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Quicksilver (UK)
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Verbatim 52612 LED Classic A B22 9 Watt Light Bulb
Verbatim 52612 LED Classic A B22 9 Watt Light Bulb
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars And there was light., 13 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Really pleased with this light bulb. It's a little chunkier than it's Philips counterpart Philips E27 6 Watt LED Edison Screw, Warm White, so it might not suit all lampshades, but in our hall it works a treat. There's no delay between switch and light. The bulb comes on at full intensity straight away which is helpful when coming in from the gloom. It's much cheaper than the Philips one I reviewed, though I'm not sure if there is some technical reason for this, or whether its just a case of brand confidence or scarcity. It's not, for example, cheaper than this one Philips LED Light Bulb (E27 Edison Screw 6W A60) - Warm White. If there's one thing that does need illuminating it's the pricing and effectiveness of bulbs!.

In any case, this bulb lights they way perfectly.


Mitre Aircell Power Shinguards - Cyan/White - M
Mitre Aircell Power Shinguards - Cyan/White - M
Price: £11.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Shining pads?, 11 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Like the Match and training balls I reviewed recently, these Shinguards haven't been heavily tested. Nevertheless my 9 yr old loves them. So much so, for the first week or so he wore them around the house. They seem well made, fit comfortably, and give a bit of protection when he plays at his after school football club. So they haven't been extensively tested, but compared with what we had in my day, when we had jumpers of goalposts (of course) they look like they're capable of reaching the moon. I don't have anything to current compare them to, but these are well a made, robust and reasonably priced way to protect shins everywhere.


A Man Lies Dreaming
A Man Lies Dreaming
by Lavie Tidhar
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in Madness, 9 Dec 2014
This review is from: A Man Lies Dreaming (Hardcover)
Lavie Tidhar's A Man Lies Dreaming is a Chinese puzzle box created by a master craftsman. It's made from the highest quality materials, fitted together seamlessly and polished with great care and attention. Opening the box reveals the unexpected and leaves the reader with an exultant sense of wonder as they study the magic of its construction. Yes. I liked this book.

Tidhar's novels somehow ought not to work - Osama: A Novelsets up Osama bin Laden as a fictional vigilante and The Violent Century reinvents WWII with superheroes. Both are exceptional pieces of writing. Challenging, entertaining and thought-provoking. A Man Lies Dreaming continues the trend. It features a novel within a novel; Shomer, a prisoner of war, escapes the brutality of his life in Auschwitz by imagining a story. Before the war Shomer was a writer of pulp fiction. His new story, a tale that exists only in his head, makes Adolf Hitler an exile in London, in 1939, having been ousted from his country by the communists. Europe is in turmoil, standing on the brink of war. 'Wolf' is an almost forgotten footnote of history; a gumshoe, a dick, a detective for hire on the streets of London.

The novel is a wonderful blend of styles, filled with reference and homage. There are obvious comparisons with Chandler and Hammet, but Tidhar borrows from Holocaust literature and modern popular culture too. This is speculative fiction, written from a perspective of a writer looking forward from the past. Tidhar expertly foreshadows trends and attitudes that are current today. Most notably, in his depiction of Oswald Mosley as a viable candidate for prime minister. In a world without a fascist Germany, British blackshirts have a chance to rise to the top. This feels cleverly plausible; Britain is, I think, a largely tolerant nation, but somehow you get the feeling that whilst we'd all deny it, it might not take much to push us over into fascism (probably starting with forming an orderly queue). Tidhar cleverly and overtly borrows from UKIP party rhetoric to make his point. Anybody who is thinking of voting for them should probably read this book, though the point the author is making is probably far too subtle.

There are some beautiful speculations on the world of literature and film, which are intriguing and entertaining in equal measure. There is a great vein of humour running through the book including a famous film being reimagined to involve F Scott Fitzgerald and Humphrey Bogart. The multitude of these small but joyous moments give the book wonderful depth and texture. All this is underpinned by strong research and a passion for the subject matter. There are several pages of end-notes that peel back the layers of fact and fiction, revealing the seamless construction of the novel.

Whilst it has lighter moments, the heart of the book is deeply sad. Some books use the horror of holocaust like a sledgehammer to convey the sense of tragedy, without really making any real attempt to articulate the suffering, misery and cruelty inside the camps. Here the horror is dealt with gently, very much on an individual scale. The ease of which humans can become beasts is depicted in subtle shades and the novel is all the more powerful for it.

