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E. Porter-daniels "Irenicas" (Reading, UK)

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Gift Republic: Grow It. Grow Your Own Chilli Plants
Gift Republic: Grow It. Grow Your Own Chilli Plants
Price: 10.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Grew very well, 15 Dec 2013
Bought as a Christmas present a year ago and chili plants are still going strong. Produced plenty of chilis which were apparently lovely. Very pleased with the presentation of the item too.

Acer Aspire One 725 11.6-inch Netbook (Black) (AMD C60 1GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, LAN, WLAN, Webcam, 4 Cell Battery, Integrated Graphics, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit)
Acer Aspire One 725 11.6-inch Netbook (Black) (AMD C60 1GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, LAN, WLAN, Webcam, 4 Cell Battery, Integrated Graphics, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit)

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the very best, 9 Oct 2012
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A truly exceptional netbook for the price - light, small form-factor, and yet surprisingly powerful. Yes, it's not up to the standards of a full-blown laptop, but at this price you can hardly complain. The AspireOne 725 just has more of everything than you'd except - more RAM, more prcoessing power, more HDD space, more battery life, more pixels, and even more USB ports.

The keyboard is much less stunted than you would expect on a machine this size, with the main typing area almost the same size as a standard layout, and the keys themselves feel heavy-duty and quality-made. This feeling is mirrored in the rest of the build - you really feel that you have purchased a quality product, from the packaging it arrives in down to the quality of the finish on the branding.

My only gripe would, perhaps, be with the pre-bundled software. It's fantastic that Acer are providing a full version of Windows 7 rather than the starter edition you usually see, but the home premium that comes with it (which is perfectly fine, though people with a technical background may want to dualboot an ubuntu build on it, and/or upgrade to Pro when they can) is littered with a huge amount of pre-installed rubbish (including at least one piece of software that refused to uninstall correctly and had to be manually removed from the registry or forever haunt the programs list). For those less computer savvy - beware! There are a lot of pieces of software preloaded here that claim to be free, but either do not function correctly, or aggressively market their premium products at you. After an hour of uninstalling and reinstalling, however, I was set up and ready to go, and there was little to complain about.

A truly remarkable device all in all, and an astonishing buy at the price. Congratulations, Acer!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 1, 2012 11:39 AM GMT

Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (Dungeons & Dragons)
Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (Dungeons & Dragons)
by Bruce R. Cordell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 22.77

13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Direction for an Old Friend, 1 Sep 2008
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The Forgotten Realms has always been a problem to me - inspiring and yet impractical. I loved the feel of the setting, the age of it, the depth, the detail, and yet these were all of its problems too. The feel made it always generic, the age of it made it always hampered by the past, the depth made it a chore to run, and the detail made fans irritating to play with.
Ultimately, personal knowledge shouldn't affect in game knowledge to the degree which it did. A new-coming DM to Toril couldn't effectively run it if there were players in his or her group who loved it - they would spend forever correcting the DM on the authenticity of the setting. It's not that these players were *bad*, just that the setting was so static and so rich and so persuasive that it was hard to escape the idea that it should all be *exactly as written*. Beware the DM who would dare to change anything.
But this was by no means the only issue. Big NPCs dominated Toril. Drizzt and Elminster were more recognisable than the setting as a whole, and the number of awful "cameos" that occured in games was atrocious... as for the novels, the less said the better.
What about the variety of terrain and setting? In theory this was great - you can set your game in almost any surrounding and it'll still be the Forgotten Realms. You want trading cities and costal areas? The Sword Coast. You want exotic locales and organisations? Calisham! You want frozen wastes? The Silver Marches! You want to rip off Lord of the Rings? The Dalelands! So what was the problem with this? Well, ultimately, it was scale. Forgotten Realms worked well with this theory of specific location until you hit about 10th level, when the entire thing fell apart. Soon, reliable and quick long distance transportation was available. The idea of a cohesive world disappears when you can be in desert one minute, and ice fields the next. So how has this changed?

Well, 4th edition includes a lot fewer transport spells, and the folding of teleportation into Rituals (with which you need a "portal key") means that mundane transport is often the way you go first, and then use teleportation when you need to over long distances from set point to set point. Travel thus takes longer, the dramatic differences in setting aren't so obvious, and the world feels a lot more cohesive. The splitting of the game into tiers also helps, as it gives DMs more warning of when to prepare for these changes.

