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Fluent in 3 Months
Fluent in 3 Months
by Benny Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.53

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing ground breaking, 20 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Fluent in 3 Months (Paperback)
I admit I wasn't expecting a revolutionary linguistic treatise, but this book disappointed me. The main message, repeated again and again, is talk to people who speak the language that you're learning.

I learnt a couple of useful things, but as other reviewers have mentioned, much of the information is available for free on the internet, and doesn't require you to spend £6 to access it.

A couple of things really bugged me about the book though;

- Mr. Lewis goes around the world collecting languages like they're Pokemon, without any apparent interest in the culture they come from. One of the first things I was told at university was "language doesn't exist in a vacuum." But Mr. Lewis flies to X country, spends 3 months learning the language, then moves on. 3 months isn't really long enough to become 'fluent' in the language,

- Which brings me to my second point; I'm uncomfortable with the definition of 'fluency' in this book. Strictly speaking, if you can speak naturally using the words you know you can be called 'fluent', in that you speak without excessive hesitation. But if someone says to me "I speak fluent German", to me that means they can communicate in German to a similar standard as they can in their native language. When someone says they 'speak X languages' (usually more than 4) it raises red flags.

Personally, I'd rather have mastery of 3 or 4 languages, and a fairly wide ranging and deep knowledge of the cultures they come from, than be a 'jack of all trades' who 'speaks' 12 languages, but can't really do anything more than pleasantries.


Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Standard Edition (Xbox 360)
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Standard Edition (Xbox 360)
Offered by Shop4World
Price: £9.83

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Finicky and generally disappointing, 12 Nov. 2014
I've been a fan of the Splinter Cell series for many years. This instalment was disappointing, however, for the following reasons;

- The voice actors have changed. Not a major concern, but one gets used to how the characters 'should' sound.

- Too much micro transacting. 'Upgrade the plane', 'upgrade your weapons' etc. Everything needs upgrading and if you don't want to spend half an hour customising everything and earning in game money you feel like you're going to be at a disadvantage. This is, for me, a big faff and a major barrier to smooth play. I just want to play the game, without having to mess about with menus and weapon lists and all that.

- The plot was fairly samey. Terrorists, Middle East, interrogation blah blah blah, been there done that. I couldn't play the game long enough to discover how it ends, so it might get better. But you've invaded one Iraqi village, you've invaded them all.

- Call me nitpicky, but Iraqi terrorists shouldn't speak to one another in American english. Ubisoft surely has enough money to hire Arabic speaking voice actors. Hell, they don't even have to be professional voice actors, just anyone who speaks Arabic, since they're only voicing nameless goons anyway.

- As another reviewer mentioned it seems fairly difficult even on the lowest settings. Missions where you have to do things perfectly can be a frustration at times, and at worst make the fame almost unplayable.

All in all, only for diehard fans.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2015 11:44 AM GMT


The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't do it for me, 18 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The Fault in Our Stars (Paperback)
I picked this up because I'd seen everyone was reading it. The book isn't dreadful, but it didn't do it for me because;

- I'm not a huge fan of the YA genre, I didn't know what the book was about when I picked it up
- Characters are unrelatable and pretentious. They don't speak or act like ordinary teenagers.
- Didn't know the book was about struggling with cancer. Someone close to me is currently undergoing treatment and it hit a little close to home.

However it's easy to read and you do feel like you want to get to the end, at any rate.


Oxford Chinese Dictionary
Oxford Chinese Dictionary
by Oxford Dictionaries
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £37.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the advanced / professional linguist, 3 Mar. 2014
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First I must explain a few things. I am currently (2014) in my third year of a Chinese BA, so I would classify my own level of Chinese as relatively advanced. Secondly, I ordinarily use dictionary software on my phone for all my Chinese translation needs. This being said however, I decided to purchase this dictionary for an open-book exam I had to take. I had previously used the Collins Chinese Dictionary, but decided this would be inadequate for a university exam. Finally, I mainly used the Chinese - English side.

This dictionary fulfilled my needs perfectly. Every word I looked up was there, and the dictionary does its best to provide a range of translations, each of which are valid depending on the context. The C>E side is organised by Pinyin. So, if you know the pronunciation of the first character in a word, looking it up is a breeze. Looking up an unfamiliar character is about at smooth as it can be, considering Chinese's 'complexities.' The radical index is thorough and fairly simple to use. It took me a few minutes in the exam to get used to using it, but after that, there were no major problems.

