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Alexa (United Kingdom)

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Search the Seven Hills
Search the Seven Hills
by Barbara Hambly
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another neglected gem, 30 Jun 2011
Think Lindsey Davis' 'Falco' - only this predates him! And, unlike Falco, the investigator of this tale is a senator's son, whose family and friends do not approve of his chosen occupation.

This is an historical adventure, with no fantastic element, and as well-crafted and well-researched as Ms. Hambly's fans know to expect. As it is essentially a mystery, I do not want to give the plot away - except to say that, by Barbara's standards, it is unusually tongue-in-cheek at times!

Straight and Crooked Thinking
Straight and Crooked Thinking
by Robert Henry Thouless
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stating the obvious, 26 May 2011
This is one of those rare books that really do change your life!

But it is not yet another book in the "How to..." self-help genre: it is nore accurately a "How not to..."

I first read this decades ago, and am extremely glad to see it reprinted here, because now, more than ever, its message is needed. As we live in a world where "spin" seems omnipresent, the temptation to those who do not want to appear naive and deluded, is to throw up their hands and regard all information as false.

This book provides a far more constructive approach. It equips the reader with the analytic tools to distinguish a good argument from a bad one, to detect the agenda behind a fallacious argument.

These are the techniques of logical reasoning. But they should not be regarded as the prerogative of an intellectual elite; they are the toolkit that we all require in order to interact in an adult manner with the information overload of the modern world.

The genius of this book is that it is never dry or abstract. It is easy to read, and to digest. In itself an enjoyable read, it inculcates an outlook that improves the satisfaction on obtains from other reading, by assisting a reader to quickly distinguish the worthwhile material from misleading dross.

Corsodyl Daily Gum & Tooth Paste 75ml
Corsodyl Daily Gum & Tooth Paste 75ml
Offered by Express Essentials
Price: £4.68

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A specialist product, 6 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The fact that it is a light brown colour is somewhat off-putting, to be sure, and it not as sticky as most toothpastes, so that it has a tendency to fall off the brush!
The taste is not horrible, but there is no attempt to give it a pleasant taste either, so there is an absence of pleasure in using it.
And it is certainly expensive, compared to other toothpastes.

So, if you have no dental problems, the points I have just mentioned are significant, and I cannot recommend that you buy this product.

However, this is a specialist toothpaste. If you DO have dental problems, then the points I made above will seem trivial, compared to the fact that
i) it eases the pain of sensitive teeth
ii) it cleans thoroughly, without doing further damage to teeth
& iii) it acts extremely swiftly and effectively to defeat mouth infections.

I have found this toothpaste to be as effective as a mouthwash - and far less unpleasant to use!
Also, if you compare the price not with your normal toothpaste, but with the combined prices of your favourite toothpaste PLUS a mouthwash, then I believe that it IS competitively priced.

So this is not one to 'just give it a try' - you will probably be disappointed.
But if you have problems and are searching for a product that will help - then this toothpaste makes a REAL difference!

The Joy of Writing Sex
The Joy of Writing Sex
by Elizabeth Benedict
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.18

4.0 out of 5 stars - and why it is not a 'joy'!, 5 May 2011
This review is from: The Joy of Writing Sex (Paperback)
As another reviewer has pointed out, this is not a manual for writing erotica. This is about the place of sex scenes in mainstream fiction.

It is curious how the normal criteria for assessing the valdity of a scene, and whether it has a place in your novel, often go out the window when it comes to writing the 'sex scene'. This book discusses not only how to write such scenes, but how to assess whether they should be there at all - not on 'moral' grounds, but by the same criteria as all scenes should be judged: how do they advance the plot of the novel? What do they teach us about the protagonists?

And that is why this book is very different from one about writing pornography - it treats the sex scene as an integral part of the novel, not an erotic interlude.

Of course, this means that it does not restrict its remit to consensual, 'vanilla' sex. It also discusses the inclusion of sex scenes which deal with subjects that were previously taboo, such as incest and rape. This makes it a sometimes uncomfortable, but always informative read.

Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland
Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland
by Susan Richards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A travelogue with heart, 1 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is another personal account of one foreigner's travels in the Russian Federation, where the narrator encounters the strange and the wonderful. There have been a lot of books with this theme published recently, some with celebrity authors, so what makes this one stand out?

