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L. Green "Feltano" (London, UK)

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Purple Your People: The Secrets to Inspired, Happy, More Profitable People
Purple Your People: The Secrets to Inspired, Happy, More Profitable People
by Jane Sunley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well laid-out guide to improving your business, but reads like an advert, 24 Nov. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`Get the people stuff right!' boasts this book - pledging tips to happier, more inspired people. You'd be forgiven for expecting your standard self help stuff, but no; the language of this book is rooted firmly in the cut and thrust of hard business.
It's the kind of book you imagine the CEO's of the wannabe `next Google/Facebook' would carry on their person at all times. The blend of hard-hitting business material and cheery `positive thinking!' stuff is on the whole well balances, although the superhero job advert analogy did make me chuckle.

The book's best merit is probably in its layout - it looks really slick and well compiled from the start. It's all well bullet-pointed and interspersed with lots of pop-out boxes and the like, you get the sense this highly visual methodology plays well into the pro-active overtones of the whole book. Its greatest downside? The way the whole book reads like one massive advert for Learn Purple itself and their 'friends' (various companies that form in-depth case studies throughout the book)

After all, this is a system based on profound change and action - every page of this guide is about targeting problems - or more specifically areas of improvement - and finding solutions. In its strive for perfection it can all come across as rather domineering, bulldozing right through with no room for stragglers - but you get the sense the ideal market for this book would have no qualms with following the letters of this book to a T.

Of course, by extrapolating an existing `improvement system' into a book format, the tendency to pick and choose what bits you want to use is tempting, but while this methodology would often work with other similar guides, you get the sense it wouldn't here. In Purple Your People, the strict overtures of business are absolute. For a fairly `out there' guide (just look at the title!), the language of business is laid on pretty thick.

The lasting impression is of a system where you are very much either in or out, and it's something reflected in the overall readability of the book itself.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 29, 2011 12:32 PM GMT

The Noughties 2000-2009: A Decade that Changed the World
The Noughties 2000-2009: A Decade that Changed the World
by Tim Footman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice look back over the past 10 years, 17 Nov. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's been so many of these Best Bits / Top Moments type things on the telly recently and a fair share of them usually never go into enough depth or get the balance totally wrong between informing and entertaining.

Good job then that this book contains just the right mix - music, current affairs, tech stuff - oh, and just the right dash of celebrity.

Growing up in the 'noughties', it feels almost quaint to look back over all this already - but like they say, it's the stuff you know the most that you love the most.

A really entertaining read.

The Left Hand of God
The Left Hand of God
by Paul Hoffman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great start and an interesting world, but plot feels bloated, 27 May 2011
This review is from: The Left Hand of God (Paperback)
Paul Hoffman's imagination certainly can't be faulted. In the four-hundred or so pages of The Left Hand of God, he manages to create a wonderfully unique and quirky world. The plot is relatively standard fantasy-quest fare - a whole host of twists and turns leading central character Cale from his oppression at the hands of a strict religious order to the vast, opulent city of Memphis. It's not the plot that makes the novel stand out though - if I'm completely honest, the plot actually lets the book down a little, it's all perhaps a little too convoluted. No, what makes Cale's adventures stand out is the sheer idea's Hoffman draws on, as well as his highly distinct writing style.

His tone is highly colloquial, reading the book, you feel as if he's sat there opposite you, relating this vast saga over a glass or two of wine. It's all a little bit of this, a little bit of that; everything helping to contribute to this patchwork world that seems to hold certain similarities to our own (mentions to Norway among others), but so many other differences.

On the whole, this works to the book's favour - indeed, it is its biggest draw. But there are times when it can grow tiresome - this book is full of digressions, many holding no relevance to the central plot. Yes, it could be argued they add to the world of the novel, but there's only so many quirky deviations you can tolerate before you feel like saying `get on with it'. Rest assured, if there's something Hoffman can say in two words, he'll use twenty instead.
That word again, `quirky'. The Left Hand of God is very much a product of the `random' school of writing. Authors like Lemony Snicket are the masters of it - that wry, humorous slant on everything; even the darkest of matters like death and hardship.

