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G. Wake "gregwake" (Newcastle, UK)
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Pizza Pilgrims: Recipes from the Backstreets of Italy
Pizza Pilgrims: Recipes from the Backstreets of Italy
by Thom Elliot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A great way to broaden your knowledge of Italian food and cooking methods - lots of ideas to try yourself at home!, 30 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When I first opened this book it had a rather horrible chemical smell that irritated my asthma so I'd caution anyone with breathing difficulties to let it air for a few days first.

As one of many Italian cookbooks on the market `Pizza Pilgrims' needs to stand out and be a little different: this is achieves partially though its odd premise of two young men travelling through Italy in a green Italian version of Del Boy's three wheel van. It works by allowing the Elliots a reason to move around Italy, collecting different recipes and doesn't take over the book: it's still about the food rather than the van or the cooks.

The brothers say they love the `cucina povera' or simple cooking of the poor from the Southern regions, but they include examples from most of Italy. Recipes start with the basics like making your own fresh pasta, pizza dough and gnocchi, cooking polenta, street food, pizza toppings, roast meats, puddings and cocktails. Most things should be manageable by any average cook and there is little in the way of specialist equipment needed (save a pizza oven for some recipes,) though some of the ingredients (like the highly recommended Calabrian Nduja sausage) may be a little hard to find in the UK or be eye wateringly expensive. It may be ! You are bound to find a few things you've not come across before and I am especially grateful for the `build your own pizza oven' directions, though it could have done with better photography.

The book is colourful with no white pages and lots of photographs, which are split fairly evenly between "holiday snaps" of the trip and rather arty, blurry photos of the food. It's a shame that not every recipe is pictured so you don't always know what something is supposed to look like and there are few showing the stages of making something. Oddly they did find room for series of photographs showing one Eliott brother shoving a pizza into his gob and allowing you to inspect his teeth afterwards so `Pizza Pilgrims' is not what you might call dainty.

The chapters are well designed, the index works properly (it has recipes listed by both their English and Italian names for a start) The fonts are very clear and mostly avoid the hard to read faux-handwriting many cookbooks adopt. The language used may be a little modern for some but with two young authors this is to be expected. I really like it, have enjoyed reading it and really like the recipes in it!


America Bewitched: The Story of Witchcraft After Salem
America Bewitched: The Story of Witchcraft After Salem
by Owen Davies
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and well researched but not exciting and an effort to get through in parts, 30 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have learned much more from this book than I thought likely at the outset; it contains a wealth of information, it explains a great deal about the USA, its inhabitants, their origins and how witchcraft has affected the language and culture. It's a broad history covering a wide geographic area, about four hundred years and the major ethnic groups from European settlers and African-American slaves to Mexicans, Hispanics and various Native American peoples. Bizarrely and disappointingly it does stop towards the end of the twentieth century and entirely ignores the recent rise of witches, wizards and the like in US popular culture.

`America Betwitched' is, unfortunately, a good history wrapped in a not very good book. Context is severely lacking; it tells you about places, products and cash amounts without explaining where, what or how much they are in modern day equivalent. There are no maps, pictures are few and far between, odd words are used with little or sometimes no explanation and medicinal plants and products referred to with no explanation as to what they do. If you don't know what kind of places the panhandle of Alaska or the Ozarks are you might find some of the chapters confusing.

The topic is wonderful, the tales told thought provoking and fascinating but the writing lets it down quite badly. Paragraphs are huge and meandering, the author often flips back and forth between topics, the subject index is dire, the chapters not well organised and there are some sections that are simply dull. You will learn a great deal from this book though maybe not as much as you'd have thought.


Eukanuba Sensitive Skin Dry Food 12 kg
Eukanuba Sensitive Skin Dry Food 12 kg
Price: £42.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value, well packaged and effective - but slightly smelly and in a HUGE pack, 21 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having a Westie afflicted by skin issues we have to be careful what we feed him but this seems good, doesn't cause him any problems and he eats it (though it took him a little time to get used to it, so don't be disappointed if they dislike it at first) so it does do what it is supposed to.

Things to be aware of.
* It smells fishy, but not very fishy, but it is rather different from most dog food.
* The pack has a zip-lock type seal so the food stays fresh and the smell does not take over the house, which is a great improvement when you're used to open sacks of dog food. It will not keep a determined dog out, but does make the food easier to live with.
* 12kg is a lot of dog food, so sure you have the space to store it and can lift the sack - if you have a bad back this size may not be suitable for you.

