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Gabrielle O (Oxford, UK)

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The Complete Garden Expert: The Expert you've been waiting for - All the gardening Experts condensed and updated into one enlarged volume
The Complete Garden Expert: The Expert you've been waiting for - All the gardening Experts condensed and updated into one enlarged volume
by Dr D G Hessayon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.20

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it despite (or because?!) of its flaws, 22 Feb 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This glossy paperback book is thick and packed with information. Printed in full colour, the styles and colours inside definitely have a retro flavour and I catch myself wondering just how dated this gardening book might be. When I start reading, I'm pleasantly surprised: it's easy to read, informative and down to earth (literally, ha ha). I find out what some of the shrubs in my garden are - we inherited them from the last owner and I've never known what to do with them or what they are. I learn how to put up a fence, which is useful as part of ours has just given up the ghost and fallen over, leaving the coast clear for the neighbour's marauding Jack Russells. And I finally figure out why the tarragon I planted has no flavour - it's Russian tarragon and not the superior French kind...

Ok, so you'll find that there are practically no photos here. The page design is lovingly maintained in a very vintage style (shaded text boxes with square corners, hokey typefaces abounding) that you might baulk at. There are pictures of crazy paving as an example of something you might want to try. And the author does go on at excruciating length about how amazing modern plastic resin garden furniture is.

But... It really is a great book. Quirky and loveable, it tells you - in plain English and retro illustration - exactly what, where, when, how and why. The answer to so many of my beginner's problems, and the source of inspiration and knowledge for future plots and plans. I like it a lot! I didn't expect to, but I really do. Thanks, Mr Hessayon, for a wonderfully readable and practical resource that makes gardening seem easy and approachable rather than daunting and over-complicated.


Nokia BH-112 Wireless Bluetooth Headset for Smartphone Devices - Black
Nokia BH-112 Wireless Bluetooth Headset for Smartphone Devices - Black
Offered by Fast Link
Price: £13.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice little bit of kit, does the job, 29 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was pleased with this Nokia bluetooth headset, although admittedly my expectations were relatively low - I've never used a bluetooth headset before but liked the idea of having one for in the car. It was easy to set up, it's easy to use (admittedly I didn't really need to rely on instructions as it seemed super easy to set up with my HTC Android mobile) and it works. The sounds quality is okay. The only thing I would mention, which is probably the case with most bluetooth headsets, is that it doesn't work well in the wind - so, not one to use with the car windows open.

Pros: works well, easy to set up and use. Cons: relatively basic build quality - doesn't feel luxurious but probably does reflect the price bracket.


The Empty Family: Stories
The Empty Family: Stories
by Colm Tóibín
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful collection of short stories, 29 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I loved reading this collection of short stories by Colm Toibin. The whole book is quite short, coming in at only 214 pages, so this was a relatively quick read - but one I wished I could spin out for longer, because I enjoyed reading them so much.

I think that what sticks me with most is the writing style. Every short story is written with a wonderfully gradual unfolding, it's very subtle. It reminds me a bit of a quote I read once in a review of an art exhibition: "the epic is in the intimate, not the obvious". A beautiful read.


As the Earth Turns Silver
As the Earth Turns Silver
by Alison Wong
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, moving book with a real sense of atmosphere, 11 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wasn't sure what to make of this book but when I started reading it I absolutely loved it. It's a love story, I guess, about a couple who fall in love against all the odds - a young widow and a Chinese greengrocer in early 20th century New Zealand. It's very beautifully written in a lyrically descriptive way.

At a time when there's a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment and legislation against the Chinese immigrants in particular, there's obvious potential for tragedy - but it's still somehow just as surprising and awful when it arrives.

I thought this was beautifully written and very moving. It's not a period of history that I know much about but the characters are so sympathetically drawn that it's easy to be fascinated by the whole context of the world they live in, and by the delicate nuances of their relationship and how they fall in love. Actually, the delicate way the love affair is written makes the social context and reaction and ensuing tragedy seem even more stark and awful.

A really wonderful book and I'm just going to check now to see if Alison Wong has written anything else I can buy...


A Taste of the Unexpected
A Taste of the Unexpected
by Mark Diacono
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book but not for everyone, 11 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I hate to be the person who's not QUITE as enthusiastic as everybody else... but I'm afraid that I'm not. This is a good book in many ways. A Taste of the Unexpected blends together an unusual mix of non-fiction writing, recipes and growing tips. For me, it didn't quite work. While I thought there was a lot of wonderful stuff in there, I struggled to really engage with it. I'm going to try to explain what I like about this book, but why it fell ever so slightly short of 'great' for me.

Mark Diacono does have a really good point to make: why bother growing ordinary, run of the mill vegetables when you could be growing exciting exotic things that you could never find in the supermarket? Good point, well made. It is a good prompt to think about what you are growing and why. If the more mundane vegetables genuinely taste better and give you pleasure to grow, then by all means grow them. But Diacono prompts you to think about why you choose to grow things, and gives some exciting suggestions that you might not have considered. Mizuna and mulberries, anyone?

Ok, so, what I liked less about the book. I just didn't get into it. The recipes didn't grab me. I think I just instinctively prefer making simple food and I wasn't really that fussed about lots of recipes for things I didn't want to eat or grow. I would definitely consider some of the growing suggestions in the book, but at the end of the day I'm not particularly motivated by how exotic something is. I just want to eat more ordinary vegetables, cooked well. I don't know, this probably sounds horribly fussy, because it really is a good read - but I didn't finished it thinking 'I must grow those things and make those recipes'. I thought 'that was interesting, I'm glad I read it and thought more about my veg growing choices, but now I don't think I'm going to look at it again'. I'm generally ok with growing ordinary stuff and it gives me pleasure, and the recipes just didn't grab me. Anyway - perhaps just me, but I hope you find this interesting if you are wavering about whether this is the book for you!


Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: 200 Super Soups (Hamlyn All Colour Cookbooks)
Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook: 200 Super Soups (Hamlyn All Colour Cookbooks)
by Sara Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful, tasty and easy, 11 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
... those are my favourite three words when it comes to cooking! And this book really delivers on them.

I wasn't totally convinced when this book arrived on my doorstep - it's quite concise and looks like there isn't much to it. But each recipe is illustrated with a photo, and actually it's pretty packed with recipes. The photos aren't stunningly aesthetically pleasing but do a good job of giving a realistic impression of how your finished soup should look. It's a relatively small, compact book that's easy to flip through. Because of its size, it doesn't stay open very easily on the counter, but you can always use a bookmark or put it in a cookbook stand.

So, are the recipes any good? Yes, these do actually deliver and the ones I've made so far have been really easy to make and tasty. I'm looking forward to trying more. There's a good variety, including both old favourites (leek and potato soup) and some quirky new suggestions (fennel vichyssoise, anyone?!). A fair number of the recipes are suitable for vegetarians - not all, by any means, but enough to keep me interested.

Really like this book. It's quite straight down the line - not desperately thrilling, but it does a good job of what it sets out to do!


Alice Hannah Pointelle & Cable Beret Women's Hat
Alice Hannah Pointelle & Cable Beret Women's Hat

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully made and really elegant, 27 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Really gorgeous - the photos on here don't do justice to this beret at all. I didn't buy it on Amazon myself but was given it as a Christmas gift by my sister. What a beautiful hat.

The label inside says it's made of 70% lambswool, 20% angora and 10% nylon. It's very finely knitted with a lacy, slightly see-through pattern. I would say it's quite a slouchy beret, rather than a tight one. It's also relatively thin rather than thick and woolly, so it's probably more classy and elegant than ready for Siberian weather.

All in all, a really gorgeous hat and I love it enough that I've just popped on Amazon to buy another one in a second colour! Great price too, for the quality you get...


The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
by Brian Cox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but a bit beyond me..., 27 Dec 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm sorry, I'm sure this is a marvelous book but I just couldn't follow it.

It's not that it's a bad book. I'm simply not equipped to cope with quantum physics! It's explained quite well for the most part, and some of the analogies used to explain concepts are very helpful for a layperson - even just a different way of looking at something can help it make a lot more sense. The maths is also explained clearly and well.

This wasn't a book I would have purchased with my own money - I only read it because I was offered it through the Amazon Vine reviewing programme. So I'm probably not really the ideal target audience. But if you take anything away from my review, let it be this - if you're planning to buy this as a gift for somebody, do think long and hard about whether they'd be genuinely interested in reading hundreds of pages, many quite dense, about quantum physics!


Lamy Safari 2011 Limited Edition Fountain Pen Aquamarine Medium Nib
Lamy Safari 2011 Limited Edition Fountain Pen Aquamarine Medium Nib

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twice as nice at half the price - as they say..., 6 Dec 2011
This is a gorgeous pen, both to look at and to use. The colour is really striking and chic - or at least, I think so, because that's what prompted me to buy it and I like it very much now I've got it.

I gather that £15 is relatively cheap for a fountain pen, and I've got a more expensive one that I was given in the past - I think it cost around £70. And I know that this Lamy pen is basically made of plastic. But despite that, it really is a pleasure to write with and use, and to my mind feels like a much more expensive and nicely made bit of kit.

This pen takes Lamy cartridges, which are easily available at stationers or in bulk (which can be cheaper) here on Amazon. You can buy a converter which allows you to use bottled ink, but be aware that you need to purchase this separately. Personally I prefer the portability of the cartridges, and they seem to last for a pretty long time too as they are relatively large compared to some other makes of cartridge ink.

I find it comfortable and easy to write with, although in the past I've mostly used ballpoint pens and you do need to get used to using less pressure and a lighter grip. It doesn't take much getting used to. I have a medium nib and - though I wondered if I'd prefer a fine nib - now that I've started using it I like the feel. I do like the option of being able to exchange nibs, though, if I change my mind about that.

All in all, a lovely pen. The design quality is what really makes it for me. It's a pleasure to pick up and use, yet without that rather old-fashioned quality that a lot of fountain pens have - this one is definitely the fresh and modern option.


By Nightfall
By Nightfall
by Michael Cunningham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.55

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent, beautifully descriptive read, 25 Nov 2011
This review is from: By Nightfall (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
By Nightfall really is a beautifully written book, though the style may not be for everybody - it starts slowly and is much more focused on description rather than plot. Set in New York, By Nightfall follows the life of Peter Harris, a married art dealer approaching middle age. When his wife's younger brother comes to stay - troubled, charming and on drugs - it's the catalyst for a big upheaval and rethinking of priorities.

The central premise of the book is, basically, a midlife crisis that forces Peter and his wife Rebecca to rethink their needs and desires in life. It doesn't sound like much of a plot but the descriptive narration is so beautifully and thoughtfully written that it carries the book. It's an intelligent and engaging read - recommended, particularly to anyone reconsidering their priorities in life or torn between dreams and reality!


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