The answer is: the willingness of the author to become personally involved. Too many travel writers seem to treat their subjects with a sort of detached, amused contempt - "look at the funny foreigners". Or, if not that, then a condescending pity, a desire to "help" mixed with a relief that they are so definitely "other" that they can be investigated, admired or condemned, and then left safely behind.

The Russians who Susan Richards encounters have met that sort of foreign visitor before, and are understandably wary, sometimes embittered. Ms. Richards responds by making friends. She returns to Russia again and again, following the fortunes of her friends through this turbulent period, and trailing them as they migrate across the vast expanse of that "other Russia" that exists beyond the urban metropoles of Moscow & St. Petersburg.

Yes, Richards' friends are "intelligentsia", and thus not "typical Russians"; but they are remarkable people, who have chosen to engage with the changes in their country in differing ways. So Richards' story encompasses a wide range of people and places, of beliefs and of social class. Her awareness of herself as a somewhat naive outsider means that she keeps an open mind with respect to her experiences, recording rather than judging.

It is a relief to find a travel writer who writes so little about herself. There is a refreshing lack of ego; her intention is to write about the interesting experiences she has had, not about herself having them! And - again rare,these days - one has no sense of an agenda; her purpose is to follow the fortunes of her friends, not to find examples to support some hypothesis or other.

And it is this longitudinal continuity that makes this book such a worthwhile and rewarding read. Most travelogues provide snapshots - excerpts from people's lives, frozen in time. In this book we follow Anna, Elena, Ivan, Misha & the others - even the elusive Benya! - over a period of more than ten years.

It is by following their lives, their triumphs and vicissitudes, that we learn what it means to be Russian, and live through such rapidly changing times. This is not a book about politics, although most of its protagonists are politically aware; it is a narrative about how drastic political change works out through people's real lives.

This brings me to the one caveat that I have with this book: the question as to whether the writing of such a book is a betrayal of the friendships described therein. Certainly the answer is not simple, given the precarious circumstances of those involved in unstable local political situations. But it is a measure of Susan Richards' writing that she addresses even this uncomfortable question, although ultimately she is unable to give an entirely satisfactory answer.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2014 12:48 PM BST

Simply Office 2010
Simply Office 2010
by Kate Shoup
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.25

2.0 out of 5 stars Let down by poor production values, 29 April 2011
This review is from: Simply Office 2010 (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am not really sure who the target market for this slim volume is.

The statement made at the beginning is "This book is for a reader who has used this particular technology or application. It is also for more computer literate individuals who want to expand their knowledge of the different features that Windows has to offer."

Unfortunately, this volume simply does not live up to the claim made by the second sentence! Since it does not go into much detail over any product from within the Office suite, merely scratching the surface of what each program is capable of, there is very little included that is new to anyone familiar with a previous version of Microsoft Office. Anyone who has bought this book to update their existing knowledge will probably join me in feeling cheated by that claim.

What this book does do extremely well, is clearly and carefully explain the absolute basics of each program. It makes no assumptions, 'talking' the reader through every action in clear, simple steps, demonstrated by screenshots. There are no assumptions made of any prior knowledge whatsoever.

Therefore, I would highly recommend this book to any absolute novice, if it were not for one serious flaw. The text on the screenshots, on which the methodology of this book replies, is very small, and the images themselves rather blurry.

So, this is why I query the target demographic. Since most children receive some education regarding using computers these days, they are less likely to be totally computer-illiterate. I would assume that a large proportion of those who would find this book useful, are going to belong to the older generation - people whose education predates computers in every school. However, if your eyesight is less than perfect, then small, blurry text easily becomes unreadable - and the illustrations play a crucial part in this teaching method!

So if you are a complete novice, with good eyesight, then you will probably love this book. *****
If you are a novice, but your eyesight is not so good - then you will probably struggle to make use of this book. **
And if you have computer experience - then you will find this book very frustrating - either
i) you knew what is here already, or
ii) you could have picked it up just as quickly online, or using the help files, or
ii) you could work out the solution yourself, by experimenting with the program. *

I expect the author probably feels very let down. Her text is excellent. With good production values, this would have filled a niche brilliantly. As it is, only a relatively small subset of potential users are likely to find this suitable.

Those that do, however, will probably love it.

