out with the cereal. What can be the cause of all the mistakes, spills and wobbly wheels that plague every superstore known to man, women and child? Incompetent staff and lazy customers dumping stock? Nope, these problems are all caused by the sneaky Gremlins who lurk in every shop.

To the naked eye everything in ‘‘Supermarket Gremlins’’ by Adam Guillain, Charlotte Guillain and Chris Chatterton seems perfectly normal. A boy and his mother are visiting a supermarket and see the usual mismanaged stock, spills on the floor and trolleys with a mind of their own, but lift the flaps and you are in for a surprise. Those miss shelved items are the jolly Gremlins having fun, the wobbly wheels are spaghetti they have dumped on the floor and as for the strange puddle ….. Lift the flap if you dare.

‘‘Supermarket’’ is a jolly book that has loads of interaction for a child with a mischievous sense of humour. Some lift the flap books have a paltry number to open, but this is not the case here as every double spread has a few things to find. What you discover may come as a bit of a shock, especially for the more fragile minded person as there are bottoms and bodily functions involved. For this reason the book is best read with a slightly older child that you know enjoys this type of thing. If you are not planning to encourage them, perhaps this is one to miss.

The book itself is a great idea; the Guillains have mashed a 1950s style government information broadcast with the anarchic silliness of the Gremlins’ filmic brothers. It is very amusing to see how the authors suggest that everyday mishaps that occur in Tesco are actually caused by little monsters (and not your own this time).

The idea is one thing, but without some good execution it would not work. Illustrator Chatteron has captured perfectly the tone of the authors and filled each page with cheeky things to look at. The supermarket itself has a vibrancy and there is real fun to be had finding out what is going on underneath. Like with most flap based books, they are a little fragile if played with robustly, therefore perhaps buying, rather than borrowing a copy is best.

‘‘Supermarket Gremlins’’ is cheeky fun that is full of colour and laughs, but is also a little on the puerile side at times. You really have to know your audience before subjecting them to it; young Timmy may love the burping Gremlins, his Granny may be less than impressed. Original review on

Star Wars The Force Awakens 3.75-Inch Rey Action Figure
Star Wars The Force Awakens 3.75-Inch Rey Action Figure
Price: £12.55

5.0 out of 5 stars A Toy Awakens, 22 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It is very tempting when getting a Star Wars action figure to leave it in the original packaging and pop it in the loft with the hope (New Hope?) that one day it will be worth thousands. My reply to this is - don't be daft, open the thing up and play with it. You are as likely to be hit by a bus as you are to gain your fortune betting on toy futures. You won't be disappointed if you do decide to open the 'Rey' action figure, taken from the recent Force Awakens film. The model is the traditional six inches or so that the franchise is famed for and the quality is high. The likeness is there, but not uncanny; for the size of model it works.

The limbs move and you get added extras including a light sabre and pistol. It is a great toy, especially for a fan of the films. What I particularly like is that Rey is a strong female character and this a doll that you could let your daughter play with to learn that there is more than one type of doll out there. As the pack is aimed at 4+ it is ideal for an impressionable youth. Older fans can appreciate it too, the packaging look like a modern take on the old figures you could choose to collect them all.

I for one am for opening the thing up and letting kids use their imaginations. Toys like Rey are sure to do this.

Mitre Delta Grip Goalkeeper Gloves - Yellow/Green/Black, Size 9
Mitre Delta Grip Goalkeeper Gloves - Yellow/Green/Black, Size 9
Price: £25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Keeper's Ball, 22 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You don't have to ask much from a modern goalkeeper's glove other than they fit, have grip and allow some movement when you need it. The 'Mitre Delta Grip' have all of these. They fit easily, but are not loose due to the velcro strap at the bottom and elastic. This means that they don't flap around as your hands are moving. If is important that you get a pair that is as close to the size you require as ill fitting goalkeeping gloves really effect how well you can save or pass the ball out.

