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Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland)
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Compact Oxford Italian Dictionary
Compact Oxford Italian Dictionary
by Oxford Dictionaries
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Linguistic Tool, 26 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A very competively priced comprehensive dictionary suitable for both young and adult learners from KS3 to Advanced GCSE/A Level. Like its Spanish counterpart, it is easy to navigate with additional verb tables, grammar summaries and advice on how to communicate in Italian via e-mail and text messaging. The 12 month free access to Oxford Language Dictionaries is a bonus and ideal for when you don't want to "lug" the dictionary around with you. A great starter/intermediate dictionary for anyone wishing to progress in Italian.


Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
by Conn Iggulden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.00

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wars of the Roses, 10 Oct 2013
This is my first venture into Iggulden territory. I've avoided his writing before as I've tended to associate him with "books for boys" - an association which was reaffirmed with the publication of The Dangerous Book for Boys which he co-wrote with his brother Hal. However, Stormbird attracted me as I find the War of the Roses a particularly intriguing historical period peopled with really engaging characters.

Having now read the novel, I can confirm it is a book for boys, filled with derring-do, lots of blood and gore and a love of detail, especially when it comes to the physical make up of an archer and his weaponry. Now, there's nothing wrong with attention to detail but I, personally, prefer my historical fiction to have more focus on the inner thoughts and motivation of characters with a particular emphasis on the female point of view plus a tad less poetic licence when it comes to the facts....I think we'll just have to agree to differ!

I loved the passages featuring Margaret d'Anjou as she grew in confidence from a young 14 year old being gifted to the English king in order to gain a truce to a strong-willed, brave woman struggling to hold on to her husband's throne while he was non compos mentis. I also enjoyed the portrayal of the brave, devoted Lord Suffolk who gave his heart and soul for his country. Less inspiring, for me, were the skirmishes between the English and French and the long trek of Jack Cade and his army of Kentish men as they laid siege to London.

Stormbird is the first of a series of books about The War of the Roses and I am sure it will be as successful as Iggulden's previous novels. It will appeal to those who enjoy action-packed, high-octane novels with lots of battles and information on strategy. As for me, being a bit of a girly, I'll stick with Philippa and Alison!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2013 7:08 PM GMT


She Is Not Invisible
She Is Not Invisible
by Marcus Sedgwick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 6.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent Thriller for Teens and Beyond, 8 Oct 2013
This review is from: She Is Not Invisible (Hardcover)
She Is Not Invisible is a gem of a read, a thought provoking and intelligent thriller which can be read on so many different levels. On the surface, it's an adventure story with our heroine, Laureth, accompanying her younger brother, Benjamin, on a quest to discover the whereabouts of their father, famous author, Jack Peak. Sounds straightforward enough but then Laureth has the extra obstacle of her blindness plus she isn't really sure that her Dad is officially missing.

There are so many layers to this deceptively simple story. Jack Peak is obsessed with the nature of coincidence in our daily lives and as you follow Laureth and Benjamin on their journey you find yourself pondering the same issues. Do we manufacture our own destiny or is it predetermined? Laureth is certainly determined to make her own mark on the world and is most certainly not invisible. She and Benjamin make an excellent team with superhero qualities, Batman and Robin spring to mind. I loved the way they worked together as one, along with Benjamin's trusty sidekick, Stan the crow! So many questions are raised and happily they aren't all answered and neatly tied up with a pretty bow.

This is a novel which makes you think, not just about the nature of coincidence but about family relationships, about what it is like to be different, about what influences our path in life. A highly recommended read for anyone with an inquiring mind. If you enjoyed The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon you'll love this.


Marina
Marina
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Gothic, 8 Oct 2013
This review is from: Marina (Hardcover)
Written between 1996 and 1997, Marina is the last of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's series of four YA novels. Each novel has a gothic feel with supernatural overtones and Marina is particularly engaging with its otherwordly, ethereal atmosphere.

Narrated by 30 year old Oscar Drai, the story is set in 1980s Barcelona when Oscar mysteriously disappears from his boarding school. During his "lost" week, Oscar and his new friend, Marina, experience the hidden, darker side of old Barcelona - a world far removed from modern life, a world peopled with sinister characters with shady background stories.

Whilst some might find Zafon's style a bit OTT and flowery, I simply relish the escapism offered by his stories. There is something irresistible about his storytelling, the Hammer House of Horror settings, the feeling of malevolence which permeates the story keeping you hanging until the final page. For teen readers, the growing attraction between Marina and Oscar is appealing but, of course, adversity constantly puts obstacles in their path.

Not for the faint-hearted, this spooky tale oozes gothic intensity - a really entertaining tale for teens and beyond.


Russell Hobbs 18681 Auto Steam Pro Iron - 2400 Watt - Purple
Russell Hobbs 18681 Auto Steam Pro Iron - 2400 Watt - Purple
Price: 17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Light and Easy, 23 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ironing is not my favourite task but this new iron has made it slightly less of a chore. I have episodic bouts of carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow and my previous iron was exacerbating the conditions as it was too heavy and cumbersome. The Russell Hobbs model is much easier to manoeuvre and much lighter so I guess I don't have an excuse to abandon the ironing mountain midway any more! Another excellent feature is the long cord so I'm no longer at the mercy of the plug sockets. A reasonably priced iron which comes in a variety of colours for those interested in matching kitchen appliances...


