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Sam Woodward (UK)
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The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly down-to-earth, 17 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I’ve been interested in meditation for most of my adult life & have practiced a wide range of different techniques with different organisations. Favouring more secular practices, I always shied away from Tibetan Buddhism & its esoteric cultural trappings. For instance, when I was first taught Ton Glen meditation, it involved visualizing myself as a Buddha with a particular symbolic meaning, who was holding various symbolic objects, etc. Even though I was briefly told what they were, a lack of familiarity with this image made it difficult to relate to. Then I recently attended a Mindfulness course in which the teacher taught a secularized, Western-friendly variation of Ton Glen. Rather than a Buddha, he asked us to visualise ourselves at an earlier age, and then give this earlier self all the compassion, forgiveness & emotional support which they had needed at the time. This was an incredibly powerful experience for me. And, as it turned out, it was the version of Ton Glen which features heavily in this book.

Prior to this, I hadn’t really used visualizations in meditation & it wasn’t something which appealed to me. Yet I found this version of Ton Glen to be incredibly powerful. No prior book-learning of the Tibetan Buddhist canon was necessary & the emotional link to a difficult time in my past helped to connect with some deeply-rooted feelings & mental processes. The consensus in the group discussion afterwards was that it had helped those of us who had no problem with meditating on compassion for others but who struggled to find compassion for themselves. This, as Pema Chodran points out in this book, means we had not been extending our compassion to everyone in the universe. And thanks to that emotional connection, compassion became an accessible feeling instead of merely an intellectualized concept. Once we have compassion for ourselves, Chodran presents practical insights into how it is easier & more meaningful to pass our compassion onto others – not only loved ones but also strangers & people we actively hate, or who just rub us up the wrong way.

This was my first Pema Chodran book & I didn’t actually realise it was about Ton Glen when I bought it just after the course - isn’t it great when you find exactly the right book at exactly the right time?! Chodran’s approach is also refreshingly Westernised & easy to relate to. Her description of Ton Glen & its benefits was regularly furnished with down-to-earth examples. An example which stuck with me was her advice on meditating on ‘loving-kindness’. Because this is a vague term, translated from a different language which will mean something slightly different to everyone, she recommends replacing it with a more specific one of your own choosing. She gives examples from her own students, which include ‘may all beings have an experience which leads to growth’ & ‘may my father have coffee’. The latter was from a lady whose terminally ill father had all the care he needed, so she hoped he could see past the suffering & medical procedures to still connect with the simple joy in life which coffee always gave him.

As soon as I finished this book, I bought several more from the same author. Chodran has completely changed my perception of Tibetan Buddhism, by showing that behind the cultural trappings – which can be pushed aside if need be – are some practical techniques which have helped deepen my practice immeasurably. Her approach is wise, compassionate & utterly practical. Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 26, 2016 7:07 AM BST


Carter & Lovecraft
Carter & Lovecraft
Price: £9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indescribably good!, 17 May 2016
I’m an avid reader of Howards’ Johannes Cabal books. My enjoyment of them is heightened by the peppering of references to HP Lovecraft’s writings, of which I am also a fan. So when I saw that Howard had written a story which brought characters & beings from Lovecraft’s work into a modern setting, I was very excited. Needless to say, once I commenced reading & saw that he’d pulled it off I was elated!

The titular Carter & Lovecraft are the ancestors of Raldolf Carter (a character of Lovecraft’s who in Howards’ version was based upon a real person) & Lovecraft himself – a private eye & a bookshop manager. Brought together in mysterious circumstances, they soon join forces to investigate eldritch goings-on which have serious repercussions for the whole of the world – but are they being manipulated by creatures beyond their comprehension? The sense of mystery & drama progress at such a rapid pace that this book is hard to put down. Howard has modernised the Cthulhu mythos expertly, combining the tone of Lovecraft’s stories with more sophisticated modern storytelling techniques & much-needed dark humour to occasionally offset the bleak subject-matter. This was a huge relief because as much as I love the ideas presented in Lovecraft’s books, myself & the fans of his I know all agree that they are not particularly well written.

As some of this book has been dedicated to world-building (or more accurately, some nature-of-the-world-building) I am hoping it is the start of a series & very look forward to reading future stories.


