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River of Stars
River of Stars
by Guy Gavriel Kay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mammoth, complex and awe-inspiring tale, 27 Aug 2013
This review is from: River of Stars (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The sheer size of this novel (632 pages in the proof paperback) means it's not likely to be read by anyone in a single sitting alone, but the writing is so consistently excellent as to warrant the attempt.

'Under Heaven' was the first novel I read by this author and while I enjoyed it immensely, it was a title like this one of such epic scope in terms of story-telling and intricacy to the prose, that is was one I read over a period of many weeks, dipping in and out, reading the odd fifty pages, but often not seeming to make a dent. The same is true of 'River of Stars', a comment could be made about the generally pedestrian pace. However, the story then, as here, is worth the commitment.

As with 'Under Heaven' there was a reticence for me in respect of the multiple character perspectives, a device I don't often enjoy, perhaps because it's often done by other authors to such poor results, but Kay delivers superbly with every character from whose perspective we are invited to view the political and social aspects of this breath-takingly detailed universe.

I do feel it is slightly misleading however to describe this genre stye as historical fantasy, because while the events depicted here are imaginary, the fantastical element is not one that could be compared to that delivered in common, either contemporary or traditional, fantasy stories. There is a spartan quality to this story and it is not dominated by the complex systems of magic a reader would expect of a fantasy title. Historical here being the apposite word. So for newcomers to the author, be aware that this title will read in almost all ways like a modern re-telling of an actual historical event and the treat for readers is in the stylisation of the universe that's been created, based less on imagination and more on real-life historical parallels.

Personally I would advise reading 'Under Heaven' first as an introduction to this author, which acquaints the reader to the same world and comes chronologically first in any case, but with its shorter page-count in my opinion it gives the reader an idea of what they're getting themselves into and the investment of time (if not emotion) that titles from this author often require.

While I wasn't quite sufficiently motivated to pick up any other titles from Guy Gavriel Kay's back catalogue once I'd come to the end of 'Under Heaven', having just reached the satisfying conclusion of this novel, I doubt I will be able to wait another (possibly) three years before delving into another of his complex, well-researched, evocative tales that are as thrilling in their characterisation as in their world-building.

Cole and Mason 16-Jar Filled Hudson Herb and Spice Rack Carousel
Cole and Mason 16-Jar Filled Hudson Herb and Spice Rack Carousel
Price: 49.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Practical and Stylish, 26 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A lot of thought has gone into the design of this spice carousel, but as it's come from the makers Cole & Mason that's really no surprise.

The spice jars are the most striking part with their presentation in small glass conical jars and chrome-effect plastic tops.

The tops can be adjusted by turning them to enable a small amount of the spice to be dispensed with a sprinkle action, or larger dose, or be closed completely- all very simply and easily.

A small downside due to the silver, mirrored-effect of the tops is that the spice names can be a little hard to make out unless the light in your kitchen is very strong, especially those on the bottom row, which require you to get a little closer to the jars.

By contrast the black plastic base lets the look down a little, but perhaps it would be unrealistic to expect something sturdier, or a gloss black finish (to match some of their other products in the Cole & Mason's kitchen condiment range) for the 40 odd price-tag. But it spins incredibly smoothly and that's the most important thing.

And so far, I'm enjoying all of the spices, which I would say are superior to standard supermarket spices.

Highly recommended.

Cole & Mason Black Salt & Pepper Mill Giftset, Precision Mechanism
Cole & Mason Black Salt & Pepper Mill Giftset, Precision Mechanism
Price: 42.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful presentation, 26 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Stunning Salt & Pepper dispensers. Large, glossy black in design with a professional, minimalist look. Very elegant.

Easy action means a liberal dose of either condiment is provided with only minimal effort.

Superbly presented box-set makes this an ideal gift.

Strangely, each mill is supplied with black pepper and salt, but only a very small amount, so it won't be long before a further purchase will be necessary.

I have found that due to the generous amount of condiment provided (likely due to the sharpness of the blades), there is more excess spillage than with any other salt & pepper mills I've previously owned, so it does mean you have to be that little bit more careful about moving the mills after use, before placing them down on a surface (I will be looking to find a matching salt & pepper holder/base on which to store them to prevent such spillage).

A more striking distinction between the two markings for the condiments might also have been advisable (but admittedly may have detracted from the sleekness of their design).

Overall excellent, well worth the price and recommended.

Colgate C600 ProClinical Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Colgate C600 ProClinical Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Price: 48.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Generally very good, 26 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This electric toothbrush does not (in my opinion) on the product description and in the photo's look that aesthetically pleasing. What a surprise it was to get it out of the box and discover the high quality design- with its sleek, minimalist design and lightweight construction. Almost beautiful in fact.

Out of the box and it is very impressive, together with replacement brush-head, carry case (only really required for travel purposes) and power adapter. No complaints whatsoever in terms of presentation.