A Man Lies Dreaming had me reading late into the night, which very few novels do these days. My two-year old, five o'clock alarm call, usually puts paid to that, but I could not put this book down. I had that sense that comes with the very best of novels; hurtling towards the end desperate to finish, whilst all the time hoping the story never runs out. It many ways it doesn't. The novel's ending is an open one. We know what happens, and yet we don't, for who really knows what goes on inside a man as he lays dreaming? This is a wonderful novel that I would recommend to everybody (though perhaps not if you're squeamish or offended by graphic writing). It's beautifully crafted, but there is no trick to revealing the magic inside, just lift the pages and start turning.


The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Chaffinch, 1 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Goldfinch (Paperback)
Six hundred pages into The Goldfinch, I realised that reading Donna Tartt is like childbirth. That's why she only brings novels out every ten years. Time polishes your memory. You yearn for the scintillating prose, the cute turn of phrase, the scholarly tone. You forget the excruciating agony and the fervent wish that it would all be over. You forget swearing to whatever deity is listening that you will never do this again.

So here I am (again).

It's always tricky reviewing books by glittering literati, particularly when you didn't like the book. The Goldfinch has nearly 1,000 5* reviews on Amazon, so people clearly enjoyed it. I'm left wondering what I missed, because it is probably the worst book I've read in the last 10 years.

To be clear, it's neither the most shambolic or poorly written. There's no hackneyed dialogue and cardboard characters; heaven knows I've read a few of those over the years. There are some beautiful passages in the Goldfinch, but it is so overblown. It's a monumentally massive read for such little reward. It barely thrills, it certainly doesn't enlighten. It revealed nothing to me about the human condition, which I consider to be one of the most important jobs of a work of 'Great American Fiction'. The two messages I took home from the book, is that 'life is s***' and ' great art outlives its creators'. Hardly earth-shattering revelations.

The book is detail heavy, not in itself an issue. It's hard to imagine that all the subjects covered would appeal to all readers, unless you were a master cabinet maker with an keen interest in recreational drugs, but nevertheless the novel's richness is part of its appeal. The problem for me is that the detail is pointless. The story that punctuates throughout is flimsy and predicated on coincidence; something I really hate. The final third of the novel is particularly weak. There is far too much wallowing in self-pity, several horrible telegraphed deus ex machina (or perhaps the opposite of - 'No really, you must give me your passport - nothing bad will happen to it. I'll lock it in the glovebox. See NOTHING BAD CAN POSSIBLY HAPPEN.' I paraphrase, obviously). The final ten pages are hideous pseudo-philosophy, included, I assume, to give the book some heft, but actually make the lead character sound like he's trying to crawl up his own arse.

I am left to question the point of this novel. I don't understand how somebody could publish it as is, let alone pontificate about its brilliance. Perhaps the kerching of cash registers drowned out the dissenters at Little Brown. Perhaps many readers and reviewers were too embarrassed to say they didn't like it; compelled to like it because it was written by the author of the hallowed Secret History. Perhaps it's just rubbish. Perhaps this is a really good novel that I have failed to understand. Maybe, but probably not. There are some gold ears of corn here, but there is significantly more chaff.


The Chimes
The Chimes
by Anna Smaill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doh Oh Dear, 29 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Chimes (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really wanted to like the Chimes. A dystopian novel with an unusual premise. Set in the city of London in a world governed by music. Everything is about the tune. People give directions in melody, mark their territories in song and have their memories wiped by a giant unseen instrument and its daily recital the 'Chimes'. But this is not a 'Before I go to Sleep' compulsive thriller. It's a lyrical meandering tale of self-discovery and enlightenment. It's also a bit boring.

I really struggled to find my way into The Chimes. There are two problems with it. This is a highly ambitious project and I don't think any writer could successfully pull it off, or not for me anyway. The world in the novel is governed by music. Music, its notation and language permeate throughout. This isn't so much a problem with the use of words like 'presto' and 'piano', but for a musical dunderhead like me, written descriptions of music just don't work. I can't hear them/see them like I can with more conventional writing. I had very similar problems with Richard Powers Orfeo which I couldn't event finish.

When this is combined with memory loss, it becomes even more confusing. Almost nobody can remember anything that happened the day before, which makes it very hard to grasp what's going on. It's all very unreal. The first part of the book involves hunting for Palladium metal beneath a shattered London (destroyed by a sonic weapon). It should be interesting, but somehow it isn't, because the ethereal language just isn't visceral enough for the events and locations. In one fight scene I had no idea what was going on.