Trigger Point Performance Grid STK Hand-Held Foam Roller - Orange
Trigger Point Performance Grid STK Hand-Held Foam Roller - Orange
Price: £24.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not quite firm enough, 2 Mar. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've only used wooden massagers in the past & was concerned that this, with its rubbery texture, would be too soft by comparison. In fact it was a lot firmer than expected but was still slightly too soft for me. It's well designed & the texture has a nice feel to it but in reality it's not a massager which I use anywhere near as often as my wooden ones.


The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships
The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships
by Neil Strauss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Neil Finally Grew Up, 17 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was morbidly fascinated by The Game. As a normal, nerdy guy I was intrigued by the authors’ transformation from someone a lot like me into a self-styled pick-up artist who could - and did – effortlessly pick up an endless stream of beautiful woman from nightclubs; the very places where I always felt the most socially awkward. What young male hasn't secretly longed for that at some point during his adolescence – and sometimes beyond?

The Truth invoked a similar reaction – initially for similar reasons but by the end, for very different ones. A skim through the inner sleeve makes The Truth sound like a mere extension of The Game, with promises of group sex & experiments in non-monogamous relationships. But rather than basking in the glow of happy hedonism, Strauss is conflicted. At the start of the book, Strauss has cheated on the love of his life & responds in a very American way by checking into rehab for sex addiction. He reacts to the treatment by wondering whether a monogamous, loving relationship will ever fully satisfy him or whether he should go to the other extreme of having his cake & frantically mating with it. After all, aren't monogamous relationships merely an outdated social convention? But at the same time, he can’t help wondering whether running to the other extreme is a symptom of his supposed addiction.

So this actually becomes an introspective treatise on the nature of happiness. With shagging. Is it about getting what we want in a superficial way, can we fulfil the superficial & also have intimacy? Neil comes to a very definite conclusion & luckily makes all the mistakes for us, exploring the mundanity which taints fantasises when they are thrust into reality - like a Louis Theroux who doesn't just stand around with a wry smile at the orgy. While he has a very American tendency towards over-intellectualising to the point of narcissism sometimes, his insights are always intriguing & I was constantly impressed with the extent of his often unparalleled honestly & self-awareness.

Overall, The Truth is a fascinating book. It fulfilled all expectations while also providing more insight & maturity than expected.


Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (White)
Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (White)
Offered by Let's GO digital
Price: £99.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good hardware but software's not there yet, 31 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's been a few years since I gave all my CD's to the charity shop & went virtual with my listening habits. At home, I stream music from Spotify & Amazon Music. When out & about, I listen to MP3's on my phone. The main disadvantage with music at home was having to leave my PC switched on, burning up electricity, or being restricted to only using my tablet where I could plug it into my PC speakers. So a good quality speaker system which could stream music from wherever my device was seemed ideal.

When I first got the ALL8 out of the box, I was very impressed. It's one large, solid piece of kit! However, my enthusiasm waned during the laborious setup process. Firstly, it would not connect to my Wifi's signal booster, only the main Wifi router itself. However, it picked it up in an area where most devices would struggle to find a signal (and is yet to drop out, despite the Wifi where I live not being great, so presumably requires very little bandwidth). Once it had connected to the Wifi, it proceeded to update the firmware - whereupon I had to start again from the beginning, even having to reconnect to the router & re-enter the Wifi password, etc. The setup leaflet just says that once it's connected, you merely download the app to your mobile or tablet & start streaming. In reality, this was far from straightforward. Playing with the various settings which are spread over 5 different tabs, I pretty much came upon the correct ones at random & to my surprise, it suddenly started working with music stored to my phone. A lot of messing about later & I discovered that it will only stream from Spotify if you have a Premium account - most disappointing, but presumably Spotify's fault, rather than Panasonic's.

Fortunately, setting it up only has to be done once. Once done, you're ready to stream any music files (including FLAC) which are downloaded to your device. However, I had hoped to be able to stream from music I have bought which is stored on Amazon Music's Cloud & the CD's I downloaded to Google Play. I had also hoped to listen to Audiobooks via the Audible app & the BBC's iPlayer Radio app too. Sadly none of these are possible. Perhaps one day, if they update the software? Who knows. It currently offers to stream music from AUPEO! Personal Radio, AllPlay Radio & Napster. Worth a try but it's surprising that Panasonic haven't gotten some of the bigger names onside yet.