The Mitres feel like a pair of gloves that will last a good while. The stitching is tight and all the textured areas are rubberised so that the grip is enhanced. I didn't see any peeling away of these textured parts, so the hope is that they will last a decent amount of time. The colours leave a little to be desired, but the fashion is for goalkeepers to stand out, therefore attracting the ball; the green and yellow here certainly do this. For the reasonable price point that these gloves are aimed at, they do a sterling job, without being overly fancy. The pack comes sealed so it is hard to determine exactly whether they will fit, use the handy guide that comes with the glove's description to determine which pair is for you.

Mitre Squad Rugby Match Ball - White/Red/Blue, Size 5
Mitre Squad Rugby Match Ball - White/Red/Blue, Size 5
Price: £11.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Get a Grip, 22 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Get a grip. Not in life, but of a rugby ball. It may just be the first thing that you notice withe 'Mitre Squad Rugby Match Ball', it is all knobbly and grippy. This is because the ball is made from some rubber/plastic combination that makes it easy to get a handle on. The ball comes flat, but is easily pumped up and then simple to hold. Personally, I don't find it the nicest sensation, preferring a more leather effect with grip. However, the ball is very functional and does the job required.

In terms of build it is well made and as it is only four large panels it should take a battering. In fact, the rubber finish means that it is slightly less likely to become too dirty and will look newer for longer. With the slightly course finish that the plastic gives the ball I would be happier to use this as a knockabout ball or training. Although it states it is a match ball, I feel a slightly higher end ball would be best as they handle a little easier as the grip is almost too much here. For the price this is a very good rugby ball.

Dylan's Amazing Dinosaur: The Tyrannosaurus Rex: With Pull-Out, Pop-Up Dinosaur Inside! (Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs)
Dylan's Amazing Dinosaur: The Tyrannosaurus Rex: With Pull-Out, Pop-Up Dinosaur Inside! (Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs)
by E. T. Harper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.52

4.0 out of 5 stars King of Dinos, 22 Jun. 2016
Everyone love dinosaurs, that is as long as they stay millions of years in the past and don’t suddenly turn up in the park next time I am having a picnic. Dylan is a character who certainly loves dinosaurs, enough so that he is able to travel back in time to answer any questions he may have about their existence. Seems a little dangerous to me, especially when he comes up against the king of lizards in E. T. Harper and Dan Taylor’s, ‘Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs - the Tyrannosaurus Rex’.

With the aid of his toy pterodactyl, Dylan is able to go back in time to answer burning questions about dinosaurs, such as how many teeth did a T-Rex have? Some children would probably be happy to visit the Natural History Museum in London and ask a fossil expert, but not our Dylan. He goes back millions of years to sate his curiosity whilst being chased. There must be easier ways to count teeth than being eaten.

‘Dylan’ is a great adventure novel, once it gets going. The book is part of a series of dinosaur stories featuring Dylan that each poses a question about a different species of dinosaur. T-Rex are universally considered one of the coolest dinosaurs, therefore this is a great book to start with. The opening pages are set in modern times and seem to follow a pattern of Dylan posing a question, then flying back in time. I imagine that the element links all the books together, but did feel a little like padding.

Once the book gets going, it has some great action. The story is a little basic, essentially one long chase sequence, but Harper does come up with a very fun way of answering Dylan’s question about T-Rex teeth. It is a book that should pique the interest of a more curious child, they too may pose some questions, just don’t promise them a trip to the past.

It is Taylor’s colourful and bold illustrations that bring the chase to life and make the book great fun. The scenes set inside a tree trunk may be a little scary for the very small, but most boys and girls will be bowled over by Taylor’s visuals. As an added bonus Taylor’s drawing of a T-Rex is also a paper model found at the book. This is perhaps the best feature about the series; each book has a different model that can be taken out and played with. Made from strong card and very colourful, the figure is fantastic and pops out to be played with instantly.

