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NinaJ "Nina" (Essex)

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tabata(TM): The Official Workout [DVD] [2013]
tabata(TM): The Official Workout [DVD] [2013]
Price: £9.99

148 of 156 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new and 'serious' way to work out - not for the faint of heart!, 3 Jan. 2014
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I'm someone who really enjoys working out, usually a mix of the gym and DVDs including Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper and Nell McAndrew, so I'm no stranger to 'hardcore' home fitness. I was especially excited to get this DVD as I've read a lot about the '4 minute fitness revolution' Tabata offers - sounds too good to be true, right?

The introduction certainly sets the tone - you're reminded of the fact that this is a workout "designed in a lab, not a gym" and that "four minutes of Tabata is better than an hour of cycling", and then we get a fuller explanation from the lead presenter, Richard, along with his group of seriously hardcore exercisers. Richard explains that the Tabata moves have been broken down into "killer" and "kinder" options (which to be honest there is not much difference between!) You are also reminded that to get the full benefit from these workouts, you have to push the boundaries and REALLY go for it.

There are three workouts on this DVD, including a warm-up, the main four-minute Tabata workout, and then a cooldown, all consisting of about 20 minutes each. These are not incremental 'levels', just workouts you can mix and match, and there is also a 'Tabata Diet' option (though not being a 'diet' person I confess I haven't looked at this yet).

So - what are the workouts like? Well, first you do a basic warm-up and then Richard talks you through and gets his exercisers to demonstrate the main Tabata moves in advance (one group of exercisers show you the "killer" moves and the other group the "kinder" option), so that when you get to the main 4-minute workout you can choose which group to follow and just go all out. The Tabata exercises are variations of hardcore aerobic moves like plank jumps, jacks, kick-throughs etc., and you do these moves in pairs, with just 10 seconds' rest in between each set. Richard counts you down with a military-style 'whistle' to signal the changes. If you do these exercises right then it's true - it might be only 4 minutes but I felt like I wanted to die after just the first minute, and for the most part I followed the "kinder" option! You then follow this hardcore whirlwind with a much-needed cooldown (during which Richard reassures you that it's OK to still be utterly out of breath!)

To get the best out of this workout, it's absolutely essential that you push yourself. It's only 4 minutes because you're not physically supposed to be ABLE to do any more, and believe me - I certainly wasn't! So if you're doing this, don't feel a failure if you're collapsed on the floor and utterly gasping for breath by the end because it's so short... if you aren't, you're not doing it properly! So I would say, if you're considering buying this DVD then you absolutely must feel comfortable going through that 'breathlessness' barrier.

Potential downsides: this is NOT a 'fun' workout. I felt great after doing it and it's only short, but it's all very scientific and serious, including the presentation style. Also, though I did feel really, thoroughly worked out by the end, 4 minutes IS a short time so it's possible some people might feel a bit short-changed, especially if not pushing hard enough.

For me this is definitely a new and interesting way to work out, and I definitely felt as though doing these workouts regularly will be a REAL challenge and something that will boost my overall fitness levels.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2014 8:51 AM GMT

Five Days
Five Days
by Douglas Kennedy
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A schizophrenic read - not Douglas Kennedy at his best, 9 May 2013
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This review is from: Five Days (Paperback)
Douglas Kennedy is one of those authors whose books I always order as soon as they're published; usually I find them unputdownable (plus 'The Pursuit of Happiness' is one of my all-time favourites). This, however, very much felt - as other reviewers have mentioned - as though it had been rushed to meet a deadline. As such I found it disappointing and badly written; Kennedy's amazing ability to get inside the heads of his (particularly female) characters is muted in this book to a large degree.

Laura, the protagonist, is a radiographer trapped in a stale marriage with two late-teenage children. She is somebody whose bookish intelligence and lack of self-belief is mentioned so often throughout the book that it became annoying very quickly. She spends most of the first part of the book quoting various authors she's read and pontificating on life as a middle-aged woman. Fair enough, but the self-indulgence is relentless, and as such I found her hard to like. When she has a chance encounter with somebody on a work conference this magnifies to an extent where the conversation feels incredibly pretentious and liberally peppered with " that (insert famous author's name here) - I can't believe I'm talking to someone who can quote them!" Conversations generally between the characters didn't flow due to the fact that for the most part they were badly written.

