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Third Time Lucky (London)

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How to be a Complete and Utter Failure
How to be a Complete and Utter Failure
by Steve McDermott
Edition: Audio CD

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Vapid, repetitive content, in a terrible quality recording, 29 Aug 2009
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I was misled into buying this CD - it was only afterwards that I realised Amazon merges reviews for the book with reviews for the much-abridged CD. I don't know if the book is up to much (with all those positive reviews, one would hope so), but the CD is such a load of rubbish I don't know where to begin.

Firstly, the sound quality is atrocious. It sounds as if it was recorded in a teenager's back bedroom, which would be just about tolerable if it had been priced accordingly. But it's an expensive purchase and I'm therefore entitled to expect quality in return. Which I certainly didn't get. If you're used to listening to longwave radio, perhaps it won't annoy you quite so much, but otherwise, expect to listen on full volume to a thin, tinny recording.

Secondly, a good proportion of the CD is taken up with plugging another book and rolling out credits. If I were involved in producing this CD I'd be thoroughly ashamed of myself, and not want to draw attention to my shameful lack of skill and ability, but at least now we know who to blame.

Finally, the content of this CD is just one long yawn. I gave it one star because McDermott is quite an engaging raconteur, but he certainly isn't a motivator and I've heard and read similar anecdotes, and the quotes and examples he employs, at least a million times before. Perhaps if you've never read Napoleon Hill or Paul McKenna you might find something new or interesting here, but otherwise, save your money. For the first time ever, I'm going to contact Amazon in the hope of getting mine back.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2010 3:43 PM GMT

Your Life Can Be Fantastic Too!
Your Life Can Be Fantastic Too!
by Nik Speakman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.99

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to hate this book - but it's surprisingly good, 24 Aug 2009
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I was recommended this book by a clinical hypnotherapist whom I've been seeing for treatment of a phobia, as well as counselling for generalised anxiety following a lot of personal change.

Reading the reviews on Amazon, I was a little sceptical at the number of positive reviews posted by people who seem to know the Speakmans personally. And I should also admit I generally find these sorts of 'postive thinking' books utterly nauseating.

Nevertheless, encouraged by the hypnotherapist's recommendation, I went ahead and ordered it. (He's also an NHS GP, so has a little more credibility than most self-appointed self-help gurus with their tinternet PhDs ).

And my, what a revelation! I am almost embarrassed to admit that I'm a sceptic no more.

The early signs are not good.

The book is full of annoying feelgood quotes (many of them misattributed or, even worse, self-referential), cheesy photos of the Speakmans and their deeply naff 'successful lifestyle', and probably the very worst typography and graphic design you've ever seen. Lose a star for this, Speakmans, particularly given your chapter on self-presentation.

But the content is just, well, "fantastic". There are some touching case studies, and a whole host of great tips and techniques (all NLP and CBT inspired, hence the hypnotherapist's recommendation), all explained in the clearest, most easy-to-follow language you can imagine.

And remarkably, they seem to work.

I've been following some of the anxiety techniques for a week now and I'm frankly amazed at how effective they can be.

The book also offers some 'lifecoaching', and some basic diet and lifestyle advice.
You may find this useful; I ignored it. I'm not at all convinced of the science behind, say, the Speakmans' advocacy of the blood-type diet, daily wheatgrass, avoidance of dairy and so on, or their qualifications to make such recommendations. However, I have friends who swear by such regimes, and as they're among the fittest people I know, I'm now keeping an open mind, particularly since my initial cynicism has been proven so wrong in this case.

If you're suffering from low-level anxiety, phobias, fears, or just dissatisfaction with your life and work, this book is a great basic roadmap. Buy it and Paul McKenna's 'Change Your Life in 7 Days', do the exercises in both books regularly, and you will soon be well on your way to being much, much happier. And a great deal less cynical.

Interior Transformations
Interior Transformations
by Anne Grafton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.77

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring ideas for cosy, comfortable homes, 16 Aug 2009
I have had this book for years, and yet I still refer back to it all the time. My edition is a decade old and yet the interiors themselves don't seem to have dated much.

This is because Grafton uses natural materials and timeless upholstery styles, and has a lovely eye for easy-to-live-with colour. There is nothing sleek or glam about these interiors, but everything is restful, practical, and pretty.

I also like the fact that the houses used in this book have ordinary domestic proportions; so often interiors books rely on dramatic architecture, fabulous original features etc to showcase the interior design, resulting in ideas that are impossible to replicate in real life.

My only criticisms of the book is that the new 2008 edition should have incorporated some new pictures - I flicked through a copy in Waterstone's hoping to see some updated Grafton interiors, and there were none at all. Also, this book will be no good for you if you live in anything post-1950s, as Grafton's classic style relies heavily on florals, checks and stripes, and this could look very twee in a more modern home.

