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Jo Bennie (UK)
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Odd Thomas (Odd Thomas 1)
Odd Thomas (Odd Thomas 1)
by Dean Koontz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars First outing for the extraordinary Odd Thomas, 18 Dec 2014
'I see dead people. But then, by god, I DO something about it'. So speaks Odd Thomas, Koontz's most developed character to date.

Koontz skilfully constructs his narrative so we are 4 chapters into the book before this quote reveals that Odd Thomas can see the spirits of the lingering dead. They come to him for help with whatever has prevented them from moving on, and he does his best, often accompanied by the restless ghost of Elvis.

Odd works as a short order grill chef in the desert town of Pico Mundo, spending his free time with the good and kind eccentrics that are his friends and his extraordinary girlfriend Stormy.

His life sometimes takes strange turns because of his sixth sense, but now trouble is coming. One of the waitresses at the diner has a dream of herself lying dead. Sinister creatures Odd calls bodachs are roaming the streets in ever greater numbers. These bodachs are shadowy creatures that Odd sees visiting the scene of violent deaths before and during the event.

Odd cannot do as Stormy urges him to: leave Pico Mundo and run from his terrible premonitions. He feels responsible and bound to the people of the town. Now he knows that death and violence are coming can he figure out in time what the calamity will be and prevent it?

Thus with Koontz's first book of this series we meet Odd Thomas, a wonderful creation firmly planted in the mundane world but with a connection to the things that lie beyond the realm of everyday experience. Like the best of Koontz's characters he is gifted but humble, traumatised by childhood terror but in touch with the ineffable beauty of the world. Odd is psychic but flawed, he cannot control when or how his visions come to him and considers himself to be in service to and indeed often tormented by knowledge he does not want to have.


Harvesting the Heart
Harvesting the Heart
by Jodi Picoult
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Well written and haunting, 17 Dec 2014
This review is from: Harvesting the Heart (Paperback)
Paige is 18 when she runs away from the home she shares with her father, overwhelmed by the guilt she suffers when she has an abortion. A lifelong Catholic, her terror of the consequences of having sinned in having had premarital sex in the first place is tipped into headlong fleeing by her choice to do what her church perceives as murder.

Paige finds sanctuary and work at Mercy, a Chicago diner whose owner takes pity on her. And there she meets Nicholas, a high achieving medical student born of privelige and money. It doesn't take long for the chemistry to grow between them and for Nicholas to impulsively ask Paige to marry him.

Nicholas' parents are not impressed with their son's less than blue-blooded choice of wife and cut him off, so Paige gives up her dreams of art school to fund Nicholas through the remainder of medical school.

Nicholas becomes an elite cardiac surgeon and all seems well, until Paige falls pregnant. With the birth of their son Max things begin to unravel. Paige is tormented by the memories of the mother who abandoned her as a child and of her previous unborn child driving her to a damaging course of action

This was a book I was divided over. On the one hand Picoult's depiction of the dehumanising world shattering experience of new motherhood on both mother and relationships is skilful, moving and pretty close to the truth. However, I felt that her characterisation of Nicholas was a little villainous at times. Still very enjoyable


Bright Shiny Morning
Bright Shiny Morning
by James Frey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable roller coaster ride, 14 Dec 2014
This review is from: Bright Shiny Morning (Paperback)
A stunning bewildering whirlwind taking as its subject the history of Los Angeles and the lives of the people of this vast city.

We do meet the elite of the city, the super rich and powerful, successful actors and real estate dealers, but these are heavily outweighed by the majority of Angelenos who hover on the boundaries of society.

Frey creates a series of unforgettable haunting characters. Most are jewel-like cameos, brief drifters in and out of the narrative, but a few are beautifully developed: a child of Mexican immigrants born as they crossed the border; a pair of teenage childhood sweethearts on the run from their violent parents, a homeless alcoholic scraping through the days and nights on Venice Beach, a movie star couple whose glittering public image hides their true homosexuality.

The stories of the people are interspersed with short paragraphs narrating the history of Los Angeles from its beginning as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porcinula by freed and escaped slaves, Native Americans, three Mexicans and one European in 1781, and it's a colourful one.

Frey also inserts shocking litanies of statistics, lists of facts and figures about one of the greatest metropolises on the planet. A list of customers details their frightening purchases at a gun store, another list speaks of the differing characters of freeways that choke the city with smog. There are lists of the gangs of the city by ethnic origin; of the series of terrible natural disasters that have devastated the city every few years; of veterans destroyed by war.