Which brings me to a matter I found rather troublesome - who exactly this book is aimed at. It's definitely not for children - swear-words are frequent, as are sexual references and on the whole a rather grim tone of black humour that pervades through the whole book. Equally though, the book definitely doesn't feel like it's for adults either. The central characters are children and the `quirky' tone, as mentioned above, often works against itself. Teenagers then perhaps? They certainly seem the most viable audience for the book.

The issue of the intended audience always seems to rear its head in regards to fantasy novels (of which, The Left Hand of God most definitely is), but it seems even more prevalent here. The difficulty to place the novel is representative of the ever-shifting, undefined quality that seems to cloak so many elements of the plot and its characters. Cale might be young, but he is also a highly trained killer, and one who will do so without a shred of remorse. Again, it's almost unsettling to imagine this boy journeying around ending lives so ruthlessly, as he does in one scene where he effortlessly kills eight men in about as many minutes.

I also found the portrayal of the female characters in the book rather troublesome too - so often they seemed reduced to mere sensual objects, mostly described in regards to their appearance or how they might best interact with men.
Let's pick up on some of the more positive aspects though - If you're a fan of vivid characters and lots of backstabbing and treachery, The Left Hand of God will be right up your street. For a fantasy novel, it's refreshing to see something so focused on its characters and the book really feels propelled by their dealings with one-another. Much of this centres around favours, the plot unfolding around a twisted web of benefits and bonuses for those skilled characters who best manage to eke out an existence in this immensely competitive world.

Competitiveness is another key element of the book - as you might expect of a classic fantasy novel, there's plenty of fight scenes and swordplay. Here, it's all about hyper-skilled characters, the real crème de la crème fighting other extremely talented individuals. And while at times it all feels a little Top Trumps (he's just that little bit stronger/faster so he wins the fight), it's good fun and well-written stuff.

And so, just as so many elements of The Left Hand of God are hard to pin down, so to is it hard to decide what I ultimately make of the book. I was certainly entertained, and Hoffman's imagination is undeniable. But so often I felt the plot dragged immensely as the characters went through the processes again of unpacking their own individual philosophies on life or what skills they posses. As such, the book feels an unnecessarily bulky beast. There are many cuts of prime fantasy fare to be found here for sure, but you feel that if only everything was more lean and streamlined, the whole affair would be that whole lot more enjoyable.

Becoming Nancy
Becoming Nancy
by Terry Ronald
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, moving and wonderfully written! I loved it!, 22 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Becoming Nancy (Hardcover)
The debut novel by Terry Ronald and drawing from his own experiences growing up, Becoming Nancy follows the adventures of fifteen year-old South London boy David Starr as he comes to terms with his own sexuality and the attitudes of others towards him.

Written in a wonderfully colloquial and breezy tone, Becoming Nancy comes across as a brilliant blend of the touching period drama of the BBCs recent adaptation of Toast as well as the cheeky schoolboy humour of The Inbetweeners. Full to the brim with all manner of expletives and wise-cracks, Ronald's wit spills from every page - yes, there's lots of swearing here, but it feels justified, authentic, real. This isn't a children's book, it doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of life. Its appeal is all-encompassing though; teens will love the sheer unadulterated fun and naughtiness of it all while adults will look back on David Starr's world full of nostalgia for their own youth.

Capturing the life of a teenager is something so many authors try and fail to accomplish; that troublesome task of pinning down all those emotions and feelings that rush through your head during those years. But Ronald gets it spot on. Taking you right into Starr's mind, you really care for him as a character - as he is subjected to beatings, hardship and abuse throughout the book, you wish you could step through the page and stand by his side as a friend, an ally.

Indeed, it is the camaraderie between Starr and his friends that forms the backbone of Becoming Nancy. His best friend Frances is feisty, full of attitude; the conscience that keeps Starr on track in his darkest hours. Likewise, his sister Chrissy is wonderfully portrayed - Starr's early sexual encounter with her best mate Abi had me in stitches. Every step of the way, Becoming Nancy is there with a cheeky wink and a plate of innuendo; I genuinely think I found reason to laugh on almost every page of the book. Again, proper humour is something very hard to pin down in a novel, but Becoming Nancy takes it in its stride and delivers every single time.

