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Dan Brown – Inferno

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Dan Brown – InfernoInferno by Dan Brown
Published by Random House on 2013-05-14
Genres: Action & Adventure, Crime, Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 624
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four-stars

Florence: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon awakes in a hospital bed with no recollection of where he is or how he got there. Nor can he explain the origin of the macabre object that is found hidden in his belongings. A threat to his life will propel him and a young doctor, Sienna Brooks, into a breakneck chase across the city. Only Langdon’s knowledge of the hidden passageways and ancient secrets that lie behind its historic facade can save them from the clutches of their unknown pursuers. With only a few lines from Dante’s Inferno to guide them, they must decipher a sequence of codes buried deep within some of the Renaissance’s most celebrated artworks to find the answers to a puzzle which may, or may not, help them save the world from a terrifying threat...

I hadn’t realised Dan Brown had written another Robert Langdon book, but here we go, book number 4. When I first started reading it I thought Dan had jumped the shark as it was intentionally confusing for everyone, not just the reader but also the characters, but as it started to unwind and develop it kept my attention.

If you like the other Robert Langdon novels then you will enjoy this, it’s more of the same, but based in Florence, Italy and surrounding the symbols and mysteries of Dante’s Inferno. Which is another book I’ve always been meaning to read! I’ve been to Florence before and know a little about The Divine Comedy, so it was great fun to revisit those ideas and locations in this storyl

four-stars

Switzerland, Zurich – Everything Was Closed

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Switzerland, Zurich - Everything Was Closed 1

After a fantastic time in Vienna, Austria, it was time to get the train again to Zurich, Switzerland. By this point I was really in love with the train and the countryside in this area of the world was beautiful. It was so easy to sit back and let the world go by whilst I read on my Kindle.

Unfortunately, because Europe hates me, when I arrived in Zurich it was another national holiday, so everywhere was closed, again. This really sucked as I was in dire need of some shopping and Mont Bell’s only European shop was here.

I stayed in the Hotel Rothaus which was in the heart of the red light district, but really near the train station, so pros and cons. It was actually near everything so a great launching pad to explore the city, even though everywhere was closed.

Food In Zurich

I’ve been racking my brain to try and remember the restaurant I ate at in Zurich, but I can’t, which is a shame as it was amazing and the staff were incredibly friendly. My biggest takeaway from the Zurich experience, other than don’t go during a national holiday, was I don’t like marrow bone. Never had it before, always up for an adventure, maybe leave this one for the dogs… Everything else was incredibly delicious though.

Christopher S. Hyatt – Sex Magic, Tantra & Tarot: The Way of the Secret Lover

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Christopher S. Hyatt – Sex Magic, Tantra & Tarot: The Way of the Secret LoverSex Magic, Tantra & Tarot: The Way of the Secret Lover by Christopher S. Hyatt, David P. Wilson, Lon Milo DuQuette
Published by New Falcon Publications on 1991-01-01
Genres: Body, Mind & Spirit, Divination, Magick Studies, Tarot
Pages: 191
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three-stars

Each of us has a Guardian Angel--a companion and lover who waits just behind the images that flood our minds during sleep or reverie. A protector and guide who disguises as the individual with whom we fall in love; an ideal lover who has adored us since the beginning of our individual existence and who will never abandon us until the instant we merge our being into Absolute Godhead. This book offers the student of Western Tantra the knowledge and inner truth that has been hidden from us since conception. This is a new and expanded edition wherein you will find a wealth of practical and passionate Tantric techniques utilizing the archetypal images of the Tarot. Nothing is held back. All of the methods are explicit and clearly described.

I started learning how to read Kabbalistic Tarot using the learnings of Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn about 5 years ago and it’s been an awesome experience. Being a man of science people find it strange that I truly believe in Tarot but the psychological science behind it is solid. At it’s heart it’s just a creative way of approaching a problem or issue from different directions, making you think about the issue at hand differently and creating a story about the process of your concern. So when I saw a book linking Tarot and sex, how could I not read it? 😀

This book turned out to not really be my thing. Essentially it details a series of rituals, for you and your partner to go through over the period of a year, to tap in to the energy of a sacred, sexual, guardian.