These are the sad histories of the millions that come to LA pursuing their dreams of freedom, fame and fortune. Of the vast majority who watch their dreams die in poverty, insanity, addiction, loss and violence.

I have rarely read anything as powerful, a spellbinding patchwork of parts I could not wait to get back to.


ONX3® Samsung Galaxy Young 2 GM-130 GREEN Custom Made Luxury Book Style Wallet Top Flip Leather Case Skin Cover + LCD Screen Protector Guard + Micro Polishing Cleaning Cloth - Various Colours (Wallet)
ONX3® Samsung Galaxy Young 2 GM-130 GREEN Custom Made Luxury Book Style Wallet Top Flip Leather Case Skin Cover + LCD Screen Protector Guard + Micro Polishing Cleaning Cloth - Various Colours (Wallet)
Offered by ONX3
Price: £11.99


The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
by Various
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Loving Christmas without guilt, 12 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a thought provoking set of essays by some of the leading atheists of our time. The essays address the dilemmas faced by atheists at Christmas, fundamentally whether or not it is hypocritical to celebrate the season if you do not believe in a god or gods. The Atheist's Guide to Christmas naturally touches on the well worn grooves of the fact that most things to do with Christmas are very far from the Christian message of love, peace and tolerance. That setting aside the madness of Black Friday and rampant consumerism the festival we now know as Christmas has roots deep in the pagan light festivals of deep winter.

The book is divided into six sections: Stories; Science; How To; Philosophy; Arts and Events with seven essays in each section discussing the subject in relation to Christmas and being a non believer.

The message that comes over is that it's okay to celebrate Christmas, much as you can meditate and not be a Buddhist. Being an atheist does not mean you do not value and take joy from the coming together of family, carols, or even the Christmas story itself with its beautiful message of sacrifice, love and humility. It is simply that us atheists believe in what can be observed as opposed to what cannot, be that gods, fairies, ghosts or the afterlife.

I am an atheist and I adore the wonder of this time, the frosty streets and cold nights lit up with hopeful strings of light, the anticipation of seeing my family open the presents I've chosen so carefully, mulled wine and roast potatoes, love and a couple of days without work. Believing that this is all there is gives poignancy to the here and now, that we do not do things for anything in the next life but that we live as morally ethically as possible because this is all there is. And that is what Christmas is all about at heart.


Lone Wolf
Lone Wolf
by Jodi Picoult
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Two story strands: the true nature of wolves and the rights of coma patients, skilfully combined, 8 Dec 2014
This review is from: Lone Wolf (Paperback)
Luke Warren is the Wolf Man who left his wife and two young children to live in the northern Canadian forest with an pack of truly wild wolves. In the two years he was gone Luke lived and slept and ate as a wolf and found reintegration into human society in New Hampshire painfully difficult. Since then he has worked with captive wolves, teaching them to be wild in the hope that one day New Hampshire would change its laws and allow wolves to be reintroduced in the state. But now this vigorously alive man lies in a deep coma, a car crash and traumatic brain injury have taken way everything he was.

Luke's children, Edward, estranged from his father for many years, and Cara who lived with and idolised him, face the most difficult of choices, whether or not to turn off the respirator that is keeping him alive and let him go. Bitterly divided, the case comes to court before a judge faced with the decision as to which child should make a decision on Luke's behalf.

Picoult presents the story in chapters that are variously narrated by Luke, Cara, Edward, Luke's ex wife and the children's mother Georgie, her husband Joe and other characters. From these we come to understand both the wonder of what Luke did and the impact it had on his human family. The story brings together two strands, one about the true nature of wolves, and the other about the moral and painful dilemmas raised when trying to make life or death decisions for a loved one.

I found the characters fascinating, in Luke wonder and bravery are combined with irresponsibility and callousness towards his family, Cara is a headstrong passionate late teenager struggling to find her place in her mother's new family and new twin siblings. Edward is a conflicted young man torn between loving and despising the father he is rapidly coming to so closely resemble.

I personally loved the craft and subject matter of Lone Wolf.


My Friend Leonard
My Friend Leonard
by James Frey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Love Leonard, love James, love Frey's writing, 5 Dec 2014
This review is from: My Friend Leonard (Paperback)
I loved this sequel to A Million Little Pieces as much as the first one. Frey's first person narration is written with the direct forcefulness and raw emotion I have always loved in the writings of Kerouac, Burroughs and the other Beat writers, and in Gonzo journalism. Like them Frey blurs the line between biography and fiction, highlighting how when it comes to fiction all authors, however much they may be speaking about real events, make of them a narrative. And it also reminds us conversely of the narrative structure we impose on the chaos of our own lives.

