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The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
by Noah Lukeman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Those who can, do..., 12 Mar 2013
There's that old expression: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
Of course, that's an exaggeration, but one with a grain of truth which has a degree of relevance here? Has the author inadvertently hoisted himself upon his own petard?

Surely, to write a book concerning aspects of exemplary authorship and presentation, which will then glide effortlessly past the censorious eyes of a literary agent, is to announce that one has achieved a certain mastery of the subject oneself? So we might suppose. But personally I'm not altogether convinced that Mr 'BA-Hons' Lukeman quite earns that accolade with this work.

A book entitled 'The First Five Pages' would, we might imagine, have a truly impeccable 'first five pages' itself? But no, not to my mind anyway. I found some of the preliminary composition and syntax somewhat below the standard one might expect -- given the title!

That said, I still consider that the book does have some merit and useful insights - or reminders (if you're an old hand at the game), so yes, both fledgling writers as well as those more experienced could equally gain something from the reading of this tome. After all, we each suffer a certain degree of fallible mentation; that which is learnt one day, can easily be forgotten the next.

Although this book is primarily aimed at those who are seeking the (dubious!) holy grail of 'getting published by a proper publisher', I think those wishing to self publish could equally benefit from reading this book. In fact, anyone seeking to self-publish should -- perhaps more than any other author -- listen to 'the voice of the trade', and learn how not to make a pig's ear of their 'little gem'?

Working in isolation, in the hermetic bubble of their lonely craft, we often see aspiring, tyro authors getting swept up into an illusory world which is far too redolent of the fictions they are authoring. The steely cold hand of reality needs to enter in here!
If self publishing authors aren't able to successfully swap hats - from that of sanguine writer, to stern, unbiased editor -- they are probably on the road to bitter disappointment.

We need to 'get over ourselves' when self-reviewing, and knowing what to look for, in the way of erroneous inclusions or omissions, as well as all the other particulars of what goes into making a book a *good* book (and not just a 'collation of careless calamities') is important: we ignore them at our peril!

As someone else mentioned hereabouts, also worth a read is 'Self Editing for Fiction Writers' by Browne and King, but you will have to put up with appalling layout and those dreadful, wholly superfluous cartoons.

-- Ho hum!

by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Piffle!, 13 Dec 2012
This review is from: Solar (Paperback)
I'd previously heard of Ian McEwan, but hadn't read any of his work before, so I gave 'Solar' a try, but after slogging my way through it all, I then wished I hadn't bothered!

I came across the book in a loaned holiday apartment, and read it over the course of a couple of days. I didn't like it from the start, but persevered; we all know that some books can improve with persistence, but I just found it to be incessantly gloom-laden, boring and irksome.

Perhaps the scientific aspect was well-researched? But that's about the politest thing I can think to say about this drear and unwholesome work -- and if that sounds like I'm damning the thing with faint praise, then so be it!
Also, the author has -- to my mind, quite unnecessarily -- included in the text at least five very obscure 'sore thumb' sort of words, which even those with an above-average vocabulary probably wouldn't have ever heard of, so the average reader would then need to break off reading, to go and consult a dictionary somewhere for a clearer exposition. Was McEwan just showing off his supposed erudition here? It certainly felt that way...

As to the mysterious, numerous and highly flattering reviews plastered all over this book, [ergo: on the *front* cover, and then on the *back* cover, and then also on an *inside* cover!] -- did any of the reviewers ever actually *read* this horrible book, I kept wondering?
A Sunday Times reviewer [slap-bang on the front cover] states, "Savagely funny..." where?? Which bit?
I have a pretty good sense of humour, but only faintly smiled at *one* tiny quip in this ennui-inducing tome! The rest of the novel was about as funny as wading neck deep through a mosquito-ridden slurry pit with a pack of ravening wolves on the far side.