Growing up in South London myself, the world of the novel felt exceptionally real to me. Part of the charm of the book is that it taps into your own childhood, your own experiences; you begin to question what you might have done in Starr's situation. There's something about those teenage years of your life, something magical and indescribable, and Becoming Nancy offers a brief window back on those hazy, frantic years. With its descriptions of London suburbia, Starr's work at a local bar and trips to Oxford Street and Brighton, the book captures an inherently British slice of life.

And then there's the pop culture references. Like the expletives, these come thick and fast. A minute won't go by without Starr informing you exactly what brand of food he's eating or what TV show he's sat down to watch on the box. For those that were growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I imagine it will transport you back to those times in a flash, and for those that weren't born then, it presents a vivid look back into the history of this country. With mentions of Thatcherism and the National Front, Becoming Nancy recalls a time defined by changing attitudes and strife - all seen through the eyes of one teenage boy.

It is the mentions of music that possess the most charm however. Like any teenager, Starr has his popstar idols who decorate his bedroom walls and whose records are never off the stereo. In this instance, Blondie and Abba. Starr regales us of his extensive 12" collection, full of rare, limited editions. For any record collector, this will raise a grin of recognition, as it did with me. We understand. And in a delightful, inspired bit of imagery, Starr's dreams are filled with conversations with Debbie Harry and Kate Bush - they act as a voice in his mind, someone to share his troubles with when there is no-one else. It's a sweet, touching moment that throws a beautiful touch of surrealism into the novel.

It sounds a cliche, but Becoming Nancy is most definitely a real page-turner. It's paced brilliantly, whipping along with the excitement of teenage hormones, only ever briefly stopping to catch its breath. Starr's narration feels so authentic, enthused with Ronald's knack for creating genuine characters and giving them a voice. And so, for just over 300 pages, you lose yourself in a snapshot of the past, a picture-postcard of David Starr's youth... and so often, it feels, moments of our own youth too.

Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide
Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide
by William Hussey
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Promising new fantasy series that is bound to please fans of Shan, Horowitz etc., 26 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Dawn of the Demontide is the first in a new series of young adult fantasy novels. The whole demons and magic thing has been done to death in recent years so it takes something special to stand out, and thankfully, this book manages to do that. Focusing around the central character of Jake, the contemporary English setting stands brilliantly at odds with the fantasy elements that slowly creep into the novel. The aspects of Jake's home, family and school life are depicted particularly well and add all the more to the impact when all rational logic is stripped away in the latter stages of the novel as his life becomes wrapped up in the fight against demon-kind.

The use of flashbacks is extremely well done too, elements of the past interconnecting in a jigsaw like manner to further the reader's understanding of the present - it is this blend of old and new, magic and contemporary that helps define this novel and is one of its greatest strengths. The characters are painted well too, the bond between Jake and his parents being of particular note. One of the most horrifying scenes in the book comes when Jake's mother is beheaded in an uncaring and gruesome act of violence as Jake is forced to run to save his own skin.

There are plenty of twists littered throughout the novel and the gradual release of information to the reader is well-maintained. In a brilliant revelation, a character set up at the start as a villain is shown to repent, only to be killed - an act that strikes a surprisingly empathetic chord with the reader. The true villain of the piece, Marcus Crowden, is brilliantly depicted too, a sinister, ageless figure full of mystique.

I felt the closing chapters of the novel were a slight let down, the resolution coming too quickly in a classic `big stand off' scenario with all the major players involved - too much happens in too short a space of time. With the villain escaping too, there was an air of a get out clause that too easily leads into the next book. These criticisms can largely be forgiven though due to the overall tone and quality of the book as a whole. I was certainly impressed and would definitely invest in the other books in the series, on release.

Crocodile Tears (Alex Rider)
Crocodile Tears (Alex Rider)
by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horowitz delivers up another impressive chunk of Alex Rider action, 15 Jan. 2010
Crocodile Tears is the eagerly awaited next instalment in Anthony Horowitz's massively popular teen spy series, and right from the outset, we are thrust into another rip-roaring ride of action and fast-paced thrills. As per usual, the plot features numerous locations across the globe, this time encompassing India, Scotland and Africa, painting an involving and fresh backdrop for Alex's latest adventure.

With the series now running into its 8th book, there's always the danger of repetitiveness, but thankfully, such as Horowitz's skill as a writer that we never get a sense of this. He does what he does so well that the book's are always a pure pleasure to read, gripping you from start to end. Crocodile Tears is no exception and continues in the more gritty vein of adventure that was picked out in previous book Snakehead.

