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Reviews Written by
James Kemp (Merstham, Surrey, UK)

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Micro USB Cable, SOWTECH(TM)Premium 1M(3.3ft) Micro USB Cable, High Speed USB 2.0 A Male to Micro B Sync, 2 in 1 Charging Cable for Android Phones, PCs and Tablets - Black
Micro USB Cable, SOWTECH(TM)Premium 1M(3.3ft) Micro USB Cable, High Speed USB 2.0 A Male to Micro B Sync, 2 in 1 Charging Cable for Android Phones, PCs and Tablets - Black
Offered by SOWTECH
Price: £10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars versatile cable., 4 Feb. 2016
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Good cable with a neat twitst that you can plug two micro USB devices together.

Fitbit Charge HR Heart Rate and Activity Wristband  - Black, Large
Fitbit Charge HR Heart Rate and Activity Wristband - Black, Large
Price: £99.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy monitoring of sleep, heart rate, steps and exercise, 4 Feb. 2016
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I got one of these for my birthday and love the fact that it measures loads of stuff, steps, floors climbed, distance, heart rate, sleep. It has made me more aware of the level of exercise that I get and encourages me to do more.

What I Did For Love...
What I Did For Love...
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Not traditional romance, but a dry observational comedy, 4 Feb. 2016
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I really enjoyed this book. You might be forgiven for taking this as a romance at first sight, especially given the cover. What I Did For Love is a dry observational comedy. There is a cast of characters that would make it good for TV.

Told from James Meade's perspective in a reflective manner, we get little clues throughout about future events that hook you in. We meet his oldest friend (Eric), the love of his life (Lucy), her parents and his family. There's drama in it all, and the outcome is often funny. Some of it even has a slapstick element to it. One of my favourite characters was his work colleague Tessa, married to a debt collector. Her dialogue and behaviour was amazing.

The premise is straightforward, but the story is anything but. James is smitten at first sight by Lucy, and it's mutual. Their first date ends up as a visit to A&E, but that still doesn't stop them getting to bed and making a baby. With a relationship on fast forward there's a lot of ground to cover and there are mishaps, misunderstandings and misadventures. Not least of which is James's dysfunctional family. Living at one remove from them in London he hadn't quite appreciated their level of dysfunction, but their situation has a disastrous effect on his relationship with Lucy.

A good chunk of the action is James trying to uncover the family secrets so that he can make amends with Lucy, and there is a lot to uncover...

I empathised very well with the main character, his reaction to becoming a father made a lot of sense. If you're a parent, or over 30, then you're likely to recognise a lot of the story, either from your own life or from those that you know.

Cmyk® Solar Operated 30 LED String Light with Crystal Ball Covers, Ambiance Lighting, Great for Outdoor Use in Patio, Pathway, Garden, Indoor Use in Party, Bedroom Decor (Warm White)
Cmyk® Solar Operated 30 LED String Light with Crystal Ball Covers, Ambiance Lighting, Great for Outdoor Use in Patio, Pathway, Garden, Indoor Use in Party, Bedroom Decor (Warm White)
Offered by AlanTan
Price: £15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good battery, but needs a larger solar panel for the UK winter, 26 Dec. 2015
Length:: 0:03 Mins

I love the idea of having lights in my garden. So much so that when offered some in return for a review I jumped at the opportunity. I put these out in my garden, on a small apple tree, you can see it in the picture.

The lights come with a full charge in the battery, and they only come on when the solar panel stops being able to charge because it has got dark. There are two settings for the lights, flashing and steady. I set mine to flashing, and you can see the frequency in the very short video (about four seconds worth). On the first night the lights stayed on all night and were still flashing when I went out to work about 0700 the following morning. That was over 12 hours of flashing lights.