This ill-conceived novel has a flailing, implausible plot, with a surfeit of utterly impossible sexual encounters; is there any halfway sane woman on earth who could possibly ever fancy such a shifty, egomaniacal, duplicitous, priapic tub of lard as this dysfunctional 'Beard' character? I rather think not.
Overall, the book attempts to depict the miserable exploits of a sick and repulsive, lacklustre and increasingly obese fraudster, on his depraved mission to dupe others and re-invigorate the lazy slob's credibility as a respected scientist. The half-baked storyline includes a babbling cast of wheel-on cardboard characters; and it's all buried deep in an opaque rat's nest of scientific techno-babble.
Yet somehow at the top of the front cover it boldly states: "The International Best Seller"
...Er... "shorely shome mishtake here?"

Sorry Mr McEwan, but 'Solar' is about as "savagely funny" as a motorway traffic accident -- which isn't very funny at all.
IMHO, all vestiges of humour have utterly deserted this banal work, and the only mystery is quite what induced a clutch of slavering hacks to write those many fulsome reviews: were they under the influence of some noxious and illicit substance at the time?
Or maybe some desperate publishers -- apres 'a jolly fine lunch' -- perhaps allowed a few coins of the realm to slyly slip into the pockets and purses of said reviewers?
Either way, I feel that the inapposite reviews of umpteen once-respected publications are now never again to be taken seriously. I shall ignore all such in the future, and instead refer to the opinions of the oft cantankerous but generally much more sincere reviews here on Amazon!

All that said, the book did at least have *one* redeeming quality: it finally came to an end!
This finale was the abrupt and unsatisfactorily fudged denouement, but at least that final page supplies the abject reader with a welcome release from the monotony of all the mindless and *VERY UNFUNNY* foregoing piffle, -- and for that I am truly grateful! :)
I can't help but wonder if Mr McEwan was as anxious to be shot of this ghastly novel as many of his subsequently very disappointed readers have since proved to be?

I don't get much time to read fiction these days, but one thing's for sure: I'll not bother with any other work by Ian McEwan. In my opinion he should never have allowed this hasty, leaden and uninspired quasi-polemical pile of poo to stagger off into print.
In short, think 'Solar' belongs firmly in a paper recycling bin, but never on any sort of bookshelf!

Whilst on holiday I made a mental note that, when I returned home, I would take the trouble to share my opinion concerning this abject trash here on Amazon, and thus hopefully help others not to waste their time (or money) ploughing through such a lot of turgid, time-wasting nonsense.

Still, on a more positive note, at least I didn't have to shell out any hard-earned cash to read this benighted rubbish, so that's one saving grace!

Music Creator 5 (PC CD)
Music Creator 5 (PC CD)
Offered by 1stvideo
Price: 14.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty damn good!, 12 Sep 2012
This review is from: Music Creator 5 (PC CD) (DVD-ROM)
This isn't an in-depth review, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I haven't fully road-tested the software very extensively yet. It's more of a 'first impressions' snapshot, after just quickly bashing out a couple of initial trial songs in C/W's Music Creator 5.

1. First impressions: It's pretty good! I much prefer the GUI (the way it looks + handles) than all the other (pro) Cakewalk stuff I've used! Yes, It's 'a bit basic' in many ways -- but the overall look and feel of the prog is, I feel, a nicer experience. I've battled a lot with Cakewalk stuff over the years, and - although many folks get on fine with Cakewalk gear -- for me it's never been "love at first -- (or fiftieth) -- sight!"

2. One can find niggles with most software, but for the most part this M.C.5 prog is really quite useable! Yes, it would have been nice to have, (eg) a 'floating' operating control, as with most other music software I've used (where you can place / arrange controls and tools on the screen, according to your working methods) but in this situation Cakewalk has 'nailed' the stop-start-record control buttons to the top of the screen, -- so there it stays! And that includes other tools as well, such as the volume, loop, metronome, + tempo controls.

3. This prog recognised all my other 3rd-party FX, which is good, and though seeming a bit 'bog basic' at first sight, MC5 does have quite a lot of depth to it. If you fish around in the menus you'll find all sorts of very useful tools, and -- being Cakewalk - (well, they have been at this music production s/ware business for a *very* long time!) as you might expect, it's got a *lot* of very good features which were probably developed for their other, higher-end progs.

