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Reviews Written by
Adam Bartleby "Bartleby2009" (London, UK)

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Last Man in Tower
Last Man in Tower
Price: 4.19

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Globalisation and the Indian middle-class, 27 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Kindle Edition)
In the West we are familiar with the story of the impact of globalisation on our own middle class. In 'our' story of globalisation, it is easy to think of distant places like India in reductive terms - i.e. a destination for `off-shored' jobs, a place where there are only the obscenely poor and the obscenely rich.

What I found immensely refreshing about Last Man in Tower is that it centres on neither the very poor nor the very rich, but on a group of people we in the West don't associate very much with India; a strangely familiar middle-class of middle aged salaried workers - company accountants, small time estate agents, teachers and small business owners. What we find is that the world of the traditional Indian petty bourgeoisie is as fragile, threatened and hypocritical as our own.

As well as the story of globalisation and its effect on the traditional Indian middle-class, there is also a universal, timeless story in here about greed and the powerful corrupting effect of the opportunity of unearned wealth - the civilised veneer of middle-class life is thinner than we like to think and below it lies the same animal brutality that we expect to find in a thug on the street.

Last Man in Tower is beautifully written and constructed. It starts at a leisurely, relaxed pace, exploring the day to day world of the respectable, not-particularly-interesting, occupants of Vishram Tower `A'. However, as you work your way through the book the tempo slowly but surely quickens, the bass increases and the sky darkens until toward the end you find yourself on the edge of your seat, having been incrementally transported along with the characters into a dark world shaped by greed, personal weakness and corruption. As with Adiga's first book, the booker prize winning The White Tiger, the reader can only be ambivalent about each of the main characters; some are more attractive than others but, like real people, they are all flawed in their own ways.

All that said, Last Man in Tower is not a depressing book. It looks at people, at societies, and sees them for what they are, warts and and all. There is a sort of redemption and a golden thread of hope that runs through the book, which ends on a positive note, based on the reality that few people are truly 'bad', that there is good in the worst of us and life, specifically humanity, has a tendency to survive and to overcome.

Roxio Toast 11 Titanium (Mac)
Roxio Toast 11 Titanium (Mac)
Price: 41.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the most user friendly high powered media authoring software available for Mac, 5 Jun 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Toast is a user friendly programme that gives you near complete control to rip (copy content off a DVD), convert and burn (create a DVD) media across different formats and to manage that process with relatively little technical knowledge while achieving professional results.

There are free media programmes available on the internet for Mac, notably 'Handbrake', but these are much weaker in comparison with Toast and require additional software, technical knowledge, and time to create similar results.

For example, while 'Handbrake' will allow you to rip most DVDs into a digital format, suitable for your computer or iPhone etc, it is not able to burn content onto a new DVD; for that you would need a seperate programme whereas Toast can author DVDs as well as rip them.

To get the most out of Toast you need to be someone who has an amateur or professional interest in making movies; e.g. making easily playable DVDs of your children for grandparents to play at home without the need of a computer, wedding and other event videos, or for people making corporate films etc. If it's just digital back up (i.e. DVD ripping) that you are after, then Toast is an expensive, if easy and effective, solution.

In conclusion, Toast is probably the biggest and most well developed name in third party media authoring for the Mac and this is reflected in the price tag; it isn't the cheapest solution, though it is probably the best.

Philips AVENT SCF276/01 24-Hour Digital Steam Steriliser
Philips AVENT SCF276/01 24-Hour Digital Steam Steriliser

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful if formula feeding but less so if expressing, 27 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Avent is a leading baby feeding equipment brand that makes both standalone sterilisers and microwave sterilisers.

Standalone sterilisers, like this one, are plug-in devices that make their own sterilising steam. This means that they don't require a microwave and are thus more convenient, requiring less steps to use. This particular model distinguishes itself with a '24 hour' feature, meaning that it can be set to have freshly sterilised bottles ready 24 hours a day - i.e. removing any need to manually sterilise before each feed.

Microwave sterilisers, on the other hand, are basically round plastic food containers where you add a little water and the microwave heats that water into steam that sterilises the contents of the container. They require a bit more work each time and obviously lack the 24 hour feature of this product.

However, as we breast feeding and only occasionally use expressed milk we didn't get much use of the standalone steriliser; it takes up work surface space and we weren't using enough bottles to get much advantage from the slightly quicker sterilising process - the 24 hour feature is largely redundant for expressing.

So, if you are formula feeding and need bottles to hand 24 hours a day, I think this product would be worth purchasing, but if you are exclusively or mainly breastfeeding with occasional formula or expressed bottle feeds, I think you'd be better-off sticking with the much cheaper Philips AVENT Express II Microwave Steam Steriliser.