As the novel progresses, it does get better. An overreaching enemy begins to coalesce out of the myriad notes. The full extent of the regime becomes clear, and it's well-rendered. The choice of Oxford for this alternate world is perhaps unfortunate as The Chimes compares unfavourably with Northern Lights and The Bone Season. Then just as I found my way into it, the novel finished, and even then I'm not entirely clear what happened. It was all a bit rushed. I wasn't properly concentrating by then so my confusion is partly my own fault, but I wasn't paying attention because the novel didn't hold it. I was reading on only out of loyalty to an excellent idea.

The Chimes is a highly ambitious novel that tries to be different. For that it should be applauded. Like many new things, it won't win everybody over and I am far from convinced. If you interested in music, and are better able to visualise its melodies than I, I think you'll enjoy this novel, but if you're a tone-deaf fan of Katniss Everdeen, you're probably looking for something else.


Mitre Delta V12S Match FIFA Inspected Ball - White/Orange/Black - 5
Mitre Delta V12S Match FIFA Inspected Ball - White/Orange/Black - 5

5.0 out of 5 stars Fifa Inspected?, 21 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A Fifa inspected ball? Well if Fifa say it's OK, then it must be good. They're well known for the integrity of their investigations.

When I recently had the opportunity to review Mitre Primero 32P Ball, I wondered to myself the difference between a training ball and a match ball. I was quite surprised when I was also offered the chance to review this ball. The match ball is better, but then again it's twice the price.

As with my review of the Primero this ball has been tested by my 5 & 9 year old in very much non-match conditions. They much prefer this one. It's tougher and somehow more appealing in texture. It's also heavier which isn't great for the inevitable face-plants nor for a garage stadium which is a bit like the San Siro only with a lot more glass.

In any case this has become ball of choice right now, usurping the Brazuka. This might be because of the quality of the ball, but more likely because nobody else has got one. All I will say is that they didn't make them like this in my day. An excellent product, which has me thinking I need better quality jumpers for the boys' goalposts.


Mitre Primero 32P Ball - White/Navy/Silver - 5
Mitre Primero 32P Ball - White/Navy/Silver - 5
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars There's a hole in my football, 21 Nov 2014
This review is from: Mitre Primero 32P Ball (Sports)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In no way have I tested this ball in normal training conditions. This has been used by a nine and 5 year old up against the garage. Whilst there has been much practice of Erik Lamela's fabled 'rabona' there hasn't been any real football played with it.

The ball comes deflated, but is easy to pump up with a standard valve. It's spherical, which is a bonus. It's not all that interesting to look at, which is a drawback if buying for children. They much prefer their brightly coloured 'Brazuka' (and to be honest so do I). But this is a good price for a serviceable ball.

Or at least it would be if it hadn't obtained a puncture on it's first use. It's only a slow one, so it can be used with a quick bit air put back inside, but it's far from ideal. It's probably not indicative of all the balls, after all there must be thousands of them. If I had purchased it rather than having been given one to review, I would send it back and I'd be given a replacement. I'm confident the replacement would have been fine (We have the previous incarnation of this ball, brought last Christmas and used all year, which although heavily scuffed is still perfectly air-tight.) but I can only review what's in front of me, which is a half-inflated ball.

The playing surface was pebble dashed concrete, rather than astro or grass, but football matches with this ball despite being Real Madrid V Barcelona have fallen a little flat.


Glow
Glow
by Ned Beauman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I know your face, 18 Nov 2014
This review is from: Glow (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the third, and most straightforward Ned Beauman novel I have read. After the description defying Boxer, Beetle and the looping swooping picaresque The Teleportation Accident, Glow is almost run of the mill. Had it been written by somebody else, rather than describing it as straightforward I'd be saying it was a psychedelic mind-bending crime caper, because, well, that's what it is.

Raf, a young man with a sleep disorder and a penchant for experimental drugs is at a rave in a laundrette in Peckham. Here he meets the enigmatic Cherish. He proceeds to give her some dodgy 'Glow' before she disappears leaving Raf wondering whether she ever really existed. After that things fall apart.

The head of the pirate radio station that Raf listens to disappears in unusual circumstances, and curiously, the station starts broadcasting a Burmese culture segment. When a crumpled man claiming to be from M16 starts talking about silent white vans plucking strangers off the street, Raf finds himself embroiled in a complicated corporate plot.

