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deadbeat (Tiptoe)
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Winsor & Newton Japan Gold Size, 75 ml
Winsor & Newton Japan Gold Size, 75 ml
Price: £5.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Gold Size and Varnish, 7 Jan. 2016
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I use this liquid both as a size for gold leaf, and sometimes as a varnish on oil paintings. It works well in both capacities.


Year of Fire Dragons: An American Woman's Story of Coming of Age in Hong Kong
Year of Fire Dragons: An American Woman's Story of Coming of Age in Hong Kong
Price: £7.57

4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant Expat Diary, 24 Dec. 2015
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Shannon Young shares her thoughts and adventures in her first year living abroad in Hong Kong. At first it all seems downhill, as she learns her fiancé has been sent to live in London by his firm, completely upsetting their plans to settle together in Hong Kong. She considers following him but decides to stay. Though she misses home and feels at times alienated, she makes lots of friends over the year and in the end embraces Hong Kong and learns to love her new-found independence.


Seabound (Seabound Chronicles Book 1)
Seabound (Seabound Chronicles Book 1)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rivetting Stuff, 28 April 2015
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A super-volcano has erupted, and humanity struggles to survive. The sun is permanently obscured by the lingering cloud of ash; the fields are withered; governments collapse; cities are unable to stand up to the wrath of the storms which leave this new dystopia in thrall. Those who couldn't escape to sea on boats are presumed dead. Thus, our story takes place at sea, following a rag-tag group of survivors 10 years after the cataclysm. Theirs is a battle not only against nature, but against the greed and power of fellow humans. Jordan Rivet has dreamed up a compelling world and filled it with intelligent, ruthless, and believable characters. I was beguiled by the many twists and turns the story took, and in the final moment was left wanting more. There is, thank God, a sequel scheduled to arrive very soon (30/APR/15, I believe) so I shall be presently relieved. Bravo! Strong recommendation!


Twilight Struggle The Cold War 1945-1989 Board Game
Twilight Struggle The Cold War 1945-1989 Board Game
Price: £36.50

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Strategic Complexity, 16 Dec. 2014
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Twilight Struggle is a truly excellent board game. Currently ranked at #1 on boardgamegeek.com (which is a pretty much the best online resource for investigating board games, in case you don't know, certainly as far as raw data is concerned - shutupandsitdown.com by comparison is a very good resource for professional and funny reviews - their Twilight Struggle review, by the way, is really good: http://www.shutupandsitdown.com/blog/post/review-twilight-struggle/) the winner of several awards, Twilight Struggle is fully deserving of these accolades.

[Edit: 07/01/2016: Twilight Struggle now positioned #2 on boardgamegeek.com -- overtaken by "Pandemic Legacy: Season 1" -- if that is as it sounds a mix of Risk: Legacy and Pandemic, it should be a corker of a game...]

It is a two-player game, and it should take roughly 3 hours to get through *once you've got the hang of it*. The first play-through, I recall, took me about 6 hours. The couple of beers we had probably didn't help too much, and our "discussions" were slightly less than constructive at times, but irrespective, the point is the game doesn't play very much like other games, and it might take a bit of time to get into the swing of things. I've played the game about 7-8 times now, 6 of them with the same opponent, and in the last session we played two games in 5 hours. The theme is the Cold War, one player playing communist Russia, the other, capitalist USA. The conceit of the game is to spread your political influence about the globe, "controlling" countries by assigning the requisite number of influence points (red influence points for commies, blue influence points for the yanks). Certain countries are absolutely critical to winning the game (I'm thinking of Italy, or Iran, here ;) and the build-up of influence, the race to control a given country, can get pretty intense.

