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Daniel O'Connor (Sussex)

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DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Austria
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Austria
by DK Publishing
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Great travel guide, sent slowly, 7 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great book - as are all of DK's guides.

Only thing is... the seller took so long to get it to me, I'd returned from my holiday by the time it arrived.

Keep on Running: The Highs and Lows of a Marathon Addict
Keep on Running: The Highs and Lows of a Marathon Addict
Price: £5.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting -- but don't copy how he trains, 12 Feb. 2015
It's good. He hits on all of the thoughts that go through your head, all the bargains you make with yourself and all the half-cocked calculations you make as you readjust your expectations in the light of better/worse-than-expected performance.

The only thing I'd really like to comment on, however is this: the way he trains and his thoughts about "junk miles". Modern sports science suggests it's all wrong. Towards the end of the book, after he gets his Garmin 305, he talks for the first time in detail about the amount he trains and the effort he expends. I think he, and any runner thinking of doing a marathon for the first time, should have a read of a book such as Matt Fitzgerald's "80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower". Sure, he's run more than 20 marathons, so he must be doing *something* right, but I reckon he'd have done better to alternate slower runs with quicker ones.

From Last to First: How I Became a Marathon Champion
From Last to First: How I Became a Marathon Champion
Price: £1.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational. And he comes across as a really good bloke, too., 8 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Love this book. Charlie Spedding is Britain's only Olympic marathon medal winner (might revisit this review after 2020, depending on how Mo Farah shapes up) and Last to First tells us how he did it.

Quick answer: a little bit of talent (although not *that* much, he seems to make us want to believe), a lot of dedication and a frame of mind that allowed him to peak for just the right occasions. Never the fastest, he nevertheless managed to win the London marathon in 1984, get a bronze in the Los Angeles Olympic marathon, and hold the fastest English marathon time for an unlikely 29 years.

Very well written and easy to follow, the book takes us through his career and training, how he got himself "up" for the biggest races, and leaves the reader with a pleasant understanding of his humility and modesty. My left Achilles tendon has been hurting for the last six months and it's interesting to read how he was able to overcome injuries and setbacks from the beginning to the end of his running years. I found the way he was able to change the way he thought about himself (an epiphany in a pub) inspirational and it's given me hope of one day getting a sub-three hour marathon. Thanks, fella!

Magician's End (The Chaoswar Saga, Book 3) (Riftwar 4)
Magician's End (The Chaoswar Saga, Book 3) (Riftwar 4)
by Raymond E. Feist
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's really good. The best Feist since the original trilogy., 11 May 2013
Whew! That was a goodie.

After all the lazy, 180-page, phoned-in Riftwar novels we've had over the years, all the editorial mistakes, all the various, contradictory Big Bads we've had, "Magician's End" really pulls things together at the... well, at the *end*.

And it is an end. The final pages leave you in no doubt that although Midkemia may keep on spinning on its axis, the characters that we've grown to love over the decades have completed their stories. I *so* hope that Feist doesn't decide to reboot the whole thing for a final cash-in, because this is as good a finale as any fan of "Magician", "Silverthorn" and "Sethanon" could have wished for.

It's a long book -- more than 600 pages. You get the universe-scale drama -- Pug trying to figure out how to stop everything in existence from not going up in a puff of smoke -- and the human-scale story, too -- the conDoin brothers and their part in the civil war of the Kingdom of the Isles. You can't help but admire Ray's enthusiasm for this stuff; how many more ways can there possibly be to describe sieges or massed battles?

"Magician's End" is the first Riftwar book in a very long time that makes me really think that Feist has actually gone back and read his first books ("Magician", in particular). You get a few cameos from characters you didn't think you'd see again and namechecks of, well, pretty much every major character that's ever appeared over the years, from Princess Carline to Roo Avery. And FANTUS! It's nice to have them remembered.

