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Siobhan Mooney "Estelindis" (Dublin, Ireland)

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Paladin of Souls (The Chalion Series Book 2)
Paladin of Souls (The Chalion Series Book 2)
Price: £5.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing theological fantasy-drama with strong, non-cliched female protagonist, 29 July 2013
Paladin of Souls, like most everything else Bujold has written, is superb. It is a book about thwarted expectations, both for the reader and the characters. For the reader, there are plenty of genre-savvy plot twists. For the characters, there are questions of how to go on living when life has brought bitterness, about what hope or love or destiny might be found in the middle of despair. As with The Curse of Chalion, the book has a fantastic protagonist and a great ensemble of secondary characters. It also has excellent pacing and theological sophistication. The "Bastard," one of the five gods of Chalion, seems to contribute to some of the best character moments in the book, often seeming like a character himself.

Paladin of Souls is a sequel to The Curse of Chalion in the sense that it follows that book chronologically, but it focuses on a different character as its protagonist, a character who gets relatively little attention in the first book but who opens up beautifully here. Before reading this, I would have said no if you'd asked me if I wanted to read a Chalion book that didn't have Cazaril as the main character. However, now that I've read this, I wouldn't want Paladin of Souls to be about anyone but Ista. She's amazing. Read this book and find out just how awesome a female protagonist can be when written as a complex, full-fledged person rather than just using the small palette that so many sub-par authors use when writing female characters.

The Curse of Chalion (The Chalion Series Book 1)
The Curse of Chalion (The Chalion Series Book 1)
Price: £5.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, dramatic, spiritually-subtle fantasy, 28 Jun. 2013
This is one of my favourite books among the many hundreds that I have read. I recommend it whole-heartedly. Do not miss it.

The setting, influenced by Reconquista Spain, is more interesting than cookie-cutter fantasy (which can be fun, of course, but is often the first resort of the lazy author). The characters are superb, particularly the protagonist. Going through his trials and sufferings, I felt like I was one with him. When he wanted a safe haven, I did too. When he felt forced into desperate measures, I felt the pressure crushing him. Imperfect and wounded but still talented and admirable, I wanted him to succeed. A great deal of my emotional investment in the book came from how well he is written.

Moreover, this novel deals with religion in a serious and interesting way. Gods are not just added to the setting because they seem required in a fantasy and thereafter neglected; they are meshed deeply into the fabric of the universe and the plot of the book. The treatment of religion and its relationship with people is refreshingly subtle - dare I say it, adult?

Unlike many fantasy tomes that lose the run of themselves, particularly the multi-volume type, The Curse of Chalion never spends more time on an event that it has to. If nothing interesting happens during a number of days, there is a time skip until something interesting does happen. When the author lingers on an event, it's because what's happening is important enough to warrant the extra pages. Bujold's grasp of pacing is perfect and many other authors could afford to learn from her. I found myself turning the pages eagerly from start to finish, whether a moment was profoundly reflective or events were occurring at a breakneck speed.

Read this. Then go on to Paladin of Souls and enjoy more wonderful time spent in this world.

Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)
Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, original cover, 28 Jan. 2013
This is a fresh and funny cover of Sir Mix-a-lot's rap, sung with original music and arrangement by Jonathan Coulton. It's a great juxtaposition of the original lyrics with music that you'd never expect to go with them, yet somehow everything blends perfectly. I have it on repeat at the moment and often find it sticking in my head. A top-class piece of music.

Jonathan Coulton is donating all proceeds from sales of this song (minus the cuts due to Sir Mix-a-lot and Amazon) to charity until the end of February, so you're doing good for others as well as your eardrums if you buy this. It also shows your lack of support for the ripping off of original music like what Glee recently did to Mr. Coulton with their cover of his version of this, where they didn't ask him for permission, offer any percentage of the profits from their sales, or even acknowledge his role in any way in the credits (attributing everything about the song to others).

Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale: 3 (Serenity (Dark Horse))
Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale: 3 (Serenity (Dark Horse))
by Joss Whedon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.34

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling; I am very disappointed, 22 Dec. 2011
The background of Shepard Book remained mysterious and unknown through the short half-season of Firefly and its follow-up film, Serenity, with just vague hints to show that he once had a life very different from that of a wise old preacher. I always assumed that this was because Joss Whedon felt that allusion and hints had created something so interesting and elusive that revealing Book's true past would inevitably end up disappointing the audience. Accordingly, when I saw this, I was delighted. "Surely," thought I, "the long silence regarding Book's past has only been broken because the writers thought up something even better than whatever we could imagine. They wouldn't ruin his aura of mystery for no good reason. Instant purchase!" I was totally mistaken. Far from giving wider contexts to the small elements of Book's backstory that were shown in the series, the comic contradicts them. It is told in reverse chronological order (a bit like Memento, except, you know, bad) and simply gives snapshots of various parts of his life rather than a coherent narrative. ***Minor spoiler alert*** (until the end of this paragraph): only a few of the glimpses show him in employment with the Alliance, and they make total nonsense of an incident in the show where he was helped by the Alliance, as, frankly, if the events in the comic are regarded as canon, I don't see why the Alliance would ever help him with *anything*.

The visual elements are okay (not amazing, but not incompetent), which made me contemplate giving this two stars for all of, say, two seconds. I didn't because the story drags everything else down.

To conclude: I wish I could unread this comic. I would have felt cheated even if I hadn't paid for it, but, because I did, I feel doubly cheated. I write this review so that you can avoid my mistake. While most of the reviews here are positive (which is part of what led me to buy it), the product's page on has many more reviews, a large proportion of them negative. I wish that I had seen them first. See here for the one-star reviews (some of which contain spoilers, but, frankly, I think the comic comes pre-spoiled due to its awful quality) [...]
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2012 2:33 PM GMT


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great case for the price, 12 Dec. 2011
I've been using this case for a couple of months. The phone has fallen on the ground a few times by accident, but this lightly-padded case kept it safe from damage. The phone fits into a plastic half-shell affixed to the inside of the case; the lower half snaps into this part, held secure by four little teeth. This allows the moveable part to unfold easily, without needing to remove the case. It can be a little difficult to snap the last couple of teeth around the phone when first putting it in, but I regard this as a plus since it means that the phone won't fall out by accident (it never has for me). The plastic part of the case has cutaway parts for all the ports/buttons on the sides of the phone, so you can, for instance, adjust volume or charge the phone without difficulty. The way the magnetic closing tab is positioned, though, you can't have it closed and have a headset/headphones plugged in at the same time. This is slightly annoying. In addition, the cloth sewn into the inside tends to fray at the edges, so one has to trim a few stray threads from that every now and then to keep it looking good. Ultimately, though, the price is great, so I can't really regard either of these issues as serious flaws.

Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil 150ml
Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil 150ml
Offered by Afro Love
Price: £3.03