Maybe I missed the point because really I only understand how the Kabbalah Tree of Life or Sephiroth can be used to interpret Tarot cards. Possibly to people more in tune with the teachings of the Golden Dawn what’s described and the energies created with the rituals will find more meaning and relevance from the book.

I guess, at the end of the day, I just don’t believe, how ever you spin it, that having ritualistic sex will summon a guardian angel. I did wonder if the rituals and process could possibly create a stronger bond between two lovers than a porno and a bottle of wine, which could be interpreted as a guardian, sexual energy, and maybe. But you’d have to be truly involved with, and believe in, the teachings of the Golden Dawn to get that out of it.

three-stars

Neal Stephenson – Seveneves

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Neal Stephenson – SevenevesSeveneves by Neal Stephenson
Published by HarperCollins UK on 2015-05-21
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 880
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five-stars

The astounding new novel from the master of science fiction. What would happen if the world were ending? When a catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb, it triggers a feverish race against the inevitable. An ambitious plan is devised to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere. But unforeseen dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain... Five thousand years later, their progeny – seven distinct races now three billion strong – embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown, to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth. A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is at once extraordinary and eerily recognizable. He explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.

This book was simply amazing to read. I chained it on the train from Copenhagen to Hamburg to Vienna, I simply could not put it down. Spanning 5,000 years, set on Earth as well as in Space I was gripped from start to finish.

Telling the story of a group of scientists trying to save the future of the human race against an unthinkable catastrophe, compounded by ethics and politics it was really engaging watching the story play out across time, with respect to all the individual decisions made along the way.

At 800+ pages, it’s not a short read, but none of those pages were filler, always building on what had come before to create a very rich world and galaxy. Neal’s research in to all the topics covered was really thorough and added so much to the world he created to, this books really has made me want to read more of his writings.

five-stars

Daniel Wendler – Improve Your Social Skills

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Daniel Wendler – Improve Your Social SkillsImprove Your Social Skills by Daniel Wendler
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on September 12, 2014
Genres: Personal Growth, Self-Esteem, Self-Help, Social Science
Pages: 225
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four-stars

Improve Your Social Skills is a comprehensive, practical guide to social skills.

It contains 200+ pages of step-by-step, easy-to-understand explanations of social interaction, written by a professional social skills coach whose TEDx talk on overcoming the social challenges of Asperger's Syndrome has been viewed over 130,000 times

You'll learn how to:

  • Make Conversation (and keep conversation flowing smoothly!)
  • Read Body Language (and send positive signals with your own body language!)
  • Meet New People (and make friends with them!)
  • Tell Stories In Conversation (that don't bore your audience!)
  • Combat Shyness And Social Anxiety (A little courage every day adds up!)
  • Date Successfully (without manipulation or sneaky tricks!)
  • And More!

My social life took a bit of a hit when I first fell ill almost 2 years ago now. I went from squatting twice my body weight at CrossFit, salsa dancing, performing fire shows and going out 3-4 times a week on just soda and lime to breaking down, becoming a recluse, feeling terrible all the time and completing GTA V, maxing out my Skyrim character and putting on 20kg.

Since leaving England I’ve been on a path of self improvement to get back to where I was. It was quite easy to be anti social and just train at Tiger Muay Thai which was awesome at the time but then we created an awesome little digital nomad posse there so I was forced to reintegrate with society so there have been some self help, social books like this in my reading list recently.

This book is pretty good, once again reaffirming everything I knew anyway but it’s good to keep the various elements in mind. You’re not going to make many new friends by sitting in a corner quietly and hoping everyone says hello to you, you’ve got to get up, go out, meet people and say hello. Simple.

Since moving to Barcelona I’ve made tons of friends, started going out several times a week in the evenings, been to awesome parties, been having fun days out on the beach, played volleyball all with out the social crutch of alcohol. I’m now 38 days ‘sober’ woohoo! Whilst I’m not going to attribute all of that to having read this book, I will testify that I am definitely using the social skills the book talks about. Social skills that most social people will intrinsically know already anyway.