In some ways My Friend Leonard is a journey-of-the-spirit book. Frey picks up the narrative at the end of serving jail time for a series of offences he committed under the influence of his violent addiction to drugs and alcohol, an addiction that almost cost him his life. Frey's first book A Million Little Pieces was the story of James' time in a rehab clinic, and this second book follows him as he moves into a wider world.

Desperate to be reunited with his beloved Lilly he drives all night from prison to Chicago where she is staying in a halfway house, but pain and hurt aren't done with James yet. The eponymous Leonard comes to the rescue, a mobster James met in rehab who has unofficially adopted James as the son he never had. James moves through a period of working on the fringes of his influential friend's world to becoming self sufficient, loved and loving.

It really doesn't matter to me which parts of Frey's story are 'real' or not, his scathingly honest depiction of life after addiction is hugely affecting. Frey's writing makes no distinction between the mundane and the alarming, moving smoothly between life in Chicago walking on the frozen shores of Lake Michigan, through waking with the nosebleeds that so clearly indicated his addiction was killing him, to life in the surreal unreality of Hollywood to the West Coast sun. A writer I'm glad I've found


Doctor Who: Nuclear Time
Doctor Who: Nuclear Time
by Oli Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Peril, humour and timely wimey stuff, 5 Dec 2014
Matt Smith's 11th Doctor Who, Amy and Rory arrive in the strange settlement of Appletown, somewhere in the American desert. It is a community of suburban houses with neat gardens and genteel people, incongruous with the harsh setting.

The Doctor and his companions quickly realise there is something wrong with the whole set up and the truth about the residents and the town emerges from a set of well juxtaposed chapters that move between the present and the past, where a brilliant scientist is challenging the boundaries of computing capability

The storyline quickly turns nasty and as the Doctor battles to use the TARDIS to avert Armageddon 'timely wimey' stuff happens and the Doctor finds himself moving backwards through time. His understanding of time, cause and effect and consequences really show him at his Time Lord best.

Amy and Rory as ever provide near escapes from peril and the gentle humour of their relationship, Amy striding forwards heedlessly into action, Rory desperately trying to save her.

I loved this story with its mind bending themes of time and relativity combined with fast paced action, skilful depiction of human characters and their motivations, and of course saving the world (again!) with comic timing.


Philips SW700M/05 Multiroom Speaker with Spotify Connect
Philips SW700M/05 Multiroom Speaker with Spotify Connect
Price: £82.56

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely and easy to use, but needs membership, 4 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
To use this speaker you have to have a Premium Spotify Account. However the speaker itself is easy and to set up over a wifi connection.

I found it easy to find the SpeakerSet app and to download it onto my device (a tablet, smartphone or laptop) and my phone connected to the speaker without any issues.

It's a lovely design, not too big, light and nice and sleek.

My four stars aren't five because although this is a well designed, easy to use and well priced speaker you do need to be aware that you can't just connect with a Spotify account, it has to be upgraded to a Premium Account


Philips SpeedCare Compact Steam Generator Iron GC6631/30 with 170 g Steam Boost and 1.2 Litre Water Tank, 2400 Watt, 4.5 Bar, Purple
Philips SpeedCare Compact Steam Generator Iron GC6631/30 with 170 g Steam Boost and 1.2 Litre Water Tank, 2400 Watt, 4.5 Bar, Purple
Price: £200.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ironing done faster than usual, 4 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Light and easy to use, this just busts through ironing. This steam iron made short work of a hard-to-iron high quality shirt and the tip was sharp enough to ease the creases out of the lace trim on one of my favourite skirts.

Simple to set up with a good quick start guide. The temperature dial is clear and the steam trigger not too stiff. The generous tank means no need to refill. Fast to warm up. Fairly easy to fill and very easy to use. The unit cable is a generous length and the steam carrying cable doesn't twist.

If you have hard water there is a tool for descaling

My only real issue was that on first use the iron kicked out a lot of a granular white material, it cannot have been limescale as we live in a very soft water area. However, it didn't mark or damage the fabric and cleared after ironing one item.

I have never purchased anything more expensive than the most basic of ordinary irons and this was a positive experience, but the price does seem a little steep.


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