It's a shame, because I actually thought the final part of the book was emotionally potent and honest, with a faint nod to some of Kennedy's better novels (hence the two stars). However, if this had been written by anybody else I wouldn't have persevered to that point!

I'd recommend giving this a miss if you're a fan of Kennedy's other 'emotional' novels ('The Pursuit of Happiness', 'Leaving the World', 'A Special Relationship') - this doesn't compare.

When The Devil Drives
When The Devil Drives
by Chris Brookmyre
Edition: Hardcover

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, I enjoyed it!, 6 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: When The Devil Drives (Hardcover)
I reviewed 'Where the Bodies Are Buried' last year, ending with "more please...and soon!" And finally, here it is. For me, this next instalment didn't disappoint - the mark of a great book for me is in its ability to keep me reading without wanting a break, and I can usually count on a Brookmyre for that. In fact this book kept me engrossed all over the Bank Holiday weekend, which conveniently saved me from having to get involved in any Jubilee celebrations - thank you for the excellent timing Mr. Brookmyre/Amazon (but that's another story!)

Back to the book and the overall's certainly true that the pace of these last two novels has been far less frenzied, with little trace of the surreal humour, sweary political rants and crazy bouts of violence that we've come to expect from Brookmyre, and if you didn't enjoy 'Where the Bodies Are Buried' then I doubt this will convert you - it's definitely more of the same. But that's what I personally liked about it. The humour is understated but still crackles throughout, plus Brookmyre slowed down means a full injection of dark, well-crafted descriptions and dialogue that doesn't detract from the story, so I found more depth in this than in some of his previous novels. Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod are fantastically drawn characters; the one thing Brookmyre always manages to keep consistent with his writing (in my opinion, at least!) is his ability to create real people that live and breathe almost independently from the pages. His characters - even the minor ones in most cases - always keep me hooked. So while I do agree with the other reviewers in that the Jasmine Sharp/Glen Fallan relationship seemed a little bit underplayed in this book, for me this was done realistically and with a simmering undercurrent that suggests a lot more action and development to come. Ditto Catherine McLeod and her home life, and of course in the two characters' paths crossing on various cases. There is so much potential here and I'm really looking forward to reading more about both of these characters in future books.

And so to the plot of this particular book, which was elaborate without being overly complicated or hard to follow, launching me in all kinds of different directions as I read. The final denouement left me with a few tears pricking my eyes and a real longing to read the next instalment, and as a reader I can't ask for much more than that, can I?

Pump It Up Move It, Lose It [DVD]
Pump It Up Move It, Lose It [DVD]
Dvd ~ Various Artists
Offered by FLASH
Price: £9.82

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but a bit rushed and more complicated than previous MoS workouts, 31 Dec. 2011
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Being a huge fan of Gareth Walker's 'Pump it Up' workouts, I'm bound to be a bit biased! But unfortunately, for me this DVD just isn't quite as good as the previous Gareth-led ones. It's still full of great dance moves and a fantastic soundtrack, and follows the 'usual' Pump it Up format, i.e. warm up, toning, Dancemixes 1, 2 and 3 (all about 15 minutes each), 'legs, bums and tums' then a cooldown.

There isn't much distinction between Dancemixes 1, 2 and 3 except that Dancemix 2 is a more 'Latin'-style workout, obviously inspired by Zumba. Unfortunately, I found the new presenter a bit dull and uninspiring (though this is obviously just my personal taste); although he explains all the moves well he rushes through them all at a very fast pace and there are so many that you're in danger of forgetting them by the time you get to the final run-through!

The faster pace of this presenter is a little at odds with the fact that some of the moves are quite a bit more complicated and advanced than previous 'Pump it Up' workouts (especially when I got to Dancemix 3 which had me tripping over my feet a bit!) I would think that you need to be a dancer, familiar with previous 'Pump it Up' DVDs, and/or do Zumba classes to be able to pick them up properly as you go - I wouldn't recommend this DVD to a complete beginner or someone who just wants to get stuck in straight away. None of the routines use traditional 'aerobics'; the emphasis is heavily on club/dance moves, so if you want to learn some moves for a night out this will be your thing! And it's a good 'sweaty' workout too, as long as you're able to keep up.

