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AmazonBasics 10-Port USB 3.0 Hub
AmazonBasics 10-Port USB 3.0 Hub
Price: £33.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Does the Job, 24 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is nice little unit, functional and basic but with all the features needed from a USB hub. It can be used to give additional USB connections to your PC, all support the latest and fastest USB 3.0 protocol. The three ports on the front can be used to charge phones, tablets and other devices demanding a higher power output.
The design is simple and functional as would be expected from the Amazon basics designation,and as with other devices in this brand the no frills approach works.

The only other real item of note it that it has an off/on switch recessed into the body of the unit, made this way I suppose to prevent accidental use, but it does mean that a small screwdriver or other implement is needed to switch the status of the unit from powered to passive. The power supply to the unit is quite substantial compared to the size of the hub but it is perhaps reassuring to know it is big enough to get the job done.

On balance this is a great little unit for anyone seeking to boost the capabilities of their PC or to charge or power multiple USB connected devices.


AmazonBasics Portable Bluetooth Speaker - Black
AmazonBasics Portable Bluetooth Speaker - Black
Price: £35.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and cheerful and easy to use, 24 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For the price, this is a splendid little speaker - smaller than I expected and consequently light and easily portable. I've been using it to listen to radio and podcasts in the garden and am favourably impressed. It's not the greatest speaker in the world, by a long chalk - the bass tones are good, not great, but then you wouldn't expect them to be in a unit of this size and price. Speech - which is what I mainly use it for - is clear and pleasant to the ear; sharp, distinct and not at all tinny, and for music, the tone is fine, way better than the average portable radio. There's an on-off switch for phone calls - because normal people don't want their calls blasting across the garden. The battery life seems brilliant - mine hasn't needed more than one charge yet and I've been using it quite a lot. And it's only £4o! Considering its size and affordability, I think it's a brilliant little unit.


The Bees
The Bees
by Laline Paull
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing description and a gripping tale, 18 May 2014
This review is from: The Bees (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A remarkable, readable, dramatic, warm, beautifully characterised and compelling tale of bees - specifically one bee, Flora 717, who transcends her birth as a sanitation worker, lowest of the lowly house bees, to become... something I will not spoil.
I LOVED this book. It was such an unexpected pleasure. I was captivated, start to finish by the wonderful depth of descriptive imagination, of what it could be like to be a bee, a member of such a highly - chemically, biologically - regulated society: the hive-mind, the role of scent and dance and vibration; the sense of flowers and the taste of nectar; hormonal controls; religious ecstasy and the worship of the queen - but the charm is in the characters: the sinister Sage Priestesses; Sir Linden - very much the beta male, loveable despite his dronely arrogance; the veteran forager, Lilly 500 - possibly the best creation in a hive of fabulous characters; and the heroine, Flora 717, who was such a powerful narrative voice.
Bees is not a poetic book, not literary fiction, it's a thriller, start to finish, with a story that grips from the first line and never lets go.


Memory of Water
Memory of Water
by Emmi Itäranta
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd and depressing, 18 May 2014
This review is from: Memory of Water (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Another dystopian Scandinavian novel about the fall-out from a man-made environmental disaster. There seem to be a lot about at the moment. In Memory of Water, water has become the most valuable commodity, its supply controlled by an all-powerful military elite.
Well worth reading for the language: it is very beautifully written, but there's nothing to the story, which seems to run in circles, with climaxes and twists that are promised but never delivered. Too many of the characters are thin and intangible: Sanja and the Military men are well-drawn, but Noria, our protagonist and voice, is utterly colourless, and consequently hard to love or sympathise with. I've given it 3 stars, though it's more like three and a half. It's a smooth, easy read, thought I can't say I enjoyed it. It's richly poetic; miserable; pessimistic; depressing - a little like The Smiths, without the perspicacity or dark humour.


Barbarians
Barbarians
by Tim Glencross
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but over written, 18 May 2014
This review is from: Barbarians (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Cultural references abound in this clever (or trying to be) novel about relationships, politics and art. I enjoyed the story well enough when it got moving, but there are so many over-long sidesteps and digressions; we have to know every tiny detail of what's happening in the character's heads at ALL times. It's especially tiring and annoying during dialogue: a 5 line conversation can take up most of a chapter because the author tells us every shade and flicker of thought and emotion passing through each character's thoughts as they speak. Add to that the lengthy digressions on art, politics and literature (to show us how clever these people are. Or maybe just to show us how cultured the author is)... It gets pretty annoying when you're simply trying to follow the plot and make sense of what these dreadful people are trying to say to each other - no easy task, when the characters are so thinly sketched and lacking in depth; at times they become so completely interchangeable, I had to keep flicking back through the pages to find out who was speaking to whom.
As a look at the lives of the leftist Islington elite, the story has the veracity of being written by an insider, and simply confirms everything one ever believed about the insincere and self-obsessed ghastliness of the champagne socialists who kept Blair in power. All the characters are almost entirely hateful, only Henry has any humanity or dignity at all. He's the only one I could feel sorry for, the rest deserved each other.