4. A small point: I like that the magnifying glass (to quickly expand or contract the tracks) is placed bottom right of the main multi-track page, and it's less fiddly to operate than say, Adobe's Audition's controls.
I think Sony's Acid Pro has one of the best controls of all, for quickly zooming in and out. [Maybe I could fiddle around and alter the 'mouse dedication' of these in some way, but to date I've not checked out if that's feasible].

5. Probably to appeal to youngsters, or first-time adult users of audio progs, it has 'pretty little pictures' at the head of each track, displaying (eg) a mic (for vocals) a MIDI plug (for MIDI tracks), a pic of a guitar, for a guitar track, and a pic of a drum kit for (... er... what should I record on *that* track I wonder?!) :-)

Yes, it all looks a bit 'play school' -- esp for those who've used professional s/ware progs, but for those new to this area I expect "pretty little graphics" will really appeal, and make their first ventures into recording much less daunting.

6. Loading the program up on a PC wasn't tricky, and - to try to defeat naughty folk who don't care to swell Cakewalk'$ coffer$ -- you are obliged to register your serial no. via the company website.
I think C/W don't care to offer easy migration tools(?) so if you fit a new hard drive to yr set up, you may have probs re-loading (migrating) to that, -- or to a new laptop / pc?
But then, at this sort of price, (you're not paying for $1,000 professional s/ware after all!) it wouldn't be so very tragic to buy a new copy?

7. The *quality* is good, so, along with full MIDI, you can also record in 44.1kHz / 16-bit audio, which , being the same quality as a CD, should be more than enough for beginners, and is also less 'juicy' than recording in a higher definition -- which is good news for those running older machines or operating systems, (such as Win XP), which couldn't cope with very memory-hungry or processor-hogging s/ware.

>> Overall verdict: quite a nice little prog, esp for beginners, so at this price, don't hesitate -- go for it!
And don't feel abashed that this program is a bit amateurish-looking, always remember that the Beatles recorded their famous 'Sgt Pepper' album on very bog-basic *four track* tape equipment! -- which proves that successful music making has a lot more to do with *originality and creative spirit*, than precisely what gear you're working on.
A top-flight piece of studio kit, in the hands of an uncreative, copyist wannabe-poser, will likely churn out the same ghastly, unmusical, clichéd racket as if it were recorded on a beaten up 1970's mono cassette deck!

At the Threshold of the New World: Dreams Vision and Letters of Helena Roerich
At the Threshold of the New World: Dreams Vision and Letters of Helena Roerich
by Helena Roerich
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Quality Stuff, but..., 12 Sep 2012
This is all good stuff, and the White Mountain Educational Association are widely respected among the esoteric community, but as to the price... <ouch>! how many ordinary folks can easily afford that sort of lolly?

If you *aren't* unable to afford this worthy tome, then much of the content is available in Helena Roerich's other works. Apart from the Agni Yoga series, which she wrote in conjunction with Master Morya, she also published 'Letters of Helena Roerich' (Volumes 1 and 2) which gives a deep insight into many of the topics discussed in this book.

The 250 pages in 'At The Threshold...' are filled with wonderful tales and much worthy guidance, and I personally just love to read insights into her life and times, -- living as she often was, in remote areas of the Tibetan foothills, where her husband (the highly talented and very prolific Nicholas Roerich) and their sons lived together, all working, writing, teaching, creating amazing art (paintings and sculptures), collecting and studying medicinal herbs, and trying to help the (real!) 'New Age' into being...

They had a world-wide impact between them, and this book tells much about of the day-to-day work they carried out, -- focussing of course, on Helena herself in the main. What an amazing woman! and a fabulous read, -- once you've sold your house to be able to afford it! :-)

The Ageless Wisdom Teaching
The Ageless Wisdom Teaching
by Benjamin Creme
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worse than useless!, 12 Sep 2012
The title of this review might seem damning, but it isn't disingenuous. The reason for such an excoriating view is based largely on the author himself, as well as his dubious publications. He gained notoriety back in the 1980's by (falsely) predicting that, 'the Christ' (aka: Maitreya) was in effect, "alive and well, and living in the (very rundown) Brick Lane area of London, -- hiding away among the Bangladeshi community (!) until the world's press 'outed' him, and then, and only then, could he apparently could pop out and govern the world..." -- etc, etc.

