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Mr. B. Hillis (Windsor, England)
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The Cold War
The Cold War
by John Lewis Gaddis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable interpretation, 7 Jan. 2012
This review is from: The Cold War (Paperback)
I studied the Cold War at undergraduate level in the early 1990s. One of the difficult aspects of studying it at that time was that we were too close to the Cold War's end to step back and consider that period as a whole. Today, many undergraduates will not have been born when the Cold War ended, and there is more room and opportunity to interpret and analyse this period. And what Gaddis offers is a beautifully written interpretation of the Cold War. In 260 pages (excluding notes and bibliography) you should not expect this book to recount all of the events in the Cold War. Matters such as the Cuban missile crisis are dealt with in a few pages with an explanation of Soviet and US motivations but no detailed chronology of the development of the crisis. So don't buy this if you have a Gradgrindian view of history writing!

Readers may disagree with many of the judgements Gaddis makes about the Cold War. Certainly, the author writes from an American perspective and so, for example, sees the moral values espoused by the US in the Cold War as more enlightened than those of Britain and France: a view that takes account of European colonialism but neglects other issues. There are also one or two factual errors e.g. he states that Dresden was destroyed by the US. But personally, I found that he gives a generally illuminating account of how the Cold War developed, in particular, of how allies, domestic politicians, dissidents and others were increasingly able to exert influence and pressure on the superpower duo as the Cold War developed. I also generally found his judgements concerning US and Soviet leaders convincing. Reagan did play a huge role in bringing the Cold War to an end and Gaddis puts this down to his strategic vision and grasp of the essential nature of the Soviet Union. I suspect this is right but it would have been helpful for Gaddis to highlight the extent to which Reagan's increase in tension created risks as well as opportunities. Indeed, the book assumes that ending the Cold War was a "good thing". I am sure that is right but the book does not address the many downsides to the end of the Cold War.

In summary this is a well-written account that presents a particular interpretation of the broad sweep of the Cold War. Not everyone will agree with all of Gaddis's views but even where I did not agree I found Gaddis a credible guide. The book is also lucidly written and a pleasure to read. I would recommend it as an introduction to the Cold War. But I think it is more valuable for those with some background in this period who would like an overview and do not mind reading a historian with opinions, even if you might not agree with all of them.


Gold's Gym 12kg Cast Iron Kettlebell
Gold's Gym 12kg Cast Iron Kettlebell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Handle needed sanding down, 30 Dec. 2010
I bought the 16kg Alex kettlebell. I agree with previous reviewers about fast delivery. The bell is a reasonable shape with the handle not too thick. However, the handle was not well finished. There were some rough patches which had not been properly sanded. I ended up having to do sand down the handle myself otherwise I would have had to have worn gloves to continue to use it.


"Men's Health" Cardio Strength Training: Torch Fat, Build Muscle, and Get Stronger Faster
"Men's Health" Cardio Strength Training: Torch Fat, Build Muscle, and Get Stronger Faster
by Robert Dos Remedios
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great workouts - get fit in 15 minutes a day, 19 Dec. 2010
I work long hours and struggle to get to the gym in the week. Since the start of October, I have used the circuits in Cardio Strength Training as the basis for the 15-20 minute workouts I do in my garage at home each morning. This has helped me reach my best level of fitness ever - knocking over a minute off my best 5k run time without going doing road work. The workouts are short, intense and varied, developing metabolic conditioning without sacrificing strength and conditioning. They include complexes, volume-based training circuits and interval training. You can use lots of different tools, including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls or just your bodyweight. The workouts are fun but tough. I have worked hard but seen great results.

My one gripe with the book is that it was badly proof-read. But that has not distracted from its usefulness.

Great for busy people who want great results in little time and are prepared to work hard to achieve this.


Xtreme Training: The Fighter's Ultimate Fitness Manual
Xtreme Training: The Fighter's Ultimate Fitness Manual
by Erich Krauss
Edition: Paperback

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best fitness manual I've seen - fantastic for non-fighters too!, 18 Dec. 2010
I don't do combat sports but I really enjoy a wide variety of training. Randy Couture's book is the best all round fitness manual I have seen.

Part One is on "General Physical Preparation". It starts with a short chapter explaining the different aspects of physical preparation. The authors have written this for MMA but it applies more widely. I have read lots of general explanations of fitness this is the clearest and most complete I have seen. Then, the book runs through metabolic conditioning, starting with dynamic warm-up and then moving on to full body conditioning. This section contains a great variety of drills, even more than dos Remedios' book on cardio strength training, which I also recommend. Next are sections on strength training, dealing with exercises to work the posterior chain, upper body pushes, upper body pulls and core work. Part Two explains MMA sports-specific training, separated into standing and ground drills. Part Three consists of Training Routines. First Randy runs through a ten week training programme he would use to prepare for a 3 x 5 minute round non-title fight. Then, he sets out several alternative work-outs ranging from a strength and conditioning work-out designed for a novice to an advanced programme to develop size and strength.

Couture & co have written a book with some knockout features:

. it is incredibly well-produced with clear colour photographs showing the movements from a variety of angles, so you get a clear sense of how the exercise should be performed;
. it is well written with detailed explanations of the movements;
. it contains many, many different exercises, which certainly helps to avoid getting stale; and
. there are some surprising gems of information in here which I have not seen elsewhere - and Couture's longevity and standing mean you know you can trust the more unusual points (e.g. about doing core work before Olympic lifts so that your core is warmed up to protect your spine).