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic product; makes my hair feel great, 9 Dec. 2011
My hair tends to be *very* frizzy. I've found that this oil helps its condition a lot. In my experience, it should be left in at least overnight before washing out with shampoo the next day. (As others have already said, no extra conditioner is necessary; the oil conditions your hair beautifully by itself.) What I have started to do is leave it in for a few days if I have no particular reason to be out and about in the immediate future but I have something special coming up a few days later; of course, since the hair looks very oily while it's in, I braid the hair and it looks fine (if you leave it down, it looks lank and greasy). This serves double duty to keep my hair under control if I'm doing a lot of sports; at martial arts training weekends, for instance, it keeps the hair well under control instead of the usual situation for me with a huge halo of frizz. Then, after such a long period of treatment, you wash the oil out as before and it looks and feels *unbelievable* after that=. Really good if you have a special occasion and you want your hair to look that much better than it would otherwise. I've had people compliment me and as if I've had my hair done after this, and it's even stood up to some martial arts training without getting frizzed up. Also, it's so soft that I can't stop touching it. It feels smoother than silk. :-)
Just one caveat: as some other reviewers have said, don't expect magic after just one use. You need to use it a few times before it starts making a huge difference. Once you do so, though, the results are amazing. And don't worry: you'll get a good number of uses from just one little bottle, so you won't need to buy multiples to get to the point where you'll see that difference. That said, I'll buy multiples next time, now that I know how good it is.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, light and subtle: a long-lasting citrus-floral fragrance with woody-spicy base notes, 15 July 2011
When I worked in the fragrance department in one of the top-five stores of a well-known health and beauty chain, I tried as many of the fragrances as possible in order to give customers the best advice I could. Bazar for women quickly became my favourite. It is a bright, refreshing, summery fragrance in which, for me, the distinctive citrus scent of mandarin oranges was the most prominent top note, along with a certain undertone of pepper; the scent is also evocative of peach and orange blossom. The middle notes are mostly floral, particularly jasmine. The fragrance lasts for many hours over the course of the day, deepening into what I found to be pleasant base notes of amber and sandalwood (with a little musk, but it's far from overpowering). Bazar is eminently wearable: versatile in that it's inoffensive and not overly musky, but it has its own clear personality (unlike many of today's copycat sweet fragrances). I have never worn any other fragrance quite like it. That said, an analogous fragrance would be Dolce & Gabbana's very popular Light Blue, whose top notes of sicilian lemon and apple are also refreshing yet sweet and summery, and which shares the jasmine middle note and the amber and musk base notes. Accordingly, I think that if you like D&G Light Blue, you will like Christian Lacroix's Bazar.

One final note: Bazar is now quite difficult to find in most stores' fragrance departments, so if you would like to try it then online shopping is probably your best bet. I am delighted to find it on Amazon having not seen it on shelves for some years, and will now be stocking up - but worry not, I won't buy it all. ;-)

KitSound KSDJ DJ Headphones - Black
KitSound KSDJ DJ Headphones - Black

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing sound, great price, 9 Jan. 2011
These sturdily-built headphones have a rich but crisp sound with excellent bass. I have listened to many different genres of music with them - metal, classical, traditional, choral, and pop, to name a few - and everything sounded top-notch. I'm not a headphone expert, but I've owned plenty in my time; these give better sound than any of my Sennheisers (though I've never shelled out for the 100+ headphones, so I've obviously never owned the best that manufacturer has to offer).

They are somewhat bulky, but you're not going to get such a good sound from a little set of earbuds - and at least the earcups swivel around so you can transport them without taking up too much space. The packaging was a little difficult to remove, but at least it was strong and kept the headphones safe during transit.

Ultimately: if you are looking for some excellent headphones that don't break the bank, then look no further.

Presence Of Mind
Presence Of Mind
Price: £10.32

5.0 out of 5 stars Positive and catchy album-oriented rock, 4 July 2010
This review is from: Presence Of Mind (Audio CD)
Like many people, I first heard about Alyson Avenue when Anette Olzon joined Nightwish. Well, this music is very different from Nightwish - though they have a few things in common in the catchiness department. In fact, Alyson Avenue are so catchy that every single one of their songs has gotten stuck in my head at one point or another (often for hours at a time). On the whole, they sound like a more rockish Abba.

Every track on this album is strong. The playing is skilful, with some surprisingly slick guitar solos. Anette's singing is clear, powerful, and passionate - and the compositions are perfectly suited to her range and style. The songs never get bogged down, but move forward consistently at a snappy pace. My favourite track on the whole album is the opener, "Free Like the Wind," which sounds like something you'd hear on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. My other top tracks would be "Lost and Lonely," "One Desperate Heart," and "All This Time." In general, the themes of the lyrics tend to deal with the ups and downs of romantic relationships. Even when a song is about a sad subject, though, it manages to somehow remain upbeat and uplifting in its overall tone. Accordingly, this is a great album to listen to if you need a pick-me-up. If you prefer all your music to be depressing and tragic, though, this isn't the band for you. ;-)

All in all, I recommend this album strongly to anyone who likes positive and catchy pop-rock. However, if you are only planning to buy one Alyson Avenue album I'd recommend Omega II, as it is four songs longer than Presence of Mind and the quality is even higher on average (though neither have a single poor song on them). You can always pick up Presence of Mind later, after you fall in love with Omega and find yourself demanding more Alyson. :-D

Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (Dungeons & Dragons)
Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (Dungeons & Dragons)
by Chris Sims
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.99

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A decrease in depth and coherence, 27 Aug. 2008
First off: this is not the worst RPG product I have ever seen. (I think that anyone who has won a prize at a gaming convention, where prizes are usually cast-offs - I mean, *donations!* - from the sellers' boothes, will agree. I think I've only ever used one supplement I acquired in this way.) However, now that this declaration is out of the way, I must say: even though worse RPG books exist, this one deserves a low rating because it is such a downgrade compared to the previous book that described the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

This 4th version of the setting is intended to get rid of a number of qualities that supposedly deterred people from roleplaying in the Forgotten Realms previously: too many gods, too many high-level NPCs, too many different cultures and nations, too much accrued lore. Apparently the history of the Realms and its various personalities were problems rather than assets. Thus, the changes between the previous edition and this edition were intended to make it attractive for a new audience.

Well, unfortunately, I don't think it has succeeded. It can't please old fans, because it has destroyed so much that was characteristic of the Realms. But I don't think it can please new ones either, because it spends so much time saying "such-and-such was like this before, but now it's like this." It doesn't always explain the significance of the changes, though - so new readers are left scratching their heads wondering why the devs bothered mentioning the fact that things used to be different at all. For instance: the attempt to copy Eberron with the "10 things you need to know about the Realms" doesn't actually succeed in copying it well, because half of them seem to be more concerned with telling old fans that things aren't the same as they used to be, rather than encapsulating what the setting is *now*. (Incidentally, the magical catastrophe of the Spellplague and the resulting plague areas and spellscars are obviously rip-offs of Eberron's Day of Mourning, Mournland, and dragonmarks, respectively. But we already have one Eberron - and a darned good setting it is too. Why try to make FR into a weak copy?) In other cases, though, when some references to changes from the old situation might prove an interesting read for everyone (e.g. a description of whatever it was that led to the current religious situation, where it's no longer necessary to worship gods and the Wall of the Faithless is gone), there is not even the slightest bit of explanation. It's almost as if explanations were made in none of the cases where they should have been and in all of the cases when they shouldn't have been.

Anyway, the chapters proper start off with a look at the town of Loudwater. This town was chosen to be a close-up example and a base for a number of possible adventures, but it is difficult to muster any enthusiasm about it whatsoever - it's just that boring and generic. Also, the fact that this section and the various possible adventures are put first in the book, before almost anything else about the setting is explained, will no doubt be confusing to those approaching the setting for the first time.

By and large, the book tends towards vagueness and blandness. There are a few nice exceptions (such as the table of art-type treasure), and it's difficult to go too wrong with some of the iconic areas like Rasheman and Cormyr... However, I found myself wondering why some of the gods were in the book at all - and, considering that the devs killed off quite a lot of the old ones or amalgamated them into other ones, that's saying something. In terms of the gods that the devs didn't cull, some of the choices are quite baffling. The drow deity of oozes is now a greater god in the main pantheon? Tyr, Mask, and Mystra (gods of paladins, thieves, and magicians, respectively) are gone - but minor halfling goddess of beauty Sheela Peryroyl is now a standard god? This problem with the gods carries through to nations and geography as well: nearly all of the new countries are less interesting, rich, and uniquely Realmsian than those they replaced. Where, exactly, was the central vision when this book was being put together? Finally, although the page count of the FRCG is not a huge amount smaller than the 3e FRCS, the print size is so much bigger that it really has much, much, much less content in it by far than its predecessor.

There is so much more I would like to write about, but it would be too long for an Amazon review. Suffice it to say: while there is an amount of good work in this book, it is so poor by comparison to the third edition version of the campaign setting that I cannot but give it one star. If you want to play 4e D&D in the Forgotten Realms, my personal advice is that you pick up a copy of the 3e FRCS and work out your own adaptation of 4e magic (and the rest) to the campaign setting. It could scarcely make less sense than the one published here, so what do you have to lose?

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