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Thai for Beginners
Thai for Beginners
by Benjawan Poomsan Becker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 18 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Thai for Beginners (Paperback)
I've had to learn a couple of languages before, and i've found this book to be one of best for a beginner's guide. It starts off from scratch but moves quite quickly covering vocabulary, basic grammar and the writing system. By the end of the book you can read Thai and have a vocab of about 1000 words - pretty accelerated for a beginner's book. And I would definitely recommend buying the accompanying CD - unless you have a Thai friend to practise pronunciation on!


Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
by David Aaronovitch
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but frustrating, 20 Dec 2009
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The first part of this book was really enjoyable - a pretty detailed look at the anti-Semitic conspiracy Protocols, a fascinating account of the anti-Trotsky faction trials in Russia, some in-depth insight into Mccarthyism and its origins.....

then it goes somewhat downhill. The JFK/Marilyn Monroe stuff, fair enough, but to have an entire chapter devoted to the death of Hilda Murrell? How does this conspiracy in any way "shape modern history"? It's passed largely into obscurity. A chapter on the associated Da Vinci code conspiracies? It's just shooting not very interesting or important fish in a barrel. The chapter on 9-11 conspiracies would probably be of interest to people who haven't previously read of this in detail (though i expect many have). Ditto the Diana conspiracies - but i can't believe there are many people left in Britain not already sick to death of that one....

It's frustrating because the book never really delivers what it promises - evidence of how conspiracies have actually shaped modern history. And yet with less of a British focus there was some fantastic source material to be used - the Russian apartment bombings used as the pretext for the Chechen war. They warrant a genuinely interesting discussion of the facts. Ditto the poisoning of Litvinyenko or the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko.
Or the "HIV does not cause AIDS" conspiracy and associated beliefs that it was all a western imperialist conspracy. This led to SA president Mbeki dismissing the use of retro-virals and to the unnecessary deaths of tens (if not hundreds) of thousands. Or keeping with the British theme, a discussion on Lockerbie, probably the most interesting British conspiracy (in terms of political intrigue) of the last few decades. All in all I couldn't help thinking that this was a missed opportunity to create something special.

I've given the book 4 stars because i did enjoy it, but it could have been an exceptional book given the source material available. As it is it is a readable though slightly disappointingly flawed work....


What's Really Wrong with the Middle East
What's Really Wrong with the Middle East
by Brian Whitaker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great summary of middle-eastern society....., 11 Dec 2009
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I really enjoyed this book - it was very readable. It has a pretty ambitious scope - a discussion of Arab society and politics taking in the whole region both contemporaneously and with historical insight. The chapters address in turn

1. the influence of Islam on society, its conservative influence on social values and the effect this has on the political system.
2. the influence of corruption and "favours" on limiting the development of a meritocratic state,
3. the political repression of Arab leaders and the political hypocrisy of western governments, happy to turn a blind eye to it for "allies."
4. the double standards in speaking out against human rights abuses abroad (eg Guantanamo) but staying silent on those occurring at home,
5. the concept of society as a much more cohesive force than in the west - where people forgo personal happiness for the good of their family or to prevent shame being brought upon their family name.
6. the failure of the Arab bloc to organise in any serious political or economic manner like seen with the EU....

it contains a wide range of quotes from a selection of Arabic thinkers, writers and residents, which do offer an interesting insight into how such ideas are debated in the region

and like any good book which offers up criticisms, it finishes with suggestions for how the middle east can reform into a more democratic and less repressive region....which crucially must happen from within, and won't happen simply from external western pressure.

overall i would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the middle east and Arabic society....


The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders
The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders
by John E. Sarno
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Got RSI? Buy this book!, 3 Nov 2009
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I can't recommend this book enough. Together with Sarno's Mindbody Prescription this has virtually cured my RSI.


The Mind/Body Prescription
The Mind/Body Prescription
by John Sarno
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.90

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for people with chronic pain!, 10 Oct 2009
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I can't recommend this book enough for people who have long term chronic pain conditions. I have suffered from RSI for the last 3 years, seeing a gradual deterioration of abilties to the level when any typing, writing, sports, heavy lifting etc etc. would cause long periods of pain/discomfort/pins and needles. Within a couple of days of reading the book i was seeing a noticeable improvement in symptoms, and those improvements have continued over the past few weeks. I am now probably back to 80% of my pre-RSI capabilities (I'm typing this by hand rather than voice recognition software for a start....) and fully expect to continue to improve over the next few weeks and months.

If it hadn't happened to me i'd probably dismiss it all as a load of nonsense - the basic premise is that there is a fundamental psycho-somatic root cause for many chronic pain conditions, and that this leads to very real physical manifestations of pain (through the restriction of oxygenated blood via the autonomic system.) And yet, just the knowledge that there is no fundamental structural damage, along with a greater focus on one's own emotions (through journalling, meditation etc.) has been enough to result in massive improvements.....

If the idea that your chronic pain might have a pschyo-somatic root makes you angry, then you're not alone, it annoyed the hell out of me the first time someone suggested it to me. But even if you're sceptical i would say this book is certainly worth a try - pick it up second hand for about a fiver, it might change your life like it has mine.....


Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration of the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation and Time Travel
Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration of the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation and Time Travel
by Michio Kaku
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book from one of the world's best popular physics writers, 11 Jun 2009
This is another brilliant offering from Michio Kaku, a fascinating insight into the technologies and inventions which may shape mankind's future. It discusses the science behind everything from force fields to invisibility cloaks, teleportation to artificial intelligence, time travel and intergalactic travel. For each topic we are introduced to a brief historical overview, learn the current scientific abilities and then shown future potential developments.

Future predictions are classified either as "type 1", "type 2" or "type 3" impossibilities. The first of these are within the known laws of physics and could well be achievable within the next few decades to centuries. The second are still within the known laws of physics but so far removed from current capabilities that it may be millennia if not hundreds of thousands of years before we are capable of achieving them. The third type are those which violate the known laws of physics and so must be regarded as truly "impossible" unless our understanding of the laws of physics is incomplete.

I would say that this book is a must read for anyone interested in physics, interested in future projections for society, or indeed interested in the science behind the science fiction we read and watch at the movies.


GCSE Maths: Foundation: Revision Guide + Exam Practice Workbook (Collins GCSE Revision)
GCSE Maths: Foundation: Revision Guide + Exam Practice Workbook (Collins GCSE Revision)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really useful revision book., 21 Mar 2009
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An extremely well written revision guide. Definitely recommended.


A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin
A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin
by Chris Mullin
Edition: Hardcover

117 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 19 Mar 2009
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I have to admit that my heart sank a little when this book arrived from Amazon, it's got a rather dull front cover and at 600 pages is something of a brick. Nevertheless, I had read a couple of good reviews in the papers so I thought I would give it a go...and three hours later I was still reading it. It's a truly engrossing account of ministerial life on the lowest rung of the ladder, Mullins upon being promoted to junior minister for transport and environment sets himself just three goals for the duration of his tenure: an end to night flights, greater regulation of leylandi hedges and cancelling his ministerial car. Two years later on leaving his post he reflects that he has failed on the first two counts, and merely reduced the ministerial bill (from £700 to £400 per week) for the third. In the intervening months he catalogues with almost daily despair his lack of any policy influence and how he is slowly ground down by the civil service machine.

There is a real gearchange in the diary after he returns to the back benches after tendering his resignation. It is clear that he finds a new enthusiasm once he escapes from the stifling Whitehall centralised control structures designed to ensure that everyone remains "on message", where every interview and TV appearance has to be approved and prepped to mirror exactly the party line. Now just a humble MP he finds himself with much greater influence through his select committee work.

The second part of the diary therefore progresses much more like a conventional political memoir. We get to hear at first hand government reaction to 911, the political infighting between Gordon and Tony, the divisions over first Afghanistan and then Iraq, the inside reactions to the scandals, the media hysteria, the sackings, the election triumphs. I found it an absolutely fascinating read. The greatest compliment you can pay a autobiography is that it makes you feel like you yourself are living that life. And this book achieved that feat. Want to be a government minister? Want to be an MP? Then read this book and live it through someone else's eyes.

A must read!


The New Frontiers of Jihad: Radical Islam in Europe
The New Frontiers of Jihad: Radical Islam in Europe
by Alison Pargeter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.26

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into Islamic extremism in Europe., 25 Feb 2009
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I found this book to be a really interesting read, as it looks at radical Islam from a perspective different from that usually perpetuated in the media. Islamic terrorism is now seemingly exclusively viewed through the prism of 911, i.e. in terms of a global jihad waged by Al Qaeda. As this book illustrates, this is far too simplistic to truly cover the disparate groups of Islamists and Islamic terrorists within Europe, often motivated as they are by nationalistic grievances and often with ideological clashes both between groups and within the groups themselves.

The first part of the book serves as an introduction to the history of radical Islam in Europe. With such a broad scope the list of Arabic names and acronyms covered can be a little bewildering to someone new to the topic, and the book might have been better served with an index of the key men and organisations for referral purposes. Nevertheless, it serves as an excellent primer for the various ideological strains of radical Islam, their origins and their proponents.

The second part of the book looks in detail at a number of recent events in Europe, namely the London and Madrid bombings and the Danish cartoon controversy. Despite having read a great deal of commentary about these three events in the newspapers and online after they had occurred, the analysis in the book really helped me to gain a deeper understanding of those who were involved, their grievances and their motivations.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in British government policy towards radical Islam, or to anyone who is interested in the challenges that radical Islam has presented and will present in Europe in the future. It would make a good companion to "The Looming Tower", which focuses on the events leading up to 911. This book provides a different, European, focus and as such certainly fills a hole in the current literature on the topic.


The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11
by Lawrence Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essential book on Al Qaeda!, 14 Feb 2009
This book is a meticulously researched account of the rise of Islamic extremism and its culmination in 911. It provides detailed biographical accounts of some of the main figures in the Islamic movements, dissects the various terrorist attacks which served as precursors to the attack on the American mainland, and exposes the ideological tensions, infighting and some of the mythology which has grown up around the group. It is an absolutely fascinating read, in fact I would go as far to say an essential read for anyone with an interest in how terrorism has and will continue to shape modern western democracy.


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