Between the Assassinations
Between the Assassinations
Price: 3.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Indian Dubliners, 8 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The title of this book refers to the time between the assasination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi in 1984 and the assasination of her son and successor, Rajiv Ghandi, in 1991. The substance of the book is a tourist guidebook to a fictional Indian town, interspersed within a collection of short stories. Each chapter is independent from the next, though they share the geography of the town and its environs.

Each story is essentially about an individual and how their lives are lived in the town. The characters are mainly drawn from the marginalised and the poor, occasionally reaching into the lower middle-class. The rich and the powerful are largely minor bit-part players whose motives and stories we do not know; the corrupt local MP makes a cameo appearance in a few of the stories but doesn't have a chapter of his own, which is a shame since the corruption of the Indian political class features strongly in the stories of the other characters.

This book reminded me strongly of James Joyce's Dubliners, doing for an anonymous half-baked Indian town (to borrow a term from Adiga's previous book, The White Tiger) what Joyce did for turn of the century Dublin. Stretching the comparison with Joyce a little, where Homer's the Odyssey served as a framework to Ulysses, Adiga borrows the framework of a late 20th century travel book.

Set in the lat 1980s, this books describes everyday Indian life at a turning point - after the idealism of early post-independence socialism had died and started to rot but just before the destabilising turbo-capitalism of globalisation began to reimagine India, a story of continuity, change and dislocation that Adiga has already told in The White Tiger.

LEGO DUPLO 6051: Play with Letters
LEGO DUPLO 6051: Play with Letters
Offered by imart Store
Price: 30.75

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lego and the alphabet - what's not to like?, 7 May 2011
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Lego combines art and science in one toy - art in the ideas and imagination it stimulates in allowing children literally create their own little world, and science in the skills of design and trial and error that it takes to build that world. It's also a toy that rewards patience and concentration rather than giving shortlived instant gratification.

This toy is durable in more ways than one; lego bricks are near industrable and it is a toy that grows with your child. To begin with this can be simply handling and connecting the blocks together as an activity in itself, but as coordination and imagination increase the pieces can be used to create houses, vehicles and other interesting objects.

As these blocks are compatible with other legos sets, having these letter blocks means that the alphabet will be literally built in to my daughter's play for years to come, long after most of her current toys have been delivered to the charity shop.

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality, planet friendly but too expensive, 7 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These nappies seem to work just as well as the Pampers Baby-Dry Nappies that we have been using. They feel soft and natural in the hand, baby seems to like them and the design is nice and simple. They seem pretty good for preventing leaks, again similar to the pampers nappies.

On the eco side, not containing any plastics and not having been treated with nasty chemicals, these are a good alternative to reusable nappies for people for whom convenience is a must.

We would definitely buy these in future if they were a bit cheaper. However, they are a lot more expensive than even premium brands. Amazon does some great deals on other nappy brands but the 'economy pack' of these nappies is barely cheaper per unit than the small packs; we will probably only buy them when we can find them on special offer.

If these nappies were the same price, or even just slightly more than other brands, I'd give them 5 stars.

The White Tiger
The White Tiger
Price: 3.29

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Class, dislocation and madness in a time and place of tectonic change, 3 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The White Tiger (Kindle Edition)
Balram, a bright and ambitious but poor country boy gets a job as a driver for Ashok, the foreign educated son of a local landlord and finds himself in bright lights of New Delhi, ending up as a fugitive entrepreneur in Bangalore.

Indian national identity stands partly on the experience of its freedom struggle from the British Empire, an experience shared with Ireland. James Connolly said that if the only thing that independence changed were the accents of the powerful then the Ireland's revolution will have failed. Almost a century after Connolly's execution by the British, and over 60 years since Independence, Adiga's novel stands testimony to the continued subjugation, exploitation and abuse of a huge chunk of India's population by a `chicken coop' of social control.

While Balram's medieval village outlook is rocked by his experience of modern New Delhi he might have remained a serf were it not for the wiggle room created by Mr. Ashok's partial conversion from medieval lord to modern business man following his time in the West. It is this loosening of control, this partial but insufficient slackening of oppression, that ultimately contributes to Balram's break with the subservient behaviour expected of his class; what transpires in the book would probably not have happened if Balram had been subject to the more petty, omnipresent oppression of Ashok's unreformed brother.

Michel Foucault recognised that madness and criminality are both social constructs used by the powerful as tools to control their societies; classify someone as either mad or criminal then you can lock them away and discredit anything they say or do (see Discipline and Punishand Madness and Civilization). Balram is clearly not a stable person, and his actions are clearly criminal, but from a certain point of view they are both rational and just - the reader isn't sure what to think of him, is he a hero, a villain or a madman?

