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The Family Fang
The Family Fang
by Kevin Wilson
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laugh-out-loud funny that was a joy to read, 31 July 2011
This review is from: The Family Fang (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'The Family Fang' is the darkly funny yet tragic tale of Annie and Buster Fang and their attempt to find normality and break away from the utter chaos that comes with living with and being raised by their parents, Caleb and Camille.

Caleb and Camille are performance artists, staging bizarre (yet often quite funny) events in public to film the shock and chaos that ensues to form art. At the heart of this art are the artists' two children, Annie and Buster, known as Child A and Child B. However, when Annie and Buster make it clear they no longer want to be part of this art and go on to pursue their own equally chaotic paths, Caleb and Camille stage the ultimate event, which makes Annie and Buster question their relationship with their parents, and where they stand in their parent's view of the world and art.

A funny, tragic book that I couldn't put down.


Ilustrado
Ilustrado
by Miguel Syjuco
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling, but with nothing really to say, 27 July 2011
This review is from: Ilustrado (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Anyone that picks up this book will be unable to deny that the writer is clearly exceptionally talented. The literary aspects of the book are stunning; the devices the author uses and the language selected are extremely mature, but not suitable for anyone wanting a bit of light reading! The story combines all forms of literature to tell the story of a deceased writer and his enigmatic final manuscript, all told from the perspective of the writer's young student.

In terms of readability, the book is like wading through treacle. It is almost like someone has opened a thesaurus and is picking words at random. It takes an immense amount of willpower to continue reading and not put the book down immediately, and the more you progress through the book, the more you realise it doesn't really have much substance to it and appears to be more concerned with showing off how many big and clever-sounding words the author knows!

The academic style of the writing, combined with the ramshackle plot, makes it difficult to read and keep up with, and the impressive parts of the book do not make up for the lack of coherence overall.


The Watchers (Watchers 1)
The Watchers (Watchers 1)
by Jon Steele
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Jack of all trades, master of none, 27 July 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The tagline for this book invites the reader to "Imagine The Bourne Identity rewritten by Neil Gaiman...". An intriguing concept, you might think, but one that this book does not fulfil.

While the story is compelling enough to make you want to carry on reading, the plot does jump around a lot and in places it is difficult to keep track of who is doing what. The basic plot follows three individual characters (a mysterious young man who looks after the bells in Lausanne cathedral, a high-class hooker to the rich and famous and a detective who awakes in a hotel with no memory at all), and gradually brings these characters together to converge in the fast-paced finale to the book.

However, mentioning The Bourne Identity, you expect an action-packed story with thrills and spills and twists and turns. In this respect, the book does not deliver. While there are grisly crimes and sufficient action to keep the reader interested, you aren't really left particularly shocked at any point.

My main criticism, however, would be that the book does not seem to be able to make its mind up what it wants to be. Is it a thriller? A crime/detective story? A fantasy? While it shows elements of all of these genres, it doesn't really master any of them, and left me a little deflated after having finished reading.

Having said this, other reviews have suggested this is the author's first novel and that it will form part of a trilogy. If this is the case, it is a commendable effort and I will definitely be interested in reading the two books to follow.


The German Boy
The German Boy
by Tricia Wastvedt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A captivating read, 7 July 2011
This review is from: The German Boy (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'The German Boy', on the one hand, is a tale of love, loss and the trials and tribulations of friendship set against the backdrop of the first and second world wars. On the other, it's testament to the true craft of writing.

The book is extremely cleverly written, with a number of sub-plots converging to form a circular narrative. The opening chapter sets out the main event to which the rest of the plot builds, with the final chapters rounding off the story to form a circle.

The story plots the lives of a number of characters, focussing largely on that of Elizabeth and Michael, and follows the tangents each character goes off in with their lives, travelling around England, France and Germany in the process. The story of 2 sisters, one living in Germany and one in England, brought another dimension to the story, exploring the political tensions of the era in which the story is set, including the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and the fanaticism that followed. Wastvedt's style of writing beautifully depicts each location, and she takes the time to form each sentence precisely to convey the correct image to the reader.

While the opening chapter can seem a bit weak and doesn't draw you in as much as it could, I would definitely recommend sticking with it. The layers of emotion it evokes and the concepts it addresses makes it a marvellous read, and one that, in the end, I couldn't put down.


Remington S8670 Hair Multistyle
Remington S8670 Hair Multistyle

4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for styling on the go, 10 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I took this Remington styling set away with me to a hen do this weekend and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

The set contains everything you need to create the perfect look -- be it straight, crimped, curled or ringlets. The styling heads are a little tricky to attach at first, but easy enough after a little practice. The travel case makes it easy to stow away when travelling and protects the appliance from dirt. The set also contains hair clips to separate hair while styling.

The LEDs on the side of the device clearly indicate when the device is switched on and allow you to control the heat setting as required, showing the level of heat from green to red. What's more, each of the heads has a little stand built onto it, allowing you to leave the appliance to cool down without having to worry about using a heatproof mat.

I would have liked to see some more extensive instructions included with the product. While it's relatively simple to set up and use, someone less technically minded than myself may struggle, and the instructions included shed little light in this regard. The straightening plates, for example, are removed to accommodate the crimping plates, though this isn't clear from the instructions provided. The ringlet wand (used together with the curling tongs) takes a bit of practice too. A styling guide or some ideas for styling would have been appreciated, although not strictly necessary.

All-in-all, the set is brilliant for any anyone wanting to create the perfect 'do -- either at home or when travelling. Some prior experience with using styling products is required, however.


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: £11.86

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: £22.95

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.


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