The game plays over 10 turns, and these 10 turns are divided into 3 phases: Early War, for 3 turns; Mid War, for 4 turns; and Late War, for the final 3 turns. Each phase uses different playing cards which feature different events of the cold war to move the game forward (examples of events, for example, are "The Cuban Missile Crisis" which is a boon for the communists, or "US/Japan Pact" which is good for the US - both of these are Early War events). Playing events will more or less let you do the following: place your influence in some countries, remove your opponent's influence, improve or degrade the defcon level, or affect the space race (*more or less* : it's a touch more complicated than that). There are also scoring cards, which are the main VP generating devices. The idea with the scoring cards, is that when they are played, you analyse the territory which is printed on the card (Asia, Europe, Middle-East, Central America, South America, Africa, or East-Pacific Asia) and whoever controls more countries wins more points. There is obviously a great deal of strategy concerning how to play a scoring card. The last thing you want is for your opponent to deduce you have one in your hand based on too obvious play. Naturally, they have to be on the look-out for your bluffing as well. At the end of the game, the player with the most VP wins. If any player reaches 20 VP before 10 turns are over, they win immediately. If anyone moves the Defcon status to 1 (on a downward scale of 5 to 1) all-out nuclear war occurs, the game ends, and the player who triggered the move is the loser. The Defcon level is adjusted acccording to how aggressively you play (i.e. if you use a card to incite a coup, this will degrade Defcon).

The most interesting aspect of the game, I think, is that whichever cards ("events") you have in your hand, whether they are a positive event for yourself or a negative, you will most certainly face a situation where you have to play the negative event (there are not many occasions for getting rid of cards - apart from the space race, but this is rarely done in practice). The whole point of the game comes down, essentially, to how well you can mitigate the effects of the negative event. Having a hand full of positive events for yourself is often (naively) thought to be a good hand. In reality though, it is much better to have your opponents killer cards (the ones that are good for them) and for you to reduce these cards' effectiveness as much as possible. It is this kind of subtle game play which contributes to this game's excellent strategic complexity.

One issue with the game is that Russia tends to be stronger than the US. In our last aforementioned match, we played two games, and both times Russia won. The US wins occasionally of course, but there is a bias for Russia to win. This is confirmed online in various forums. Actually, in Twilight Struggle tournaments, they use a bidding systems to determine who plays as Russia. The winner of the bid must pay the US player in Influence points to play as Russia. This means, usually, the US should start the game with 2 or 3 more influence to make an even match. Interestingly, if the US took 4 or 5 more influence, the whole game would be skewed in favour of the US. It is a very tightly balanced game in this sense. One or two points of influence can make a huge difference in both the short and long term.

Well, I think I've rambled on enough. This is an inordinately enjoyable game for two players. Do give it a go!


Super Urinator LED Ultraviolet Black Light
Super Urinator LED Ultraviolet Black Light
Offered by UK Innovations GP Ltd
Price: £14.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Work At All -- Why?, 16 Dec. 2014
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There was a time when my cat went through a period of peeing a lot, and not in the sand box. I bought this torch to help quickly locate the source of the smell, but it didn’t help. I turned off the lights, I panned slowly round the room, but nothing appears. I later found a fresh soiled patch of carpet (by using my nose) shone the torch directly on the stain, but nothing was revealed or highlighted. I was expecting some kind of fluorescent reaction with the UV light, but nothing. So this was a disappointing purchase for me. I wonder what I am doing wrong since it appears many people rate it very highly. Perhaps it is not good for carpets? If someone could advise in the comments I would appreciate it. (And if it starts to work, I'll edit my review accordingly!)


Tarot of Marseille/Tarot de Marsella/Tarot de Marseille/Tarot de Marseille/Tarocchi Di Marsiglia
Tarot of Marseille/Tarot de Marsella/Tarot de Marseille/Tarot de Marseille/Tarocchi Di Marsiglia
by Not Available
Edition: Cards
Price: £9.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small and Well-made, 29 Aug. 2014
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Good quality cards, finely printed, and robust, with a shiny finish. I specifically wanted this deck because they are smaller than usual and I think easier to handle (shuffling and the like).

These cards are apparently a reprinting of a 1751 deck by Swiss, Claud Burdel, though honestly they are almost identical to all the other "Type II" Marseilles Tarot (see here for more information on Type I and Type II Marseilles Tarot: http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=61489 - stylistically the type I and II Tarots are very similar; the differences could almost be called irregularities; for example the direction of Cupid on trump card VI (The Lovers) facing to the left rather than the right - but I digress).

