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Robin L. Stacpoole "robin_lbs" (London, UK)

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The Heroes: Three men.  One battle.  No Heroes.
The Heroes: Three men. One battle. No Heroes.
Price: £5.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Deep deep slaughter but surprisingly insightful about the people swinging the weapons, 15 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Some really good reviews out there; let me take a different perspective. Heroes is a battle, pointless and violent, and that is its point. About half way through the book, you almost get tired of the utterly unremitting mayhem, but then you realize that JA is managing that most difficult objective - developing character through action and to my surprise, you learn a great deal of his cast through their choices and their reaction to their choices in conflict. It ends up being a precious study of people through war. Surprising. Actually amazing.

One small point, much of the battle is shield and sword in shield wall like conflict. JA kills (which he somehow manages to describe in the most realistic and varied detail) are mostly above the waist. My understanding of this form of conflict is that before one side breaks most of the violence happened to the shins and legs, and it was only in routs that one side dropped all their armour and ended up slaughtered in a more conventional manner (please correct me with comment if this is not correct). But it is a fine testament to the book that despite this supposed error I rate this book very highly.

Can be read and enjoyed as a standalone; much more enjoyable when taken in sequence

Best Served Cold (First Law World 1)
Best Served Cold (First Law World 1)
by Joe Abercrombie BA
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Not just murder and revenge, 7 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
"Best Served" starts off following a predictable course; murder and revenge. And just at the point where you are thinking, is there anything more, you start to see perspectives move. The character's roles change and change again and keep your interest while the blood, betrayal and profanity flow or perhaps flood. You buy this book as an easy read and end it thinking, yes, that really is rather clever isn't it? I could get you examples but it would spoil your enjoyment of it. Do get this story and enjoy it.

Kendo: A Comprehensive Guide to Japanese Swordsmanship
Kendo: A Comprehensive Guide to Japanese Swordsmanship
by Geoff Salmon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars From feet to Sakigawa, a great reference guide, 15 July 2013
Salmon Sensei creates a great reference book that I think will be useful for all levels of Kenshi - the comprehensive guide is just what it says on the cover. The book, perhaps the first third, starts with an outline of how to behave in the dojo, take care of your equipment and behave with your teachers and students. For me that main part of is the latter 2/3 where techniques are described in detail. One of the highlights of the book is the great diagrams which manage to tightly integrate with the text giving you an idea of how to do what is described. Descriptions and text provide a precise actionable outline. And while the words describe the dos and do-nots of techniques, they also spend time talking about how any action should feel giving you a real sense that you could try out the advice in the dojo. That said, I feel that the main benefit I will get from "Kendo: A comprehensive guide" is not the first read through that this review represents, but repeated re-visits when I struggle to understand something and when I need some thinking time out at home instead of practice time in at the dojo.

Excel 2013: The Missing Manual
Excel 2013: The Missing Manual
by Matthew MacDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Detail = Enhanced Productivity, 8 July 2013
his is a frustrating and annoying book that I recommend to anyone that uses Excel for 5 plus hours a week.

First the bad stuff. You read this as you want to spend less time in front of a computer screen and get a better result doing it. The book is THICK. I mean close to 3" thick! The prose addresses the broad user community so describes everything from creating a worksheet to grouping tabs for concurrent formatting. I am a late 90s strong Lotus 123 convert so much of the text is irrelevant. Its author also attempts to be your mate as he is writing, attempting to humanise the prose with little attempts at bonhomme. I do not want to be friendly with anyone that has the time and attention to detail to write this, I want to learn how to use the product better, so this is wasted characters and frustrating for me.

But the things you will learn from this book and the impact this will have on your excel make it worth the pain of working through it. Yes, you probably already know 80-95% of it, but the value you will get from the tricks and tips you find make the effort worthwhile.

Highly recommended for 5+ hour a week Excel users. For occasional, or no aspirations to be a power Excel user, get something about 1/2 thick. Or find someone with this on their desk and watch them work. But stay away from this book, unless you want something that in a desperate situation can also be usefully employed in home defense.

Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street
Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street
by Andrew Ross Sorkin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.74

5.0 out of 5 stars A great book - worth the read - but has shortcommings, 13 Jan. 2013
This is a fantastic book detailing first person accounts that record the events leading up to and resulting from the failure of Lehman Brothers. But it is not without its shortcomings.

