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Poison_kitty
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    • Hellgate: London (PC) / PC Game / 28 Readings / 27 Ratings
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      20.10.2009 18:42
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      Enough gameplay to keep you occupied, if not actually interested

      I bought this game on the advice of a friend as I was tired of playing Diablo 2 all the time and as much as it is a great game, I needed something different. I'm still in two minds of whether I like or love this game. As a gamer I'm very fussy - I like my RPGs to have an isometric view, to be fast paced and plenty to do besides just the main quests. I like lots of items to choose from and I like to play one of two different characters - either a stealthy hit and run sort, or some sort of summoning type. My favourite games include (as you may have already guessed) Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction, and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. This game has elements of both of those games, with a little Quake/Doom thrown in. Still while playing it's as though I'm waiting for something more to happen, it doesn't quite hit the spot.



      I haven't got the best computer in the world, but I can play most if not all modern games if I turn the all the graphics options to low or switch them off entirely. Something I dislike in modern games is that the developers try and make them too real and that detracts from the gameplay when scenes load slowly, jump around, or lag so badly that you get killed over and over. Thankfully in Hellgate: London you can turn the graphics to their lowest setting and it does improve gameplay a lot, but this is one area I feel the game is let down. On the other hand the movie elements that explain the story line are beautifully rendered. The movie clips are clearly separate from the game area which means the designers can use different techniques to make them shine. I have played some games where the movies make use of the game environment and there have been times where the camera will be spinning around an out of control character, it's painful to watch and I usually skip past them. As for sounds, environmentally they are pretty good but what I find annoying is that when an NPC speaks the speech and the script don't match up and as the script is the bit with the information it can be hard to concentrate on it.



      The simple concept of the game is to kill things. As the game progresses, the monsters get harder, the equipment gets beafier and your skills get more impressive. If you don't like killing lots and lots of monsters then this game is not for you! Before you start, you are presented with the character creation screen, where you can choose a name for your character and it's appearance, and also choose which character class you would like to play. The class decides what sort of skills you can have during the game, as well as the sorts of items you can equip and your attributes (life, mana/power, strength, accuracy and so on). I like the addition of skills in the game as it can really make the character your own, unlike most First-Person-Shooters such as Doom or Quake.



      You begin the game in an alleyway after seeing a movie of your life story - you are the granddaughter of a man who died fighting demons from hell so that you could flea to safety, finally growing up to also fight demons. For those of us not born to this life of violence, there is a tutorial which gives the basics on movement, skills and quests. To summarise, you use the mouse to look around and either the WASD or arrow keys to move. Alt disengages the mouse pointer so that you can click on icons on your HUD, however most screens can be brought up with a corresponding keyboard shortcut. I found the tutorial to be a bit laboured and sometimes I found I had to prompt it to give me any information about what I was doing, obviously not ideal for a beginner to this genre. However I do feel the situation that you start in doesn't overwhelm, even if you prefer learning the game without the tutorial.



      Once you have gotten into the game, you will see the areas falling behind you quite quickly - it seems as though you never spend too long in one place. Somehow this doesn't tally with the quality of items found in these areas, I don't know whether it's just me being lucky but I seem to find good equipment early in a section and then stick with it right up until the end when I move on. As to equipment there really is a plethora of weapons and armour for all of the classes. In each base that you come to there is a merchant to buy your loot and sell you new equipment, and some of the equipment can be upgraded or augmented, increasing the ways in which you can customise your character and play in a way that you find most comfortable.



      A great falling down point for this game is that it was originally intended as both a single and multiplayer game, in a similar way to Diablo 2. However the developers decided that to stop people creating private servers and stealing away their paying customers, they would not include any other way to connect except to corporate servers hosted by themselves. After the company went bust the servers went down, and the game became completely single player, that is until someone releases an unofficial patch that fixes this problem.



      To really summarise my thoughts on this game, as I've said before I'm still waiting for something to "happen", but as games go it is pretty playable and quite absorbing. It's just not quite game of the year material that it was dubbed as on it's release. Because of it's relative age (the gaming industry moves very fast!) it is on sale at Amazon for only £5.35 - I doubt you could find it cheaper on Ebay, but I'm sure after saying that, someone will prove me wrong!