The Marseilles Tarot is iconic. There are many Tarot in circulation these days, from Kitten tarot to Japanese Manga tarot, and it behoves one to investigate that which suits ones purpose, or to use the Tarot which has most resonance. Still, one can safely say that wherever you investigate, you should set aside some time to investigate the Marseilles Tarot (as well as the Rider-Waite, the Thoth, and some others - there are literally hundreds and thousands of variants though). Personally, I am drawn to The Marseilles Tarot for its history. The pip cards are very simple, with the 9 of cups literally depicting 9 cups, and bear comparison to the standard set of 52 cards we have inherited today to play poker and such (compared to the Rider-Waite deck which has a unique picture card for every pip (or Minor Arcana as they are so-called there)) and the artwork on the trumps themselves is beautiful in its own right.

But enough. If you want a small format deck of Marseille Tarot, look no further.


The White Lama
The White Lama
by Alexandro Jodorowsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.62

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jodorowsky/Bess Brilliance, 29 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The White Lama (Hardcover)
The White Lama (Le Lama Blanc) is the second collaboration between Jodorowsky and George Bess, serialised in 6 episodes between 1988 and 1993 with Les Humanoïdes Associés. We are very lucky to have this current edition in English in such well-made handsome hardback (as per usual for Humanoids Publishing).

We are also lucky for the more salient reason that The White Lama is yet another fine effort on the part of Jodorowsky. Can this man do no wrong? In George Bess he has found yet another genius artist to work with (a fellow "spiritual warrior" in good company with Moebius, Milo Manara, Zoran Janjetov, Juan Gimenez to name but few) who's own infatuation with Tibet (Bess travelled there "accidentally" in the early 1980s) makes him the perfect partner in this tale. His love for the sweeping landscapes, religious articles, processions, and village life of the Tibetans shines through every page. Technically, I would compare George Bess to Moebius, from whom I think he takes much influence. What sets Bess apart from Moebius is his propensity towards detail and composition - the way he will fill every square inch with well observed paraphernalia, fine shadows, detritus, cracks, peoples, machinery, jungle, clouds et cetera, is at times slightly vertiginous or claustrophobic, though that said I am a huge admirer of Bess (figuratively speaking - I am not "huge" in any empirical sense).

Bess must have been very happy to have been handed this wonderful story by Jodorowsky; a tale of a white child raised by Tibetans following the untimely death of his travelling parents, who would go on after many trials and tribulations to be a spiritual leader of the Tibetans and lead them in the resistance to the Chinese occupation. As you might expect from Jodorowsky, the story is violent and beautiful, magical, spiritual, lascivious, ambiguous, humorous, epic, and elusive. It is never made explicit (it seems rather to have been incidental), for example, why the lama of this tale is white. Good and evil are never exclusive terms; they borrow from one another and one leads to the other in Jodorowsky's world. What can I say? If you know and like (or love) Jodorowsky, you have come to the right place.

As a side note, I am very excited by the forthcoming release of another Bess & Jodorowsky collaboration, The Son of a Gun (Juan Solo), which is set for release later this year (Nov, 2014). Sadly, their other works together (Les Jumeaux Magiques, & Anibal Cinq) have yet to be translated into English. If anyone has read these in the original French, please do provide your comments below. I would love to know more about them.

Nota bene: The White Lama contains graphic violence. Also, if you are looking for a book on llamas, you have come to the wrong place. Honestly, I'm not aware of any comics which feature llamas very prominently.