In the main I enjoyed Glow a great deal. It has that same askew world-view that Beauman brings to his other novels. It's the world I live in but it's described in a manner I've never contemplated before. His prose brings a freshness to the old and tired, and there are few things tireder than a inner London suburb. There is a wonderful theme running through the book of circadian rhythms. Various characters, for different reasons find their body clocks are out of sync with the rest of humanity. The way Beauman depicts these disorders makes them feel other-worldly. A great number of words are devoted to the psychotropic nature of drugs such as MDMA and the fictional Glow. Tied into this is a plot involving American corporations operating in Burma. This SE Asian theatre, the drugs and the multiple strands of misinformation put me in mind of Dennis Johnson's multi-stranded novel Tree of Smoke.

The plot tends towards the preposterous, which again is typical of Beauman's novels, but there is big enough vein of truth to make the events plausible if improbable. The thriller aspects of the novel entertain, the descriptions of the effects of the drugs inform (sometimes overly so) and the writing often dazzles. Occasionally I found the rarified language used grated, sometimes feeling out of context from setting and narrator, but it doesn't derail the novel as a whole. With Glow Beauman has written a novel based upon a common premise and given it a fresh and unique flavour. I'm not sure if this will convert Beauman's detractors or gain him a new following, but if you're a fan there is much to enjoy here. If you've not read Beauman before I think I'd recommend starting with Boxer Beetle.


Philips E27 6 Watt LED Edison Screw, Warm White
Philips E27 6 Watt LED Edison Screw, Warm White
Offered by sotel-germany
Price: £18.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Light of my life?, 14 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Another excellent light bulb from Philips. The bulb comes on at full brightness instantly and gives a very nice soft light. This one is a screw fitting, of which we only have one or two fittings, but when my existing bayonet bulbs go, I'll be definitely be looking for the bayonet equivalent of this bulb to replace them.


A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1)
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1)
by Deborah Harkness
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars So, he's handsome then?, 11 Nov 2014
This book is too long. The story is interesting, but there's about three hundred pages of redundant description. To make matters worse it's not even a complete story. I did know there were follow up books, but I had thought this volume stood in its own right, which it don't.

I'm prepared to concede this book isn't aimed at me. The numerous references to Twilight and the words, 'illicit', 'sexy' and 'romp' in the blurb, should have tipped me off.

Brooding and wonderfully handsome vampire Matthew Clairmont, I assume, has female readers swooning. He certainly seems to have an affect on narrator Diana Bishop; we're told he does over and over again. We're told he is handsome, that he broods, that he wears grey clothes. He's an animal, he's caring, he's protective. His skin is cold. He's strong, he's fast, he's brooding, he wears grey clothes. He's handsome, his skin is cold, he's brooding, he's lived for a long time, he's an animal, he's clever, he's handsome, he's protective, he broods, he wears grey clothes; and, oh yes, he's cold. Not sure about blood-sucking, but DoW certainly sapped my will to live.

She's a witch, he's a vampire. Two races, naturally mistrustful when not outright hostile. She's in denial about being a witch. He's lived for centuries. He's a monster, she's...er... a history professor. He has cold blood (did I mention that), and is, apparently, above averagely handsome. For reasons that are vaguely explained they fall madly in love with one another almost immediately, but it's a forbidden love. Mixed race relationships definitely frowned upon. The scene where Matthew takes Diana back to his family castle to meet his centuries old witch hating mother is like Twilight crossed with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Anyway he's all arcane knowledge, pent up aggression and ice cool control. Imagine George Clooney as a salt-water crocodile.

OK - I exaggerate. The romance stuff did take up too much of my time, especially as it's so overblown but the fantasy/magic via academia thread eventually lured me in. The three races of creatures living amongst us, daemon, vampire and witch, is hardly original, but the evolutionary biology standpoint that Harkness takes does give a fresh angle. Science vs supernatural is always a blend I enjoy, and the author lends it some academic rigour that feels plausible whilst it entertains. Origin stories are nearly always interesting and so it is with the root of Diana's power, particularly whilst she is investigating what she can do. The various branches of her witchy talents are interesting and well thought out.

I know this book is very popular and has a large following, but I can't fathom why. It's like Twilight but more grown up, the Da Vinci Code with more rigour, but it's little more than that. There was enough in it to keep me reading, though I was sorely tempted to stop a number of times. There are places where it's just plain boring and, as I may have mentioned, repetitive. It is intermittently readable and exciting, but templars, witches and old books aren't enough on their own to make a brilliant story, no matter how many times you tell me how handsome the lead vampire is. Perhaps its academic leanings have dressed the book up to be something more interesting than it really is (probably in enigmatic monochrome), but I found it little more than average.


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