There's a crucial scene where Alex is `tortured', suspended above a pit of crocodiles and forced to confess and the sense of danger we experience here is truly palpable - as well as the novel presenting us with a truly despicable villain in the form of Desmond McCain. Whereas the Alex Rider villains have frequently hidden criminal activity beneath legitimate looking public fronts, McCain's facade as proprietor of a charity organisation paints him out as the lowest of the low, something emphasised even further as we find out the extent of his plan.

We also see more of Alex's home life as he yet again is forced to balance school with his MI6 activities. One of the book's highlights comes though when Alex faces the prospect of a journalist selling the story of `Alex Rider - teenage spy' to the papers. What follows however is a chilling and deeply unnerving chapter where MI6's power is shown to the full, and how Alex's activities not only affect his own life, but all those that come into contact with him as the journalist's life is `erased' piece by piece.

Crocodile Tears is a highly enjoyable read and shows that a decade on, the series is still full of promise. Alex Rider is not just a spy, he's a literary character that has enraptured the youth of Britain in what is surely one of the best series of teen novels ever.

Avatar [DVD]
Avatar [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Offered by streetsahead
Price: £3.84

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James Cameron delivers another masterpiece with the sheer beauty that is Avatar, 18 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Avatar [DVD] (DVD)
It goes without saying that James Cameron is one of the greatest directors of our time. Titantic, Terminator, Aliens - all epic classics that have all made their mark in cinematic history. Does Avatar look set to do the same? The film has been surrounded by an immense amount of hype; statements that it's the most expensive film ever made, the dazzling trailers pulling you in with the promise of lush special effects. Avatar is an `event' movie if ever there was one, and on seeing the film itself, all i can say is boy does it live up to expectations.

For fans of action/thriller/sci-fi, this really does have it all. A lush, intensely realised setting, so lifelike you feel you can reach out and touch it (especially if you go and see the film in 3D like i did), a fantastic cast which the audience can thoroughly invest in and a plot that takes you on an emotional journey that only the very best films can manage. Encompassing themes of war, peace, nature and racial harmony, Avatar is surprisingly sentimental for an `action' film and is all the better for it.

As the film's lead protagonist, Sam Worthington puts in a stunning performance as Jake Sully. In his regular life as a marine, he is wheelchair-bound from a military injury - and on his transformation into his `avatar' body, you can genuinely feel his freedom in being able to not only walk again, but fully explore the physical capabilities of his body. As he is taught further in the ways of the alien Na'vi - Avatar takes on a kind of coming-of-age feel as he gradually achieves acceptance within their community. We learn with him, establishing a bond that is all the more important as the film progresses. Sigourney Weaver also puts in a great showing as determined scientist Grace, as do Michelle Rodriquez and Stephen Lang in their military roles.

And as for the graphics, well, they're breathtaking. The realism on offer in terms of the depiction of the Na'vi race and their jungle surrounding is incredible. The bright colours make for a refreshing change too from the usual dark greys and silvers of typical metallic sci-fi settings. The action sequences are stunning and those coming to this film for the likes of gun-fights, explosions and aerial battles will not be disappointed.

All in all, Avatar is quite simply an epic in every sense of the word. It is a blockbuster movie from the out and lives up to this tag in every sense of the word. But it's the way it's been crafted, with such attention lavished on every detail that is behind its success. It's the little subtleties played up against the big drama, both woven together perfectly in every scene, that defines it as a film and ensures its an experience that won't swiftly be forgotten.

Go see it, it's amazing!

The Kites Are Flying!
The Kites Are Flying!
by Michael Morpurgo
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, moving book - delightfully illustrated too, 17 Dec. 2009
This review is from: The Kites Are Flying! (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With `The Kites are Flying', Michael Morpurgo has created something truly special. Covering the troubles in the West Bank, the plot focuses on British news reporter Max and a young Palestinian boy, Said. The narrative switches between the diary entries of the former and the internal thoughts of the latter as Morpurgo details a magical few days spent in a rural village.