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        18.10.2009 15:01
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        A sensible addition to any fibre artist's library

        The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting and Crochet Stitches is published by Reader's Digest, but that doesn't mean it is aimed at grannies! It is a "stitch dictionary" that even beginners can use, as all the techniques are shown with diagrams at the beginning of the book. With as many as six patterns described on each page, there is no room for more than a small photograph of how the pattern should look, but they are at least clear and give some meaning to the instructions given below.



        This is one of the first books I've reviewed which includes crochet and since I'm a crochet virgin I can vouch for how easy it is to pick up the methods taught in this book. It also includes a large section on Tunisian Crochet which is ideal for larger items - it's alternative name is Afghan stitch for that reason. Tunisian crochet has come back into fashion recently along with many other types of crafting, which puts this book right at the cutting edge. As for knitting patterns it delivers most of what I have come to expect from a top quality stitch dictionary - basic textures using knit and purl stitches, cabling, lace, and colourwork. I would have liked to have seen entrelac get a mention, and beadwork too as those are two techniques I have always admired but never tried.



        Even though this book is a year or two older than the last knitting book i reviewed, this stitch dictionary's longevity is increased because even the most prolific fibre artist can use it as a reference, or even as inspiration for doing things a bit differently. With so many patterns for both knitters and crocheters you may be forgiven for thinking it would be hard to find what you want to look at, but with the patterns formed into groups according to their size and type, and with a good index at the back, you can't really go wrong.



        This book is priced at £11.39 at Amazon.co.uk, which is a great bargain since you are in affect getting two books in one!

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        17.10.2009 10:44
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        not a bad effort, but best look elsewhere

        Knitting On The Go: Beginner Basics is a book offered up by Vogue knitting, one of the most popular knitting brands around. Published almost six years ago, it is a bit dated given the amount of recent titles available - some of which I have already reviewed - but it seems to stand up well next to them.



        The book guides the novice knitter from the absolute beginning, using words and clear colour diagrams to explain common techniques used in the skill. Where this book falls down compared to other books I have reviewed is the limited choice of techniques on it's pages - they are all aimed at teaching the beginner techniques of knitting a plain sweater or cardigan and no more. Other books I have come across go beyond ribbing, stocking stitch and button holes and include lace and cables at the very least. There is, however, a good section on seaming which is my personal stumbling block (as my regular readers will already know!) and also picking up stitches, which can require some patience, especially for the beginner! There are a few projects that are included on the pages of this book, which are photographed in colour but to me appear a little dated now. Everything you need for them is included on the each project page, much like any other normal pattern.



        All in all it isn't a bad book for the £8.99 that Amazon are charging, although I'm sure you could find it cheaper elsewhere offline, maybe in an independent or second hand book shop. There are more recent and thorough books on the market however, and if I were you I'd choose those!

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          15.10.2009 23:15
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          A good read, but I prefer discworld!

          I'm not normally a fan of Terry's writing outside of Discworld, however this book peaked my curiosity and when Waterstones had a half-price offer on, I picked it up and brought it home. For a book I wasn't expecting to be so impressed with, I read it in just over a week of bedtime reading!



          For those that don't read Pratchett, he created the Discworld, which is a parallel of our own world except with magic and trolls and Corporal Nobby Nobbs. Most of his books have been set there, and a few of those books have reached a broader audience as movies made and broadcast by SkyTV. One of his non-Discworld books, Johnny and the bomb, was also made into a mini-series shown on the BBC.



          Nation is set in a somewhat historically fictional nineteenth century archipelago of the Pacific Ocean. A community of people, referred to as "The Nation", is washed away by a tsunami leaving only a handful of Survivors. The main character is Mau, who is midway through a manhood ritual when the wave strikes and is nicknamed Demon Boy by some of the other survivors. Ermintrude, daughter of a British Noble and one hundred and forty first in line to the throne, is on a voyage to visit her father when the wave hits and is shipwrecked on Mau's island. Attracting more survivors to the island, they forge a new nation, and discover the history of the island and it's culture leaving lasting imprints well into the twenty-first century.



          While there is no mistaking the book is a work of fiction, it reminds the reader what little is needed to almost wipe out a civilization - a fact I'm unfortunately reminded about every time i switch on the TV or read a newspaper. I'm referring to the fact that Armageddon appears to be the current theme for a lot of films and documentaries, making me feel this book is just one of a crowd with nothing to really make it stand out except for an easy to read narrative and enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested in what is on the next page.