So what does the new setting look like? Well, Mystra is finally dead. FINALLY. I mean, seriously, is this like the fourth time? NEVER BRING HER BACK. The Spellplague changes the layout of the map in a big way, as does the bashing of Abeir into Toril. Hello new races, bye bye old races.

But what's the point of saying this, really? Old fans are going to be angry - "They got rid of gods! They changed the map!" Boo hoo. The setting needed a desperate change - it's been more or less static (on a fundemental level) for years and years. The changes are interesting, smartly done, and the changes to the system make the setting work well. In the end, if you loved Drizzt and co, and hate the idea of not knowing every single event of the setting, then stay away.

For the rest of us, this is an interesting, stunningly beautiful book. The entries are perhaps a little short, but this leaves freedom in the details whilst really giving you a feel for the setting and countries. There are a lot of new monsters, good info on antagonist groups, a lovely poster map, and interesting discussion of the world in general as well as the specific entries. The major criticisms are, perhaps, only that some of the old issues are still there (the odd mix and match of terrain amongst other things), and that occasionally an important piece of information is missing (how big is the population of Waterdeep ay? AY?). Still, an excellent buy.

Changeling the Lost (Changeling)
Changeling the Lost (Changeling)
by Changeling
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the new World of Darkness, 21 Jan 2008
Though there were many complaints about White Wolf's choice to release a new edition of their acclaimed role playing system, the new World of Darkness was generally well received, and once the three "core" systems (Requiem, Awakening, and Forsaken) had been published some members of the community wondered where the line would go from here. The publishing of the much maligned Promethean put White Wolf on shaky ground, and when they announced they were releasing a new version of the cult classic Changeling players prepared for an appalling mess. This was, after all, the game that White Wolf had previously claimed would never be made.
So when the pre-releases started emerging, people were suspicious, myself among them. Dreaming had been such a strange, unique game... how could it work in the new streamlined system? But when the preview adventure came out, and in wonder we read what they had done, the scale began to tip in their favor.

Welcome, then, to Changeling: the Lost, the latest in White Wolf's "Game: The Angst" line of publishing, which sounds like an insult, but actually is anything but. WW have cracked horror roleplaying, and this is another superb example of their skill. Whereas Promethean suffered from overpowered PCs and underpowered enemies, Lost crashed back with intriguing yet subtle power dynamics, and horrific enemies who would genuinely hunt you to the end of the world and take you, screaming and kicking, back to the place where your nightmares come from. This wasn't smash and grab role play, this was dark and terrifying, and beautiful at the same time.

I realise it sounds like I'm gushing a bit about this, but it deserves to be gushed over. So, in order, let's assess the game.

Setting and Mood: WW clearly looked long and hard at what made Dreaming great, and then scrapped most of it with the intent of making it better. By forcing the faerie realms into a more western view (with lots of lovely novel extras arriving in Winter Masques) it becomes more cohesive, whilst still keeping the horrible arbitrary nature which makes it terrible and wonderful at the same time. Faerie is both beautiful and awful, and the True Fae themselves, the Keepers, take on the role of abuser and parent, ensuring conflict and horror aplenty. The discussion of privateers and loyalists, those who would serve the True Fae out of devotion or greed, adds another level of grotesque. Add to this the hedge, a barrier realm consumed by chaos and delightful nightmare, and you have an endless supply of material for your games.

Mechanics - It's clear that WW wanted to break out of what is now recognised as their "standard" formula - five political groups, five clans/paths/etc. Changeling throws this away and starts again, and feels much less forced for it. And contracts... how can I not talk about contracts. They vary from the surreal and subtle all the way up to the near godly, but the carefully laid out requirements, and the relatively small dice pools means that they never get out of hand. Contracts aren't something to ignore, but neither are they the be all and end all - they're just too hard to pin down for that. The introduction of catches, specific circumstances where these powers are free, is a lovely touch, and is a constant reminder of the near lyrical methodology of faerie. The only complaint is in regards to dreaming - it feels like they tacked it on to make oWoD players happy, when it was in fact totally unnecessary. It's a nice idea, but there needs to be way more background on it. We can only hope it's covered in a supplementary volume.