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murakami Back on Form, 21 Aug. 2014
When I first came across Haruki Murakami's works back in 2003 (first Norwegian Wood, then Wind-up BC, then Hard-boiled Wonderland etc etc) my world was blown apart. At the time, I was into authors like Hermann Hesse and Italo Calvino, so my acquired tastes were, while pretty out there, still not quite prepared for Murakami's counter-culture off-kilter beauty and outsider weirdness. There's something about Murakami in particular, and not just Japanese literature in general, which drew me to him. Though one of the big problems for me was translation. I really wanted to find out for myself if what I was reading was really good, or if it was the translator who was really really good. There are significant differences in style between Birnbaum, Rubin, and Gabriel, and it bothered me. I decided in 2006 to travel to Japan, ostensibly as an English teacher, but with the real agenda of mastering Japanese so I could read Murakami in the original. I returned in 2010 having paid my dues. What I'm trying to say with all this is: Murakami has changed my life quite literally. His writings actually compelled me to travel halfway across the globe and stay there for 4 years. Nowadays, I would not say that Murakami is my favourite author. I've moved on. But there is no way I would ever neglect to read any new stories he might publish. I've been burned in recent years. IQ84 was a disappointment to me, as was Kafka on the Shore. I won't say much about those books, except that I was expecting more. I still enjoyed them, and they are still very highly rated by myself, but compare either of those two books to Wind-up Bird Chronicle or Wild Sheep Chase and they fall short. So, when I came to Colorless Tsukuru I was not expecting to be blown away. I had reached that point in my relationship with Murakami to be able to say that his books no longer got me high. Which is bit sad. Well, anyway, what I want to say here is that I was pleasantly surprised. What we have here is a Murakami book which for 300-odd pages reminded me of why I fell in love with Murakami in the first place. The story itself bears a lot of comparison with Norwegian Wood. I.e. a typical "boku" narrator relating his past, and without all the sci-fi weirdness you find in other Murakami books like Hard-boiled Wonderland or IQ84. There are a fair amount of sexual anecdotes, musical discussions, cookery classes, and fairy tales within fairy tales which seem to be axiomatic to Murakami's world. What I like about this book is it's kind of an updated Norwegian Wood, not written in the 80s about the 60s, but written in the 21st century for the 21st century. The characters are older, and the aphorisms have become wiser. You might say that Norwegian Wood is a tragedy written to address the pain of being in love - whereas Colourless Tsukuru is about the more subtle tragedy of time and how it slowly dulls friendships, dreams, love, everything, and once you've got to a certain age, there's little you can do to go back. Both Norwegian Wood and Colourless Tsukuru feature madness as lynch-pins of their characters and both endings are abrupt. The abrupt ending thing was criticised in NW, and I don't doubt the same will happen here. I like it though. It makes sense to me from an artistic, rhythmic, psychological point of view. So while we might be tempted to say Colourless Tsukuru is structurally not anything new, thematically it's a very pleasant update. More weird beautiful insights for older wiser Murakami fans.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 7, 2016 10:52 PM BST


The Adventures of Robin Hood (Puffin Classics)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Puffin Classics)
by Roger Lancelyn Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Rollicking Ride in Sherwood, 21 Aug. 2014
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Two other books by Roger Lancelyn Green (Tales of the Norsemen and King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table) are amongst my favourite from my childhood. I read them innumerable times, and they along with other books by members of The Inklings (Tolkien and CS Lewis) basically defined the archetype for those kinds of books which I now find myself drawn to.

I only pieced this all together relatively recently, however; searching online for editions of books I half-remembered. When I came across this copy of Robin Hood by RL Green I didn't hesitate to "add it to my basket" (and there are many more besides which I will be investigating). I am happy I have made these investigations. This is another classic which though written for children is no less enjoyable for adults. RL Green's works have a wonderful simplicity to them. They are the distillate of what a really good story should be. His attention to source material is also admirable, and within the introduction of this book he has provided a fascinating outline of the history of the legends of Robin Hood. I couldn't recommend this book and moreover this author more strongly.


The Spy with 29 Names: The story of the Second World War's most audacious double agent
The Spy with 29 Names: The story of the Second World War's most audacious double agent
by Jason Webster
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British Intelligence? Spanish, more like., 21 April 2014
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The author has landed upon a fantastic character. Stranger than fiction, indeed. I am not exactly a history buff, and my knowledge of WWII in particular is only what one would call superficial. Honestly, I had no idea of the role the British secret service had in WWII, and particularly with respect to the Normandy landings. It turns out there was a lot more going on than just cracking the enigma code. This book provides a startling perspective. Were it not for double agents like Garbo (the British code name for Juan Pujol Garcia -- "The Spy with 29 names") the outcome of WWII would have been quite different. This is made explicit here where Jason Webster tags on a short "what if" chapter to the end, which was very thoughtful of him, and ultimately leaves the reader with a great sense of wonder.

From what I can discern, there is much written about Garbo already -- his files were declassified in 1974. I have not read these other books, and so have no basis for comparison, and cannot say whether this book is a "good Garbo book". I can say that it is very well written, however; and has left in me a burning desire to read more on the subjects and characters which were only briefly and tantalisingly introduced.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2014 10:42 AM BST


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