          What I'd really like to see is the next Discworld book, please!

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          • findmypast.com / Internet Site / 22 Readings / 21 Ratings
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            15.10.2009 01:32
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            A real Contender for your annual genealogical subscription

            FindMyPast.com is a website aimed primarily at those looking to research a family history - either their own or that of someone else. It's popularity stems from it's free access to transcripts of the 1881 England and Wales census, and also as of October 2009 it is the only genealogy website to offer the 1911 England and Wales census on subscription. As well as offering censuses every ten years between 1841 and 1911, it also offers a selection of military records, primarily deaths during the two world wars as well as emigration records, a searchable index of births, marriages and deaths, and a small number of parish records. The site also includes a fully-functioning online family tree builder with privacy options changeable by the user.



            Firstly I'd like to talk about the Census records, which are generally one of the first steps for most people tracing their family. Now for those who don't know, it is actually Ancestry.com that hold the monopoly on British genealogy as well as having a much broader range of records available to their customers, So it is unusual that the 1911 census is exclusive to FindMyPast.com. This census has been released 2 years earlier than expected, although sensitive information such as disabilities will be excluded until 2011. As well as the 1911 Census, there were censuses every ten years, although it was only in 1841 that it become more than just a headcount, and more details were included on the returns such as name, place born and date of birth. I've also found that most of the censuses seem to be nearly complete, and missing records are published on their blog, which makes a nice change from the likes of GenesReunited.com.



            An interesting group of searchable records is the National Roll of the Great War, an attempt to biograph the lives of individuals who survived until the end of the war. Unfortunately this roll only includes 100,000 or so people, and large areas of the country were not included. "De Ruvigny's Roll Of Honour", another group of records, lists (and in some cases includes photographs) around 7000 people killed in action. Roll calls from between 1656 and 1888 are also searchable, as well as the Waterloo Medal Roll.



            The site, like many others, includes a searchable version of the Births, Marriages and Deaths Index (BMD Index), which indexes records available to purchase from the General Registry Office in London (although some records may be housed more locally). More interestingly, included are records of British subjects born married or dead abroad, in the Armed Forces, or at sea. The site has also recently included parish records from a small number of areas, and plans to gain access to more as time progresses. People were registered at their local parish church hundreds of years before civil registration became a legal requirement, and until recently to gain access to these meant a lot of travel, so it is a rare treat to find more and more registers digitized and shared with the online community.



            The remainder of the records included on the site are migration and specialist records. There are a lot of rolls of people working and fighting in India between the 1790's to 1930's, passenger lists of ships leaving the United Kingdom (not including those bound for Ireland), various medial and dental registers, shareholder lists and crew lists.



            There are two ways in which to view the information for most of the records - by transcript and by image. I've tried a number of genealogical websites, and this is by far the best for accurately transcribed data, making searching much less tedious.



            Of course all this comes at a price. Although access to transcripts of the 1881 Census are free, as are searching all of the individual records, you do have to pay to view both images and transcriptions, although transcriptions are usually much cheaper than images (if available). There are two methods of payment, either with a subscription or using Pay As You Go Credits. There is the option of either a 6 or 12 month subscription to either all of their records bar the 1911 census, just the 1911 census alone, or both (which currently includes a 20% discount). A full 12 month subscription cost me nearly £120 which seems expensive but compared to other commercial genealogical websites this is about average and includes all the records that I predicted I may need. Of course my choice was also swayed by the fact that my local library has a full subscription to Ancestry Library Edition and offers free access to it during normal opening hours.

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            11.10.2009 16:13
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            My thoughtson a Dooyoo Application

            I've written a fair number of reviews now, and the method by which I write those reviews are with various standalone programs outside of the Dooyoo environment. Currently I am writing this in Windows Live Writer as that is what I tend to use to write my both my knitting and genealogy blog posts. In the past I have used both Microsoft Word and Open Office Word, which I know is a common practice among most Dooyooers. I used Wordpad for a short time, partly because it was quicker to load than most other writing applications and also because I wanted a way of storing my reviews offline.