However, the omission of the UK 2 pin plug adapter astounds me! I've owned two other electric toothbrushes, each has come with this as standard and in my view this is (or should be) inclusive with any electric toothbrush. They can be picked up very cheaply, but that's not really the point (UK shaving Adaptor / Plug (2pin To 3pin) Fused - Compatible With Shaver & Toothbrush).

As others have said, there's a good amount of charge already, so you'll get at least half a dozen (2 minute) uses out of the toothbrush before charging is needed.

The first time I used this, however, I nearly jumped out of my skin- even the lowest setting I found a little too sensitive for my teeth/gums- who knew teeth could be ticklish?! But over time I've gotten used to this and now most often select the second-to-quickest setting with no discomfort.

So all in all and thanks to the size of the brush-head, I find the entire teeth cleaning process to be very comfortable.

But one of the main downsides for me with this toothbrush is the way it's weighted- it too easily falls over when I put it down (not flat, but standing up)- the base is too narrow and find I have to be careful and deliberate when setting it down.

While you could probably spend half as much money for a more complete electric toothbrush package that does as good a job, I think you're getting a standard here with the Colgate ProClinical that only that bit much more money can buy. Recommended.

Las Montanas Sauvignon Blanc - Case - 6 x 750ml
Las Montanas Sauvignon Blanc - Case - 6 x 750ml
Offered by Fine Wine Sellers
Price: 32.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the Mountains of Chile, 17 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This Chilean Sauvignon Blanc at just under 7 a bottle (when the reasonable 4.99 shipping charge is factored in) is quite a good wine.

It's very light with a delicate flavour and has a slight citrus aftertaste.

The alcohol content is given as 13% in the product description, it isn't, in fact it's 12%.

It's a good wine with pasta dishes as described and very refreshing.

This particular seller (Fine Wine Sellers) provided superb customer service with lightening-fast delivery, good communication, plus a free bottle of wine (Cape 312 Sauvignon Blanc) with the request that the customer reviewer the product, which is an offer that surely can't last forever.

If this wine were offered at something nearer, say 30-32, I think it would be better priced and an expansion of their product range would probably entice me to purchase more than a case of 6 bottles at a time.

In summary- although not exceptional, a good wine and brilliant service.

The Bone Season
The Bone Season
by Samantha Shannon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Debut, 15 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Bone Season (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hype associated with debut novels is a dangerous thing. For me, 'The Bone Season' didn't quite live up to the high praise rewarded it by the critics in their advanced reviews.

The book starts slowly by setting the stage of this dystopian future world with careful world-building, but a lack of characterisation. I felt as though the author had played it safe with her protagonist who isn't the driving force of events you wish she were. The events in her life that have shaped her and continue to shape her in the bulk of this story have not been happy, which often makes for downbeat reading.

I was reminded with this title of 'Handmaid's Tale' and 'Children of Men', albeit with this having more of a contemporary and darker edge. However, I think a combination of the length of this novel (it's a little drawn out) and the harrowing events being delivered through the prism of a such a basic lead character makes for often lacklustre reading. I also had the impression that this novel would be best enjoyed by those in the older teens age group.

For me the novel needed more memorable set-pieces and a more charged climax to entice readers back for the further novels that have been mooted are to appear in this series.

However, that's not to say there isn't the beginning here of something very enjoyable and perhaps it's a little early to be criticising the format of the series (if the author can build on what she's created here and step into gear with future entries in the series). I only hope the author doesn't begin to walk the path of many other authors who have created series with little distinction to each individual chapter and drawn out one idea of seven or more titles. A book should have a beginning, middle and satisfyingly complete ending, which for me 'The Bone' Season' didn't quite achieve.

But there's lots to applaud and recommend about 'The Bone Season' with its painstaking attention to detail and real craftsmanship. The London setting too is very unique and thoroughly evocative. The script-to-screen transition will surely not take long.

London Clock Co Art Deco Gold Large Wall Clock
London Clock Co Art Deco Gold Large Wall Clock
Offered by KG Homewares
Price: 34.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 14 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
While I agree that on close inspection the clock appears flimsy, on the right background (a busy pattern in my case) I guarantee the effect will be exactly what you're hoping for.

It is over-priced, but it's a statement piece and unique- you're unlikely to find anything like this at the same price or lower.

Yes, it's made of plastic, but at a distance this isn't very apparent and the aesthetic of the clock (in my opinion) compensates for the cheap materials.

5 stars to balance out the harsh reviews.

Babylon Confidential
Babylon Confidential
by Claudia Christian
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.79

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Talent vs. Addiction, 14 Aug 2013
This review is from: Babylon Confidential (Paperback)
In the 90's science-fiction series Babylon 5 Claudia Christian gave a wonderfully warm, witty and often times touching performance as Commander Susan Ivonova for four magical years. Had this memoir not been titled as it is I would probably not have purchased it. But boy would I have missed out!