The 10-odd minute 'tone' and 'legs, bums and tums' follow the usual 'Pump it Up' format and can be adapted for beginners.

For me, this loses a star for its lack of the 'fun and flamboyance' factor - I just didn't smile as much doing this DVD as I have with some of the others! But it is still a great option if you're a fan of dance-based workout DVDs and want to be a bit challenged.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2012 9:50 PM GMT

Strictly Come Dancing: Dance School [DVD]
Strictly Come Dancing: Dance School [DVD]
Price: £6.00

58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun - and great for learning the basics, 22 Nov. 2011
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I was hoping for an improvement on last year's 'Strictly Fit'...and this is, sort of. The DVD consists of three instructional sections (Salsa presented by Katya, Cha Cha Cha presented by Artem and Rumba presented by Aliona) where you can learn the steps before going to the 'Dancefloor' section to try them all out properly!

Good points - the instructional sections are separate from the 'Dancefloor' so once you've learned the steps there is no annoying stopping and starting - you can just go and get on with it. The presenters are great and the steps themselves are fun, interesting and not too challenging (but you are given options to make them easier or harder if you want to, such as adding arm placements etc.) Again, this is a good way for beginners to learn the basic steps for each dance shown.

Bad points - the music hasn't improved! You're still dancing to what is essentially 'dodgy lift music' which is a bit disappointing. The 'Dancefloor' section for each dance is only about five minutes long - I would say this is more about learning the steps than actually getting a good workout (hence the title 'Dance School'?) It's also a shame you can't do all the 'Dancefloor' sections back-to-back; instead you have to select each dance as you go which is a minor irritation.

There are some extras on this DVD which feature 'Strictly' make-up and costume tips which are fun to watch.

All in all, I'd say this is a fun DVD and better than last year's 'Strictly Fit' - but my advice would be only to get this if you're interested in learning basic dance steps. If you're a dancer, or looking for something that will give you a proper workout then try something else!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2011 5:30 PM GMT

Confessions of a Conjuror
Confessions of a Conjuror
by Derren Brown
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Had me from the 'Parmesan Moment', 18 Aug. 2011
This is a wonderfully warm, endearing, funny...and utterly bonkers book. I absolutely loved it.

The scene is set on a rainy night in Bristol, where a pre-fame Derren is performing magic tricks at restaurant tables. His precise descriptions and snappy observations of the venue, patrons and waiting staff set the scene... (the 'Parmesan Moment' refers to that slightly awkward gap in the conversation, no matter how trivial, that always tends to occur when the waiter brings the Parmesan over) and then we're off on a rambling and whimsical journey through Derren's childhood, adolescence and random thoughts, all constructed around a card trick he does for a group of participants at a table; the development of which we keep coming back to at various points throughout the book.

The book is written in a nattily conversational style, as though you're sat across from Derren himself whilst he recounts a story from his childhood...which then reminds him of the songs he hums whilst cleaning his teeth...which then makes him think about a maddening encounter he had with someone from his apartment building. It's an autobiography of sorts, but really it's a veritable rollercoaster ride of neurotic observation, excessive childhood habits and intelligent insight...for me it's exactly the kind of mad, delightful conversation I wish I could have in person with people I like in real life!

Some other reviewers have mentioned the footnotes, which are certainly lengthy, but for me these only added to the charm of the book. Some of them mention encounters and little anecdotes which literally had me crying with laughter (I originally attempted to describe one here as an example, but decided this would be impossible without the context and Derren's wonderful turns of phrase - I'd probably end up putting people off buying the book completely).

As a lot of the other reviewers have mentioned, this book is very different from 'Tricks of the Mind', which I also enjoyed immensely. However, I think I liked this one more as it felt a lot more personal, plus the tone of this book is very uplifting. I was disappointed to have finished it!