Fellowes Fabrik Palm Support Sapphire
Fellowes Fabrik Palm Support Sapphire
Offered by invise-north-america
Price: £12.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than it seems!, 27 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Well, do't be misled by the pictures or bulky plastic packaging - this nifty little item is less than 6" x 4" in size. Having seen the packaging bloat, I was prepared for the claims for this item to be similarly inflated, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I am quite a tough customer with respect to computer mice, mats & other such devices, because
i) my hands are smaller than the average that seems to used when designing mice
ii) I already have the wrist damage that these devices are designed to protect against, so I am very sensitive to my hand being forced into a non-optimal position.

One problem I have often encountered, is where a wrist rest puts the hand into the correct position, but is so stiff, that it itself presses on the vulnerable area!

I encountered no such problems with this device:
i) my hand slipped naturally into the correct position on the rest,
ii) its broad, FLAT surface allows it to cope with different hand positions, corresponding to different shapes of mouse,
iii) the moldable, 'memory' surface means that the rest conforms to the size and shape of YOUR wrist
iv) above all, the groove down the centre ensures that NO pressure is actually put on the damaged tendons or nerves by this device.

I think this, apparently minor, last point is crucial. Alone of all wrist rests I have tried, this caused me NO discomfort!

Its shape means that it is equally useful for both left- and right-handers.

Its mount is simply a plastic base, which makes contact with the surface via 4 small plastic raised areas. I found it slid quite smoothly for me, on a wide range of surfaces (from plastic to a leather chair arm!) as well as on a standard table.

Its 'working' surface is a pleasant, smooth satin (not a weird plastic or gel), so it is unlikely to get slippery in hot weather, and the manufactureres claim that it is suitably impregnated with antibacterial agents.

I have absolutely no criticisms of this product whatsoever - and I AM a pernickety customer in this field.

Why not 5 stars? I felt that the device was somewhat overhyped for what it is - I'm not sure that it really makes THAT much difference to user comfort. But if you feel you do need such a device, then this stands out as the best in the field!

Prince Voronov's Virgin (Mills & Boon Modern)
Prince Voronov's Virgin (Mills & Boon Modern)
by Lynn Raye Harris
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst novel that I have read for a long time!, 26 Mar 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Where to start?

Well, to begin with, we have this sophisticated Russian, who speaks fluent English, except for words like "yes" and "thank you"! Then, we have the fact that Russian words are sometimes spelt phonetically, and sometimes not (even within a single dialogue). Oh, and at a particularly tender moment, he addresses the heroine as if she were a man!

Then, there is the preposterousness of the entire setting. In this author's view of Russian history, the October Revolution seems to have never happened! When I first met our hero, Russian prince and ruthless businessman, Alexei Voronov, I assumed that he was an émigré who had returned to reclaim his ancestral lands. But no, during the whole Stalinist era, when simply being a peasant who was slightly better off than your neighbours was enough to get you labelled a "kulak" and sent to the labour camps for that 'crime', the Voronov family alone appear to have held on to their lands and fabulous wealth, until [most of] it "passed into state hands with the death of [his] grandmother"! His palace is even still furnished with ancestral heirlooms, unransacked by the Red Army! The reality, of course, is that every Russian prince that I know survived, did so because they had left the country by that time, whilst all the princes that I know of who remained, were either summarily executed or died in the camps of the Soviet GULag. After such travesties, can one be surprised to find references to such non-existent entities as a "Romanov queen"?

Well, so this is linguistically irritating, and its setting does not remotely approximate reality; the writer claims to have been inspired her mother's fascination "with all things Russian", but these appear to have included neither the language, the history, nor the culture!

But is it any good simply as a story? Well, the characterisation seems to me to be completely psychologically unbelievable. Not Prince Voronov - he rings true enough to type. It is our heroine that I have a problem with. If, whilst running away from a bunch drunken louts with lechery on their mind, I met a total stranger who offered to help, then proposed, as a solution, that I simulate having sex with him up against a wall in the street, I *might* agree - after all, his intentions may or may not be honourable, but those of the pursuers *definitely* aren't. If, however, I then find his body, erm, responding unmistakably (and vigorously) to the situation, then I would take it is evidence that my worst fears were confirmed - out of the frying pan, into the fire! I would most definitely NOT respond by having an orgasm on the spot!

So, we have a heroine who is turned on by sexual contact with a complete stranger, under conditions of extreme danger. He then turns out to be manipulative, lying, emotionally abusive and capable of financially blackmailing her, whilst showing no interest in her as a person (we, as reader, get some insight into the personal trauma that causes him to behave in this way, but she has not) - so she responds by following him pathetically, because she wants him so much. I thought we had outgrown the era where it does not matter what flaws the hero has - it is enough that he has a title!