However the British winter sun isn't really up to giving a full charge with the size of the solar panel. The overcast and rainy weather hasn't really helped much either. That said, even on the worst days the lights have come one for at least three hours. Most nights the lights have gone off before 2100.
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Fight Another Day
Fight Another Day
by J. M. Langley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.94

5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely interesting tale of one man’s very eventful and influential war, 26 Dec. 2015
This review is from: Fight Another Day (Hardcover)
Fight Another Day has been sitting on my shelf for years, right next to MI9 (which I only realised was co-authored by J M Langley). I’m not sure why it took me so long to get round to reading it. It fits my usual preferences in a number of ways. It’s a first hand accout by an infantry officer, it’s about escaping from a POW camp, it’s about organising secret agents to work in nazi-occupied Europe. Any one of those would have got Fight Another Day onto my to-read list.

Fight Another Day tells the story of Jimmy Langley from his enlistment in the special reserve of the Coldstream Guards. He gets mobilised in August 1939 and goes to France, and we are treated with vignettes of the preparations. In the first chapter or two of Fight Another Day we meet the fellow officers of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. Most of them are killed in the fighting in May. Langley ends up part of the rearguard and is severely wounded. Carried to an evacuation beach at Dunkirk he misses the ship because he cannot walk. Stretcher cases take up the room of four walking wounded, so he gets left behind.

Langley falls into enemy hands, and despite the best efforts of the British Army surgeon that is treating him he loses his left arm at the elbow. Despite this he still looks for ways to return home so that he can fight another day. With him in captivity is Airey Neave, the first British escaper to make a home run from Colditz. The early days of being a POW in 1940 were disorganised, and the wounded officers not well guarded. Langley literally walks out of the prison and then makes his way across France to Marseilles. En route he spends a few weeks in Paris and meets some people that will later become useful.

In Marseilles he meets the legendary Ian Garrow, and also others in the Seamen’s Mission. As one of the wounded officers he helped others to escape, and tried to fundraise to keep Garrow’s line in operation. Eventually Langley was chosen for repatriation, because he’d lost his arm. He crosses the Pyrenees openly and travels through Spain to Gibraltar where he gets a boat home. On returning home he isn’t certain what he’s going to do or even if he will be allowed to fight another day. While waiting to discover his fate he is invited to speak to the boys in the local borstal. Langley questions this but is told that his story will inspire the boys. The following evening eight of them escape!

Back in London a staff officer at Guards HQ tells Langley that he needn’t be invalided out if he doesn’t want to be. However he is summoned to SIS HQ after only five days and told that he will be working for Colonel Dansey.

Langley tells his tale with honesty and forthrightness. Fight Another Day is his personal perspective of the war, and the people he met. Some of them he didn’t get on with, and he tells us why. He’s not shy in expressing opinions. I especially liked his verdict on the 1940 deserters, their best contribution to the war effort was as a burden on the Germans as a POW. Others he made mistakes about, and again he explains it. This is a genuinely interesting tale of one man’s very eventful and influential war. Written 30 years afterwards Langley still has doubts about parts of it, but he is clear that it was worthwhile getting highly skilled and motivated service personnel back so that they could fight another day.

The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen
The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen
by R.T. Lowe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty, dark, funny, & scary coming of age urban fantasy. Like Harry Potter in college, with hormones..., 4 Dec. 2015
The Felix Chronicles is a bit like a grown up version of Harry Potter. It has a shadow magical world in the real world and it’s a thumping great tome of a story, but that’s where the similarities stop. The Felix Chronicles is darker and more realistic.

The protagonist of the Felix Chronicles is an 18 year old college student with all the things that go with that. He’s surrounded by a group of four other students, his reality show roommate, his childhood friend, her roommate and her roommate’s best buddy from home. Felix is an only child and has recently been orphaned by a freak fire at his family home. He has no idea that he is a sourceror (magic is referred to as ‘The Source’ by those familiar with it).

Most of the first half of the Felix Chronicles is about Felix’s adjustment to college life and establishing their new normality. We get a good glimpse of the power of the Source in the prologue of the Felix Chronicles and some hints from other character points of view, notably the victims of Faceman – a psychotic serial killer. We also see some victim pov for monsters in the woods. This was one of the bits I liked less, I felt it was slightly overdone. We could have had one of each of bad guys and the rest of the bits could have been reported as news stories in between the other narratives.

We also see some of the mysterious groundsman, he’s more than he appears and helps to teach Felix about his capabilities about half way through the Felix Chronicles.