The Good Luck of Right Now
The Good Luck of Right Now
by Matthew Quick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice easy read, but..., 18 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Bartholomew has always lived with his mother. His mother has just died of brain cancer. Now Bartholomew's only friend is his priest, who is an alcoholic and slowly going crazy. To cope with the magnitude of his loss, Bartholomew starts writing letters to his mother's favourite actor, Richard Gere.
To open with the positive: I'd never heard of The Cat Parliament of Ottawa before, but now I desperately want to go to Canada just to see it. Alas, the Cat Parliament is far and away the best part of The Good Luck of Right Now.
I was a huge fan of Matthew Quick's novel The Silver Linings Playbook (less enamoured of the film, but that's another tale). The trouble with The Good Luck of Right Now is that it is so very like The Silver Linings Playbook - with its oddball, mother-obsessed, damaged hero on a quest - but is nowhere near as quirky or magical. It's not a bad book at all, it's a nice, warm read, very quick and easy; as comfortable - and as exciting - as a warm bath or a mug of Ovaltine. It feels like a novel that's going through the motions; travelling over the same old (Oscar winning) ground as the Big Hit breakthrough book. It feels like a movie pitch: warm, Hollywood-tailored story about love and friendship; a designed-to-be-loveable lead character and the main supporting character already cast. In short, The Good Luck of Right Now is almost exactly like The Silver Linings Playbook, but nothing like as good; it breaks no new ground at all, and makes me wonder and worry if Matthew Quick hasn't simply run out of ideas, or has just got lazy, and is trying to recapture his former success by using his first novel as a template.


A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A Scandinavian Major Pettigrew, 18 May 2014
This review is from: A Man Called Ove (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thought, from the cover and the blurb, that this was going to be a light and easy read. In many ways it is: it's not challenging in a literary sense, and it does have a strong (and much-needed) vein of humour, but A Man Called Ove is far, far deeper than it pretends to be: a tragi-comic novel which, like its hero, has a butter-soft heart.
Ove is the archetypal grumpy old man, the sort we all know, the kind many of us are related to; a man who seems to keep his soul in his toolbox, who lives life by the rules. Ove thinks he has it all worked out: he's a man of black and white; of set squares, protractors and columns of numbers. He's also a man scarred by trauma and tragedy, but who soldiers on regardless - until he doesn't; Ove's wife has gone and with it, all reason for living. Then Ove meets a young family and a neglected cat who change his life. Deeply touching, tremendously moving and almost certain to make you cry.


The Flying Man
The Flying Man
by Roopa Farooki
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully funny, beautifully written and surprisingly touching, 14 May 2014
This review is from: The Flying Man (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You really ought to hate Maqil - aka Sunny, aka Mike, Mehmet, Mikhail, Miguel - because he really is a dreadful man. He's the very definition of a loveable rogue: a drinker, a compulsive gambler, a womaniser; a man so full of himself there's no room for anyone else, certainly not his parents or his various wives, not even the wife he cannot help but love and long for even after he deserts her and his children. It's a clever character study: Maquil is so well rounded and real, so thoroughly despicable yet so flawed and so human, you cannot help but like him and hope for him to pull himself together, even though the story is told in flashback and you already know where it's going to end. At times the style reminded me of Salman Rushdie: the character of Maquil seems a very Rushdie creation, though he is apparently based on RF's own father (and poor her!). Maquil thinks he is free, that he is flying through life, but really, he's only ever running: from creditors and gangsters; from responsibility; from adulthood; from old age.
I loved the descriptive style and the smooth switches from first to third person which never jarred. It is a deeply thoughtful book, light and comic when the tale opens - with Maquil's adolescence in Lahore, living a privileged life as the first-born son of wealthy parents. At the start, the story dances lightly over Maquil's already-apparent character flaws, but develops real depth as he ages, as his lifestyle starts catching up with him. The narrative darkens as the tale progresses, but always with more light than shade and a strong dash of humour; the story takes itself only as seriously as Maquil does himself (which is, not at all). The Flying Man's only major flaw is that it is too short; Rushdie would have given us lots of detail about Maquil's escapades, the characters he meets on his journeys, his cons and plays and the fictional personas he invents and inhabits. I was so sorry when it ended and wished Roopla Farooki had given us more.


Corsair CA-9011124-EU Vengeance 1500 V2 USB Dolby 7.1 Comfortable Gaming Headset - Gunmetal Grey
Corsair CA-9011124-EU Vengeance 1500 V2 USB Dolby 7.1 Comfortable Gaming Headset - Gunmetal Grey
Price: £74.02

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb in every department., 5 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was slightly alarmed by the sheer size of these when I first took them out of the box. They are enormous - certainly not something you'd wear when out for a run, they are definitely indoors-only headphones! Soft and well padded, they are supremely comfortable, I don't think I've ever worn such deliciously comfy headphones. The build quality is excellent and the sound first class with excellent clarity across all frequencies; the bass tones especially are *incredible*. The mic couldn't be easier, it just swivels up and down, depending on whether you want to use it or not: there's a mute button too, which you're likely to need as the volume is tremendous. They can be used attached to the cord, or charged to use freely, which is by far and away the easiest way to use them.
They are, perhaps, a little more expensive than the norm, but not excessively so, and not over-priced: they are really good and built to last. If your budget isn't super-tight then these are the gaming headphones you should buy. I am aware I've used a lot of superlatives in this short review, but they really do warrant such enthusiasm. Try as I might, I honestly can't think of a bad thing to say about them, they're simply terrific.


AmazonBasics A4 Thermal Laminator
AmazonBasics A4 Thermal Laminator
Price: £15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars No frills, 27 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A simple to use, basic - the clue is in the name - laminator. There's not a whole lot to like or dislike here: plug it in, wait a minute or two till it warms up, then feed in your photo/card/whatever with the lamination envelope. You only get two plastic pouches with this machine, something to bear in mind if you're planning to do a lot of laminating - you'll need to order more in advance.It smells AWFUL in use, but so does anything involving hot plastic. Does the job with a minimum of fuss.


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