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FIFA 14 (PS3)
FIFA 14 (PS3)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: £9.24

1.0 out of 5 stars Not fun, 7 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: FIFA 14 (PS3) (Video Game)
This game is about as far away from being "pick up and play" as possible. There's something like 5 different sets of controls for you to remember, depending on the context of the match, and getting just one of those controls (e.g. X for short pass) to do what you want is going to take hours of practice.

If you pick up this game without extensive prior FIFA experience, your first attempt at playing a match is going to be chaos. And it's not even going to be fun chaos, because you feel completely disconnected from what's happening. So you'll quit the match and think "fair enough, I should do the tutorials to practice the mechanics". And then you'll spend forever trying to succeed in just one of the tens of skill games that you need to master to have a handle on the controls.

In short, it's going to take many hours of work just to get the players to do what you want them to do, and then you can *begin* to think about playing for fun.

That kind of investment isn't what I'm looking for in a game. If I had known it would take this much work, I would have just joined a real football club.

Under Heaven
Under Heaven
by Guy Gavriel Kay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but entertaining, 14 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Under Heaven (Paperback)
There's a lot to like about Under Heaven: the quality of the writing, the richness and novelty of the setting (most fantasy/historical fiction is rather European in flavour), the strong focus on character and the exploration of their pasts.

However, the story has two, interconnected, flaws.

The first is pacing. On page 300 we read the sentence "it was beginning". It's not an exaggeration. The first half of the book, while engaging in the way it establishes the characters and setting, does very little in the way of advancing the plot. It takes several hundred pages to catch up with the blurb on the back cover. Several hundred pages of build up, of characters talking about how momentous the following events are going to be.

With that kind of build up, Kay really needs to deliver the goods, and I'm afraid the second half of the story is somewhat lacking in that regard. The ending is unbelievably rushed - in some cases several months being dealt with in a couple of paragraphs - and it's a start contrast to the hundreds of pages it took to cover several days in the first half. Many of the most significant consequences of the story's main plot point - the gift of the horses - are glossed over and just mentioned, rather than depicted. In short, the ending of the story feels like a summary of a much larger book, one that did the tale justice.

That connects us with the second flaw, which is the tendency of the author to tell rather than show. The author has a favourite way of shaping his characters in the reader's mind: he switches viewpoint and we hear the internal musings of one character on another. This is lazy characterisation. So often the reader just receives declarations of a character's abilities and temperament rather than seeing those abilities in action. The same is true of plot points. We're told again and again of the danger of the imperial court, of the way courtesy and formality can be used as a weapon, of how the gift of 250 horses will make Tai's life miserable... but we never really see it. It's just hot air.

Despite all that, the story is an enjoyable read and there are some good moments of characterisation - most particularly those delivered by that most overused of literary techniques, the flashback.

I would give it 3.5/5, but I've rounded it up to 4 as Amazon doesn't allow halves.

The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton
The Alchemy Reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton
by Stanton J. Linden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lacks modern work, 4 Nov. 2013
This book is an excellent collection of writings on the topic of alchemy. Especially notable is an entry from Nicolas Flamel himself, who unfortunately passed away recently.

However, the book does lack more modern papers. In particular it's missing any representative from the extensive work of Albus Dumbledore -- a rather significant omission, given his prominent role in the field.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2014 7:41 PM BST

Engineering Mathematics
Engineering Mathematics
by K.A. Stroud
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed quality, 29 Aug. 2013
My first impression of this book was that it's excellent - and this is true for many parts. However, other parts are rushed with gaps in the explanations and, worst of all, gaps in the worked examples.

This is especially true of the trigonometry sections. One example is the section "Equations of the form a cos(x) + b sin(x) = c", on page 339. This was an incredibly rushed explanation with more than one gap. Further, even those parts that were worked out on the page were essentially arbitrary steps. "Now square everything", "now add the two equations together". No motivation as to why these things are done was provided, as such the process is unreplicable by the reader in exercises. The worked example basically happens by magic.

Algebra sections are good, however, as are the calculus parts.

Talk Spanish Grammar
Talk Spanish Grammar
by Susan Dunnett
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good introduction, 7 July 2013
This review is from: Talk Spanish Grammar (Paperback)
A great book, very easy reading and good at explaining the concepts. The only part I found a bit lacking was the section on the subjunctive, which was rather short and somewhat piecemeal. It introduced the form, then a few situations in which it is used, but it could have done with a more general introduction before all that about what a grammatical mood is and the essence of the subjunctive mood.

The Road
The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overly-stylised prose detracts from the story, 8 Jan. 2012
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)
The writing of this novel is extremely stylised. For me, it just doesn't work. It's commonly said that masters of an art are free to break the rules whereas plebs must keep to them, but McCarthy has gone too far. There are several key offences: lack of speech marks around speech, many sentences not including a main verb, overt overuse of the word "and", clunky phrasing.

I get the feeling that the lack of speech marks is meant to signify the closeness of the father and the son, and how empty the world is around them. Speech marks aren't needed: they're the only ones speaking. However, the way it actually works out is that it feels like the father and his son are speaking telepathically. Lack of speech marks runs the dialogue into the narration, which includes the thoughts of the point of view character. So speech merges with thought, and with that comes the impression of telepathy.

The lack of main verbs in so many sentences is much worse, in my opinion, because it feels very amateurish. Sparing use of the odd sentence without a main verb is, I think, fine. But when over half of the narration are these sentences that aren't correctly formed with a main verb - describing impressions and fleeting thoughts and trying to give the impression of a fragmented mind under strain - it just feels like the author is trying too hard. It's not quite purple prose, but it is in the same class of annoyances - it's overly stylised. It actually reads quite a bit like fan fiction, where you commonly see writers use similar prose to try to be Dramatic and Literary.