            It was only for the first week or so when I started writing reviews here that I used the little box on the "Write Your Review!" page. I think we all know it's one great drawback - the lack of spell-check, which when used can turn a good review into a great one. But there are other reasons I don't use it. Sometimes browsers crash - they're not infallible and when they do, you lose everything you were in the middle of. Half way through a crown-potential review is generally when it would happen to ME. A save draft function would of course let a user restore from a previous point, even better if the save draft function also had an auto save. But being able to save reviews before publishing has other uses too. Sometimes you only have the time to get some basic ideas down and would like to expand on them later, but the resultant "Brain Barf" isn't worthy of even an express review. Maybe you have an intermittent internet connection and would like to write a few reviews at a time and publish them at a later date when you do have a connection.



            My big idea comes from the blogging world, where i spend a lot of my time. There are a few different blogging applications around at the moment, and they seem to have most of what the average Dooyooer needs. Spellchecker, word-count and a save feature are all pretty standard things, but a good Made-for-Dooyoo application would have to be able to link to the product under review to allow the user to post straight from the application, and also should include all the little boxes you currently need to fill in after pasting your review into the present setup (such as boxes for headline, pro's/con's and summary, and those little star rating thingies for generic reviews, and ratings for other more specialised reviews). To give the application more context, it could contain a (optional) module that retrieves five random unreviewed products, with options to show only those from certain categories.



            I'm aware of how important the revenue from advertising on the Dooyoo site is, and for this reason I would remind you of how the Opera browser was funded, and yet was free to the internet community. As I haven't used Opera in a number of years, I cannot vouch for how it is currently done, but when I used to use it there was a banner in the top right of the browser window, possibly using the Google "Adsense" Scheme. I'm sure there are other ways around that problem too.



            To summarise, I'm trying to point to a place that the Dooyoo site seems to fall down at, because not only could Dooyoo be losing money as Dooyooers leave the Dooyoo environment to write reviews, but it makes it slightly harder for those who would like to write a review, and sometimes that's all it will take to put the brakes on a review. Dooyoo should join the ranks of websites offering their own applications with their own personalised features to stop users from straying far from the site!

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              11.10.2009 13:32
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              Another interchangable learn to knit book

              Having just reviewed the Debbie Bliss Step By Step Knitting Workbook, I can honestly say I like this book less. It is still filled with everything that makes a good Debbie Bliss book, like Good quality colour photographs filling each page, and easy to understand instructions, but it is much more aimed at beginners than the workbook and beginner I am not!



              Debbie Bliss "How To Knit" covers everything you'd expect from a beginning knitting book, such as tools of the trade and how to construct the two basic stitches. It is split into sections called "workshops" which explain and instruct on more complicated things such as colourwork, cables and lace, and each workshop is completed with a project incorporating the newly learnt techniques. This book's saving grace (and also the reason I have it in my library) is two small sections at the end which touch on how to design a sweater and finishing techniques (the latter being my personal bugbear). It's a shame then that for me, the book "knit Fix" could easily replace that latter section, and do it better since instead of covering the topic in just one section it does it in a whole book.



              All in all, it's a perfectly acceptable book for beginners and does all it's meant to do, but it's not whta i need so it didn't blow me away. Fortunately it comes in at under ten pounds at amazon, so if it doesn't blow you away either then it's not an expensive mistake!

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                08.10.2009 16:20
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                A Workbook for the Modern Knitter

                I first came across this book when I was actually looking for some simple designs to add to a sweater I was planning on knitting. The first thing I always notice about Debbie Bliss books, and is the reason why her books are always so popular, is the quality and quantity of pictures. I find they motivate and inspire me into creating the patterns she is so famous for creating. Her Step-By-Step Knitting Workbook is no different.

                The book covers all the basic essentials like casting on and off, and knit and purl stitches, and goes on to cover shaping, textures, colours, embroidery, buttons and beads, and edgings. Each section has patterns that are simple to read and reinforce the knitter's learning. It also makes the book re-readable as you can use it for reference too.

                If I had my time again, this book would be absolutely essential in my learning process as not only could I learn how to knit with a technique, but also learn how to incorporate it into a project.

                The book is currently £10.49 at amazon.co.uk, reduced from £14.99. This makes it really good value too as similar books I have seen sold for £40 and more!

