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Sony BDPS1200 Smart Blu-ray Disc Player
Sony BDPS1200 Smart Blu-ray Disc Player
Price: £49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars More Than a DVD Player, 17 Sep 2014
I bought this after the BBC kindly changed their iPlayer to a version that my old Sony Blu-Ray player can no longer support, which was annoying, but I have gained a smaller machine with a faster boot-up, quieter DVD motor and a dedicated Netflix button, so I can't complain.

I have connected this player to my modem via two TP-Link adapters, which carry internet signals along the home's electrical wiring system. The results are very good and it's good to have a versatile DVD player which also gives me access to internet televsion, including YouTube.

On the subject of YouTube, I was very impressed to discover that this player links up with my Samsung smartphone so that I can tap in the key words on my phone rather than go through the tedious process of going up and down the alphabet on my remote control. All in all, a very good machine.


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Man in a Hurry, 17 Sep 2014
Zinman conducts these works as if he has a train to catch, so these performances won't be everyone's cup of tea. However, I found it refreshing to listen to a very different interpretation of the two symphonies. The Eroica, in particular, is too fast, but there is an appealing sense of urgency that many traditional performances lack. The playing is top notch and the sound quality is very good, so this is worth investigating.


The Bone Clocks
The Bone Clocks
by David Mitchell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating, 17 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Bone Clocks (Hardcover)
David Mitchell reminds me of a literary version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's Child Catcher, luring the reading into his world with a nostalgic, coming-of-age story set in the 80s, before suddenly throwing them into a place that is beyond bizarre. Parts of The Bone Clocks are utterly bonkers, but Mitchell is such a great writer, he pulls it off and the journey from 1980s Gravesend to a dystopian Ireland of the 2140s was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have had as a reader.

When I finished reading Cloud Atlas, ten years ago, I uttered an involuntary "Wow!". Today I felt the same way, bowled over by the novel's audacity, wit and humanity. Mitchell was aware of the pitfalls of the fantasy element of the story and anticipates some people's reactions in a section that is an enjoyable satire of the literary world. But I trusted the integrity of his vision and felt that ultimately, the disparate elements worked well together, like contrasting movements of a symphony. The final section was particularly moving.

As for the main character of The Bone Clocks, I suspect that Holly Sykes is destined to become one of the most loved characters in literature.


Invasion of 1910 & The Great War in England in 1897 (Invasion Fiction Classics)
Invasion of 1910 & The Great War in England in 1897 (Invasion Fiction Classics)
Price: £0.77

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 19 July 2014
A well-researched book that reads more like a history textbook than a novel, with turgid prose, virtually no dialogue and zero character development. Worth skimming through for its observasions about England's preparedness for war, but not good enough to read cover to cover.


1914 : A Novel
1914 : A Novel
by Jean Echenoz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.94

2.0 out of 5 stars A Pity, 26 Jun 2014
This review is from: 1914 : A Novel (Paperback)
I'm a big fan of Jean Echenoz and salute the publisher - a not-for-profit organisation - for making an English translation available, so the last thing I want to do is write a negative review. However, this short book is very disappointing and reads a little like the first draft of an unfinished novel, with a sudden, unsatisfactory ending that leaves you wondering if the last chapters are missing.

I'm not quite sure what the author was trying to achieve, as '1914' tells us little about the First World War, but also fails on a more intimate level. It's a great pity, as Echenoz's novels like 'I'm Off' and 'Big Blondes' sparkle with wit and intelligence. He was clearly have an off day when he wrote 1914.


The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
by Tom Rachman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walks a Tightrope, But Doesn't Fall Off, 13 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Sir Thomas Beecham once advised conductors to start well and end well - "the public doesn't care what's in the middle". In the case of this novel, it started well but halfway into the narrative, looked as if it was in danger of descending into some sub-Austeresque Magical Realism. It's a great tribute to Tom Rachman that he managed to avoid this pitfall and carefully steered the novel towards a successful, satisfying conclusion.

Set in 1988, 1999/2000 and 2011, the narrative alternates between the three periods. I have read that some people found this frustrating, but I enjoyed putting the pieces together and felt that this structure made the story all the more compelling.

I won't add a lengthy review to the many others that have been written, but simply wanted to add my voice to the "Ayes". I really enjoyed inhabiting the world of these characters didn't want the novel to end.


Brahms: Four-Hand Piano Music, Vol. 18
Brahms: Four-Hand Piano Music, Vol. 18
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 29 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Why would anyone want to listen to a piano arrangement of Brahms's orchestral works? I couldn't see the point, until I heard an extract from this CD.

I love these two-piano arrangements because for me, they breathe new life into music that I thought I knew backwards, allowing me to really hear the notes without the distractions of orchestral timbre. The performances are first rate and the recording quality manages to avoid the extremes of a soulless studio or a reasonant public building, creating an acoustic that feels natural and intimate, as if it is being performed in your room.


Dvorįk - Symphony No 6 (LSO, Davis)
Dvorįk - Symphony No 6 (LSO, Davis)
Price: £7.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revelation, 29 May 2014
I was new to this symphony and found it as tuneful and addictive as the 8th - I don't know why it is overshadowed by the later symphonies.

Some conductors tend to prefer slower, broader readings of works as they get older, but Colin Davis's interpretation bristles with energy. As for the recording, I can't fault it. The engineers have managed to give us all of the benefits of a live performance without the accompanying coughs and the sound quality is as good as the best studio recording. The Colin Davis LSO Live recordings are already acknowledged as classics and are a particular favourite with the experts on Radio Three's 'CD Review', so I shall be buying the others in this series.


Tveitt: Hundred Hardanger Tunes: Suites 1 & 4
Tveitt: Hundred Hardanger Tunes: Suites 1 & 4
Price: £6.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and Haunting, 10 Mar 2014
This is a marvellous disc, containing 30 short pieces that are consistently interesting and enjoyable. Although comparisons are dangerous, some of these tunes reminded me of the atmosphere of Malcolm Arnold's late dance suites: outwardly simple and approachable, but with a dark, unsettling undercurrent that belies the folksy melodies. But as far as the music itself is concerned, Tveitt was very much his own man, writing in a voice that is quite unlike anyone else I can think of.

The tunes themselves are straightforward enough, but thanks to Tveitt's unusual harmonies and imaginative orchestration, they are transformed into something quite wonderful. Like the other reviewers, I have no hesitation in giving this CD five stars and know that it is going to be one of the few recordings that I'll play time and time again.


I Was Jack Mortimer (Pushkin Collection)
I Was Jack Mortimer (Pushkin Collection)
by Alexander Lernet-Holenia
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Enjoyable, 2 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Thank you Pushkin Press for finding another wonderful gem from mid-20th century Europe, in this excellent translation by Ignat Avsey.

With its dry humour and sense of the absurd, Lernet-Holenia's writing reminded me at times of Antal Szerb or Jiri Weil, pitting an ordinary, unspectacular man up against forces beyong his control. The result is an enjoyable, knockabout farce that is underpinned by a subtle but powerful sense of menace. I particularly enjoyed the vivid evocation of Vienna between the wars.

My one criticism - and the reason I have only given four stars - is that it was too short. But to complain that I wanted more is always the sign of a good read.


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