Other reviewers have mentioned, however, that the E>C doesn't include any pinyin. This, I can see, is a difficult problem. As I say, more advanced learners or professionals will not find this that difficult, since they will already have a knowledge of a significant number of characters. Learners with a more basic level of Chinese will probably have difficult with the E>C side for exactly this reason. I have given the book four stars, since I think it's targeted at all learners / users of Chinese, but only manages to deliver to a smaller segment.

The book also includes cultural boxes, explaining interesting tidbits that appear in the dictionary proper. In the middle, there are also pages about how to do things like write a letter or send a text etc. Overall, very good indeed.


Art: The Definitive Visual Guide
Art: The Definitive Visual Guide
by Andrew Graham-Dixon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 8 Sept. 2013
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This book not only gives the reader a thorough introduction to various artistic periods; artists, and movements, but also a general introduction to art itself, including pages on composition, technique, and subject matter. This added section makes the book perfect for people with little or no knowledge of art, and helps the book serve as an excellent one volume introduction.

I very much enjoyed reading it and feel I got a lot out of it. Key artistic figures and movements are explained in a great deal of detail, and even lesser well known or "less important" artistic themes are given enough page space to allow the reader a brief glimpse. This gives the book a feeling that nothing has been overlooked; this is especially true since the book doesn't have the occasional "European Bias" that some art books have. Works from all over the world, including Africa, Oceania and Asia are all covered in just enough detail to allow a brief understanding of the subject. There is a lot of emphasis on Europe, certainly, but this is understandable I feel.

So, why not 5 stars? There were a couple of things that bothered me about the book. They're not major flaws that make the book unreadable, but they're there in sufficient number to make it hard to justify giving the book 5 stars. First of all, in the descriptions of artists, the phrase "[Artist] is the [most / best] [famous / appreciated / prolific] [sculptor / court painter / watercolourist] of [his / her] [era / day / generation]" appears (literally) hundreds of times. This tends to make the words feel cheap, and can sometimes create a degree of confusion; several contemporary artists are described with differing adjectives, sometimes on the same page. Also makes one feel as if the authors are clutching at straws trying to find something to say.

Secondly, many times the phrase "the Artist's most famous work [Name]..." appears, but then there will be no picture of said artwork anywhere in the book. I can appreciate that the book is trying to avoid being a bit cliché, and giving page space to less well know works is certainly a good idea, but when some hopelessly obscure Renaissance sculptor is in the limelight, seeing his "most famous work," instead of something he cobbled together one evening, would make the entry seem a little less disjointed. This is especially jarring if the text describes specific elements of the work in question, such as subject matter or techniques used.

Overall, an excellent one-volume introduction (though a little awkward for bedtime reading, since it's quite a large book!) to art history and art itself. A brilliant "one stop" reference containing all the "main" artists, and many lesser well known ones too. Complete beginners will learn a great deal from this book, and even seasoned art connoisseurs may learn a thing or two.


Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy
Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy
by Jostein Gaarder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great on several levels, 12 Sept. 2012
This was a book a friend lent me, so it's important to note that I didn't make any specific plans to read it. It was pure chance that I picked it up and started reading, but what a pleasant accident it was!

This book works well on a number of levels. It is, first and foremost, a novel. It has a generally interesting plot, (which I'll admit is a little slow at times) interesting and engaging characters and a pretty good narrative.

Second and most interestingly, however, the book is also an introduction to the history of Western philosophy. This is where the book excels itself. For some time now, I've been trying to broaden my knowledge of philosophy. I've tried several books with varying degrees of success, but Sophie's World was something quite different. While philosophical concepts aren't explained in any great detail, the Philosopher Alberto is an excellent teacher and Sophie, the eponymous student, likes to see philosophical concepts demonstrated with examples. This I found pleasing, since an awful lot of philosophy deals with painfully abstract concepts. Western Philosophy, from the ancient Greeks to Jean-Paul Sartre is covered through Sophie's "philosophy course" given by the mysterious, enigmatic Alberto.

I can't give this book five stars, however. The plot, though interesting in places, gets off to a very slow start, and peaks too soon. It also gets quite convoluted and confusing towards the end of the book. The characters, Sophie especially, struck me as a little pretentious.

This being said, however, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, philosopher or not. It's an interesting read, an excellent bed-time book and one that really makes you think about things in a new light.