Hence, this story is not remotely believable in either setting or characterisation. Its 'plot twists' both stretch credulity and are blatantly signposted. There is nothing attractive about either lead. It is carelessly written - some episodes were so tortuously written that I had to reread to work out what is supposed to be happening. I can recommend *nothing* about it except one thing - mercifully, it is short.

Oh, and I agree with the previous reviewer - the couple in the cover photo look nothing like the protagonists of this novel!

E45 Endless Moisture Body Milk Fragrance Free 200ml
E45 Endless Moisture Body Milk Fragrance Free 200ml

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful!, 25 Mar 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In my experience, moisturisers fall into two categories:

i) the complex, perfumed, silky smooth kind, which are absorbed into the skin like a dream, but are often very expensive, and tend to irritate sensitive skin

ii) the hypoallergenic, 'medical' kind, that are safe, do not result in an allergic reaction, but take ages to be absorbed; meanwhile the user has slightly sticky, oily skin.

This marvellous little product falls into neither category! Part of the well-known E45 family, it is perfume-free and hypoallergenic, and does not result in a rash, even when used in the presence of open cracks on the skin.

Yet it does not feel like a 'medical' cream; it absorbs instantly, leaving skin soft, smooth but not sticky.

If you have extremely dry skin, you might want to use one of its more heavy duty relatives - since it IS quickly absorbed - but for people with sensitive skin who want to use moisturisers that soften, but leave no detectable surface 'film', this is a solution that is unique in my experience.

Highly recommended.

Dirty Russian: Everyday Slang from What's Up? To F*ck Off! (Dirty Everyday Slang)
Dirty Russian: Everyday Slang from What's Up? To F*ck Off! (Dirty Everyday Slang)
by Erin Coyne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.15

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From slang unto obscenity, 25 Mar 2011
Well, this is the real thing, and includes a lot of words that don't make it into the standard dictionaries!

Also, since slang dates rapidly, then it is worth noting that this was published in 2009.

However, as a guide for use in Russia, as opposed to trying to look cool to one's friends, this book has some serious drawbacks.

The crucial problem is that there is no indication of register. As the examples on the cover show, the book covers the gamut from simply casual to highly obscene. And there is no simply no indication as to which category a given phrase belongs!

The authors have made the sensible decision of translating the sense of a phrase rather than its literal meaning; but the result is that (from using this book alone) it is impossible to judge the degree of offence one might be giving with a particular phrase. The translations give no indication as to whether the original phrase is religious (referencing God or devils), sexual (body parts or acts) or vulgar (natural functions). So whilst they accurately convey the intention of the speaker, they do not always indicate the reaction use of a phrase might provoke.

Russian has an incredibly rich and varied vocabulary for profanity, and its range is greater than can be achieved with English equivalents. As a result, there are some (frequently used) phrases that will always give extreme offence in certain contexts - use them wrongly and you can expect to have to back your words with your fists! And there are words that many Russians will never consider acceptable to be spoken by (or to) a woman, without assumptions being made about her moral character. Furthermore, some devout Russians will be more upset by blasphemous langauage that any 'direct', 'earthy' references to bodily functions.

Since neither register indicators, nor literal translations are added, from this book the reader cannot judge what is simply informal, what will be taken as offensive in staider circles, and what is obviously provocative.

So, although this book is extremely useful in helping the reader understand real spoken Russian, it would be unwise to use it as a guide to speaking, without the assistance of a Russian friend!

A far better approach is taken in the Dictionary of Russian Slang and Colloquial Expressions, which includes literal meanings, indicates the social circles in which the words are used - and provides humorous "examples" of usage! The great disadvantage to this volume, however, is that is organised alphabetically, rather than thematically. It is also older, and so presumably now less 'authentic'.

Streetwise Russian with Audio CD: Speak and Understand Everyday Russian (Streetwise!Series) takes a thematic approach similar to this book. Likewise, it includes a lot of language that is considered highly offensive by many ordinary Russians. However literal meaning and context are better flagged here, providing some information about register. Its main disadvantage - it assumes that the reader already has a good understanding of standard Russian.

So, buy this book, if you want something in your pocket to help you work out - fast - what that tough on the street corner just said to you; but if you want to try *speaking* 'real Russian' you will need help from elsewhere.

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