I remember looking at the paperback of "Magician" back in 1984, flicking through it and gradually deciding to buy it as I mentally reapportioned my available cash reserves away from tubes of Refeshers and bars of Caramac. I was a Fantasy virgin, you see; the genre had never interested me before then. I can still see the book on the shelf of the local newsagent, chunkily taking up twice as much space as everything around it. It became my favourite book and I was thrilled to get it autographed by the great man when he did a signing session at Forbidden Planet when "Magician's End" debuted on May 5. Truthfully, he looked a teeny bit grumpy, didn't make much eye contact with the people buying his book and didn't look at me or hear a word I said when I muttered "Well done -- you did it!" to him. But that's okay. This book and the way he was able to bring the series around makes everything all right again.

Not perfect -- some of the dialogue, especially when it comes out of the mouths of kids, sounds stilted and a bit weird -- but what the hell. It's flipping great. Probably his best book since "Magician". Five stars and two thumbs up.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2013 12:17 AM BST

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You (The Oatmeal)
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You (The Oatmeal)
by The Oatmeal
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great! But wish Matt had waited for a *bit* more material., 9 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Flip through "5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (& Other Useful Guides)" and this book and you'll notice something: the pictures in "How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You" are about a billion times bigger. It's because there's only been a year or so in between the two books and The Oatmeal (a.k.a. Matt Inman) had less new material for this one. It's therefore a lot less crammed.

This could be a good thing for those readers who don't like squinting at their favourite online comics printed in book form.

For me, it felt slightly deflating. The quality's just as high as it ever was, but is it greedy of me to ask for a tiny bit more - no other way to say this - *quantity*? The Cat-Vs-Internet series takes up 20% of the whole book.

I'm probably complaining too much. The Oatmeal is one of the very best things on the Internet and Matt Inman himself, with his work sticking it to shifty California lawyers and making a Tesla museum possible, seems like a person it'd be easy to hero worship. But I hope he's able to take his time a bit more with the next Oatmeal book.

A Crown Imperilled (The Chaoswar Saga, Book 2) (Midkemian Trilogy 2)
A Crown Imperilled (The Chaoswar Saga, Book 2) (Midkemian Trilogy 2)
by Raymond E. Feist
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly unprofessional, 19 Mar. 2012
That two reviewers have chosen to give this book five stars is laughable.

The first book in this, the final Riftwar Series, was a big improvement; that's why "A Crown Imperilled" is a disappointment. It takes several steps backwards and reminds me of the lazy, "Is this good enough?" Ray we've seen for much of the last 10-15 years. Lots of moving around of scenery and shifting of characters from one place to another, some characterisation that just doesn't feel *right* somehow (our little Isalani friend, especially) and a feeling that the story is simply treading water until the climax with "Magician's End".

Even with all that said, there's a lot of interesting stuff in the book and it'd probably deserve a strong three stars out of five, if not 3.5.


My god. The editing. Hah - did I say "editing"?? I find it hard to believe anyone receiving a wage bothered to check through this book before rushing it to the printer. There are the spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and sentences which simply miss out words on virtually every page. Fine, fine. Mistakes happen. But not noticing that the characters of Pug and his son, Magnus (or is it "Marcus"? It's hard to tell), are transposed midway through the book is just unacceptable. Without being too spoilery, we first see Pug approaching and then entering a particular place. He introduces himself to the place's inhabitants and then starts on a project. Later, we see Magnus working on the project. Hhm? So... so Pug, offscreen, has brought Magnus over to have a look at the project, then, yeah? Okay, good. Efficient storytelling; we're not having everything filled in for us.

Only, no, it's then made clear that Pug knows nothing about this place and is brought there *for the first time* later in the book. It's one thing for the editors at Harper Voyager to never bother doing any fact checking when Ray writes something (such as letting him know that, actually, Erik Von Darkmoor DID marry and the Minwanabi WERE wiped out) - it's understandable, after all. Who has time to go scrabbling through old novels to check stuff out? But to not even bother fact checking whether something in one part of a book is consistent with what happens only several dozen pages later beggars belief. It shows nothing but contempt for the stupid reader, hooked after reading "Magician" and with no choice but to stay with the series to the grisly, disappointing end.