The first part of the book focuses on Fuld's attempts to save Lehman Brothers. Like a Dr. Strangeway standing at the prow of a massive container ship, Fuld sees all that he has created come apart as the containers of incorrectly secured bad debt shift in the storm of subprime mortgages taking the ship down. As it sinks, Fuld becomes increasingly desperate as he tries to save his company. About 2/3 of the way through the book, the Lehman Brothers slips beneath the waves dragging a desperate Fuld down with it (*) and he makes little impression thereafter.

The latter part of the book focuses on Poulson's attempts to save the American economy that is threatened - really threatened - by Lehman's collapse as the financial storm intensifies. Sorkin takes you inside the rooms of the USA's leading investment banks as all around them collapses as even the leaders of the finance industry lose the confidence of the markets.

The book is rich on information, and while I saw Fuld and Polson as the central characters there are lots of details about those around them to fill out the picture in detail. However, there are shortcomings as well, and while I unambiguously recommend this work, they are worth noting.

Grammar starts off really well. It is wonderful to read an American using correct English forsaking gotten for precision. However, at about half way through the precise English of the book's start flags and colloquial Americanism moves from speech into description. I may be alone in regretting his. However, the book does lose some of its cogency at about the same place ... perhaps representing writing fatigue or a rush to deadline?

This book on the international financial crisis is VERY American. Except for when the Barclay's Bank offer to acquire Lehman fails and the company goes into administration. Sorkin does nothing to correct the quotes from Americans that lay the blame for the failure at Britain's door, an unsupportable conclusion if only because any number of American banks had pulled out of trying to buy Lehman's before Barclays was the last man standing. An analytical failure that is sad.
And analytical failure is something of a theme. Too big to fail is great on the human perspective but falls very short on the analytical review of what may have caused it. Apart from one paragraph - yes one - where Clinton's liberalisation of the financial market is loosely connected to the failure in Bush years.

So what do we have? A great story from some of the world's leading egos about what went wrong told well and from many perspectives. It is really worth reading, it tells what happened in American, but leaves you searching for the international perspective and an answer to "why?"

(*) Yes I realise that it is air excaping from the ship that reduces water specific gravity resulting in people sinking, rather than being "sucked down" but this is a reveiw about a book not a scientific discussion!

Heston Blumenthal at Home
Heston Blumenthal at Home
by Heston Blumenthal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book you read before following instructions in another cooking book !, 13 Jan. 2013
I like this book a lot and here is why. It is solid (no cover for immediate kitchen use) well laid out, with a simple font and lots of white space, simply explained by clear writing, precise instructions and wonderful photos. But it is the details of the explanations where this book really flies. The differentiator is that not only does Heston tell you what to do, he tells you the science behind these instructions so that you can understand why you should do it.

Chapters start with a general introduction followed by a discussion of cooking principles that apply to all recipes and containing occasional -how to - sections clearly differentiated in blue. Recipes then follow with a brief contextual introduction, ingredients and instructions. The odd thing is that given Heston's reputation for complexity, instructions are wonderfully clearly laid out and very easy to follow. And because Heston has taken the time to explain why it is important to do this and that, I find myself following his instructions precisely.

I am sure that I will try many of his recipes, but it is when you look at other cooking books that you really see this book's value. I read how Heston would do something before following another's recipes. This book is that good at teaching you.

Finally, there is a level of humility that runs throughout the book that is very pleasing. On the one hand, this makes the context easy to follow - you do not have to fight through someone's ego to get to the heart of the message. On the other, it has resulted in precious few pictures of Heston within the book. Not a bad thing, as however great a cook Heston is, he has some way to go before earning the title 'pretty boy' :)

The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens
The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens
by David Brooks
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good story, well told, but nothing new, 25 Mar. 2012
A vaguely interesting book that puts a lot accessible human psychology into a story format that follows the development of a child from before conception to death. It is a derivative repetitive work introducing little new knowledge but innovating in the way that information is presented. There were small bits of the book that I had not come across before and if you have not read, for example Influence by Cialdini, this story telling format might be a good introduction to this learning. That said, if you have more than a passing interest in the way that our minds work, the originals are better value.

by Vaughan Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just (good) career advice, 6 Feb. 2012
This review is from: BACKING YOU, MBA (Paperback)
Backing you, MBA! operates on a simple premise: that you can take the skills that are used to evaluate how valuable a company is, apply them to your own career and identify the actions you need to take to maximise the value of your career to you. It does this superbly well, taking you through the due diligence process and showing you how the questions you should be asking about the uncertain value of company can help you maximize the uncertain value of your wages. Text is very accessible and filled with strong examples that back up the theory and make it easy to understand. The prose is chatty, but dense with information and somehow manages that rare trick of USA informality absent the condescension.