If you aren’t very social, are a bit of an introvert and experience social anxiety this book is very good value and I definitely recommend it. By itself it won’t take away your anxieties and create a healthy social circle of friends for you, but it will create a self awareness of your social skills and give you a path to follow and a framework to work in to help you become more social.

four-stars

Austria, Vienna – This Means Nothing To Me

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Vienna was definitely one of the coolest cities I went through as I traveled, and I didn’t even get to scratch the surface. After a beautiful 8 hour train journey from Hamburg, Germany, I landed in the capital of Austria only to discover it was Eurovision that day and everywhere was full. Other than possibly one of the most expensive hotels in the area so I had little choice in the matter and had to stay in a gorgeous $500 a night suite 😀

Double unfortunately, by the time I’d checked in, I was far too tired to head in to town for the free Eurovision celebrations. The 7 Ps springs to mind ..

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

at least the suite meant I had access to the VIP business lounge, super fast wifi and included breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets with all the alcohol I could drink.

Like the rest of Europe, it was overcast and rainy the entire time but omg, what an amazing city. There were countless beautiful palaces and museums that I didn’t have enough time to visit. The city is definitely one for couples that want to have a romantic gettaway escape and soak up the culture.

Food In Vienna

Restaurants in Vienna offer amazing food. They have a famous Viennese cake, which was a chocolate taste sensation, as well as numerous ways of serving beef which were all awesome.

Neil Gaiman – The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

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Neil Gaiman – The Ocean At The End Of The LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published by Hachette UK on 2013-06-18
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General
Pages: 143
four-half-stars

WINNER OF THE SPECSAVERS NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS 2013 BOOK OF THE YEAR Dive into a magical novel of memory and the adventure of childhood, from one of the brightest, most brilliant writers of our generation. It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark.

This was a really fun read, although it was aimed more at teenagers and I was expecting something more adult, the only other Neil Gaiman book I’ve read was his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens.

The story is a dark one, with death, suicide, witches and a portal to another world, told through the eyes of a 40 year old recollecting his child hood at the age of 7.

This would definitely make an amazing Tim Burton animation, but an even better R rated Clive Barker horror!

four-half-stars

Mark Manson – Models: Attract Women Through Honesty

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Mark Manson – Models: Attract Women Through HonestyModels by Mark Manson
Published by Createspace Independent Pub on 2011
Genres: Family & Relationships, Love & Romance
Pages: 296
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five-stars

Models is the first book ever written on seduction as an emotional process rather than a logical one, a process of connecting with women rather than impressing them. It's the most mature and honest guide on how a man can attract women without faking behavior, without lying and without emulating others. A game-changer. Inside, you'll learn: The root behavior that causes all female attraction. Why typical dating advice and pick up theory is counter-productive in the long-run. How to overcome nervousness and anxiety around attractive women. How any man can make himself appear attractive with a little time and effort. The three keys to keeping conversations with women interesting and engaging. How to discover the beliefs and attitudes that are sabotaging your success with women. How to develop a genuine and joyful sense of humor. And much more...

Mark Manson keeps popping up on Facebook as a suggested friend, as we have many friends in common. I have never met the guy, so I haven’t added him, but I did decide to read his book to see what he was about.

It’s a pretty cool book.

The secret is in the title, the entire book is about being honest with who you are and what you like, then expressing that, honestly, in order to be attractive to women. No secrets, no tricks, just honesty.

Obviously sitting on your ass in a basement isn’t going to help, you actually have to go out and meet women and get over any social anxiety you might have yourself or with a therapist. This book isn’t really about that though, it’s about being authentic to yourself and in a world full of other people’s expectations about how you should be and what goals you should aim for in life, that can be kind of hard to do for some. Confidently expressing who you are, even harder.

