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An Agent of Deceit (The Ben Webster Spy Series)
An Agent of Deceit (The Ben Webster Spy Series)
by Chris Morgan Jones
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good first effort, but with room for development, 27 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
From the outset 'An Agent of Deceit' grabs your attention with a heady mix of crime, corruption and politics, drawing the reader in and making you want to read on. Indeed, not many books boast a murder within the opening 5 pages! The central characters on opposing sides interweave and get closer as the plot develops, ultimately coming together in the closing, climactic chapters of the book.

The author, Chris Morgan Jones, has been compared with masters of the genre such as John Le Carré, and while it is clear that he will be "one to watch", his plots need to develop and refine further before being truly worthy of such an accolade. While his style of writing is gripping, the plot was slow to get off the mark and in places quite predictable, and while the "twist" at the end was unexpected, it took a long time to reach that point. However, what the story lacks in pace it makes up for in the development and descriptions of the characters and various locations in which the novel is set (Moscow, Berlin and London). You really do form a picture of each character in your mind and get a sense of the different atmosphere each city presents.

In short, 'An Agent of Deceit' it is a commendable first effort (which I believe this is) from an undoubtedly talented author, and I look forward to reading more of his work.


Sennheiser PC36 USB Plug and Play PC Headset
Sennheiser PC36 USB Plug and Play PC Headset

5.0 out of 5 stars Great sound quality for VoIP, gaming and music, 27 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Sennheiser Plug and Play headset is the perfect companion for PC users that want to make the most of their PC applications without compromising on sound quality -- be it for playing music, gaming or holding telephone calls over the Internet.

The USB connection allows it to be used on any computer within seconds, without needing to install additional drivers, while the built-in sound card ensures the earphones deliver the high level of audio quality for which the Sennheiser brand is renowned. The lightweight design makes it comfortable to wear and easy to stow away for storage or travel, and if the microphone element is not required, it can be simply and conveniently swivelled/slid out of the way.

The microphone itself also delivers outstanding quality with all applications, such as dictation software and VoIP programmes (Skype and the like), while advanced technology ensures that calls are crystal clear, eliminating the need to shout or constantly repeat yourself!

Other practical features include the long cable (ideal for those that like to pace around while listening to music/holding calls) and the volume/mute control, which makes it easy to switch the microphone on/off and adjust the volume without having to adjust PC settings.

All in all, a useful accessory no matter what your PC needs.


Hand Me Down World
Hand Me Down World
by Lloyd Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.16

3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of an uphill struggle..., 16 April 2011
This review is from: Hand Me Down World (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After reading the blurb and reviews from other readers, I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into this book. However, upon reading it I found it was not at all as I expected.

While the structure is unique and challenges conventional writing styles (from what I managed to decipher, it was one character telling first-hand accounts of a woman's story), for me it missed the mark. I found it extremely difficult to read, often having to re-read the same sentence three or four times to try and figure out what was happening. And by the time something of interest did happen in the plot, I wasn't at all interested.

Having said this, the book does introduce the key events quite early on in the book, though in a matter-of-fact style that does not present an opportunity for you to empathise with the character. The style of writing is almost cold in places, even when terrible events are happening to the central character, and I found the plot quite implausible in places. For me the book was all form and no substance, focussing too much on adopting an alternative style and structure without delivering the goods in terms of the plot.


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

4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for any cooking enthusiast, 16 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For anyone interested in cooking fresh food in season, this book is a must. While its focus lies firmly on the gardening element rather than the cooking, it is nonetheless an extremely useful reference book, be it for established gardeners, experimental cooks or those making their first tentative steps into growing their own produce.

The book is extremely well laid out, with stunning photographs of the food in question taking centre stage. Some tasty-sounding recipes are added in a green box at the bottom of the page, giving the reader ideas of how best to serve the food. Handy, practical tips are also included, such as how to grow the foodstuff and when to harvest it, as well as some general information on the more unfamiliar items!

What I particularly like about the book is that it is separated into different food categories, making it easy to search for what you want to grow without having to trawl through the entire book. 'Tree fruit', 'Beans & greens', 'Leaves & flowers', 'Herbs & spices' -- no matter what you are wanting to gain from your garden, the book has the answer.

What's more, the book really encourages you to move away from growing things like carrots and potatoes (which are cheap enough to buy in the shops but still require a deal of work to grow) and instead grow treats that are difficult to find or on the more expensive side in your average supermarket; ingredients such as Szechuan pepper and Egyptian walking onion to name but two.

In short, a perfect read that makes you reconsider some long-lost food treasures, and opens your eyes to some things you will never even have considered before!


How I Cook
How I Cook
by Skye Gyngell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.00

3.0 out of 5 stars A different approach, 4 Dec 2010
This review is from: How I Cook (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Skye's simple, uncomplicated style is a breath of fresh air in cookery writing; rather than preaching or lauding her methods as the best, she presents the reader with options, adding that "there are no rules".

The book is written in a menu-style, with suggestions for single meals (subdivided into breakfast, dinner etc.) or for a full menu for special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, Easter etc.), so no matter what you are looking for, you are likely to find something that interests you. Designing the courses as a full menu allows you to see how the flavours and ingredients work together, and Skye is careful to select seasonal produce with a "natural affinity" to one another.

Alongside the recipes themselves and the stunning photography, Skye also presents the reader with tips and tricks as she goes along, from practical cooking tips (such as only using the freshest eggs for poaching) to ideas for setting the table and handling dinner parties (she notes that cutlery doesn't necessarily have to match, and often adds charm if it doesn't).

However, from a practical point of view, her suggestions are at times over-complicated. Her recipe for scrambled egg involves grating butter (which I am not sure is even possible!) and I have to fundamentally disagree with a Sunday roast without roast potatoes! However, these are minor issues with what is all in all a very useful book.