This is not your usual buy-read-bookshelf-dust career book. Firstly it will take you a while to read as you stop and think about the implications of the chapters to how you should manage your career (I have not finished it yet and will update this recommendation later). This is a good thing. Secondly it teaches you much more than career progression, providing good insight into how to run a single person consultancy and the due diligence process itself. Strongly recommended. Should compliment "what colour is your parachute" very well

Actioncam Action Video Camera
Actioncam Action Video Camera
Price: £23.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kept on switching off, 17 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I ordered this just before Xmas 2011 with rush delivery. It arrived on time (impressive for 23rd December) and I used it on holiday skiing and snowboarding. Others have commented that you cannot tell when it is working or not, but the problem I found was that it switched off after 30 seconds of use. A strong bleep told me that this was happening, but it then proved more or less impossible to get started again (skiing gloves and the need to get on down the slope!). I believe that this was due to malfunction ( temperatures were very mild -2 to 3 degrees so this was not the cause) and as the product did not take any fall damage I was confident to return it. Additionally, there are newer technologies out on the slope and if / when I buy this functionality again I will get something that is up to date. That said, the one run I was able to take has 10 minutes of good quality video.

On the plus side, Amazon were fantastic at refunding not only the purchase price, but also the P+P to get it to me as well as providing a high quality free post return service. A definite reason to select this platform even when prices are slightly more aggressive elsewhere.

Running Well: Run Smarter, Run Faster, Avoid Injury... and Enjoy It More!
Running Well: Run Smarter, Run Faster, Avoid Injury... and Enjoy It More!
by Sam Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Runner? Buy this book before you get injured, 11 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like many of the reviewers I bought this book after injury. I've been laid of for 4 months and the stupid (really really stupid) thing is that the diagnosis and prevention of my problem is in Running Well and if only I'd bought and read it first I'd be injury free. Do your self a favour, get and read this before you get hurt (particularly if you are getting on a bit).

Running well is strong in a number of areas. Its greatest strength is providing exercises that help you recover from, mitigate or avoid getting hurt while running. The underlying science is explained in words that I found easy to understand; for example they explain that a stretch should not bounce but rather last about 20 seconds as the initial response to extension is for the muscle to contract, but that this diminishes after 10 seconds or so. I have been told many times not to bounce, this is the first time that I have understood why (and this will lead to increased compliance). The theme of easy to understand science extends throughout the book; I found it great.

Descriptions of exercises that will get you in top shape are clear and actionable. Illustrations are simple and support the words well, although some of the pictures are arranged poorly (p 79 has someone doing a ball squat with the head staying in the same place and the feet raising up). They also address the total body, for example including how to improve nerve fitness, something that was new to me.

The authors are experienced both in helping patients recover and as runners themselves, and this credibility helped me accept the advice they offer. Additionally they, despite being fit runners, have avoided the temptation to inundate the book in pictures of themselves - such a breath of fresh air in comparison to the egocentric view of other authors. Sam and Sarah also cover the range of running features that can lead to injuries from shoes to style, providing simple advice on what to do to avoid getting hurt.

There are some short comings to Running Well. Some other reviews mention Running Well's comments on running style. Having enjoyed the scientific focus of the book I was really looking forward to this. However, apart from an introduction Perfect Motion on p 12-13, correct style is only briefly mentioned, and then only when commenting on features that cause injury (please feel free to add recommendations to comments). Running well devotes a chapter to nutrition, but this important subject is better covered by in Sports Nutrition (Complete Guide to) by Anita Bean.

OK, so Running well is not perfect. But in its chosen subject it is so close that you cannot afford to be without it. Buy and read it now, or have plenty of time to do so later while you take time out to recover.

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