Appearance - *drools* Seriously, the moment you open the book you're understand. It's wonderful. Gorgeous illustrations, tasteful and interesting fonts that don't lose out on clarity, simplicity of layout coupled with intrigue of writing. The only negative to associate with it is perhaps the overwhelming green colouration. Yes, we know you had a colour scheme. Well done. But couldn't we have had the kiths illustrated in colour? Just tasteful pastel shades? It's a shame, and a missed opportunity. But still, a minor complaint really.

So, in conclusion, this is a game that feels great, works brilliantly, holds your attention, infects you with its charm, and celebrates the weird and terrible. If you want to play the most twisted WoD game, don't pick anything but Lost. But watch out for the gentry...

Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Saga Edition (Star Wars Roleplaying Game)
Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Saga Edition (Star Wars Roleplaying Game)
by Owen K. C. Stephens
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A significant advance from previous editions, 30 Oct 2007
After being introduced to the Star Wars Roleplaying game in its D20 incarnation I found that I was increasingly baffled by the design philosophy which seemed to sit behind the rule set. Though everything Star Wars was there to a greater or lesser extent the entire game felt like an eternal struggle to run and play, overly complex rules eating away at the fabric of what could potentially have been an excellent game. I love Dungeons and Dragons, but it was progressively clear that the 3rd Edition rule set (which was being used here) was utterly unsuited for the task of adapting the Star Wars films and expanded universe into game form. Every aspect of the game seemed overly complex and laboured, a tedious exercise when it should be exciting and swift. It was with a skeptical mind, then, that I purchased this new edition.
The first thing that strike you upon actually holding the book in your hands is the unique feel of it - it is an unusual size and shape and though this could have been irritating, it in fact seems to fit the style of the game well. Reading the book feels like you are participating in an epic adventure and this is some kind of great tome rather than the rather overly-standard A4 sized hardcovers that Wizards rely upon in their other gaming lines. The book itself is gorgeous, a vast improvement over its predecessors who always felt like more space was taken up with filler than with content. This, on the other hand, feels streamlined, stylish, and extremely professional. These comments do not, in fact, merely apply to the aesthetics.
The rules have been substantially overhauled, and I do mean substantially. Do not expect to wander in without having read the book and be able to create a character from the knowledge held in your head from previous editions. In fact character creation and development has been changed so radically it feel revolutionary, like this is something ground breaking (when, in fact, it is merely pulling together many already existing threads). There are now only five classes, but the felxibility of creation and development is so far in advance of previous editions that it seems like you have hugely greater choice. Instead of the class abilities, something which has always held D20 back as far as I am concerned, there are varied talent trees which allow you to custom pick your abilities, powers, and talents. The variety that is available is astonishing, and it allows the creation of vastly more varied PCs than ever before.
The game itself moves into a slightly different sphere, and the huge changes to the skill system (you no longer have skill points but are either trained or untrained) means that what was once a frenzy of mathematics and dice rolling is a straightforward test of your character's abilities. The entire system feels... swift. Streamlined is a word I cannot use enough, and it is vitally important to say that this does not make the system "simplistic". In this case, less is very much more, and when you add in the optional destiny rules and begin to play around with force point use, the game slips into an extremely pleasant realm of its own.
There are of course some negative points to the system. In an attempt to tie this edition into the successful miniture game the book refers to everything in terms of "squares", but if we are honest then few gaming groups do not use gaming mats. If you don't, then merely times a distance in squares by 1.5 and you have the distance in metres. Multiply it by five, and you have it in feet. A minor gripe, and an understandable move, but a somewhat irritating one none the less for those of thus who have deemed the cash-sink which is minature buying unneccessary.
In summary then this game manages something spectacular - a refined and streamlined ruleset that loses none of the nuances and delicacy of play that one expects from a Wizard's system that combines blissfully with a free-form character creation system and the feel of the Star Wars game. The only possible gripe is that, like in early incarnations, there is little discussion of the creation of custom antagonists, and the choice of "additional materials" (antagonists, ships, equipment, etc) is poor. However, the rule set is so elegant that an experience GM should have no trouble creating their own.

All in all, superb. I hope that D&D4E is as good, and that there are plenty of expansion books available soon.

Snow Crash
Snow Crash
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book, not just a great cyberpunk book., 25 May 2006
This review is from: Snow Crash (Paperback)
First of all, to all those people who had a big problem with this book: you're just not getting it, sorry. Yes, we're well aware that having a character called Hiro Protagonist is not hilarious, but that is sort of the point. In fact for this particular example Hiro himself points out it's an assumed name chosen for the fact that you'll remember it.