There is a fine line to be had with adding something like a paper model to a book as you can be accused of using gimmicks. In the case of ‘Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs - the Tyrannosaurus Rex’ it is a gimmick, but one that is added to a solid read. Without the paper T-Rex, the book may not have stood out as much, but seeing as it is included you should enjoy the great bonus. Original review on

Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs - The Triceratops (Dylans Amazing Dinosaurs 4)
Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs - The Triceratops (Dylans Amazing Dinosaurs 4)
by E.T Harper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Moreofthesameasaurus, 22 Jun. 2016
Imagination is one thing; what wonderful adventures you could have should you be able to travel to the distant past and walk amongst the dinosaurs. Reality is different; running around in bone shaking terror as various man eating dinos crave your flesh. This has not stopped Dylan embarking on another amazing adventure – will he survive a velociraptor attack and why does he keep doing back?

Dylan is a curious child, both in terms of questioning things all the time, but also in his choices. With the aid of his magical journal he travels into the past to discover something about the dinosaurs. This time he wants to know how long a Triceratops horns are; rather than doing some empirical studies of fossils, he instead embarks on an adventure to the past and tries to measure the horns of a living specimen!

‘‘Triceratops’’ is the fourth outing for Dylan and his amazing dinosaurs by E T Harper and by this point there is a tried and tested formula. Once again the book starts with Dylan and his toy pterodactyl pondering on a question and then going back in time to try and solve it. The first few pages of this book are almost identical to that of [[Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs - the Tyrannosaurus Rex by E T Harper and Dan Taylor]], which feels a little like cheating. Once the new adventure starts, it also feels a little similar as Dylan once again finds himself in trouble when he lands in the Land of the Dinosaurs, but by four trips he should know the dangers by now?

Like previous outings, the book takes a little while to get going, but once it does there are some fun action sequences. These are enhanced by illustrator Dan Taylor’s bright visuals that make the entire book a colourful experience. Despite the bright images, the story involves innocent eggs and some quite scary velociraptors trying to eat them, so it is not really suitable for the very young. To add to this slightly older demographic is the origami Triceratops that comes with the book. This is a really nifty toy, but is not really suitable for under 3s.

‘‘Triceratops’’ is not a bad book, just more of the same. The series is action based and this makes them dynamic books, but also strangely void of heart. If you have another book in the series and your child loves it, then they will also get a lot from this outing. However, those kids not too enamoured with previous outings may question why you are reading to them essentially the same book. Original review on

The Crimson Campaign: Book 2 in The Powder Mage Trilogy
The Crimson Campaign: Book 2 in The Powder Mage Trilogy
by Brian McClellan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Red Red Shine, 21 Jun. 2016
Part 2 of a trilogy can be a tricky conundrum, the excitement of the world building is over in book 1 and you won’t have a sense of closure like book 3. However, in the right hands it can sometimes be the best book as you can basically go out for all action as you have less responsibility to the reader. This is certainly the case with Brian McClellan’s ‘The Crimson Campaign’; the second part of the ‘Powder Mage’ trilogy. In this post-Game of Thrones world there is an abundance of down and dirty fantasy doing the rounds and although McClellan may in some way owe his publishing to that behemoth, he has created something distinct and fantastical in its own right.

This is low urban fantasy mixed with a Napoleonic style warfare. Muskets and magic are the tools of the trade and this book wields them wonderfully. The war that is posed to rip the world apart has started and the men and women of Adro find themselves involved, including reluctant despot Tamas and his unreliable son Taniel. ‘Crimson’ is a story about these characters and more and how they fought against a living God and almost won.

The only other author that I have found comparable to McClellan in modern fantasy is the great Joe Abercrombie. Both are able to wield a series of characters and plots that make you want to read all of them. There is no element of this campaign that does not capture the imagination. ‘Crimson’ builds upon the strong world building of ‘Promise of Blood’, but is free from having to introduce characters etc. We are free to see the world and the action. So much happens in ‘Crimson’ that the 600 odd pages fly by – a true sign of great fantasy as it is a genre that can drag you down.

