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Ian (London)

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Paella
Paella
by Alberto Herraiz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.96

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for a beginner (and frustrating for an experienced cook), 19 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Paella (Hardcover)
This is a very useful book for an experienced cook interested in paella, but it is frustrating.

Good points:
* It is superb on technique with lots of useful tips and hints. If you have problems with the rice being too hard, or burning, or not sure about how to get the basics right, then following the instructions in this book will solve all those problems for you. My paellas are much much better and more consistent as a result.

* Some very good recipes. I've cooked the paella valenciana recipe many times, and it is a winner.

Frustrations:
* With a few exceptions, the author doesn't explain where a recipe comes from. I'm interested in traditional recipes and regional variations, and he doesn't explain which are the traditional ones as opposed to something the author made up. And he has made up a lot of 'modern' ones, eg Indian-style paella, new york style paella, paella with foie gras, paella with truffles, paella with champagne... and so on. Knowing which of the 80 or so recipes are traditional and authentic would help a lot.

* A lot of the recipes are very complicated. There are too many elaborate recipes for fish paella (eg langoustines and morel mushrooms or red mullet and white truffle). I was looking for a simple fish and vegetables paella recipe, and there isn't one - instead I needed to combine elements of several different recipes. This is why I say it is not for a beginner cook.


Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63
Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63
by Taylor Branch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.58

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic and intimate portrait: spell-binding!, 20 Aug. 2008
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This is one of the most powerful and moving books I've ever read, and I wanted to give it six stars. How here to do it justice?

First, it's a cracking read. (Other history books can be heavy, you keep checking to see how many pages to the end, or left in the chapter). "Parting the Waters" is a real page-turner. It is long -- it kept me going through a long haul flight, lots of airport waiting and a couple of long bus/train rides -- but it made the time pass effortlessly.

It's a great story, structured like a novel: strong central character, you meet him in experienced youth; the hero encounters challenges, and overcomes them and embarks on a long and dangerous journey with many battles and dangers, the hero takes on these battles and grows stronger. This classic plot structure with a real heroic quality makes it a gripping read.

"Parting the Waters" chronicles the grand canvass of the civil rights movement: the major battles (Montgomery bus boycott, the freedom rides, the voter registration drivers, the Birmingham campaign...), the politcal backdrop (Kennedy's election, Kennedy's Presidency, the dilemmas over the Civil Rights bill), all the characters, internal conflicts and under-currents among civil rights organisations and campaigners. But as well it zooms in with tender and intimate portraits on the people at the centre or caught up in the turmoil: how did it affect one of the protestors... or the story of a mother... or of one of the tragic victims.

It's so important: the end of apartheid in the world's biggest democracy. Tenant farmers who tried to register to vote were evicted from their farms. Men and women riding a bus were stoned and fire-bombed. Police officers beat up citizens for fun. Those who tried to testify were shot in the head. And, terribly, so much more.

Parting the Waters makes you live the emotion. I felt dumbfounded at what southern USA was like in the fifties and sixties, inspired by the civil rights campaigners, numbed by the viciousness and brutal violence they faced, in tears at what they had to go through, angry, so angry they had go through it; on the edge of my seat, alert and rivetted, to see what happened next, bewildered by and in despair of the whites' attitudes, in tears again at the protestors' courage, such inspiring and daunting courage.

And Martin Luther King: we see him with all his weaknesses and flaws, but what a giant of a man! What a giant of human history!

This book is being read in 1000 years time and I run out of superlatives.


Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox: 6
Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox: 6
by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as all the others, and better!, 17 Aug. 2008
This book has everything we all liked about the previous Artemis Fowl books:
* A pacy page-turning plot
* Entertaining dialogue and humour all the way through
* Lots of action, never a dull chapter

Arty's mother is ill and the only cure comes from a lemur, the last of which died eight years previously. Warlock Demon Number 1 sends Artemis and Holly back in time to rescue the last of the lemurs.

I liked two things in particular...

It's very funny, the humour is at a new level compared with the earlier books. Reading about Artemis battling with his 10-year old self is very funny, as they wise-crack and try to outwit each other. Artemis has to battle with others, and Dr Damon Kronski is one of the funniest characters in all the books. The humour is drier and cleverer than before.

There's lots of plot twists, and lots of time paradoxes. The way they are all woven together is brilliant. I had lots of fun trying to figure out how all the time paradoxes worked.

If you liked books 1-5, you'll love this one.


Devil May Care (James Bond)
Devil May Care (James Bond)
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Read the Fleming books instead, or an Eric Ambler, 17 Aug. 2008
When, after years of watching the films, I finally tried out the Bond books, I thought "Wow, Ian Fleming is actually a really good writer." Several others have since said the same to me. The Fleming books have an inventive originality, plots that grip the reader, and a psychological insight or edge.

Having read Faulks's "Birdsong", I had high expectations of "Devil May Care". DMC is an easy read and OK to pass the time, but a disappointment. Anyone new to the Bond books should give this a miss and start instead with a Fleming original -- Casino Royale (Penguin Viking Lit Fiction) is a good place to start.