As it is a new food you would be best advised to check your dog likes it and the food agrees with their skin condition before buying a large quantity but, other than that, it's decent dog food that's well packaged, easily to live with and appears to do what its supposed to.


Logitech G230 Stereo Gaming Headset
Logitech G230 Stereo Gaming Headset
Price: £40.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable and good quality sound - shame they are a ugly, angular and huge but I still like them, 21 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With styling cues apparently taken from Knightrider these aren't going to be to everyone's taste, but the black with red highlighting is striking and I really like the red fabric cord: it's much more comfortable against your skin and less liable to snag on your clothing than the more common rubber covered wires on most headphones. The volume and microphone mute control is a decent size and has a clip to attach it to your shirt or collar so you can keep it within reach at all times and, unlike some, turning the volume to zero actually mutes the sound.

The microphone has a lovely action, it's very easy to position into place but can only be used on the left side so be aware if you like yours on the right side but it works well. It's not studio quality but is decent and is fine for the intended purpose.

Sound quality is good, much better than many of the cheaper £20 - £30 big headphones I have and easily better than any ear buds I own. If I have any criticism it would be that there is a little too much bass but it's very minor and it is not really a fault, more a matter of taste. The headphones are comfortable to wear and as they sit around the ears rather on top of them and while the material is synthetic it's not too hot to wear on a warm day.

All in all, I love these. Granted it's easier to love them as I don't have to look at them but the quality more than makes up for their slightly quirky, thirty years out of date, design.


Alcohol: Science, Policy and Public Health
Alcohol: Science, Policy and Public Health
by Peter Boyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £65.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Something for everyone who has any interest in alcohol - a must for professionals dealing with drink, 1 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Each chapter is a standalone article dealing with a different aspect of alcohol from art, history and literature to brewing, genetics and chemistry; it is a joy to see so much collected on the one topic in one volume and with such breadth. Everything has been written by a learned person, it is all well referenced and is beautifully put together with sharp black text on a good grade of white paper: you are going to be able to get a lot of use out of this.

As someone without any higher education in science I admit to finding the scientific sections a struggle, they are sufficiently well written that I get the gist but I miss the deeper understanding, though as a reader can restrict their reading to those topics they find appealing this isn't a huge issue: there is so much here to keep an interested reader occupied. The sections dealing with the social side of drink were among the best I've come across, as they give clear, detailed and well-referenced explanations with no obvious bias or political motivation.

Without doubt this is the best reference I have come across for alcohol and is a brilliant work for anyone interested in alcohol and a must have for anyone professionally involved with it.


Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56
by Anne Applebaum
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal stories wrapped in a larger history - moving, readable and informative, 27 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As quite a large, heavy, book I was a little concerned this was going to be a hard read, being dry, academic and full of dull details, but `Iron Curtain' is not just a history of figures, dates, names and tables: it is mostly about people, about what happened to them and why. It's balanced, fair and does not have any obvious political axe to grind, discussing mass murders without painting the murderers as monsters, merely evil men.

The book is well organised by being broken into manageable chapters each covering a broad but sensible topic and time frame. There are natural breaks within each chapter every few pages so you are not stuck reading page after page looking for a place to halt reading. You don't get dozens of pages about single groups, towns or individual people, instead you're presented with a selection of things that happened, backed by pieces from history like letters, speeches and interviews with survivors. There are fragments of biography, reports and speeches from the West, letters from Beria to Stalin and all manner of tales from those in occupied Eastern Europe: it is a very effective way to present history, it is not at all dry as the real life stories bring the history to life and keep it interesting if harrowing.

I wasn't expecting much of `Iron Curtain' but I'm really very pleased with it and I now understand the history of these parts of Europe much better than I did.


Destined to Play (Avalon 1)
Destined to Play (Avalon 1)
by Indigo Bloome
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

2.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a romance as tale of dishonesty and manipulation leading to non-consensual kinky sex, 20 Jun 2013
Destined to Play came highly recommended to me so I was looking forward to reading it and I was hopeful of something clever, artistic, erotic and new. A slightly bored professional wife and mother finds she wants an affair with an old flame, who just happens to be rather wealthy, powerful and good looking: five star hotels, personal service, dream activities some BDSM keep it on trend. So far, so ordinary.

Unfortunately the romance is rather overshadowed by the rather nasty man she's fallen for: a doctor who administers drugs without obtaining informed (or even any) consent, who lies, manipulates and subtly bullies Alexa into doing what he wants. Jeremy uses strong liquor and illegal drugs to confuse her and physical force to intimidate or restrain her: when she tries to walk away he either grabs her or ties her to the furniture. When it comes to kink he does not make her aware of the risks, ignores the notion of consent and is utterly unsafe, insane and in doing things to Alexa without her consent Jeremy generally behaves like a rapist.