As for those who seem to think that it's over-explained: again, you're missing the point. Stephenson was writing at a time when these weren't ideas were neccessarily common knowledge. And does it really matter years later, as long as the core of what makes the book great is there?

As to what DOES make it great, that's a little trickier to put your finger on. It's an exciting story, but that's not really when it's a classic. There are lots of interesting ideas, particularly about language and religion and how they relate to humanity. The sections which interest me most on every reading are the conversations about neuro linguistic programming, and about glossia.

But again that's not really it - what makes this book great is the fact that despite it being interesting and exciting and thoughtful, is that it's damn silly. All the characters are ridiculous and over-the-top, and that's great. Read it, have a good time, think about what it says, and enjoy the ride. Highly recommended.

The Encyclopedia of Hell
The Encyclopedia of Hell
by Miriam Van Scott
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and sensationalist, 21 Sep 2005
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I purchased this book to assist some research which I am doing for a fiction book based around actual mythology, and I was disappointed to discover that this work was no where near as useful or as well written as other reviews had made it out to be.
The more historical based entries have some use if you are new to the subject of demonology and the study of religious mythology, but are limited to say the least. I understand that this is a simple reference volume, but some explanation of the principles touched upon within the entries would probably be useful to those without an indepth knowledge.
However, it is with the more recent and "pop culture" entries that this volume really fails to please. The majority of these subjects are written in a very biased and unhelpful way. They smack of sensationalist journalism, not the authentic academic study they are intended to be.
As best this book could be used as a starting point - simply look at the headings of the entries and go and look them up in a proper reference volume. At worst it can set all the wrong ideas about the subject in place, something which is difficult to shift.
If you are looking to waste your money on a substandard and vague encylopedia about a subject that deserves more, then buy this. If not, I suggest you save your money for something more useful - like a membership to a university or college library.

Out of the Silent Planet / Perelandra (Voyager Classics): AND Perelandra
Out of the Silent Planet / Perelandra (Voyager Classics): AND Perelandra
by C. S. Lewis
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not at all what I expected., 7 April 2005
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I, like most people I think, came to these stories having only ever read CS Lewis' children's fiction (namely the Narnia chronicles). This meant that it was quite a shock for me to read something like this which was so adult and yet so sensitive.
And that is, in my eyes, the real achievement of Out of the Silent Planet, and to some extent Perelandra. It keeps the same gloriously fantastical slant of his childrens books, but wraps this whimsy around a much darker core, and addresses some seriously weighty subjects - the nature of humanity, the nature of God, and the nature or morality.
This serious philosophical exploration (and it mostly certainly is philosophy) is simply held in a piece of fiction. You feel like you should have to spend time shredding away the layers of story around this philosophy, but in fact the opposite is true - the fiction leads you gently into the complex core of these novels, and then extricates you once more when you are done. It is a true masterwork of authorship.

Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars twisted and disturbing, 14 Feb 2005
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This review is from: Nineteen Eighty-Four (Paperback)
I'm going to admit something here. When I first read 1984, I was physically sick. That sound ridiculous, but after spending the entire day turning page after page, absorbing all those horrendous ideas, I finshed it, sat back, and then ran to the bathroom where I threw up my guts.
I wouldn't tell you this, but I think it gives you a clear idea on the emotional responce you can have to this book. It revolted me, and yet I couldn't stop reading. By far the most terrifying novel I've ever read, it still chills me to the bone, even the thought of room 101 is enough to make my stomach turn.
This book won't change your life. It'll inspire you to change the world, and that's probably a much better result.

by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly wonderful, 14 Feb 2005
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This review is from: Survivor (Paperback)
This is not a nice book. Let me tell you this right off, just so you don't buy book thinking you're going to enjoy it.
As with the best satire, you'll come away feeling drained and disgusted. You will probably feel near physically sick - and that's the point.
In Survivor Palahniuk has managed what I thought was impossible: He's topped his debut. It truly is sickening to see the slow almost perverted demise of the main character as he is subverted by the worst excesses of our society. But this book stands as a warning: this is what we are, and he is who we will become. As in Fight Club, Palahniuk shows us the worst modern day humanity has to offer, but because he doesn't show us an escape, this is a much bleaker work.
Distubingly wonderful.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2013 1:06 AM BST

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