The Return of Depression Economics
The Return of Depression Economics
by Paul Krugman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complex, 16 Aug. 2012
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I've been casually reading around economics for the last couple of weeks, in the hopes of trying to understand the economic crisis of 2008. So I bought this book thinking it would explain, in layman's terms, what had happened. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the book but I have to say I was disappointed.

The section devoted to the economic crisis of 2008 is disappointingly small, only a couple of chapters. The rest of the book being devoted to previous recessions and depressions worldwide, such as the Asian crises of the 1990s and the Latin American crises. The explanations seemed to be good enough, but there was a lot more econo-babble than I would have hoped for, and though the author tries to put complicated economical concepts into tangible, real-world examples, even then it's still pretty complicated.

To cut a long story short, the main argument that I can glean from this book is that "speculation" (whatever that may be; irritatingly, it's never made entirely clear in the book) is a bad thing, and causes recessions. So I think the book's section dealing with the 2008 crisis is far too short, there's too much economics jargon and the real-world examples, though admirable, don't quite get it. I think, however, my lack of economics knowledge didn't help matters but I do not feel this should be an issue with a text that seems to promise to make things easy for the non-specialist.


The Pig That Wants to be Eaten: And Ninety-Nine Other Thought Experiments
The Pig That Wants to be Eaten: And Ninety-Nine Other Thought Experiments
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!, 3 Aug. 2012
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Finally I have found a suitable introduction to philosophy. After much searching and frustrated struggling through complicated books fulls of philosophical jargon this book came as a breath of fresh air.

Complicated philosophical and ethical problems and ideas are presented in bite-sized, easily digestible chunks. Most importantly, I feel, each problem is presented along with a (mostly) real life example. This was immensely helpful for illustrating complicated philosophical concepts, especially things such as "the true nature of reality" and "the subjectivity of experiences" et cetera. There are, of course, some things that are simply too complicated to express entirely through a "tangible" example, but the author does a brilliant job of trying.

This book is wide and shallow rather than narrow and deep. The topics are not covered in great detail, but I think it's enough to whet the readers appetite and give them a stable groundwork on which more complicated texts can build. Books such as Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy and The Philosophy Book, which I have found assume a little prior knowledge of the topic, would be my recommended next steps.

I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone, philosopher or not, as it presents interesting and sometimes quite thorny philosophical arguments in an easy-to-understand format. It really makes you think about things too!


British Politics For Dummies
British Politics For Dummies
by Julian Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to Politics, 23 July 2012
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I didn't buy this book to supplement any period of formal study, but instead to give myself a brief, basic introduction to British Politics. We are bombarded and surrounded by politics and political jargon every day and I think that a little knowledge to cut through the politicalese would be of huge help to everyone.

This book provides just that, highlighting the bare bones of British Politics without dumbing the whole thing down too much. The author doesn't go into long, confusing paragraphs full of the nitty-gritty of Politics, instead opting to gloss over things in sufficient detail to understand the politicalese used in the daily papers. Knight includes essentially all the important aspects of politics in the UK, such as the structure of the political parties, how the Houses of Parliament work, who's who, and a brief political history of the UK.

Overall, I would recommend this to people who are either completely ignorant of politics, or those who only know a little. I think it might be a little basic for those who know "more than the average person" about politics, but even experienced politicos might learn something, since this book contains chapters on the EU, the UN and the politics of the United States as well.


Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
by Kang Chol-Hwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, though terrifying glimpse into North Korea, 23 July 2012
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I've always found North Korea oddly fascinating, and this book, like many others that include the stories of defectors, is a gripping insight into the oppressive North Korean regime. Like any book telling the story of a defector it makes for chilling reading, especially since this particular book deals with the infamous "gulags", something which many other books acknowledge but don't cover in a great deal of detail.

Kang presents life in the gulags is startling detail; from his relatively happy and privileged childhood in Pyongyang to the terrible poverty, humiliation and famine that leads the prisoners of Yodok Concentration Camp to eat insects and rats. The book lays bare the brutality of the North Korean party, the arbitrariness of the arrests of innocent citizens, and yet somehow, I got the feeling that throughout his ordeal Kang never gave up hope of release, not completely.

I found this book difficult to put down, and even though it was probably not the stated intention, it's a real page turner. I would fully recommend this book to anyone, whether or not they are as interested in North Korea, as it truly and frankly highlights the plight of the people locked away deep in the Hermit Kingdom.


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