The setting is painted beautifully, helped along by Laura Carlin's childlike illustrations. There's an innocence to the story that is heartbreaking in its honesty and starkness. Morpurgo isn't afraid to cover the grim realities of war and the way it has scarred families. Indeed, as the plot moves along, we realise just how relevant to Said this is, and when all is revealed, it is truly shattering.

But this story isn't just one of death and oppression. No, the true magic of this book comes from hope. As we see Max make friends with Said and his fellow villagers, we see how the concept of peace lies at the heart of the matter. Said takes Max to fly kites with him and in return the reporter shows the boy his camera. Said's fascination in learning its workings is heartwarming and as both camera and kite take on a deeper symbolism, their use as a tool within the book is full of gravitas.

Morpurgo handles this perfectly - `The Kites are Flying' is in many ways a very simple book, at only 77 pages long, but the writing is so infused with emotion it speaks with a meaning far beyond this volume, ensuring it leaves the reader with a lasting impression. You could quite easily see this book being used by teachers in school assemblies; its message of peace, hope and unity bearing so much importance to the world of today.

3 Words
3 Words
Offered by VECOSELL
Price: £14.49

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding release from Cheryl's debut album, she's onto a winner here, 17 Dec. 2009
This review is from: 3 Words (Audio CD)
When Cheryl kicked off her solo career with the brilliantly catchy Fight For This Love, it was the obvious choice for lead single. It's irresistible hook found its way into the hearts and minds of the British public, ensuring its massive success as the single went on to sell over 600,000 copies. It was a fantastic track and proved that Cheryl's solo career most definitely had substance to it - but here, with 3 Words, she takes things to a whole next level.

The title track from the album is, put simply, mindblowingly good. With a haunting strummed guitar hook leading into a relentless dance beat, it slides effortlessly amongst other dance-pop tunes of the year, most notably the Will.I.Am or David Guetta tracks that have filled the upper reaches of the charts over the summer. It's also refreshingly `out there', far more adventurous than the majority of what Cheryl has ever released before, solo or with Girls Aloud. Across the internet i've seen countless times, people who'd never normally listen to or buy a Cheryl Cole record, sitting up and listening when it comes to this track. It's unexpected, and it's brilliant.

The minimalist nature of the track also gives Cheryl a chance to really show off her vocals and she does a fantastic job here, instilling the track with a chilling touch of sadness. Her voice has always been one to inject a song with emotion, and here she uses this to the full. There's a sheer intensity as she repeats `it wasn't complicated...' before the final chorus kicks in that is a pure shivers down the spine moment. Amazing.

Along with the stunning, `split screen' video for the single, 3 Words serves to highlight the very best of `solo Cheryl'. Storming up the charts before it's even been official released on CD, it's yet another example of how the nation's sweetheart is bang on form at the moment.

(This CD single also contains the b-side `Boys', written by Emeli Sande, the featured vocalist on Chimpmunk's `Diamond Rings')

Sea Djinn (Djinn Quintet)
Sea Djinn (Djinn Quintet)
by Linda Davies
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but by-the-numbers kids fantasy tale, 15 Dec. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've always loved teen fantasy fiction, the imagination on offer and the inventive characters, settings and plots that always form the crux of said novels making for fantastic, gripping stories. Darren Shan, Garth Nix, Anthony Horowitz - all are masters of the genre. And perhaps this is why i felt disappointed with Sea Djinn, that because the bar has been set so high in this genre, that it felt lacking for me.

It's not a bad novel, and at 260 pages it makes for a snappy, enjoyable read. But at times it feels as if it's trying to do too much at once. Unfortunately it falls into the classic fantasy novel trap of throwing in too many `terms' that need to be explained. I felt myself cringing at points as a character of a teacher was used to flesh out the mythology of the world, it felt so laboured. The book also states in numerous points in the blurb about the `Dubai setting', but i felt this was never really evoked as well as it could have been - both the characters and backdrop felt generic.

Thankfully, the book picks up a fair bit in the latter half and becomes far better now all the explication and set-up is done and out of the way. Here it falls far more into the line of classic action/adventure and plays along well. The pacing is good, the drama is tense and as the protagonists lives are placed under threat, you feel genuine empathy for them.
So, all in all, if you like this kind of stuff, Sea Djinn will be right up your alley - it's a quick and easy read. Just don't expect anything new or mindblowing amazing.

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