Showing posts from February, 2016

#AShortHistoryOfTractorsInUkrainian by Marina Lewycka spoiler free mini book review

My opinion of this book seems to differ from many of the critics and online reviews I have seen, all commenting on it's laugh out loud qualities and hilarity. Whilst in places I found the story amusing, in the beginning I found it to be slow going, and at times I wasn't sure I'd continue to the conclusion. 
I am however glad that I stuck with it, as along with being amusing, it is sad, frustrating and infuriating, sometimes simultaneously! I was completely hooked about a third of the way in, desperately hoping for a satisfying conclusion to events.
The story (without spoiling events, and stating nothing that isn't in the blurb) is told from a younger siblings in a Ukrainian families point of view. After her mother passes away, the family are brought together, firstly by the funeral, and subsequently by the elderly father's poor series of decisions, from which he marries a young, Ukrainian, aggressively blonde and similarly demanding divorcee woman. The father's i…

#RiversOfLondon mini spoiler-free book review

Rivers of London is the first book in a series of Novels by Ben Aaronovitch where a London Met officer named Peter Grant's life changes for the bizarre, after what should have been a regular encounter with the career advisor at work. Instead, Grant becomes one of the chief detectives in a most unusual case, involving ghosts, magic, victorian drama, spirits of the river and people's faces falling off. 
So as not to spoil the plot, I'll only say that this story is a gripping, amusing and exciting tale, aimed at young adults - the writing style is similar to that of Tom Holt - almost comedic in parts, meets detective story something akin to the wittier episodes of Castle. The characters are all memorable and interesting, and following Grant's tutelage into the basics of all things magical is not only intriguing but believable. He's very much an amateur wizard in training. There are two main story arcs within the novel, that intertwine well with a successful impact on t…

#ForbiddenIsland board game

I thought for my first board game review I'd look at something a bit different. Forbidden Island is a beautifully presented game by company Gamewright Games for 2-4 players, but is most fun with a team of four.

At it's core, the gameplay is cooperative. Your group take on different roles from a group of explorers, who have come to the island in search of ancient treasure! Unfortunately, your being there has set of an ancient booby trap! The island is sinking! It is your teams job to make off with the four ancient treasures and make it back to the helicopter pad before taking an extended nap with the fishes.

Each character has a profile, affording them slightly different abilities to the others, for example there is a diver, who is able to circumvent flooded parts of the island; a pilot, who has additional helicopter benefits and so on. The locations of the island are represented by double sided cards, each with a beautiful rendered illustration one side, and a pale blue versio…

Asus #Chromebook

I wasn't sure about the appeal of Chromebooks until having this demo unit through work to play with. I can now completely see the appeal, and I'll be saddened when my unit has to be returned to the generous supplier. 
As a netbook, the ASUS Chromebook CB5-571 (catchy) comes with the Chrome OS preinstalled. The idea behind google's notebook OS is that everything runs using a selection of Web Apps, rather than relying on downloads and installed software to perform tasks. This means the hardware can be much more lower specified, resulting in cheaper up front costs. Never the less, the CB5 is equipped with a 1080p screen, 2GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD. The processor is an Intel Celeron 3205U.
Now that internet in the UK is actually becoming up to scratch, running software is no longer the issue it may once have been, and I never found myself in want of storage space or processing power to run any of the apps I needed to. If you're invested in Google's architecture already (G…

#OneRedPaperclip by Kyle Macdonald

One Red Paperclip is the story of one Canadian's rather epic tale of becoming a true entrepreneur.

Kyle Macdonald begins by telling us of how he has become stuck in a rut with life, struggling to find work, waking up late and generally spinning his back wheels trying to get anywhere. He makes the decision to embark in a game he used to play growing up called bigger and better, the concept of which is simply to take any odd, mundane or downright stupid item and aim to trade it for something bigger and better. If you hadn't guessed already, Kyle begins with one red paperclip.

Growing up there were rumours of people trading up to things as immense as cars. Kyle makes it his mission to trade up to a house for him and his girlfriend, making 14 trades, each slightly more impressive then the last, for a variety of reasons. What's nice about this story, is not only is it based on completely true events, but Kyle is constantly aware of his moral compass - he does not want to to trad…


One of the symptoms of depression can be severe difficulty in concentrating on tasks one used to enjoy for no apparent reason other than a feeling of not being bothered. For me, my music and my video gaming very much has taken a back seat lately, and despite wanting to get back into it, my interest in actually starting anything is still low. It's gradually improving - just slowly. 
However, on the plus side, my reading has gone up exponentially and I've been getting through books, magazines and newspapers (well, crosswords!) more and more. As we come up to Christmas, here are a few I've finished recently, and my completely spoiler free impressions of them.

Nick Frost - Truths, Half Truths & Little White Lies

I love Nick Frost as an actor - everything he does just seems to somehow turn to gold, from his movie work with Simon Pegg, to his independent outings such as Cuban Fury and Hyperdrive. I also adored Mike in Spaced. 
Not only do I love his artistic output though, I als…

#StarWars #TheForceAwakens

As a massive fan of the Star Wars films and expanded universe, I was a little apprehensive about the new film. The abundance of trailer hype couple with the ferocious push on marketing (it seemed every shop from supermarkets to video game stores were pushing the merchandise!) worried me - surely a franchise as successfully as Star Wars shouldn't need quite the aggressive investment in promotion as episode 7 received.

I'd also just read Simon Pegg's 'Nerd Do Well' in which he talks about his disappointment getting to witness the release of episodes 1-3 first hand and had begun to feel his apprehension to episode 1 as my own with episode 7.

Luckily, I needn't have been worried at all.

Of course, it isn't the best piece of cinematography ever - it's not an artsy or cult film as we already know! What it is, is a love letter to the original films, with very similar directive choices and a tone that imitates the non serious nature of those original movies.


Bett 2016 For those who work in the IT for education sector, be they technicians, teachers, subject leads or just tech savvy teachers, Bett is the annual convention for all things new and exciting in educational IT development and releases. Held at the Excel arena in London, it’s an extremely large affair, containing suppliers and manufacturers of hardware, software, applications and web services, all specifically relating to IT in education.
This year was my first year going to Bett, and it’s clear to see where the focus of the events many displays seem to be centered around. The hardware is getting smaller, more software than ever before is free, and lots of services that once required schools to invest in their own, often expensive and sizable, hardware are becoming cloud based, managed by companies at locations completely separate from school sites, using the power of the internet.
Attending an event like this, it’s unavoidable returning with a swathe of material to wrap your head …