The phrasing is also clunky. Not only are the sentences all very short and simple, they just don't parse right. The flow is all wrong. You often have to go back and reread a sentence just to get what was being said, because the word order is so weird. I also dislike the deliberate over-use of the word "and" for the same reason as the lack of main verbs - author trying too hard.

Definitely hipster fiction. The prose can only be appreciated in contrast to a background of literary history, so we can see that its deliberately bad. But I don't really care about sharing knowing winks with people about how sophisticated I am for enjoying something that's deliberately bad, whereas everyone else is silly for thinking it's just bad. Because it is just bad.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2012 2:26 PM GMT

Rosetta Stone, Spanish (Latin America), Version 4, TOTALe, Level 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 (Mac/PC)[OLD VERSION]
Rosetta Stone, Spanish (Latin America), Version 4, TOTALe, Level 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 (Mac/PC)[OLD VERSION]

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor, 7 Nov. 2011
The way this product works is by providing multiple choice answers. Unfortunately these answers are designed so that you can get them all right simply by knowledge of nouns and pronouns. For example, in lesson 3 of unit 1 there is a section on what appears to be the present continuous - though I'm not certain. Instead of testing it compared to the present simple that you've been using, all it tests is your ability to see "la mujer" and select the picture with a woman. It doesn't check your understanding of the structure at all. I finished the lesson and got 100% and I'm still not sure if the suffix -ando is the equivalent of the English -ing or if it's something else entirely.

Even worse, after the boredom of the first two lessons which covered about 5 items of vocabulary each and basic conjugation in the 3rd person (singular and plural), suddenly lesson three has introduced more subjects, what appears to be the present continuous, a load more vocabulary, and a lot of stuff on gender and number agreement. It doesn't separate these concepts out at all and test understanding of them separately: you get it all at once. Again, you can be getting the right answers throughout without having any real understanding of what you're doing.

From what I've seen so far, this is good for learning vocabulary and some pronunciation (though the voice recognition software isn't very good; I've got it right multiple times when I know I've gotten it wrong).

I'm going to keep at it, but I'm very disappointed so far.

The Magicians: (Book 1)
The Magicians: (Book 1)
by Lev Grossman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shallow, 15 Aug. 2011
Everything about this book is shallow, a symptom of its rushed pacing. The characters have no depth to them - they feel like cut-outs, not real people. We're told certain things about the characters by the author, certainly. We're told that Quentin has a bad home life. But we never see it. Nor do you have any real feeling for the make-up of magical society, or the school they go to, or magic itself. All these things just feel like placeholders. The worldbuilding is simply terrible. It's the kind of world that could be created in 5 minutes on the back of a receipt. Compare this world with Harry Potter, with Kingkiller Chronicles, with Song of Ice and Fire, with the Dresden Files, and you'll see that this world really has nothing going for it at all.

To make things worse, almost all of the characters are detestable. Especially the main character. Only a lack of anything else to do kept me reading, especially after what happens at the start of book two. Alice is really the only character worth anything, and even she is pretty 2D.

The interpersonal conflict feels artificial because of the poor characterisation. You never get the feeling of "yes, it makes sense that the character would do that", because the characters have no character. Everything that happens seems to happen by authorial fiat, not because that would be the natural way for these characters to act.

The constant breaking of the 4th wall with the knowing references to Narnia (Fillory) and Harry Potter are very irritating and destroy all immersion.


A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback

32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better Upon Re-Reading, 27 May 2011
When I first read this book I, like many other reviews here, found it very frustrating. A Feast for Crows takes place simultaneously with much of the forthcoming next book, A Dance with Dragons, and most of my favourite Point of View characters were held off for that story. Many of the new Point of Views in this book I found dull, especially the Iron Islands segments.

However, I have recently re-read the book in preparation for the near release of the next book, and I find it greatly improved upon the re-read. Instead of rushing through the story I took my time with it, and I learnt to enjoy the new PoVs. If you stop thinking about all the PoVs you are missing and are patient, and take the time to enjoy the new storylines, it's much better than rushing through the book just to get to the not-yet-released next book.

I have in fact found this to be true of the series as a whole.

That said, it remains the weakest book of the series so far. Hopefully, once combined with Dance with Dragons it will be redeemed in light of that (hopefully, great) book.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2013 9:46 PM GMT

Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Wittgenstein and the Tractatus (Routledge Philosophy Guidebooks)
Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Wittgenstein and the Tractatus (Routledge Philosophy Guidebooks)
by Michael Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for Basics, 26 Oct. 2010
This book is a great aid to understanding the technicalities of the system of "metaphysics" of the Tractatus - the 1s, 2s, and 3s mostly. However, it is not so helpful in clarifying the more technical logical points of the 4s and 5s. Further, its focus on discussing a Kantian reading of the Tractatus and a discussion of Solipsism are misleading in how much time the book spends on them - these are not issues of great debate in Wittgenstein scholarship. The much larger debate - that surrounding Wittgenstein's "nonsense" claim - is comparatively glossed over. For good coverage of this debate look to Hacker and Diamond (opposing positions).

All in all a solid book for the basics of understanding what the Tractatus is saying on the surface (a difficult task in itself) but not so great for issues of interpretation.

The brief introduction to Frege and Russell is also helpful in placing the Tractatus in context.

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