Creme made a succession of associated predictions, and -- like many another cult leader -- his fictions and predictions were eventually proved wholly false and worthless in the end.
This then, is treacherous ground for those who come across this book, because he pinches a lot, if not most, from truer, better-established authors, (such as Helena P. Blavatsky, Alice A. Bailey and Helena Roerich), then weaves his own twaddle into and onto that, then presents it all as fact, thus misleading many people, -- especially those new to this often very complex area of study.

This book *does* have some worthy bits in it, -- but these parts, in their original context would be better read *in those other works*, -- not all mashed up with Creme's tin-pot theories and rampant plagiarism!

In this book one reads all sorts of bits which Creme has sneaked in, such as (e.g.) the mention of his 'Transmission Meditation' (which no *true* Master ever recommended!) -- wherein a little knot of lost souls (Creme's predominantly female acolytes / tiny fan club!) sit around holding a straggly length of wire, attached to a crudely-made plastic pyramid for hours on end, simply because Creme told them that this was a useful thing to do.
In truth, it does nothing at all. It's just more hocus-pocus.

It's all rather reminiscent of Wilhelm Reich's 'orgone accumulator', or the useless device of that other cult: Scient*l*gy's fatuous use of an 'E-meter'. Hey, it's "tin-foil hat time" again folks! :-)

If such crude devices were actually useful, we might have expected one of the real Teachers to have mentioned them somewhere? But no, they knew that no such silly mechanical contrivances were needed to meditate, you just need *you*, -- and a bit of true guidance as to the aims and processes, not mumbo jumbo from self-appointed, widely discredited cranks!

The publishers of those other (authentic) authors have since done much to distance themselves from B. Creme over the years, as he has caused their valuable 'world service' work to be dismissed by many readers -- they who now associate such established authors with the nonsense promulgated by him.
In so doing, Creme has actively harmed the cause of bringing the valuable Ancient Wisdom Teachings to a wider public. Who here would relish the accruing 'bad karma' from treading on the toes of such powerful beings as the *authentic* Teachers of such?

To any who might be tempted to read works by the obsessed, (if not actually 'possessed') individual, Mr B. Creme, I would advise, "If you want apples, don't look under the pear tree!" -- go instead to the 'real thing', and you'll find all that you need right there!

Precision Mains Powered LED Bedside Alarm Clock
Precision Mains Powered LED Bedside Alarm Clock

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Terrible Fibber of a Clock! :o, 24 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We bought one of these for someone who was very ill, and had poor eyesight, so that he could read it easily. I'm pretty conversant with hi-tech stuff, so it was me who set it up for him. I'm not sure how he got on with it, because he couldn't communicate very much, and then he died quite soon afterwards, so we took it back home...

However, no matter what we tried to do - (by way of re-siting the clock in different rooms, placing it right near the windows, and right away from any other bit of kit which might confound its tiny electronic brain) it stubbornly refuses to tell the right time -- it just tells fibs instead!

In the end, after extensive and very patient testing and trying, we are now going to send it back. Shame really, because the numerals are quite an attractive shade of blue, and it's large and clear enough to read from right across the room.

Ho hum, -- maybe some of that 'acid rain' they have in China got in the works somehow!?

Chillout Moods - Tubular Bells
Chillout Moods - Tubular Bells
Offered by olympusmusic
Price: 8.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good!, 3 Mar 2012
We don't usually care very much for 'assortment' (mixed artist) compilations, but upon playing this, we found that the selections here are really rather good.

This is a double (x2) CD set, = 32 tracks in all, and features many original artists (not a load of duff cover versions!) - such as the title track, which is Mike Oldfield at his 'tubular' best, with the eponymous opening track...

We are part of a centre where we play only very quiet, soothing and relaxing music, and this CD doesn't have too many / any 'nasty surprises', as do some compilations, such as those which may have some gentle, relaxing sounds on them, but then suddenly a blast of something loud or raucous cuts in!