There is no section on diet so if you need this you need another book as well. Also, I suspect this will benefit people who have got past beginner stage in training more than novices. And as I said before I am not a fighter so I cannot comment on the sports-specific material, but Randy Couture and his team have written a magnificent manual for fitness, strength and conditioning. Highly recommended.


I'm New Here
I'm New Here
Price: £9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant classic, 7 Mar. 2010
This review is from: I'm New Here (Audio CD)
This is moving, dignified, intimate music, more personal than political - music by a great artist who still has something to say. Indeed two or three songs on this superb album would make it onto my dream "Best of Gil Scott-Heron".

The things you remember most about most of Gil's work are the intelligent, witty lyrics. While this album displays moments of lyrical invention, his greatest strengths on this album are his performances, particularly of other artist's songs. These have been helped by time (and some hard living) dumping a truckload of gravel into Gil's voice. I have heard few more moving declarations than Gil's reading of "I'll Take Care Of You". Robert Johnson's preternaturally scary "Me And The Devil" is rarely covered, but Gil's synth-backed reading stands comparison with the great Delta bluesman. Indeed, if you take the view that the blues is a sensibility rather than a conventional form (with its arteries hardened by unimaginative artists and audiences), then this is perhaps the greatest blues album since Muddy Waters walked the Earth.

This is a short album, operating at its fighting weight and mercifully free from the filler that spoils so many records. Interspersed with short, thoughtful interludes, the songs come in, do their stuff and then slide out without over-staying their welcome.

A joy.


Masterpiece Created By Francois K
Masterpiece Created By Francois K
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great mix - listenable again and again, 8 Aug. 2009
I received this free on joining a well known London club. It is a hugely enjoyable mix. I have found it both accessible and long-lasting, and have continued to listen to it for much longer than comparable mixes. The 3 CD set mixes well known tracks and lesser known numbers.
CD 1 - accessible sinuous house and trance
CD 2 - brilliant - maintains the pace and the interest - tracks 04 to 06 are superb
CD 3 - more varied
Recommended


The Sign of Four (Penguin Classics)
The Sign of Four (Penguin Classics)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-paced addictive puzzle, 19 Jan. 2009
The Sign of Four is the second Sherlock Holmes novel. It is a fast-paced story involving theft, murder and betrayal, the beginnings of which lie in a robbery that took place during the Indian Mutiny.

The great strengths of the novel lie in its pace, thrilling plot and atmospheric settings. There is also of course the facinating character of Holmes himself: the arrogant, intellectual, emotionally stunted drug fiend solving crime through observation and deduction.

Conan Doyle is superb at set-piece scenes such as the boat chase down the Thames and the incident at Agra Fort. I also enjoyed Holmes exposition of his methods, the glimpses of the seamier side of Victorian London and the comic interludes with Thaddeus Sholto and the stereotypically plodding police detective Athelney Jones.

There are some gripes though. Some characters are mere props rather than rounded individuals. Also, at least once Conan Doyle gives Holmes useful information which is hidden from the reader until later when it is revealed that Holmes has used that information in solving the crime. That Holmes is given more facts to work with weakens the illusion the reader is uncovering the mystery with him.

Overall, despite these faults, the Sign of Four is a great page-turner. Holmes may solve crimes like so many cryptic crosswords but this novel has great action and suspense as well as great detecting.


Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling 1865-1900
Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling 1865-1900
by Charles Allen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not such a dry old stick - facinating introduction to the young Kipling, 18 Jan. 2009
Charles Allen has produced a superb biography covering the first thirty-five years of Kipling's life. The book concentrates on Kipling's relationship with India, which Allen convincingly argues sustained most of his best work.

Today Kipling can appear an austere figure, a handle-bar moustached Imperialist advocate, with ideas on race beyond the pale of polite society. But Allen shows the young Kipling ("Ruddy") to be so much more interesting and sympathetic than the stereotype suggests.

Allen is excellent on Ruddy's early life in Bombay, his unloved years in Southsea away from his parents, his return to India and work there as a journalist, his development as a writer and return to England to become a literary superstar.

Ruddy trod new ground among writers: for example, he was the first to give a voice to the men rather than the officers in the British army. In India he talked to everyone: from Vieroys to the most downtrodden and his empathy for misfits, outsiders and slackers gave his fiction its wondrous colour and detail.

For me the most surprising elements of Kipling's life include his nocturnal explorings of native India, his visits to Lahore courtesans, his experiences with opium and his depressions. The older Kipling did much to obscure Ruddy's antics from future generations. But Allen is superb at uncovering Ruddy's secrets and they make him so much more of a sympathetic and modern man than I had previously believed.

I have not read any of Kipling's prose since my teenage years when I struggled through the Second Jungle Book. But this book has re-awakened my interest and I shall shortly be reading Kim, which Allen considers Kipling's masterpiece.

Read this book if you are interested in learning more about what made Kipling tick, whether you have got into his works yet or not. Also read this book if you are interested in the Raj. Allen makes this far-away world come alive.


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