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                03.10.2009 16:23
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                Charting your family's history couldn't be easier with this software!

                Family Tree Maker is a series of packages designed to help you build and enrich your family tree, originally designed by Broderbund and then sold to become part of Ancestry.com's line of products. As of writing, the 2010 version has just been released, but prior versions are still very popular within the genealogy community and I personally still use 2009.

                The main feature of building your family tree is straightforward to use and will work with as little or as much information as you can provide. The tree builder utilizes two screens - the family screen and the person screen. On the family screen you can see all the connections between family members, although one drawback is that children and siblings of ancestors are not shown until that person is clicked upon. Either double clicking or selecting the person and clicking "Person" brings up the person screen, where you can see expanded facts from their life. On my tree this includes census details, baptisms and burial details, but there are around 50 standard fact types, and the ability to add your own. All facts can be linked to sources which are then listed under the sources tab. A nice feature is that facts linked to places can be plotted on a map (provided by Google) found under the "places" tab, but that is only if Google recognises them. I've found problems with church names, specific addresses and some small villages, especially if in the intervening years they have been absorbed by the urban sprawl and no longer exist. For this reason I tend to use registration districts in the "place" field and add actual addresses in the "description" field. Each fact can also be linked to any sort of media on your computer (although it will only display image files within the program itself) and these linked media will be listed under the "Media" tab.

                The program ties in with the Ancestry.com website and will automatically (provided you are connected to the internet) search it's databases for matches to the people in your tree. Depending on whether you have an Ancestry.com subscription you will get more or less information.

                There are a number of options for sharing your in-progress family tree (family trees are never finished!). It is possible to export the tree from one computer to another (or one program to another) using three different file formats. FTM 2009 supports GEDCOM 5.5, which is a universal file format that most genealogy programs support. It will also export to a FTM 16 compatible file, and thirdly to a file compatible to all following FTM versions.

                Another option is of course to print your tree, and Family Tree maker 2009 has a number of different charts and reports to show various details of your tree. The two most popular are Descendant and Pedigree charts, which come in a variety of different layouts including one which looks like an actual tree!

                Now that Family Tree Maker 20010 has been released, prices have dropped a little for the 2009 version, but in my opinion the two versions are not that different, so why pay more than you have to? At http://www.ancestryshop.co.uk, FTM will set you back around £39.99, whilst at Amazon a Platinum edition will cost you £29.99 and includes a 6 month Ancestry Essentials subscription and 30% off it's DNA testing service.

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                  29.04.2009 17:58
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                  If you want flowers, you can't go far wrong

                  Nicky Epstein is a knitting household name, famous for writing books containing easy to understand patterns for small and not so small projects. This is her book on knitted flowers, a collection of patterns for different types of flowers using a multitude of stitch patterns and techniques. The book was published by Sixth & Spring books with photography by Jennifer Levy. The book itself is laid out quite decoratively but still with clarity: each pattern is given its own spread with photography on the page opposite, pretty and eye-catching enough to be left open on a coffee table in your living room.

                  I've knitted a few of the patterns in this book; they're easy to understand, although a bit fiddley to knit at times. Each pattern has a yarn suggested for it, but I have found they work well in plain acrylic too, which is great for stashbusting those little oddments you'd never use for anything else. Given that I'm not what you might call a girly-girl, I've never used the flowers to adorn anything I'd wear personally, but they do look cute on baby's and children's clothes, and animal clothes too! I've also been considering using some of the finished roses as table decorations at dinner parties; they are definitely a cheaper alternative to the real deal!

                  At £9.32 from Amazon.co.uk, it won't break the bank, but it's not as essential a book as some others I have reviewed. If you want flowers, then you can't go far wrong here, but how many people want flowers?

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                    18.04.2009 15:58
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                    A sock book fo rintermediate to experienced sock knitters, great for inspriation!