Tiger Hills
Tiger Hills
by Sarita Mandanna
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.29

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eastern promise, 1 Dec 2010
This review is from: Tiger Hills (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
From the very outset, the book draws you into the magical, mysterious Coorg region in India. The touch of the exotic permeates the entire narrative, but does become a little tiresome when it hinders the flow of the text.

Mandanna's greatest success with the novel is the way she evokes the landscape, culture, characters and general atmosphere surrounding her story. Indeed, through her skill for writing, she introduces a Western readership to an otherwise undiscovered part of India. Following a young Indian girl, Devi, from her youth into old age, the narrative throws up the classic themes of life, love and loss. However, deveiled of the Eastern mystery, the novel is not overly different from many such book gracing the shelves of book shops.

When it comes down to it, the story in itself isn't overly interesting and is even implausible in places. However, the wider picture, such as the exotic location, cultural touches and historical references to colonisation bind together to form a spellbinding read.


Black Water Rising
Black Water Rising
by Attica Locke
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing..., 22 May 2010
This review is from: Black Water Rising (Paperback)
I felt there was a lot if promise in the plot and general premise of the book, but for me this wasn't delivered.

As a first novel it certainly isn't a bad effort. The plot hangs together well and there is enough substance to it to make you want to read on. However, I didn't feel it was engaging enough for me to be unable to put it down, and I didn't identify with characters enough to have any real sort of connection with them.

Having said this, I felt the political issues raised in the story were very intersting - offshoots of the civil rights movement in a more modern era with the struggles of racial minorities in 80s American culture; the corruption inherent in the oil industry and the effects that this can have on everyday people but also the notion of one man standing up against the masses to make their cause known.

I feel the main barrier between me and the book was the choice of language. Locke cleverly uses language to make you visualise how people speak, and while I thought this brought an extra dimension to the book, it took me longer to read and I felt my attention dwindling the further I went. If the plot/characters had grabbed my attention from the start, however, this may have been completely different.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2011 11:25 AM GMT


Some Other Eden
Some Other Eden
by Natasha Farrant
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.70

2.0 out of 5 stars Far from paradise..., 12 May 2010
This review is from: Some Other Eden (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'Some other Eden' is Marmite in book form. I can't help but think you would either love it or hate it. Sadly, for me it missed the mark completely.

I was expecting so much from the book - the blurb promised mystery in the enigmatic 'Marshwood' house, and I had envisioned something akin to 'Wuthering Heights', where the house plays an integral role in the development of the story. Instead, while it remained a key (but not integral) feature, what remained was a story of history repeating itself, a story of forbidden love in generations past and present.

The style of writing threatens at times to border Mills and Boon country and some descriptions of the more passionate scenes actually made me cringe. The characters are multi-faceted but not particularly likeable and I had figured the 'surprise' ending out long before it arrived.

The only thing I (sort of) liked was the concept of the present mirroring the past - in terms of love, life and war. Though even this was a little overstated at times.

I will not rehash the plot here, as it will either confirm what you already know or spoil what you are about to embark on, however there are no great surprises to be had, no great plot twists and no original takes on modern life. All I can really say is that it was predictable and more than a little disappointing.


Life's Too Short to Drink Bad Wine: 100 wines for the discerning drinker
Life's Too Short to Drink Bad Wine: 100 wines for the discerning drinker
by Simon Hoggart
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A smashing read..., 4 Jan 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really enjoyed this book. Far from being a wine snob, Simon Hoggart's outlook on wine (and life in general) is funny and refreshing - when asked what his favourite wine is he is forced to reply, "I dont know, I haven't drunk it yet..."

His book looks at 100 wines, which, in his opinion, any discerning wine drinker has to try. His list encompasses all wines, from rich reds through to sweet dessert whites and each listed wine is accompanied by an anecdote as well as factual information about the region. I particularly like the illustrations which lift the text which on first appearance could look quite bland. Having, like us all, bought the cheap stuff from the supermarkets as a student which tasted like something that "could unblock drains", Hoggart selects wines that are within the price range of most people, arguing that a good wine isn't necessarily the one with the highest price tag and notes how a good bottle of wine can lift the humblest of meals to magnificence.

What I particularly love about the book, however, is Hoggart's style. He writes as though he is sat in the room with you and this conversational tone lends itself well to the humour he injects into his work. "...[W]ine is meant to cheer you up. You can guzzle beer to make you drunk, you can knock back half a bottle of whiskey when the one true love of your life says goodbye. But wine is the original elixir of happiness." Truer words have never been written!


The Cry Of The Sloth
The Cry Of The Sloth
by Sam Savage
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.33

3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me..., 2 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Cry Of The Sloth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although highly original in form and structure, I found it increasingly difficult to persevere with Sam Savage's novel, 'The Cry of the Sloth'.

The style is such that the book is constructed of a series of correspondence that the main character Andrew Whittaker writes to his friends, colleagues and tennants. There is much opportunity for comedy - indeed some very underhand cutting remarks are made to humorous effect - but personally I could engage with the book on a high enough level to really identify with the character of Whittaker, or feel any connection to him. To me he came across as aloof, verbose and more than a little irritating. More to the point we never receive the replies to Whittaker's letters, something which I would have loved to see!

After reading the blurb and some other reviews I was excited by the prospect of something different to read, however in the end I was left a little cold by the book and struggled to read it through to the end. I feel with a little more patience I would re-visit the book (and perhaps have more success) but for me the overall effect of the collection of letters and newspaper clippings was far too fragmentary and disjointed, which is a shame as I feel more could be made of Savage's humour as he is clearly a talented writer with much imagination.

However, although I didn't gel with the style of writing, this book has much to offer, especially if you look for something imaginative and a little different in your reading material!


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