Once things get going they really do crack on. The Felix Chronicles is a great story that I loved. Much grittier and more realistic than Harry Potter (which I do really love). The characters worry about sex, parties, exams and cope with sleep deprivation, sport and all the other things that come when you first live away from home.

In amongst all of that there is a thriller and a mystery. Bad stuff is happening and despite their other preoccupations Felix and his friends are caught up in it. Like a ‘normal’ teenager Felix keeps it secret as much as he can. He’s weirded out by it and thinks he’s going mad.

If you like your urban fantasy gritty and you enjoy coming of age type stories then the Felix Chronicles is a good book to read.

I was sent a copy of the Felix Chronicles for review by the author.

The Smoke of Her Burning (An Uncivil War Book 4)
The Smoke of Her Burning (An Uncivil War Book 4)
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great social history set in the midst of the English Civil Wars, 3 Nov. 2015
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The Smoke of Her Burning is the fourth in the Hollie Babbitt Uncivil Wars series. Set after Command the Raven and before A Wilderness of Sin. The Smoke of Her Burning covers the tale of Hapless Russell's nadir and then his redemption.

Hollie Babbitt returns to his pregnant wife Het for winter quarters in 1643. He expects a quiet winter with his wife before the birth of his son (or daughter). Babbitt is accompanied on his return journey by Cornet Pettitt and his father Lije Babbitt.

Meanwhile we see a glimpse of Russell. Having been injured in the face at Edgehill by a splintered pike he is taking his disfigurement badly. Russell takes to drinking heavily. The Smoke of Her Burning shows his desperate need to be loved and wanted. By chance he meets his childhood sweetheart, now married to a wealthy and influential merchant. She still cares for him and takes him outside after dinner. This is Russell's downfall, he's caught in an adulterous embrace.

The imprisoned Hapless makes an attempt on his own life. This fails, but the rumour is that Essex means to help him along. While Babbitt appeals for clemency Luce breaks Russell out. Together they join Fairfax in his campaign in Yorkshire to get away from Essex's influence.

Most of the action in the Smoke of Her Burning is in the siege and then assault on Selby. We see Gray and Russell develop a lot. Luce Pettitt also grows in his command and becomes more independent. The Smoke of Her Burning is very much about Russell and Gray more than any other characters, although told mainly from Babbitt's point of view.

As with the rest of the series the Smoke of Her Burning is very much a social history set in the civil war period. The military arts of it are minimal, but still good and only there because they are essential to the story.

Well worth reading, although I would read this in its chronological order rather than publication order.

E.Q. Librium Unleash the Power of Your Emotional Intelligence: A Proven Path to Career Success
E.Q. Librium Unleash the Power of Your Emotional Intelligence: A Proven Path to Career Success
by Yvette Bethel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.13

5.0 out of 5 stars essential reading if you work in an office, manage people or aspire to management, 11 Oct. 2015
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E.Q. Librium is a very useful reference work aimed at helping people understand their emotions and interactions with others better. Primarily aimed at people working in office environments, especially managers and those hoping to become managers.

The book is laid out in two parts. The first part of E.Q. Librium explains emotional intelligence in easy to read language yet without being dumbed down. As well as explaining the concepts there are case studies and it's also referenced to an academic standard, so if anything piques your interest then you can follow the references to as much detail as you can handle. E.Q. Librium also draws the links between good emotional intelligence and business success.

Part 2 of E.Q. Librium moves on to strategies for dealing with people. Each of the difficult or obstructive types are identified and suggestions given. As well as strategies for managing conflict E.Q. Librium also deals with office politics. There are some useful suggestions in here, although best used when you are sufficiently self aware to judge the situation.

E.Q. Librium also covers how to lead and develop other people. It has some useful tools for assessing how people are performing, separating competence from commitment and engagement. This helps with more sophisticated strategies for dealing with developing people.

It took me some time to read all of E.Q. Librium. Although the language is easy to read, it made me think lots. It prompted questions and trains of thought that distracted me, albeit in a useful fashion. I kept dipping in and out of it, so although I've read it I'm not quite ready to say that I'm finished with E.Q. Librium.