                    The thing you need to understand about most pattern authors is that they (for the most part) publish in many different places. Some post their patterns on internet sites such as Ravelry or on their blog, some publish in magazines, some collate their patterns into a book. This book is an amalgamation of patterns by different authors (background information on all the authors is at the back of the book), most of which were originally published in the magazine "Interweave Knits", also published by Interweave Press. As I have mentioned in other reviews, Interweave Press is the powerhouse behind most knitting books and magazines. The trouble with pattern collections however, is that many people buy the book just for one or two specific patterns, but because publishing companies usually retain reprinting rights those patterns may end up in a magazine costing two thirds less than the book price, leaving some very disgruntled knitters, and angry women with pointy sticks are not good!
                    As to the contents, there is really no doubt about the fact that this book contains twenty five gorgeous sock patterns, all well written, straightforward and easy to understand. They're set out on their own pages with good colour photographs, and since the book is spiral bound, it means no acrobatics to keep it open to the right page! I do however, have one very major bugbear. Most of the patterns are knit to one particular size and only very vague instructions are given for changing it. I know it's not too difficult to knit a foot with a few extra rounds to make it longer, but other size modifications are trickier, especially for the beginner sock knitter.

                    A number of techniques used throughout the book are explained on the last few pages using words and line-drawn diagrams - good for refreshing your memory but again, not so easy to understand to a beginner. This left me with the distinct impression that the book was intended for use by experienced sock knitters, those that would use the patterns as inspiration, adding their own modifications for size and ease of knitting.

                    "Favourite socks" by Interweave press is available from Amazon priced £12.99

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                      10.04.2009 23:27
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                      A must-have for every knitter

                      If you don't already own this book, go out and buy it now. It is guaranteed to prevent you tearing your hair out at some stage in your knitting life, and at almost £13 from Amazon, is probably cheaper than a wig.

                      Knit Fix: Problem Solving for Knitters is written by Lisa Kartus and published by Interweave Press, home to many of the best knitting publications. It is spiral bound since even the most experienced knitter can't knit and hold a book open at the same time! The book is uncluttered and laid out clearly, all the techniques are shown with either a diagram or colour photograph (sometimes both) to aid understanding. Knitting terms are explained the first time they are used, which is great for the beginning knitter, but sometimes the basic language can feel a bit patronising to the more experienced browser.

                      The book tackles many problems a knitter may face, from the most basic like dropped or twisted stitches to major alterations of length and width. It does it in a Problem: Diagnosis: Fix format, and although the contents page isn't too descriptive (I've found it's more helpful when reading through the book from cover to cover, rather than for reference) there is an extensive index that includes all of the subjects covered. The book also contains instructions on the fundamentals of knitting in an effort to help the knitter avoid possible mistakes before they happen. Kitchener stitch (grafting) is explained in a way that most mortals can understand.

                      If I had to pick one thing I love about this book, it would be that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It is actually quite funny in parts; there are a few knitterly jokes, and the author frequently reminds the reader that sometimes mistakes are ok (like the ones that would take too much work to fix), especially in the introduction and conclusion where an understanding is gained of her motivations to write this book, and especially to knit in general. As I said in the beginning of this review, no knitting library is complete without this book; it should stand on every knitter's book shelf.

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                        30.03.2009 17:38
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                        good book to fall back on but don't rely on it for everything

                        The A-Z of Horse Diseases and Health problems is a great reference guide for people who own and work with horses. It is a Hardback book currently sold by Amazon for £16.99 (I bought it about ten years ago for £15.99, prices don't change much!).

                        The concept of the book is to provide the reader with a dictionary of illnesses, cross-referenced by symptoms to aid in diagnosing the horse. I've never had difficulty in finding what I needed from the book as it has a good index including both symptoms and illnesses, and I've also referred to this book in reports for my degree. Signs, cause and treatment are given for each illness in a business-like manner using veterinarian jargon which although explained in most cases, can still be a little confusing.

                        The book also has significant sections on bones and points of the horse, an indepth description of a healthy horse, when to call the vet and what to do in an emergency (it's amazing how many people panic over that last one!).

                        My one criticism about this book is that although it contains many of the common ailments that can befall a horse, a lot has been left out. Still, given that you don't want to tote around a book the size of the Encylopedia Galactica (if you don't know what that is, go read some Douglas Adams!), this is probably a good thing! I suppose you could also complain that the book seems a little dated, however very little has changed in the understanding or treatment of these common illnesses, the only thing worth updating then would be the photographs (colour, but still look like they were taken in the mid-eightees!).

                        In summary, this is a good book to fall back on if you have questions about the state of your horses health, just treat it as a jumping-off point not the answer to everything.

