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Tyler Durden (UK)

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Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse: And Other Lessons from Modern Life
Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse: And Other Lessons from Modern Life
Price: £4.79

2.0 out of 5 stars Really not as funny as he thinks he is., 26 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Normally, I really enjoy David Mitchell on panel shows and so forth but this book is thin material.

Mitchell takes an initially potentially amusing observation and proceeds to wring the humour out of it with excessive repetition, tedious political correctness and an almost complete lack of self-awareness. He comes across as a pound shop Charlie Brooker.

Perhaps his book suffers from an unconscious comparison with the hilarious, moving, wryness of Simon Gray's The Smoking Diaries, that I recently finished. Now THERE was a funny guy...

The Deaths
The Deaths
by Mark Lawson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Read, 16 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Deaths (Paperback)
As many other reviewers have outlined the book’s premise, I won’t repeat the exercise here. Lawson’s characters are largely stereotypes and it can be tricky remembering who they are, what they do and who they’re married to in the early stages of the book. However, if you’ve read a bit of Tolstoy, it’s a breeze. The problem is that they aren’t really that different from each other. He tries to introduce some humanity to Emily (the GP) but it is not all that convincing.

The paperback is not very well proof-read; the early chapters have ‘complementary’ mis-spelled as ‘complimentary’, completely changing the meaning of a sentence and there is at least one ‘your’ where ‘you’re’ is intended.
Lawson has a reasonable ear for upper middle class conversation, although some of what he imagines as ex-public schoolboy banter is off the mark and rather strained. In addition, do people really have slang terms for their bowel movements and genitals? Has anyone ever really used ‘dalek’ as a verb for station tannoy announcements? He also betrays his metropolitan background on occasion; at one point a character refers to ‘hunting guns’. As any country dweller will tell you, we use horses and hounds to hunt in this country, not guns. In fact, the whole chapter set on a clay shooting ground (or ‘range’ as Lawson calls it) is embarrassingly inaccurate and I was surprised to see an acknowledgement to a shooting expert at the back of the text. However, these are minor quibbles in an entertaining and largely well-written book.

A few reviewers have compared The Deaths to JK Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy (coincidentally, Lawson interviewed Rowling on Radio 4’s Front Row, when her book was published). Mercifully, Lawson has a much better grasp of English prose than JK Rowling and we are spared the latter’s clunky metaphors and Dan Brownian verb choices.

This is not landmark literature by any means but it is a cut above a lot of holiday reads. Lawson makes some wry insights, such as ‘The men looked older because they had to earn enough money for their wives to look younger’ and he pretty much nails the middle-aged concerns of impending age, disease and death. The book is padded out with what feels like excessive detail about shopping habits, cars, fitness fads and consumer electronics, which the author hopes will help set the scene but which place the book very much in the present and it clearly won’t age well, if at all. Overall it is an enjoyable read, although rather dark at times. Lawson even finishes the book with a Joycean flourish.

Proraso Shaving Cream Tube (150ml)
Proraso Shaving Cream Tube (150ml)
Offered by The Executive Shaving Company
Price: £6.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Mama Mia!, 13 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Exceptionally good value and a fantastic shaving cream for the summer months. Lathers up a treat and the menthol 'hit' is really refreshing.

FUEL: The Worlds Smallest Phone Charger - Red
FUEL: The Worlds Smallest Phone Charger - Red
Offered by Devotec Industries
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Emergency Charger, 13 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is actually the second one of these that I have had; on the first one, the tiny switch snapped off within 24 hours. No such problems with the second item and I have been using it for some weeks now. It seems quite robust, as it should be if it's dangling off your keyring. The supplied lanyard seems plenty strong enough and, although the battery itself looks a bit scuffed, the paint hasn't chipped off or become scratched. I did wonder whether the rubber 'filler cap' that protects the output plug would stay in place but it certainly has so far.

You need to understand that a charger this tiny will not supply much energy; on my Nexus 5, I get 6-7% from a complete discharge and this takes about 20 minutes. So this is an emergency charger to enable you to make or receive that crucial call. The manufacturer claims that the battery will hold a charge for three months but that it is prudent to check it each month. I make a note to discharge and recharge it once a month and it's dead easy to do.

With the larger screens and increased functionality of smartphones, batteries can drain fast, so it makes sense to have an emergency power source. This is a remarkable little piece of engineering and I highly recommend it.

Sondergut, Travel Backgammon, Mocha
Sondergut, Travel Backgammon, Mocha
Offered by Sondergut
Price: £25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Little Backgammon Set, 8 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is beautifully made; the leather is accurately cut and the board rolls up to a very neat cylinder. The leather has a nap that means that it grips well on smooth surfaces and lies flat for easy game play. The edges of mine were bent where the board had been packed into its box but these flattened out.

The dice and stones are small but well moulded and easy to use. The rolled game is very compact and will fit into a corner of a bag.

Excellent price as well. You can easily pay twice as much elsewhere.

Knots 3D
Knots 3D
Price: £1.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great!, 28 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Knots 3D (App)
Really nice app. Knots are grouped both by type and by application. 3D animations can be rotated and slowed down and there are handy comments on each knot. Probably the best free knot app out there.