E.Q. Librium is essential reading if you work in an office, manage people or aspire to management. Having a better grip on your emotions will help you manage your own life if nothing else.

I received a free copy of E.Q. Librium from an agent in return for an honest review. That copy has been living in my work bag as a reference for weeks and weeks...

A Wilderness of Sin (An Uncivil War Book 3)
A Wilderness of Sin (An Uncivil War Book 3)
Price: £2.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Featuring birth, marriage, death, love, tragedy, pestilence and war. The best yet in the series., 10 Oct. 2015
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Two years have passed since Command the Raven. Hollie Babbitt is now a Colonel of Horse in the New Model Army and a father. A Wilderness of Sin picks up in the aftermath of the Battle of Naseby. Thankful Russell has been blinded by a shot to the head and Luce Pettitt is in love.

As with the previous two in the series these are social histories. A Wilderness of Sin features birth, marriage and death as well as love and tragedy. Pestilence is more of a danger than war, but the politics of the army are a clear danger for Babbitt.

The depth of the author’s research is clear in A Wilderness of Sin. We have a thread with Babbitt and the army, with the changes since the new model army becoming clear. There is a thread of professionalism in the soldiering, but also of bureaucracy and a stifling of dissent. The earlier freedoms are being lost, and the pay is late. For those that know their history there are many teasers in A Wilderness of Sin, especially with Colonel Rainsborough and the army politics.

As you would expect from the title religion and sin feature in A Wilderness of Sin too. The anabaptist leanings of Hollie’s troops becomes stronger, despite the lay preaching from the ranks being banned by the army. Sin too, Luce Pettitt is in love with Trooper Gray, and people are starting to notice. In part this is what lead to Hapless Russell’s head wound at the hands of Captain Chedglow.

Russell is taken to live with Het at White Notley for his recovery. This allows us to see a lot more of the social civilian side of things in A Wilderness of Sin than we saw earlier. There’s a constant thread through the book on how Russell, Het and the others in White Notley are doing. We learn a little of social mores, courtship and child rearing as well as about Russell and Het.

Overall this is the best yet in the series, if you have any interest in social history, the english civil wars or just like a good story then you should go read all of these.

Command the Raven (An Uncivil War Book 2)
Command the Raven (An Uncivil War Book 2)
Price: £2.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Hollie Babbitt gets respectable and faces his fears, 28 Sept. 2015
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Command the Raven is the second in the Uncivil Wars series by M J Logue. It follows on from Red Horse starting with the siege of Reading in Spring 1643. Although set during the first English Civil War, the Uncivil Wars books are more social history than military. Like its predecessor Command the Raven has its focus on the people, and horses, in Captain Hollie Babbitt’s troop and their associates.

Command the Raven opens with the siege of Reading and the troop’s ennui with it. Luce Pettitt takes bad news from his widow very hard, and Hollie Babbitt wants away from the siege. A transfer from Essex‘s army to Fairfax in the north sees Babbitt change his fortunes. After a short period of recovery in Essex Babbitt marries. He then faces his father followed by dealing with Fairfax’s almost four-year-old daughter.

Babbitt has demons galore in Command the Raven, we start with his fevered nightmares about his first wife Griete. Later his father and then the sea. We find him a poor sailor when his troop are called across the Humber. He spends his time puking over the gunwales of captain Tom Rainsborough’s ship.

South of the Humber Babbitt runs into Noll Cromwell and his Lovely Company. Cromwell is portrayed as a disciplined cavalry commander with a strong personal interest in horses. In fact there’s a lot of passion to how he wants to use Babbitt’s black stallion to sire better cavalry mounts. He also has a strong godly streak too. He comes across as a competent human and not the puritanical fanatic that he is often erroneously played as in popular works.

Overall I very much enjoyed this sequel. Command the Raven focussed more on Hollie Babbitt than Red Horse did. This meant that Babbitt’s character has been well developed. We know more of his past and what has shaped and influenced him. The period detail is all there in the attitudes and positions of the various players in the saga. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the Uncivil Wars series and seeing where it ends up.

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