Sammy Recommendation

The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting and Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe
The Aliens Are Coming!: The Exciting and Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe
Offered by Audible Ltd

4.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Bleed Red, 20 Jun. 2016
Next time that you are away from the towns and cities, wait until it gets dark and then look into the night sky. If you are lucky enough for it not to be raining, you will likely see hundreds of stars in the sky. Each one of these could be a Sun just like our own and each of these Suns could have planets orbiting it. Now times this number a million fold and you can start to fathom the number of stars and planets out there – surely the human race is not a complete fluke and there are aliens out there?

Ben Miller may be best known as a comedian, but his first passion was science. He went as far as to almost get his PhD in solid state physics from Cambridge – choosing comedy instead. What this entails is a man who has a scientific mind, but is also very personable and can make people laugh. With this in mind, the title ‘‘The Aliens are Coming’’ is a little disingenuous – are you expecting a slightly flaky title about UFOs and little green men? Prepare to be surprised then as Miller takes a scientific approach to the idea that alien life does exist and ponders topics as diverse as evolution on Earth, the big bang theory and intergalactic diplomacy.

For the audio version of the book Miller reads his own words and this instantly makes it an inviting listen. This is a man who knows his own material and is able to lay the correct emphasis on in-jokes and sarcasm that a hired narrator may have missed. Chapters one and two start by tackling the idea of aliens in the mainstream sense – what is the likelihood of UFOs? Being a scientist, Miller is unwilling to dismiss something just because it appears daft on the surface. He believes in evidence to prove a theory and seeing as there is very little to support UFOs, they are scientifically unlikely.

Once the initial conversation about Martians is over the book becomes far more true science based and interesting. Miller’s everyman approach to writing and narrating makes some of the heady concepts he discusses far more accessible than they should be. The mathematical concept of how many potential planets are beaming out audio waves is succinctly shown by comparing it to looking out over a crowd at a rock concept as they hold their lighters aloft. Miller takes all these hard concepts throughout the book and gently invites the reader in, allowing them to visualise them in a way that makes sense.

This book is popular science, so scientists themselves, or regular readers of ‘‘Science’’ will probably be very familiar with most of what Miller says, but for the average person it is eye opening. Those curious of mind and with a thirst for understanding will feel like they have learnt something as the audio book progresses. What I particularly liked was that science fiction fans will get a lot out of the book. Miller gives you an understanding of concepts that are staple in fiction – in fact about three of his ideas turned up on the new ‘‘X Files’’ this month! ‘‘The Aliens are Coming’’ is a great audiobook that has a pleasant narration that makes it fun to learn about some rather tricky concepts (although some of them will remain confusing!). Original review on

Melissa & Doug 18861 Jewelry Box
Melissa & Doug 18861 Jewelry Box
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars For Keepsake, 20 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Some toys are pitched perfectly at just the right age group. The 'Melissa & Doug Jewelry Box' is one such toy as it great for a 4-7 year old, but could then soon fall off the cliff in terms of its naivety. Like the bulk of products from this company the jewelry box is made from high end wood that has a great finish, meaning that it will last a long time. In this case you also get a lovely pink look and patterned sides. Inside it is a lovely mini jewelry box as you would expect with a tray you can lift out to reveal a large compartment. You also get a mirror inside the lid and it feels perfect as a 'my first box' for a child who is getting into costume adornment.

To add to the initial fun when receiving the box you also get a set of gems and easy to apply glue sticks. You can spend the first hour or so adding the gems to the box as you like, although the patterned design does encourage you to place them in the most obvious places. For the right child this will be a wondrous box in which to hold their keepsakes and its wooden finish means that it looks nicer to the adult eye than many of the plastic items they usually have. What has to be noted is that the relatively small size and bright pinkness of it means that a slightly older child may find it a little young for them. Pitch it right and there won't be a problem.

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