India has done well out of globalisation; its hardworking diaspora can be found in hospitals, software companies, Starbucks and constructions sites from the Gulf of Arabia to the Gulf of Mexico while outsourcing has turbocharged the economies of cities like Bangalore, creating the greatest boost in Indian self-confidence since independence. However, incompetence, greed and above all corruption means that this new found wealth is not benefiting the Indian poor as much as it could, meaning that the new India of glass skyscrapers is being built directly atop of the old India - a society that could sustain the injustice of shared relative poverty between master and servant but that may be insufficient to support the presence of a global wealthy `middleclass' atop of an unchanging background of working class poverty and exploitation.

Adiga knows that his novels will not make comfortable reading for complacent well-off Indians, but he hasn't set out to rubbish his home country but instead to hold a mirror up to it so that it might become something better in the same way that Charles Dickens held a mirror to the ugly truth of 19th century Britain's turbo-charged political economy. They also serve as a warning - perhaps the Indian poor are unique in their passive acceptance of oppression by their social superiors, but don't rely on it.

Crabtree & Evelyn Citron Bath and Shower Gel 250 ml
Crabtree & Evelyn Citron Bath and Shower Gel 250 ml
Offered by ach cosmetics
Price: 15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fine, but there are better value alternatives, 2 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this shower gel perfectly pleasant; it comes in a nice cardboard box and the gel felt soft on the skin and had a gentle, creamy citron aroma. It leaves the skin slightly perfumed with a fresh talc smell.

However, I found the subtlety disappointing - I had expected something with a strong, refreshing citrus tang, similar to the much cheaper Original Source Lime Shower Gel Triple Pack, which I personally prefer.

Crabtree and Evelyn is a 'designer' brand of the toiletries world, with swish high street boutiques in the UK, Australia and the USA, making its products suitable as gifts for friends and family. However, this premium status is reflected in the price of this bottle of well presented shower gel.

India: A Portrait
India: A Portrait
by Patrick French
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 22.64

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic, intimate, well written and thoroughly enjoyable, 24 April 2011
This review is from: India: A Portrait (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Patrick French has achieved a rare thing; a book that is epic and intimate, historic and contemporary.

My first conscious contact with India was as a student, when I encountered middleclass UK students who had been there for a `gap year' and wealthy Indians in the UK studying for Masters degrees. The former banged on about `finding themselves' while displaying a shallow empathy with the poverty they had photographed while the latter showed a snobbery, arrogance and casual disregard for working people that did little to recommend themselves or their country. However, when I went to the south of India myself a few years ago, I couldn't help but develop a fondness and admiration for the place.

Patrick French's knowledge and experience of India dwarfs my own, but at the same time the perspective that comes across in this book is familiar. Split into three sections covering nation, wealth and society, French is unflinching in his long, hard look at the corruption of India's political class, the failure of the post-independence economy and inequities of the current boom, or how the emerging middleclass sees it as only right and natural that they should have a plethora of servants living under the stairs to take care of every vaguely unpleasant or mundane task, from keeping the apartment clean to peeling fruit; moral grandstanding by the author is neither present nor necessary as the agreed facts speak for themselves.

However, on the other hand, French also looks at the positive side to India - its stability, democracy and plurality, built on an enduring civic patriotism that is lacking in the West with the exception of the United States. Unlike the `boom' economies of pre-crash Britain and Ireland, India's newfound economic success isn't down to illusory financial shenanigans, but on cultural and institutional factors that have become closely associated with India over an extended period of time; a deep commitment to education, a strong work ethic and an willingness and ability to truck, barter and trade that sets it apart from some other parts of the developing post-colonial world, most markedly sub-Saharan Africa (see The Shackled Continent: Africa's Past, Present and Future).

French subtitles his book as `an intimate portrait'. What comes across from French's narrative, analysis and wealth of first hand interviews with a broad cross section of contemporary Indian society is that India remains a complex, diverse and multi-faceted place that is still working out what it is and what it is going to be. What also comes across is that India is neither 'timeless' (i.e. read unchanging, picturesque poverty) nor is its future settled; our perspective on India has changed greatly in the past fifteen years and will change as much again in the next fifteen, perhaps in ways that most of us couldn't imagine.

This is a must read book for any foreigner intending to travel to, or have an evenly vaguely informed conversation about, modern India.

East Coast In My Garden Changing Mat
East Coast In My Garden Changing Mat

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely design, does the job, easy to keep clean and a good price, 9 Mar 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The tortoise garden theme is really nice and the mat is both thick and soft. It is also very easy to keep clean, even after a really pooey nappy and a spontaneous on-changing-table wee!

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