Rice's Architectural Primer
Rice's Architectural Primer
by Matthew Rice
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Utterly charming, but incomplete, 5 Aug 2009
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I feel bad for only giving this four stars, because it really is a lovely little book.

But that's the problem: it's too little. The format of the book itself is small - it's not a coffee-table tome but a standard book size, which compromises the charming illustrations somewhat - and the contents really aren't as comprehensive as the word 'Primer' would suggest.

As a Northerner,(though one who has lived in London for many years), I'm also a bit cross about the over-representation of Southern architecture. Liverpool, which boasts more listed buildings than anywhere except London, doesn't even rate a mention in Rice's book. The whole of Cheshire, which has Viking longhouses, numerous Norman churches and famous half-timbered Tudor streets, is represented by one building. Yet there are half a dozen illustrations of buildings which I distinctly recognise as being within ten minutes' walk of Oxford Circus!

There is also very little on domestic architecture, and although there's a final chapter entitled 'modern', it's very thin, and again, really only references public and corporate buildings.

This is a great book but Rice and his publishers need to up their game, and scope, for the second edition.

To the reviewer wanting to know who Matthew Rice is, he's an illustrator (obviously!) and co-owner of the Emma Bridgewater kitchen crockery empire. Her birds and animals are examples of his work, I believe.

Top Tips for Girls
Top Tips for Girls
by Kate Reardon
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Badly written, banal advice, 31 July 2009
This review is from: Top Tips for Girls (Hardcover)
I am very sceptical about the number of super-enthusiastic reviews for this book - it is one of the most pointless I've ever read - and like Olivia C, find myself wondering if they were submitted by friends of the author.

The advice offered seems aimed at twelve year olds, and the book itself tells you nothing that you couldn't read for free on the website from which its contents were culled.

Black & Decker VH780 Vacuum, 230 V
Black & Decker VH780 Vacuum, 230 V
Price: 34.32

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - every home needs one, 6 Dec 2008
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I can't quite believe I'm writing a review about a portable hoover; but yes, this little gadget really is THAT good. It's inexpensive, has great suction for its size, and is utterly brilliant for those annoying messes that are bad enough to drive you mad, but not serious enough to warrant dragging out the hoover.

New London Style
New London Style
by Chloe Grimshaw
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.80

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars New London Style, as seen in old magazines, 6 Dec 2008
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This review is from: New London Style (Hardcover)
This book was featured in 'House & Garden' and I bought it as a design resource for decorating a new flat in the centre of London.

Whilst it's always fun to peek inside the real homes of real people, none of the interiors featured in this book have genuine "wow" factor, or even practical applications for your own home. There are a lot of design cliches involving the usual expensive suspects - Eames, The Rug Company, Bill Amberg - and most of the people and homes featured are the same ones that regularly appear in the likes of 'Living Etc' and 'Elle Deco'.

'New London Style' is entertaining to flick through, but sadly nothing more. If you look through it once in Waterstone's (sorry Amazon), that will be enough for you to get an idea of its design ethos.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2009 5:34 PM GMT

Nina Campbell's Elements of Design: Elegant Wisdom That Works for Every Room in Your Home
Nina Campbell's Elements of Design: Elegant Wisdom That Works for Every Room in Your Home
by Nina Campbell
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Traditional English interiors with a colourful twist - but few new photos, 6 Dec 2008
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I am a huge fan of Nina Campbell's interiors style, which is the polar opposite of the beige-and-black school of bland. She combines beautiful fabrics and colours in a very traditional English way, but mixes unexpected elements such as clever upholstery (the single bed sofa is a style I'm going to try myself), modern cabinetry (I covet her magenta-coloured mirrored bookshelves), and very interesting contemporary art.

This book features several pictures of Nina's own house, which is as lovely as you'd expect, together with some useful floor plans. Other pictures are clearly just taken from her previous books, which is a bit of a shame, as it would be great to see more of her work.

As usual in interiors publishing, the text is not especially helpful, so don't have high expectations of practical help. But the pictures are a good resource for decorators both professional and amateur, and a delight for 'property porn' addicts like myself.

John Donne: The Poems (Analysing Texts)
John Donne: The Poems (Analysing Texts)
by Mr Joe Nutt
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.63

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to Donne, 6 Dec 2008
This is a great little book. It combines a very comprehensive overview of Donne's poetry with very close commentary of some of the key poems. The author is a schoolmaster, and his teaching experience really shows as he explains technical terms for analysing poetry without ever allowing them to obscure the text he's reviewing.

I did slightly resent the very inflexible reading - Donne is a notoriously slippery poet, and I'd have preferred a few alternative interpretations of his works to have been acknowledged as being at least equally valid.

But generally, this was a real gem, and will be invaluable for students.

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