'Confessions of a Conjuror' is definitely more, as the cover suggests, a journey through Derren's mind rather than a journey through his career and tips on how to replicate some of his tricks. So if that appeals, and you're a fan of Derren the man as well as (or instead of!) his shows, then you may well enjoy this as much as I did.

Where The Bodies Are Buried
Where The Bodies Are Buried
by Chris Brookmyre
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brookmyre grown up and stripped down - and at his literary best, 15 Jun. 2011
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I'm a big fan of Brookmyre's work since chancing upon 'Not the End of the World...' some years ago. Since then, I've devoured everything he's written and find his books fresh, distinctive and compulsive reading. Some of the other reviews have mentioned the lack of trademark humour in this book, which is definitely the case compared to some of his other works. You won't find the quirkiness of 'Quite Ugly One Morning' here, for example, so if that's what you're looking for then you may well end up disappointed - as other reviews here appear to testify. But personally, my favourite aspects of Brookmyre's work are his ability to create real, gritty, living-and-breathing characters in a matter of seconds, together with inventive and originally constructed plots that leave me on the edge of my seat. And for me, these aspects have been taken to a whole new level in this book, which I started yesterday and finished today, with not a lot of sleep in between (sadly enough, I even considered cancelling a night out with friends just so I could finish reading!)

The plot is darkly twisted, with more than a few "Oh my God!" moments. As mentioned, there are none of Brookmyre's satirical rants or obviously humorous interludes, which might sound like a criticism but absolutely isn't - it means the pace is absolutely relentless, plus you've still got the crackling undercurrent of acerbic wit and razor-sharp observation that undeniably mark this out as a Brookmyre novel.

Without giving anything away I finished the book practically begging to know more about the characters - Catherine McLeod in particular, so I really hope there'll be more in store for her in future books. This is undeniably a new direction for Brookmyre's writing - it feels like he's really upped his game. All I can say is...more please - and soon!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2011 12:30 PM BST

Jillian Michaels: 6 Week Six-Pack [DVD]
Jillian Michaels: 6 Week Six-Pack [DVD]
Price: £5.99

205 of 211 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh my God I LOVE this!, 17 Feb. 2011
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I'm a real Jillian Michaels convert and have all her other UK release DVDs (30 Day Shred, Banish Fat and No More Trouble Zones). But because of that I was in two minds about getting this one - how many new moves/ways to work could Jillian possibly offer us? But I decided to take the plunge...a 'Six Pack' definitely appealed...and I'm so glad I did. This has to be my favourite of Jillian's offerings so far, fast-paced and oh-so-intense!

Other reviewers have already outlined the format, which is two 35-minute 'Levels' incorporating a warm-up and cool-down. Like the 30 Day Shred, the length of time can fool you (well, it did me anyway!) into thinking it's going to be relatively easy. BUT if anything, this is a definite step up even from Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred! In this DVD, both levels target your core but if you think (as I would have done if I hadn't already known Jillian's training style) you'll just be doing half an hour of floor work, think again. You're getting a whole body workout, cardio and all, with particular emphasis on the core. Level 1 in particular made my obliques burn for days afterwards!

For me, Levels 1 and 2 differ only in the intricacy of the moves - the effort level was the same for both (i.e. gasping for breath and begging for water!) The moves in Level 1 are a lot more straightforward and can be followed from the get-go, whereas in Level 2 I found myself stopping a couple of times just to check how Jillian and her two helpers were carrying out a few of the moves (but after a couple of repetitions all was fine). For this reason I actually found Level 1 a bit tougher than Level 2. With each level you do a full 15 minute circuit of moves, before repeating the whole thing again at a faster pace.

As usual, the workout music is nothing to speak of (though for some reason I stop worrying about that once the workout really gets underway!) - but Jillian is at her motivational best on this DVD - she barks at you the whole way through, but it's so encouraging and you REALLY want to do your best and get the most out of every move. If you're having a 'fat' day, stick this DVD on, give it your all and I can guarantee it'll blast your worries into oblivion! Your fitness levels will skyrocket.