[Review edit]

Just read an interview with Feist which briefly touches on his clinical depression. Okay, NOW I feel bad. I blame ALL this book's problems on the editors!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2013 11:58 AM BST

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He lost it after A Storm Of Swords, 20 Sept. 2011
I remember writing an Amazon review after finishing A Storm Of Swords back in, what, 2000 or so? I said that new fantasy was now ruined for me, because nothing could match up to what I'd just read. And sadly, as far as this series is concerned, that's been proved to be true.

11 years after the release of ASOS, we're now able to look back and ask, "Was the decision to split book four into two parts a good one?" And the answer is, resoundingly, no. In the over a decade since the Red Wedding, we've watched Brienne trudge boringly and pointlessly for hundreds of turgid pages to... where, exactly? There still appears to be no point to Davos, other than as someone who can observe Stannis Baratheon at close hand. The machinations of both the Iron Islands and Dorne appear to be red herrings that simply use up space. Cersei Lannister's characterisation appears to have gone from "cunning and scheming" to "uncaring, drunken and doltish" with no explanation as to why. And Dany, once a warrior queen prepared to strap maegi to burning pyres, has now become as declawed as lil' Tommen. And stupidly lovesick.

The characters we actually care about? A few dozen pages of Bran. Tyrion's story descending - and this is maddening - into pointlessness (does *anyone* care about the whole thing with the dwarf girl he's with at the moment?). Arya stuck in Bravos with no apparent end game in sight.

And don't get me started on "words are wind". George, get a firm, confident editor, okay? You'll be happier, your readers will be happier, and we'll all get along fine.

GRRM made a big thing about the ending of the TV show "Lost" and how he thought it was crap. Well, that is one heck of a hostage to fortune he created there when he was that vocal about someone else's project. Especially if, as now seems more than possible, he's not able to turn things around in the final two books.

Amazon's definition of two stars is "I don't like it". Three stars is "It's OK". This book was OK. Whether you think it's worth the hours of your life reading a 900-page book that you'll finish thinking "That was... OK" is up to you. The series hasn't *quite* jumped the shark yet, but Jon Snow is powering up the speedboat and Theon Greyjoy looks like he's starting to strap on a pair of water-skis.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2013 1:12 PM BST

Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
by Christopher McDougall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great romp, filled with juicy info snippets, 9 May 2011
This book has a bit of a split personality. 80% is written in a very loose, anecdote-telling, Gonzo-style voice that describes - in staggering detail, with all the background info and context you'd ever need - the build-up to a killer race. The remaining 20% is more journalistic and occasionally pops up to give the reader a collection of fascinating statistics and facts.

You'll either like the breathless description of the Mexican Copper Canyons race or you won't. I liked it, once I was able to tune in and accept the spirit in which it was written: the guy who wrote it is breathless because he's genuinely excited. He's not cynical or cool; he really believes in what he's seen and what he's describing. And that's infectious.

The snippets of information you also pick up should be of interest to any runner or even non-runners wondering what it's all about. A few points that occurred to me:

* Dean Karnazes ("Ultramarathon Man") comes off pretty badly in comparison with Scott Jurek.

* Chia seeds, Chia seeds, Chia seeds. I've already bought mine, made the gel, and am ingesting the stuff until it's coming out of my ears.

* These may be the sentences that finally push me over the edge to order a pair of Vibram Five Fingers: "A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that make our feet weak, cause us to overpronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries... Runners wearing top-of-the-line shoes are 123% more likely to get injured than runners in cheap shoes... [After a particular race] Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40." That's pretty damning and will cause me to look at my Asics with a lot more skepticism from now on.

This is a *positive* review, but you'd also do well to read the much more critical one-star review from "Gerund". He asks several questions, not answered in the book, about the author's conclusions on barefoot running.

For me, though, it's a heck of an adventure, this book, and you'd have to be pretty cold-hearted not to take at least *one* thing from it that doesn't inspire.