Yet while its functionality was more restrictive than I initially imagined, it's still very handy. I can just switch it on, pick up my mobile & start playing music. Job done. And the sound quality is fantastic. My PC speakers are a respectable quality but the ALL8 blows them away effortlessly (treble & bass can be adjusted via the app BTW). For the money, I would have liked much greater functionality & flexibility but it's still a handy gadget which delivers an impressive, all-encompassing sound.


ByteStor Pro 16GB 45Mbps Class 10 High Speed SDHC Card
ByteStor Pro 16GB 45Mbps Class 10 High Speed SDHC Card
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job!, 24 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm very pleased with this card. I tried it in my camcorder & it works perfectly well. My existing SanDisk card is also a Class 10 & if there was any difference in performance, it was too subtle for me to notice. So I guess the only differentiator is price.


Peterkin UK Ltd 8 Shot Cowboy Gun
Peterkin UK Ltd 8 Shot Cowboy Gun
Price: £5.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Check out the guns!, 13 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I recently participated in a dance cabaret where we all dressed as cowboys. Most of my fellow dancers went for the only slightly cheaper plastic guns but all agreed that for a only a little more, these look & feel a lot better. Slightly smaller than the plastic ones, they still fit in adult & hands. And while the others had trouble spinning the light plastic ones, the added weight of these made it much easier to do tricks with them. They could be slightly larger, although this perhaps would make them unsuitable for children. Otherwise, they are fantastic!


Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 24 (Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files)
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 24 (Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files)
Price: £11.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Bag, 28 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The standard of Dredd tales in this volume fluctuate from one extreme to the other. On the one hand, we've got roughly the first two-thirds of The Pit storyline & a couple of decent shorter tales by Wagner, which are worth checking out. But the rest of the material consists of exceptionally weak short stories written by other writers.

If you haven't read The Pit before, then it's definitely worth buying this version, rather than the single volume reprint. That's because it also contains the fantastic 5-'prog' Cal Files, which introduces the character of Edgar. Head of Justice Dept's Public Surveillance Unit, Edgar's run-ins with Dredd are always worth reading. This one is particularly good, with her manipulating him into digging up enough old dirt on senior Judges to potentially rip Justice Dept apart. "Perhaps If I'd been more honest with him..," she wonders. "The habits of a lifetime die hard."

If you've already got The Pit, then you've got a tough decision on your hands. Because The Cal Files are as short as they are sweet & frankly, they are the only other story worth getting this volume for. So whether it's worth buying for that alone is quite a dilemma.

The other shorter stories are exceptionally weak - particularly those from The Megazine. The artwork in most of them is so unclear that it's difficult to tell what's going on. And the writers suffer from a lack of editorial control because a lot of what they come out with is inconsistent with Dredd's world. For example, one is about an overworked Emergency Room doctor - but for decades, Wagner has shown time & again that all non-Justice Dept doctors are robots. A story about a girl who joins the Judges in her teens to investigate the disappearance of her brother (also a Judge) & is somehow captured by a lone madman is even more inexplicable. Alan Grant's portrayal of the Angel gang sharing an ISO Cube with The Devil himself hasn't aged particularly well. Pat Mills - always one for crossing over 2000AD strips - introduces the ABC Warrior Hammerstein to Dredd's world. But unless you're a huge ABC Warriors fan - and is anyone - then you'll be asking yourself 'so what'? But then 'so what' was my reaction to most of these tales. There's a couple (but only a couple) of good light-hearted ones from Wagner, though - including Dredd dealing with the immense pressure of a mandatory 24 hours off.

But The Pit, though - amazing. The story which cemented the transition towards more adult, noir stories where the Judges are seen as humans under huge pressure, who struggle to cope despite all their training. Assigned to turn around the most corrupt & badly run Sector House in the city, Dredd reluctantly finds himself behind a desk. Which of course he hates - "A plush cocoon, cutting him off from the streets. They all had to make sacrifices." But it's surprisingly dangerous work as he investigates the suspicious death of his predecessor & a renegade undercover Judge who can no longer trusts his colleagues. It's a fascinating change of direction, which introduces multiple storylines about different Judges who are affected by Dredd in different ways. It's naturally considered a classic story.