Also, this collection has some tasty and quite eclectic pieces on it, ranging from NA Indian sounds, decent vocal as well as instrumental tracks, some Robbie Robertson (ex-'The Band', who once backed some old geezer called 'Bob Dylan' aeons ago) plus Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Gerry Rafferty and many more...

Not all tracks may appeal to your great aunt Mabel, [or your great aunt Derek, for that matter!] :) but if you or yours like decent quality sounds, and don't mind something 'a little bit different' then this might well appeal.
~ It's quite a good choice for almost anyone who likes some pleasant and calming music to play, as you turn off that wretched TV, light a few candles, and sit down to a relaxing / romantic dinner-for-two at home...

...Oh, it's just you and the cat again? ... oh well, never mind, I'm sure you'll still enjoy the subtle ambience once you start listening to this collection!

Pretty Good Bits from a Prairie Home Companion and Garrison Keillor: A Specially Priced Introduction to the World of Lake Wobegon
Pretty Good Bits from a Prairie Home Companion and Garrison Keillor: A Specially Priced Introduction to the World of Lake Wobegon
by Prairie Home Companion
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 4.90

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Song & Dance Act...?, 26 Feb 2011
I just wanted to post a quick note to 'flag up' to any potential buyers that, - if you're expecting a CD filled with G.K.'s inimitable stories, maybe look elsewhere?

I'm not saying this is a *bad* audio CD, I can't - as I've only listened to one track out of the #8! -{ the one called 'Pontoon', taken from his book of the same name }- but from what I gather, looking at the track listings, the rest seem to be singing and so on, taken from G.K.'s radio show.
They might be good, humorous, fun, clever, et al, -but in this instance I just wanted some of those quiet, semi-soporific studio readings he is famous for.

The 'Pontoon' story he reads here is done live, in front of an audience, and yea, - done well! - but I wanted something other. So for this reason I'm just about to try and return it, and ask if the sellers have a CD full of studio readings of his stories instead...

--> Of course, it might have been helpful (for all concerned) to have written a little about the CD on this page, mentioning that the item was mainly an amalgam of chirpy spoof ads and stuff from his US radio shows? But, -as of writing- there is nothing on this page to that effect, hence this (hopefully useful) note...

[ Ps: and yes, I'm a fan of Garrison Keillor, -have just bought three of his books from Amazon! ]
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2013 11:19 AM BST

Kaspersky Internet Security 2011, 3 PC, 1 Year Subscription (PC)
Kaspersky Internet Security 2011, 3 PC, 1 Year Subscription (PC)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit nervous!, 7 Feb 2011
Oh dear, what a shame about this new version!
I've just finished my first year with Kaspersky (2010), and, although very trepidatious at first, after reading *tons* reviews on *all* makes of AV progs, I eventually chose to run with Kaspersky. ~ I'm glad I did!

Verdict: After x1 year with it, I've been very happy with the performance! Fairly non-intrusive, does its job quietly and well, and seems to catch any bugs floating around. It's not the most *communicative* prog on the market, but hey, - nothing's perfect on this odd little planet! ;)
(Having said all that, now that there's about 12 days to go before expiry, it is being a tad persistent in popping up with little reminders here and there...)

About a hundred years ago (!) I was with Norton, then found it was letting in 'bugs' and was also full of 'bloatware' (over-stuffed with useless bits) and was *really* difficult to scrub clean from any machine! -- so I shopped around a bit...

Finally I settled on Trend Micro PC-cillin. This seemed reasonably proficient for about five years, and the website was informative, but the prog was too invasive; eg: when it did anything, a huge pop-up screen appeared right in the centre of my screen, obliterating any prog I was working in. I did mention this prob to TrendMicro, -when they asked for feedback- but (of course) they took no notice!