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                        28.03.2009 17:49
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                        a great book, just not for me

                        I bought this book (Amazon, priced £11.99) because a lot of people on my knitting forum had been raving about it. On the whole I'm not blown away but only because I wouldn't knit any of the items without making my own modifications, the book itself is great!

                        Fitted knits is a softback spined book (I'm much happier knitting from spiral-bound books because they stay open!) featuring 25 patterns for jumpers, tank-tops, shrugs, a coat and a skirt. The patterns are grouped into three difficulties - Super easy (cast on and off, picking up stitches and simple increases), medium (Bust and waste shaping and buttonholes) and challenge (applied I-cord, cables and lace).

                        Each pattern is explained very clearly, giving needle sizes, gauge, yarn used as well as any extra notions needed (such as stitch markers, stitch holders, cable needles, crochet hooks). I have a slight critique in that even though the yarn is named, it gives no reference to its weight, and some of the patterns clearly switch between "double-knit" and chunkier yarns. This isn't a problem when you know about websites such as "www.yarndex.com/" where you can find a yarn's vital statistics, but the extra work in finding out is a bit annoying, given how simple it would have been to print this extra information.

                        The book's contents are presented nicely enough, patterns have their own separate pages and they don't feel cluttered. Each garment is well photographed, giving a clear view of what you will be knitting, and the scenes, whilst not stunning like in "Victorian Lace Today" (see my other reviews) are pleasant enough.

                        Other sections in the book include a few pages on how to adapt patterns to fit you properly. In my opinion completely vital information since you won't always completely adhere to a certain size. The information here can also apply to other patterns found elsewhere and is great for reference. Other sections include those commonly found in other knitting books - a guide to terms, knitting needle conversion charts, a guide to finishing the garments (sewing seams, hiding yarn ends and blocking) and a washing guide. Uncommonly, this book has an extensive reference list including works by people such as Elizabeth Zimmerman and Nicky Epstein. The last page before the index is taken up by a list of web addresses for further information; however I'm dead against listing websites in books as the internet changes so quickly - for example the old MAGknits website disappeared around 18 months ago, and doubtless others will follow in the next few years, dating the book unduly.

                        Again, I'm not blown away by this book and if I lost it I probably wouldn't replace it, but it's always worth nagging your local library to get a copy - then you can decide for yourself and if it's not your cup of tea you can put it back on the shelf for someone else!

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                          27.03.2009 14:23
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                          A modern take on victorian lace classics

                          Victorian Lace Today is a 196 page paperback book by Jane Sowerby, published in 2007 by XRX Books. It is available from Amazon for £15 (although you may get it cheaper by shopping around!).

                          I bought this book because I have an interest in lace knitting and its roots. Not only does it provide patterns taken from a number of different authors (all of whom are named, including a short autobiography), but it also provides an insight to how the garments were made and worn. The author, Jane Sowerby has applied standardized terms to convert the old Victorian patterns into something the modern knitter can understand and replicate easily; using readily available yarns and suggestions for substitutes were possible. There are a number of different things to be knit in this book as well as the many and different shaped shawls, there are also fichus (a small piece of fabric tied around the neck to cover the shoulders and bodice for modesty) and a veil. The book also contains instructions on how to use the charts in the book in a shawl or scarf of your own design, meaning the possibilities really are endless.

                          The layout of the contents of this book is excellent - each pattern is clearly labeled by difficulty with a few easy patterns giving a good leaping off point for the beginner lace-knitter. At first glance, the myriad of charts and diagrams can look a bit intimidating, but they really do make the pattern much easier to understand after reading through them. The author covers everything you need to know clearly and concisely which really inspired my confidence that I could finish one of these patterns and it would look as it was meant to! Near the back of the book is a whole chapter containing literally everything you will need to know including techniques, abbreviations, instructions on how to block and yarn suggestions. I have on a number of occasions used this chapter for reference on other projects, as everything is explained and pictured so clearly.

                          Amazon calls this book "an ideal coffee table book for the keen knitter" and I would whole-heartedly agree - it contains hundreds of high quality colour photographs, shot at the most beautiful locations including Belton House and the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as a number of locations around Cambridge. I'd definitely recommend this book to any knitter - even if you never knit anything from it, the pictures are too lovely to miss!

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