It’s a fun read and full of little pieces of advice that resonated. I’m terrible at deep introspection but it was good to read his advice which helped trigger lots of memories and recollections I have from when I am authentic to my core beliefs.

five-stars

Joel Fuhrman – The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes

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Joel Fuhrman – The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse DiabetesThe End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes by Joel Fuhrman
Published by HarperCollins on April 8, 2014
Genres: Diabetes, Diet & Nutrition, Diets, Diseases, Health & Fitness
Pages: 320
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zero-stars

Why manage diabetes when you can simply get rid of it?

The End of Diabetes delivers:

For Type 2

No more highs and lows
A 50 percent reduction in medications in the first week and
the elimination of all meds within three to six months
An end to the need for insulin, usually within the first week
Healthy, lean, and stable body weight
A normal life span, without complications
The reversal of diabetes and diabetes-related complications

For Type 1

No more highs and lows
Less insulin; most typically, dose is cut by half
Healthy, stable body weight
A normal life span, without complications

Joel Fuhrman is a nutritarian and he has a series of books revolving around juicing and ingesting as many nutrient dense foods as possible (fruit, nuts and vegetables) for their health benefits whilst laying off meat and animal products. Claiming that people that follow his diet can put their organs in to nutrient overload, with the ability to lose weight and even cure type 2 diabetes because the pancreas gets so many nutrients it starts working again.

I’m going to have to give this book 0 stars based on my understanding of science and personal experience.

Juicing and making soups from vegetables can give you a new way of taking in more nutrients, true, and this is definitely a good thing. This can also ‘help’ you lose weight as you’re essentially on a calorie restricted diet, also true. You also can feel good whilst doing it, for a time, because you’re filling your body with natural sugars giving you a non stop sugar high, bad. Due to the calorie, fat and protein restriction, as you lose weight your body will also catabolise muscle to feed itself, very bad.

If type 2 diabetes was caused by a vitamin deficiency, which is essentially what this book is suggesting, there would be some scientific studies backing it up and possibly a recommendation on which vitamins you’d be deficient in. Instead it’s just juice all the things and stop eating meat. There’s no real scientific basis for it, no hypothesis, test, results, conclusion, summary. No evidence, no proof.

For type 2s he says a 50% reduction in medication in the first week then you can be off your meds after 3-6 months. I know of people who have been doing this diet for years and have seen no such results.

The diet I chose, after careful research of many scientific studies, a high fat, medium protein, low carb diet, got me off my medication completely within 3 days of starting it. I’ve also lost 4kg of fat (not muscle) in 4 weeks since I started it. I also feel totally awesome.

This book represents the polar opposite of that diet.

zero-stars

Chris Guillebeau – The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

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Chris Guillebeau – The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New FutureOne Hundred Dollar Startup by Chris Guillebeau
Published by Crown Business on 2012
Genres: Business & Economics, Careers, Entrepreneurship, General, Self-Help, Small Business
Pages: 285
three-stars

Change your job to change your life

You no longer need to work nine-to-five in a big company to pay the mortgage, send your kids to school and afford that yearly holiday. You can quit the rat race and start up on your own - and you don't need an MBA or a huge investment to do it.

The $100 Startup is your manual to a new way of living. Learn how to:

- Earn as much as you would from a nine-to-five job but on your own terms, when and where you want

- Achieve that perfect blend of passion and income to make work something you love

- Take crucial insights from 50 ordinary people who started a business with $100 or less

- Spend less time working and more time living your life

This took me much longer to read than it should have. I started it in September 2014 and finished it in May 2015 whilst on the train to Vienna. I think I found the writing style disengaging. The book though does contain awesome stories of success as well as insightful information, the biggest takeaway being

Change your job to change your life

Something I tried to do back in 1998, but thanks to being guilt tripped in to living up to my parents expectations it took me 16 torturous years before I was finally able to quit and change things. Now it is actually too late to do what I wanted to do with my life so I’ve had to pivot and do something else that’s awesome instead.

Anyone at University doing a course they are uninterested in or following a career that is depressing them should look for a way out immediately, rather than finishing or continuing, even if that means cutting out family from your life, something I should have done in 1999. Quite simply, you can’t do what you want to do by doing something else, so unless you are following your dreams and passions, you’re just waiting to die.

three-stars