The reason I finally ditched Trend products was when they rushed one year's update onto the market without proper testing [oh I DO so wish software makers wouldn't do that thing!]
Anyway, their new update killed my PC, (it was a known issue!) and so I had to spend half a day on the phone with Tech Support, who guided me through the hellish complications of unpicking the horrendous mess *their update had caused*.
The young guy @ Trend UK was good, and also gave me a year's free update, but that finished it for me! :(

Now, one year on, it's time to renew my Kaspersky, but I'm glad fellow users have bothered to put their reviews on here... >> Thanks Guys! <<
I earn part of my living via my PC, so can't take the risk of having my machine messed up with a duff version of an updated AV prog, so am probably going to pay for a new 2011 version, but not install, just use the Licence Key to refresh my 2010 prog ...

... and pray that the good reputation which Kaspersky had begun to build up doesn't now get ruined by putting out new, -incompletely untested versions- which are full of bugs or bloatware and which mess up many PCs?

[And yes, I appreciate that this review should probably be under the '2010' version heading, but hope it helps less-experienced fellow Anti Virus buyers in some way?]
~ If I update to 2011 at some later point, I may then drop by and add to this feedback.

<-+++++++++++ !! UPDATE !! +++++++++++->

I've returned to this earlier post to add a new comment:

After much thought, I decided that, -because my PC is so central to my various works-- I couldn't afford to take the (potential) risk of getting it 'gummed up' with v. 2011.

So I simply purchased the 'x1 PC, x1 User' version of Kaspersky 2011 [Amazon = 20] and went to the 'Renew' part of v.2010, and fed the licence no. into the right slot.
Now I have the program up and running as good as new!

**Of use to other users? -->

Before doing this, I had phoned Kaspersky UK and spoke to a very *helpful* person there... {Yes, -they do exist!} :>)

She told me that they _were_ aware of the various 'glitches' and 'bloatware' in v. 2011, and had been trying to convince 'head office' (Russia, I presume) to not make the same mistakes in future releases.
She also said all would work fine by my simply feeding a new number into the existing program, to continue using it as before.

I hope that helps any readers here?

~ Bon voyage! ~

BT Decor 1200 Telephone with BT Answer 1571 Voice Mail Indication
BT Decor 1200 Telephone with BT Answer 1571 Voice Mail Indication

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another *rubbishy* BT phone! :(, 28 Oct 2010
We have now bought about four or five of these horrible Decor 1200's, but, --after a few weeks or months, they started to go wrong on us, in exactly the same way as many other reviewers (here and elsewhere on the 'net) have mentioned.

We think that it's terrible for the environment, (unnecessarily adding to landfill) as well as for their poor customers, that BT are selling such *rubbishy* phones. Who does it benefit to sell such shoddy goods? And aren't BT worried that their company is now accruing such a terrible reputation?

As far as we are concerned, for both our home and our business use, we will never be buying another BT phone; they have now caused us too many unnecessary costs, as well as all the time-consuming hassles involved when their machines fail on us after just a few weeks or months. And fellow users we know have bought the same models as us, and found exactly the same thing; -- one poor guy had to return three BT Decor phones in just a month or two!

And, (should anyone wonder) we take *very* good care of all of our equipment, and are very used to handling / using delicate hi-tech gear, so it isn't down to rough treatment that these products fail, it's down to inferior design, shoddy components and manufacture, and lack of proper QC (quality control).

There was a time (before they got privatised) that BT made good, reliable phones which lasted for very many years, -- sadly it seems those days have long since gone.

So... Goodbye BT! you've lost yet another a lifelong buyer of your products! We've just put our last BT phone in the bin, and ordered a new set of Siemens phones from Amazon.
We finally got fed up with faulty BT phones, so, after very extensive research and reading (literally 100's) of reviews, we discovered that Siemens make far better, and much more reliable products, -- esp. the Eco DECT line [eg: Gigaset C595 etc] -which have got loads of marvellous reviews, --right across the Internet-- as well as getting 'Which Magazine' awards. If Siemens can make such brilliant-sounding, reliable, and eco-friendly phones, why not BT I wonder?

So, our sincere advice to any potential phone purchasers is this: steer well clear of BT junk, and instead check out Panasonic or Siemens? Yes, you may initially pay a bit more, but in the long run it's probably well worth it!

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