As Green as Grass: Growing Up Before, During & After the Second World War
As Green as Grass: Growing Up Before, During & After the Second World War
Price: £5.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as Good as Great Western Beach, 28 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Whereas Smith's first volume of memoirs (The Great Western Beach) was an engrossing and fascinating read, this second book is anything but. Despite the fact that the events narrated take place during a crucial period in history, Smith fails to place them in a wider context or provide any of the detail that made the first book so readable. As a result, As Green as Grass becomes a rather boring diary of her mundane personal life. I found myself skim-reading large sections of the book, desperately looking for something interesting.

Kindle Paperwhite, 6" High-Resolution Display (212 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi
Kindle Paperwhite, 6" High-Resolution Display (212 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi
Price: £109.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Great, 28 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are plenty of detailed reviews on here, mostly from seasoned kindle owners and, dare I say it, a few fanboys, prone to over-praising. This is my first kindle and I'm reviewing it from the point of view of a first-time owner. I have owned an iPod Touch, an iPad and a couple of smartphones and have read books on all these devices, so I'm generally comparing reading these to the Paperwhite. First the good things about the Paperwhite:

Great display for reading. Unlike tablet and phone LCD screens, the Paperwhite's e-ink screen is clear and legible in all lighting conditions, even in bright sunlight.

Excellent battery life. LCD screens chew up power, even for reading. The Paperwhite has a much longer battery life; days (or even weeks) as opposed to hours. This is particularly handy when out and about or camping.

The Paperwhite is much lighter and easier to hold than a tablet. Easily held in one hand and great for when you're lying in bed or otherwise loafing.

There are some downsides, however:

The screen is slightly rough to the touch and this feels a bit odd after the smoothness of glass LCD touch screens. It is responsive enough, though.

Construction of the Paperwhite feels rather old-fashioned. The screen is slightly recessed and can trap dust, as can the channel between the bezel and the edge of the case. This does feel quite dated when compared to the smooth, seamless contours of tablets and smartphones.

This is, of course, a dedicated reading device but remember that the display is black-and-white ONLY. This is great for reading text but not so good for any books you might buy that depend on photographs. This is where using the kindle app on a tablet is much better than a Paperwhite. Similarly, any detailed maps or diagrams will appear fairly small on the Paperwhite's screen, even with the limited magnification available. I see that newspapers and magazines are available for kindle but you'd be wasting your money if you can only view them on the Paperhwhite's monochrome screen.

Overall, the Paperwhite is an excellent reader. The browser is very basic and not really any use for anything other than browsing the kindle store but as a device for reading text-only books, which is 99% of my reading, the Paperwhite is unmatched. I feel the device is a bit overpriced at £109 for what feels like quite basic technology, hence four stars instead of five.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 4, 2014 11:40 PM BST

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby
by Sarah Churchwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Informative, 23 Sept. 2014
The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite novels and I re-read it every couple of years. There is much to love about Sarah Churchwell’s book and she has undoubtedly undertaken an enormous amount of research in preparation for this dense, informative book which is part social history, part biography and part literary analysis.

As other reviewers have noted, Churchwell makes much of the unsolved Hall-Mills double murder but her attempts to draw parallels between people and events in the case and wider American society, are tenuous at best. The murder seems to have had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on either The Great Gatsby or Fitzgerald’s thought processes, so its inclusion is something of a mystery.

Like so many academics, Churchwell feels the need to parade her politically correct credentials and her condemnation of Fitzgerald’s ‘casual racism’ is laughably anachronistic. She chides Fitzgerald for holding the views common to his time and class and seems to think that he should have anticipated and embraced concepts of racial equality that would not become fashionable for at least another generation. Every mention of the word negro (common parlance in the 1920s and not a racist term at that time) is carefully enclosed in quotation marks to make it clear that the author is distancing herself from it. As the writer of a book that is part historical, Churchwell should realise the absurdity of measuring historical social attitudes against current mores.

Churchwell is on firmer ground in other aspects of the book and there are some fascinating insights into not just the Fitzgeralds but other literary figures of the day. She successfully fleshes out the places and events that influenced Fitzgerald’s manuscript and describes the real-life figures on which Fitzgerald based so many of his fictional characters.

The last chapters of the book are mainly concerned with the latter years of Scott Fitzgerald’s life. Extracts from Zelda’s letters, in particular, make for heart-breaking reading as she is in a fog of mental illness by this time and Scott’s fortunes have collapsed. Scott died of a heart attack at the tragically young age of 44 and Zelda burned to death in the locked ward of a lunatic asylum less than a decade later.

Despite the minor niggles noted above, this is an entertaining and informative read and has enhanced my enjoyment and understanding of what remains the quintessential American novel.

Proraso Pre and Post Shave Cream (100 ml)
Proraso Pre and Post Shave Cream (100 ml)
Offered by Shaving Shack
Price: £9.21

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Pre Shave Cream, 1 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Although this is marketed as both a pre and post-shave cream in the UK, the packaging describes it as the former. It is indeed an excellent pre-shave cream; easy to apply and slick. It is also entirely water-based so you need only use water to rinse your hand clean.

It does not work as a post-shave balm for me at all. It does not get absorbed into my skin and just 'sits there' feeling greasy and smelling pungent from the menthol and eucalyptus. These are great qualities for a pre-shave lotion but useless for a post-shave product.

The menthol fragrance is a bit 'in your face' and this is another reason why it is not a very good post-shave cream. Terrific product and excellent value. I now use only Proraso in the summer months.

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