A Kingdom Besieged (The Chaoswar Saga, Book 1) (Midkemian Trilogy 1)
A Kingdom Besieged (The Chaoswar Saga, Book 1) (Midkemian Trilogy 1)
by Raymond E. Feist
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget Magician, Silverthorn and Sethanon and it's pretty good, 6 April 2011
Pleasantly surprised!

I'd more or less given up on Ray several books ago and probably wrote words to that effect in previous reviews. But this was actually a lot of fun to read, so long as I was careful not to think about Magician, Silverthorn or A Darkness At Sethanon. If you have the book and are reading this review before beginning, I'd advise you do the same; think back to past glories (and Magician *was* glorious) and you're doomed.

*** Slightly spoilery from now on ***

Some comments, praise and criticisms:

Always love to see Pug, but he just gets the same old, earnest moments he always gets in this book. It's the Superman problem: he's so very powerful, that if there were no impediments to him doing what he wanted, he'd just magic the bad stuff away. Feist doesn't have him do all that much. The same goes for Tomas - I think he's one of the really wasted characters of the whole saga. All he *ever* does is cameos (when he even appears; he's not in this one); I'd really have loved to see more of him and his conflicts over the years - how the two sides of his human/Valheru character manifest themselves, for good or bad, for example.

The two demons who've just entered Midkemia are *extremely* interesting. What's the deal with them, and do they offer the possibility of a certain prophecy not being as straightforward as we had imagined?

Other people have commented and I'd go along with the criticism of how it's a bit lazy to keep on reproducing the same characters in different generations. How many Jimmy Jamersons have we had now? Admittedly, the current version shows a bit more vulnerability than the original Jimmy The Hand, but still... A little more imagination in character types, please, Ray.

Once again struck by the retconning and how what we thought was the *real* enemy turns out not to have been. So we've gone from the Valheru to demons to Nalar to the D**** (have I missed anyone out?). Whatever. I try not to consider the internal logic of the story any longer - and for that reason I look forward to the return of, ah, the original occupant of the, erm (desperately trying not to spoil too much) "clothing" at the end, even though there's no WAY that creature's life energy could logically be available for resurrection.

But all that said, it was pretty damn good! Liked it a lot and look forward to the next one.

Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong
Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong
by Martin Lindstrom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read the five-star reviews skeptically, 14 Jan. 2011
The book starts with a foreward featuring the unusually critical "Like a Pre-Raphaelite painting there is a glow that emanates from Martin as if he was destined to be on stage. No, not as a matinee idol, but as some god waif. The man exudes virtue." Steady on! Isn't there anything positive you can say about the guy? (/irony)

Fortunately, Martin Lindstrom is happy to redress the balance and tell us all about what a titan of a man he is. At great length. There are *some* pages in "Buyology" that don't feature the words "I" or "me", but don't worry; there aren't many.

The best thing I can say about this book is that it occasionally provokes a resigned shrug. It tells you stuff you've most likely already read about somewhere else or thought to yourself. It would possibly have made a good "Time" magazine feature spread and probably has about ten magazine pages-worth of content. Including photos and art design, of course. But "an absolutely magnificent guided tour in my brain"? No. If you are sincerely looking for a book that can tell you the way the mind works, I can't think of anything better than Robert B. Cialdini's "Influence".

*Another* note to Amazon (previous reviewers have said the same thing): wouldn't it be possible to devise a way of weeding out fake five-star scores by people who have only ever given a single, one-sentence "a new way for times to come"-style review? You can see why the author's publishers/marketing team indulge in astroturfing, but why do you tolerate it? You were quick to delete the one-star reviews complaining about the price of ebooks as compared to printed copies - and you were absolutely right to do so. Not doing the same for the fake five-star reviews shows a lack of moral consistency. How about only allowing reviews to go online once a reviewer has submitted, say, three reviews of different products? It would make astroturfing more difficult and give consumers a more accurate picture of what they are thinking of buying. And you'd be getting slightly higher up towards the moral high ground.

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