"Devil May Care" stitches together bits of plot, character, scenario and narrative devices from the Fleming books.
* Sports match with villain (Goldfinger)
* Tour round exotic city by local secret service station chief (From Russia with Love)
* More from "From Russia with Love", but I won't say what because it's a spolier
* Borrows heavily from "Moonraker", again I won't say what

But if you had a dozen dead donkeys and stitched together a leg from one, the ears from another, the spine from a third and so on, then with diligent stitching you could get something which looked like a donkey and smelt like a donkey. But it wouldn't breathe, it wouldn't stand up and frolic and canter.

And that's the problem with this book. It doesn't have the inventiveness, the psychological edge, the spark of life found in Fleming books. Read one of those instead.

If you've already read the Bond books, then borrow this one from a friend, or buy it second hand (don't bother rushing). Better still, read something by Eric Ambler, for example A Coffin for Dimitrios (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) or, harder to find, Journey into Fear (Pan Classic Crime).


Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plot & humour, no characterisation or depth, I loved it, 27 July 2008
This review is from: Artemis Fowl (Paperback)
How to tell whether an adult would like these books?

1 Do you like action books / action movies with pacy plots?
2 ... even if there is no characterisation or emotional depth?
3 Would you like a book that has a lot banter in it, but also has a dry humour running all the way through?

If you said 'yes' three times, I think you would like the book. Even one 'no' and I'm not so sure. I loved it.

It has a pacy plot. Think Jason Bourne, James Bond, Batman movies, Die Hard. Like these examples, it has very little characterisation.

It's got a lot of humour, though sometimes the banter gets a bit much. It reminded me of Terry Pratchett, but lighter. Artemis Fowl, the 12 year old criminal mastermind, is part James Bond, part James Bond villain, with a little pinch of mafia godfather. He is ridiculously clever, in an entertaining way, motivated by money again in an entertaining way, but endearing too.

Other reviewers argue whether it is or is not like Harry Potter. I think it's nothing like HP. More like part Robert Ludlum (the author of Jason Bourne), part Terry Pratchett (drier humour, but not as fantastically weird as TP).

It does have goblins, elves and dwarves in it, but don't let that put you off - it's an action book in a fantasy setting, rather than a fantasy book (in my view).

For an adult, it's a light read (Waterstones had it in the 9-12 year old section), but a fun way of filling a few hours.


Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership)
Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership)
by William B. Joiner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.30

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific: a real bible of leadership, 20 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Books on leadership typically fall into one of these categories:
* Airport business books with a snappy title and a breezy style. They are quick and easy to read, and offer tips, aphorisms and advice.
* "Here is how I did it" by a famous business leader offering the story of their struggle and their tips for success.
* Bandwagon drivel. An academic or writer, usually with no leadership experience or knowledge, publishes some garbage with leadership in the title because they sell. So many books fall into this category, unfortunately.
* Rare and true insight on what leadership is all about. Perhaps about 1% of leadership books fall into this category.

Leadership Agility is in the last category, offering rare and true insight.

The book is based on the insight that people have to grow through different stages of leadership / wisdom / insights about life. If you are at one stage, you have to master the wisdom and insights of that stage, before you can really explore the next stage. (This is not conjecture, there is a huge amount of research in psychology and human development to support it.)

This books examine in a lot of detail how leaders at the different levels think about different situations, what things they pay attention to, what they consider important or unimportant, and what they do to lead. For example,

Someone at the 'expert' level will think they have the right answer, and expect other people to follow their authority.

Someone at the 'achiever' level will do more persuasion (sell their idea rather than tell), but still believe they have the right answer.

Someone at the 'co-creator' level is aware they have a perspective, one perspective out of many valid perspectives. Leaders at this level give much more attention to ensuring everyone has a chance to voice their view and gaining true commitment through an answer that integrates everybody's view.

This is not about different styles or personality types. Rather it is a model of leadership comptences that is based on serious research.

Who should read it?
* If you are studying leadership, or perhaps doing an MBA, then this should be near the top of your list.
* If you want a quick and easy read, perhaps for the beach, that will give you a handful of tips to try out, this book is not what you are looking for. To get the best out of this book, you need to read it, think about it, dip into it again and again.
* This book will really suit you if you are: really serious about your own personal development; prepared to invest time and energy to become a more effective leader; looking for a framework that has real substance, backed by years of research, not just some superficial gimmick.

People considering this book might also consider 'Action Inquiry' by Torbert. 'Action Inquiry' has more emphasis on the fundamentals, what it feels like on the inside, and has good exercises. 'Leadership Agility' has more emphasis on the behaviours used by leaders at the different levels. The two books complement each other very well.


Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership
Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership
by Bill Torbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.78

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific: a real bible of leadership, 20 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Books on leadership typically fall into one of these categories:
* Airport business books with a snappy title and a breezy style. They are quick and easy to read, and offer tips, aphorisms and advice.
* "Here is how I did it" by a famous business leader offering the story of their struggle and their tips for success.
* Bandwagon drivel. An academic or writer, usually with no leadership experience or knowledge, publishes some garbage with leadership in the title because they sell. So many books fall into this category, unfortunately.
* Rare and true insight on what leadership is all about. Perhaps about 1% of leadership books fall into this category.

Action Inquiry is in the last category, offering rare and true insight.

People grow through different 'action logics', and these action logics reflect what meaning they make from events/circumstances and how they tend respond to those circumstances. For example, suppose someone strongly disagrees with you?

A 'diplomat' would interpret it as rejection, and tend to hide/flee from conflict.
An 'expert' would be certain the other person was wrong, and try to use arguments/data to persuade the other person, probably doing very little listening.
An 'achiever' would do more listening than an expert and try to find common ground, but still see the other person as a barrier/blocker to overcome.
A 'strategist' would be me much more adept at balancing listening and persuading, understanding the other person's point of view, finding the root cause of the disagrement, and exploring common ground. Strategist would be much more likely to see the disagreement as an opportunity to improve their own understanding rather than as a barrier to overcome.

Many books describe different styles of leadership of types of personality and give them catchy names. This is different and these action logics are much more fundemental. There is a huge amount of research in psychology and personal development to support the framework.

The book offers insight into why different people behave different in different circumstances, why they might perceive a situation very differently, why they hold different views about things. It has exercises (which have helped me a lot) to help people handle these challenges and be more effective in business and in life.
_________
Part 1 of the book has some difficult concepts in it, which require reading, re-reading and thinking about. The sentences are easy enough to read, but the ideas are new, or were at least new to me. This section is not a light read.

Part 2 is much easier to read, and explains the different action logics.

Who should read it?
* If you are studying leadership, or perhaps doing an MBA, then definitely buy and read this book. Put it top of your list.
* If you want a quick and easy read, perhaps for the beach, that will give you a handful of tips to try out, this book is not what you are looking for. To get the best out of this book, you need to read it, think about it, dip into it again and again and try out the exercises.
* This book will really suit you if you are: really serious about your own personal development; prepared to invest time and energy to become a more effective leader; looking for a framework that has real substance, backed by years of research, not just some superficial gimmick.

People considering this book might also consider 'Leadership Agility' by Joiner and Josephs. 'Action Inquiry' has more emphasis on the fundamentals, what it feels like on the inside, and has good exercises. 'Leadership Agility' has more emphasis on the behaviours used by leaders at the different levels. The two books complement each other very well.


Brief History of Everything
Brief History of Everything
by Ken Wilber
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good content but irritating Q&A format throughout, 6 July 2008
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Q: so the whole book is in Q&A format?
A: yes, all 500+ pages.
Q: Really. So how did that make you feel?
A: I found it very irritating indeed. It means there are continual breaks in the flow, and the chummy nature of the questions just didn't work for me.
Q: I'm sorry to hear that. What about the content itself?
A: It's fascinating (like both the other KW books I've read so far). It has similar content to "Integral Psychology", but is more accessible for those new to the subject.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2011 7:42 PM BST


Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind
Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind
by George Lakoff
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A book for specialists, not for the interested layperson, 6 July 2008
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This is a long book with a great deal to say about the pros and cons of the objectivist approach to linguistics and semantics. Who should read it?

Academics and practioners whose work touches on linguistics and semantics? Very probably. This might be an excellent book for these people. As I am not one myself, I cannot say for sure.

Philosophers / philosphy students? It has some interesting bits and pieces, but be prepared to skim. It is not a top-rate book on philosophy.

The interested layperson? You have to skim a lot. I found myself thinking "this is academic" and "this is just semantics" a lot. There are hundreds of pages about arguments I think could only be of interest to someone who has studied / is studying this at college / university.

Good bits include:
* The difference between statements such as "John is stingy" and "John is thrifty". (Both imply John is careful with money, but with negative and positive spins)
* How people can react the same language in different ways according to the mental models in their minds.


Ultimate Ears Super.Fi - Universal Fit Earphones - 5 Pro - Black
Ultimate Ears Super.Fi - Universal Fit Earphones - 5 Pro - Black

10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd one out, 5 Mar. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm the odd one out compared to all the other reviewers. I bought these for three main reasons:
1) All the fantastic reviews on Amazon and other sites
2) I use my iPod on the London underground and wanted something to block the noise of the train, etc
3) The standard iPod earphones keep falling out of my ears.

These stay in my ears, so great for 3). And they do dampen the noise of the train a lot; in no way perfect but much better for 2).

But a whole new listening experience? Fresher clearer sound? New details revealed? Not for me: I just spent an hour switching back and forth between these and the iPod earphones on different pieces of music, and I really can't tell the difference.

There are 19 people below who disagree. Maybe they are all hi-fi buffs (I am not), maybe I just have an unappreciative ear. Anyway, don't expect a miraculous difference, and I wish I'd gone for something about £80 cheaper.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 16, 2009 4:04 PM GMT


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