Born Weird
Born Weird
by Andrew Kaufman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Wacky Races, 6 Sep 2013
This review is from: Born Weird (Hardcover)
Take five siblings, insert into a dysfunctional family, send them on a road trip quest for truth and reconciliation - the result is a typically weird and wacky story from the quirky pen of Andrew Kaufman. Having previously enjoyed his contemporary fable, The Tiny Wife, I was keen to discover more about the Weird siblings.

Granny Annie Weird is insistent that her five grown up grandchildren gather at her bedside to witness her demise...which will occur at 7.39pm on 20th April. She's pulled these sort of stunts before but Angie Weird thinks she's serious this time so she sets off on a whirlwind trip to reunite her siblings and return them to Annie's death bed so she can undo the "blursings" she bestowed upon them at birth. A "blursing" is a combination of blessing and curse which Annie believes she gave (fairy godmother style..) to each grandchild. Admittedly each of the Weird kids has a particular quirk; Angie will always forgive even the most heinous crime and Kent is invincible in a fight (a la Clark Kent perhaps).

Angie's quest to track down her siblings is fraught with difficulty, her advanced pregnancy doesn't help! This is an entertaining and, at times, poignant tale of family life. Yes, they're weird but don't we all have a bit of oddness or is that just me?? Another winner from Andrew Kaufman, perfect for fans of Wes Anderson's movie, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.


The Wall
The Wall
by Marlen Haushofer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.40

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quiet but Powerful, 6 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Wall (Paperback)
Originally published in German (Die Wand) in 1968, The Wall is experiencing a renaissance of interest in recent times with a new reissue from Quartet Books and a film adaptation released in the UK in July 2013.

One morning an unassuming, middle-aged woman wakes up in the Austrian Alps to find out that she is the last person alive on earth. She was visiting a cousin at a hunting lodge but now she is completely alone with an invisible wall separating her from the rest of the world where every living thing has ceased to breathe and is now frozen in time. I immediately thought of Stephen King's Under the Dome but this is no apocalyptic scene complete with pandemonium - all is quiet and "this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper".

Some years later, our anonymous narrator decides to record her experiences on scraps of paper, perhaps as an act of self-confirmation to prove she still exists. It's not an exciting life by modern standards but her descriptions of daily life on the mountain provide an interesting interpretation of what it might be like to be totally isolated with no human contact. Initially, it's not so bad - rations are plentiful, Lynx the dog is a faithful companion, the unnamed cat, although scornful of open affection, provides some companionship. A lost cow provides a much needed food source as well as another contact. With the arrival of Winter, everything changes...

Deer have to be shot if there is to be meat on the table, potatoes and other vegetables must be planted on time, logs need cutting for fuel. Our lonesome woman fends for herself very well and doesn't seem too bothered by loneliness - I wonder how comfortable any of us would be in a similar situation?

This is a slow-paced, contemplative read and I really enjoyed taking time out and sharing the narrator's experiences as she gets closer to nature and sees the beauty in the detail of her surroundings.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2014 6:53 PM GMT


Olay Regenerist CC Cream - Lightest Skin Tone
Olay Regenerist CC Cream - Lightest Skin Tone
Price: 15.12

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not For Me, 28 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was keen to try this product as it sounded wonderful especially the fact that it is 3 products in one - moisturiser, anti-ageing serum and sheer foundation. It would be wonderful not to have so many tubes and bottles on the dressing table. Alas I have learned, again, that you can't take short cuts to improve the look of your skin and just as those 2 in 1 shampoos leave a sticky residue on my hair, this product left my skin feeling tacky and shiny. I have fair, quite sensitive skin with a touch of acne rosacea. Unfortunately this CC cream seemed to aggravate the rosacea and the slight sunscreen smell didn't help! I did like the packaging though! Loved the fact the cream looks like a flump! Back to using several products as it's a safer bet for my sensitive skin.


AmazonBasics PlayStation 3 Wired USB Chat Headset (Officially Licensed by Sony)
AmazonBasics PlayStation 3 Wired USB Chat Headset (Officially Licensed by Sony)
Price: 11.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Could Do Better, 28 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Advertised as a "basic" headset, this really is very flimsy and especially when used by a child. It was too uncomfortable for my average sized adult head and the sound quality very tinny. I think you'd do better to spend a little bit more money and get a more robust, stereo headset which will last longer and have better sound quality.


Cole and Mason 16-Jar Filled Hudson Herb and Spice Rack Carousel
Cole and Mason 16-Jar Filled Hudson Herb and Spice Rack Carousel
Offered by KG Homewares
Price: 41.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spice Up Your Life!, 22 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A high quality product which would make an ideal gift for keen cooks and would-be masterchefs.

Pros

1. Looks expensive. Sometimes plastic products have a telltale cheap squeak but this seems to revolve quite smoothly.
2. Black and chrome detailing will suit most modern kitchens.
3. A decent variety of herbs and spices.
4. Whilst my clumsy, carpal tunnel fingers struggle with most spice jars, I seem to be able to grip these sturdy jars without spilling the entire contents on the kitchen floor. The choice of two different openings (pour or sprinkle) helps.

Cons

1. Could be a bit big for a space limited kitchen. This is too pretty to put in a cupboard to forget!
2. As the names are on the top of each jar, it is difficult to quickly identify the contents of jars on the lower deck. I guess the answer would be to put your most used jars on the top deck or arrange them alphabetically, by shade or whatever you wish...

Overall, a great product which has encouraged me to be more adventurous in my cooking.


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