The title implies a focus on that part of her career when she was involved in the Babylon 5 series, but in fact that time in her life is described only briefly in a couple of chapters and is given no more attention than any other part of her career. But no fan of Babylon 5 could be disappointed by this memoir, which is thoroughly engaging from beginning to end.

Generally it reads like a magazine column, very sensationalist and completely compelling. It isn't Shakespeare, but it's fascinating. Fascinating for its insight into the entertainment industry, for its insight into the terrible effects of addiction, but most of all for its insight into the human condition. While at times excruciatingly honest, it is this very lack of censorship that will endear readers to Claudia Christian. It is very difficult not to admire this woman.

Two things struck me reading this memoir. Firstly, just how incredibly successful a career she has enjoyed- spending very little time employed in a menial job in New York when she first started out before being cast in a hugely popular television series, finding herself in demand for most of her career (with work only drying up as her condition worsened), not just lasting in the industry for three decades but building a list of credits that I'm sure would be the envy of most budding actors...and doing it all whilst undergoing more than the average person's share of trauma and heartbreak.

Secondly, aside from the painful honesty, there is a great deal of modesty about this memoir. You would not guess from reading it I don't think just how talented an actress she is if you hadn't seen her on television or in film. She clearly loves what she does, it shows up on screen and it shines through in the pages of this memoir.

And as much credit that she awards the medicinal aid/cure she discovers for dealing with her alcohol addiction in turning around (and possibly saving) her life- if this book is any indication it's also her positive outlook on life; seeing the humour, bringing the humour and sharing the humour along with her unique talent at every opportunity, that is sure to guarantee the continuation of her life and her career. A pleasure to read.

Vita Coco 100% Pure Coconut Water 500 ml (Pack of 6)
Vita Coco 100% Pure Coconut Water 500 ml (Pack of 6)
Price: 11.34

4.0 out of 5 stars A clear choice, 10 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For me, this is one of the better coconut drinks on the market that I've sampled.

The taste is very inoffensive- think tap water but with the flavour of coconut.

The tagline of 'hydrate naturally' is also one I agree with, considering that it's a very easy and pleasant alternative to bottled water or juice, which tastes very refreshing without the heaviness of water or the lingering after-taste of fruit juice.

I still prefer to dilute with water, but that's more out of personal preference and doesn't suggest it's at all bitter, which it isn't (unlike some other coconut drinks can be).

I've found the six 500ml bottles provided also go much farther than I expected.

The only criticism can be that these 500ml sizes aren't practical for travel with a container design that you would more readily associate with a 1litre juice carton, but with only half the quantity.


TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Cable Router (2.4GHz 450Mbps, 5GHz 1300Mbps, 2 USB Ports for Storage Sharing, Printer Sharing, FTP Server and Media Server, IPv6)
TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Cable Router (2.4GHz 450Mbps, 5GHz 1300Mbps, 2 USB Ports for Storage Sharing, Printer Sharing, FTP Server and Media Server, IPv6)
Price: 86.98

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the perfect solution, but a good stopgap measure, 27 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While I'm in agreement with the other positive reviews of this product, I do feel that for those among us not proficient in the technology there are some basic points it's worth mentioning:

1) To clarify, this router cannot be used in place of the existing router that is connected to your phone line. At least, that was my experience having read the manual and going through the set-up procedure. I don't think this is adequately explained in the product description, not as plainly that I think is necessary for those people who are unfamiliar with internet connections. In fact, I think it's misleading to call this is a router- consider it an additional booster hub.
2) Contrary to the views of some other reviewers, I didn't find the instructions adequate, but would be surprised if anyone was still having problems with the set-up after half an hour (of course, this is on the basis that all of the required equipment is to hand, which for me it wasn't- I didn't have what was needed and so it took me longer).
3) An Ethernet cable is required to enable set-up. I had to borrow one.
4) My computer is wireless and not in the same room as my virgin media hub. This meant I had to move the computer into the same room as the existing router in order to connect it to the TP-Link hub via the Ethernet cable which in turn is connected to the existing hub. As far as I could tell this was the only way the hub could be set-up (if the process can be carried out wirelessly and if anyone is aware of how to do this I'm sure many would find this information useful). As it was, my only option was to move the computer, which was a pain.

I, like another reviewer, was languishing in the not-so-super-fast-broadband-speed promised by virgin media and appallingly slow data transfer speeds. On first glance, the connection to the TP-Link hub has definitely resulted in higher loading speeds. I'm still in the early stages of using the product so can't comment yet on general signal strength and transfer rates, but suspect there will also be improvement in these areas too.

You're paying a lot of money here for the product. Also (and this may be a concern to some) this is yet another electrical product in addition to your router and what ever other electrical products in your household that will probably be left on 24/7, meaning an increase in electricity usage. So in my opinion this isn't the perfect solution to the problems of slow loading and transfer speeds, disconnection issues or signal strength, but if these are issues of real concern to you then this product certainly addresses them very well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2013 12:41 PM GMT

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