The author presents Alexa as dependant on Jeremy and responsible for the things he does to her and it is this `she asked for it' implied in the writing that I find unsettling. I have not found a book so horrifying to read in a very long time and the notion that it's ok to cheat, lie to and manipulate someone so they may experience something with you is deeply immoral. Follow Jeremy's path and you'd likely end up in prison and if this man came to date your daughter you'd be well advised to hit him with a shovel and bury him under the patio.

In literary terms it starts to go wrong when the book claims to be written by Alexa when the text displays none of the sophistication which a well travelled, worldly wise, doctor of psychology would use. It's not that it is written badly, though certain words and phrases are horribly overused (Jeremy `scoops' Alexa up far too many times,) it just is not as it should be. The quantity of pseudo-scientific claptrap, repetitions of `sweetheart' and other patronising nonsense from Jeremy don't really help either.

If you want to read about kink and discover or romance and extra-marital affairs then I'd suggest you read something else: Destined to Play is best left to those who fantasise about dishonest, manipulative, low life men making use of women too docile to run away from their abusers.


Six Weeks to OMG: Get skinnier than all your friends
Six Weeks to OMG: Get skinnier than all your friends
by Venice A. Fulton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a diet, a new way to love living that tells you why you do it this way, 17 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Not a collection of recipes, tables of calories and height/weight ratios or detailed exercise plans. Six weeks to OMG mostly concerns itself with telling you how something works then how you can affect it to your advantage and if, at the end, you're not sure there are references to the research Fulton used to develop the book.

It's a friendly, chatty, quite informal book, like a big magazine article and while some of the topics are quite scientific Fulton does not talk down to you: he's very easy to follow. It is slightly camp, American and trendy in tone (he measures food portions in Blackberrys and iPhones), not unlike Gok Wan, and quite clearly aimed at young women, while being suitable advice for anyone prepared to listen.

Key features include
* There is a lot of choice here, you decide what to do and what to eat, Fulton gives you guidance to work with and tells you why something works.
* The plan allows for flexibility: you don't have to do everything Fulton suggests so if you don't like the more extreme bits adjust them out of your plan.
* Be aware there are some unorthodox ideas like taking cold baths in the morning, not counting calories and skipping breakfast until around 12.00 (but still having three meals a day) so don't get this if you expect a traditional diet.
* Activity and remembering routine are central to the diet.
* It can be used for more than six weeks, but the author concentrates on what to expect in the first intensive six weeks.
* You don't count calories but you do count certain kinds of carbs.
* Measuring food and understanding what you can eat is easy: you're not going to need scales and a calculator!

If terms like OMG annoy you or you're looking for a more traditional diet and exercise plan that holds your hand and tells you exactly what to eat then OMG isn't for you. If you're not afraid of trying something a little different and want to make your own decisions within a set of guidelines then it is!


Hozelock Multi Spray Pro Gun
Hozelock Multi Spray Pro Gun
Price: £18.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent device - good quality and functional, 15 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this to replace a plastic, six spray, hozelock gun that was starting to fail. I did not expect to find the extra setting much use but this 'seventh setting' is rather good, adding aerated water (like many modern taps) to the usual arrange of mists, sprays, jets and flows. It is a little heavier than the plastic version and it feels very good quality in use: changing the setting has a good, smooth feeling and the trigger works well. Spend the extra money on this over the cheaper ones and you'll not be disappointed.


BlackBerry PlayBook Faux Leather Convertible Case
BlackBerry PlayBook Faux Leather Convertible Case
Offered by Ekow Ltd
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant for the PlayBook - ideal for using it the device on a table, 15 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you have a PlayBook then you should really have this: it makes it much easier to hold and use the tablet, either on your knee or on a table or plinth. Like most Blackberry accessories it is very well make and does exactly what you'd expect it to.

* It has holes for the camera and the sockets so use is not restricted
* It holds onto the unit well, though is not hard to remove for airport screening
* It is protective and easy to wipe clean - ideal for carrying your PlayBook when travelling
* It allows the PlayBook to be held at two angles so you can adjust it to suit your purpose.

Before I had this I did not like to take the PlayBook anywhere but with this I'm happy to take it to work, use it in the garden and take it out and about wherever I go. Buy it and you'll not be disappointed!


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