And - if you're feeling brave enough, get Jillian's other DVDs too. At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, your body will thank you for it! :)
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2013 11:10 PM GMT

Hour of Power The Ultimate Fitness Class [DVD] [2010]
Hour of Power The Ultimate Fitness Class [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Rajko
Offered by Special Interests
Price: £12.49

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful all-over workout!, 10 Jan. 2011
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I am also not an 'Hour of Power' trainer but I can see why those who are, were raving about this workout, because it's great! I had never heard of Rajko or the 'Hour of Power' before, but from watching the clips it looked interesting so I decided to go for it, and I wasn't disappointed. I am an avid fitness DVD fan and Davina, Nell McAndrew and Jillian Michaels are the ones that make me work the hardest. This workout is up there with the best of them, and the great thing is your whole body gets thoroughly worked.

Rajko starts with a 10-minute warm-up, which isn't the traditional jumping about but plenty of breathing and stretching, culminating in around 100 squats. Your legs will feel the burn! You then move on to the 30-minute 'Hour of Power' workout, which combines upper-body work with lower by including traditional weight-lifting moves (shoulder press, bicep curls etc.) with light jogging on the spot. This is a killer, and I would recommend starting with smaller weights at first - I found that 1kgs were more than enough! The workout is set in a gym studio with Rajko and two others (in the background you can see other people working out on the machines) and as you're pumping away the scenery changes to Rajko doing the moves on a mountain-top and then outside with a group. This sounds cheesy but actually isn't - it's interesting to flit between the different scenes and makes you feel as though everybody is working as hard as you are!

You then have the option to add 'Abs and Back', 'Stretch' and 'Meditation' sections - which if you do all three adds up to the full 'Hour of Power'. The 'Abs and Back' section is a killer - you continue to use your handweights with some pretty advanced ab moves - but beginners' options are given and explained really well.

I agree that the sound quality isn't the best, but you I really didn't notice that once I got started. The music you work out to is good and Rajko comes across well; he's encouraging and every exercise is explained well in advance so you always know what you're doing. He also stresses the importance of breathing properly while you're working out, which really does make a difference! A range of different options for each exercise is explained as you go, so I think beginners would get as much out of this workout as more advanced exercisers.

The DVD extras include a 'behind the scenes' tour, music and trailers, and you also get a leaflet with the DVD which explains in more detail how to approach the workout and get the best from it. All in all, this is a great buy and I really recommend it!

Pump It Up Body Burn [DVD] [2011]
Pump It Up Body Burn [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Various Artists
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £12.65

58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really fun (especially if you're a Gareth Walker fan!), 27 Dec. 2010
I was excited about getting this as Gareth Walker's Pump it Up! workouts are by far my favourites, both for his fun and upbeat instruction and the smile his routines always put on my face. This one is no exception; in fact it's probably a bit easier and more straightforward than previous Pump it Up! offerings. The DVD is set out in the following way:

Warm Up (about 8 mins)
Tone it Up (about 12 mins)
Shake it Move it
Pop it Lock it
Burn it Lose it (three sections of around 15 mins each)
Bums, Legs and Tums (around 10 mins)

The three dance sections follow the same format: the (brilliant!) music starts and Gareth talks and walks you through the dance steps, you follow along with his backing dancers, and then you all put the routines together at the end. 'Shake it Move it' contains club/dance moves, 'Pop it Lock it' is a street-dance style workout and 'Burn it Lose it' is a sweatier, more aerobic section with less emphasis on dance. All of them are great fun and if you have any of Gareth's previous DVD's, his presenting style is exactly the same - i.e. "pretend you're in a club and you want to attract someone's attention!" His flamboyant style really makes me smile while I'm working out, but I can understand it wouldn't be for everyone! Some of the moves can be a bit complicated, but Gareth demonstrates and explains the moves well so they get easier to pick up.

There is a warning at the start of the DVD that doing all three dance sections should only be attempted if you're very fit, but I managed it without too much strain - I actually felt this was a bit less high impact than previous 'Pump it Up!' workouts, so if you're a seasoned exerciser you shouldn't have too much trouble.

So...get this if you're interested in learning some new dance moves and don't mind a bit of fun and flamboyance while you're at it!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2012 11:22 AM GMT

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