So this is a mix of frankly very poor & frankly fantastic Dredd stories. Definitely worth getting if you don't already own The Pit. Otherwise it's still worth getting for The Cal Files, as long as you don't pay too much for it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 30, 2016 11:36 AM BST


The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones
The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones
Price: £7.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Martin The World Builder, 8 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Wow. Just wow. The amount of detail which has gone into fleshing out George R R Martin's world is just staggering. This really is proof that Martin isn't merely a modern-day Tolkien but an incredible writer who far surpasses th e earlier author who many hold up as the ultimate comparative. Don't get me wrong, because it reads like a history book, I was actually bored in places (but not for very long) & if you find the number of characters in his other books bewildering, then imagine that multiplied by generations which go back over 300 years! But when you step back from it & see it in its entirety, this is an incredible piece which puts his epic into its historical context & makes the trials & tribulations of the current Westeros & beyond seem like a mere flash in the pan.

What really struck me was how believable the characters & situations were. For instance, his history of the Targaryan Kings gives each of them & their families very human flaws. The Mad King wasn't merely mad - the causes of his paranoia are clearly detailed & very convincing. Likewise, his more good-willed ancestors inadvertently caused harm with the best intentions. There are hints that each of the hundreds of named persons has been fleshed out in Martin's mind to have three dimensions, regardless of how minor a role they had. And that's just the people - there's also the detailed maps & his meticulous analysis of how the layout of Westeros has affected its history & the psychology of the residents of each realm. The psychology of its author comes into play, too. For rather than being Martin's version of Westeros, it's actually styled as having been penned by a Maester Of The Citadel. Thus the 'author' is keen to dismiss any ancient legends for which there is little proof (such as absurd allegations that the seasons in Westeros used to occur regularly, instead of having summers & winters which stretched on for years) & as he gifts the book to Tommen Baratheon, he is careful to criticise neither lion nor stag.

I bought the Kindle version. Its plain text includes links to full-sized colour illustrations, which look fantastic on my Tablet. Nevertheless, I have found myself wanting to buy the hardcover as well. The Kindle version is great for reading cover to cover but it would also be nice to dip into it from time to time. Plus there's a qualitative difference between having plain texts interspersed with pictures which can be opened & the wonderful hardback where pictures & texts have been cleverly designed to work together instead of treated as separate entities.

Regardless of the format in which you read it, like many epics this books is occasionally boring yet overall is very absorbing. It has left me wanting to re-read all of the books from the beginning, with the greater understanding that it has provided. It has reminded me that - as excellent as it is - the TV series will never replace the books, no matter how nudity it thrusts at its viewers! It has also left me more keen than ever to get hold of The Hedge Knight, Martins's out-of-print book which is set in Westeros prior to the Game Of Thrones & apparently had a surprisingly significant impact on that world. Well it's going to be such a long wait for the next book, I'm going to have to fill my time somehow!


The Red Knight (Traitor Son Cycle 1)
The Red Knight (Traitor Son Cycle 1)
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars So good that I've even forgiven the awful editing!, 11 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After reading all the Game Of Throes books back-to-back, it has been a real struggle to find any fantasy books which are anywhere near as satisfying. But I've certainly found one here! To be honest, the first time I read it, I only got past the first few chapters before the poor editing put me off - I'd love to meet whoever was paid to proof-read it, so I could ask them with a half-cocked eyebrow, 'look, did you actually read it? No, really, though? Really?' However, upon the second attack, I found that the further into Cameron's world I got, the less it bothered me. The action-packed story grabbed me by the scruff of the neck & held me there - right up to the superb ending, which both gave full closure to the story while leaving me itching to get hold of the sequel.

Cameron's true talent is in bringing his words to flesh. His vivid descriptions of the feeling of wearing armour, the exhaustion of non-stop fighting, so many things, made his story vivid & convincing. I particularly loved his descriptions of magical battles which were refreshingly down-to-earth while presenting a whole new dimension within which the characters could react. And the multiple viewpoints worked well, too. A couple of characters from the early chapters just disappeared, though. One came back at the end to sow seeds for the sequel but another simply vanished. But who knows, perhaps they'll be back too.

The Red Knight is a satisfying, enjoyable read which headed in directions which I wasn't expecting. This in itself makes the anticipation for the sequels all the more delicious. If, like me, you are initially put off by the poor editing, then I'd urge you to stick with it anyway - it's worth it.


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