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The Miniaturist
The Miniaturist
by Jessie Burton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget the 'historical fiction' label; this is a fairy tale, 26 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Miniaturist (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a tale told in language every bit as ornate as the cabinet house in the Rijksmuseum that inspired the novel. Debut author Jessie Burton shows a stunning gift for prose, with some wonderfully metaphorical turns of phrase that reminded me fleetingly of the Godmother of 'Lit-Hist' Fiction, Hilary Mantel. There are fine observations on life and loss, and a depth of feeling here that can't help but move you. Some of the later chapters, especially, are particularly heartfelt.

What the book isn't, though, is 'historical fiction' in the vein of 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' (as my review copy suggested). For me this is purely and simply a fairy tale. Fans of magic realism – come on in. If you're here for the 'gripping plot' that some reviewers have talked of, I can't help but think you'll be disappointed. The plot grips intermittently, but the book as a whole is a rather slow read. (So was 'Wolf Hall', of course, nothing wrong – whatsoever – with that.) It's a book 'out of time', in the sense that all fairy tales are: I have no quibbles whatsoever with the authenticity, or otherwise, of the factual details (I'm far too thick on this issue to judge either way); I just think it's completely irrelevant. Sink yourself into the slow flowing prose and forget about Tracy Chevalier et al. You're less likely to find the untied plot-threads disappointing if you come to the Miniaturist with this in mind. There are moments of over-writing, yes, but in all this is a moving, satisfying read from a spellbinding new voice.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2014 2:04 PM BST


Mustard Seed Screen Protector for Apple iPhone 5/5S
Mustard Seed Screen Protector for Apple iPhone 5/5S
Price: 8.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read the instructions..., 19 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Under the new Vine rules I have to review this product... but I gave it to my teenage daughter (not having an iPhone myself) and she failed to read the instructions (or take the cleaning cloth out of the box) – hence it's impossible for me to review it fairly. Awarding 3 stars seemed the best option. My only advice is to make sure you FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS, and take the time to remove all the dust from your screen before attempting to apply the protector.


The Little Book of Mindfulness
The Little Book of Mindfulness
by Tiddy Rowan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 3.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The little half-full book of mindfulness., 28 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'Little' is the operative word here. This is a teeny, tiny book, although the elegant cover and handy ribbon place marker combine to make it a fairly expensive-looking teeny, tiny book (if you're purchasing this for a present). The book's entire concept can be summed up by the opening page: 'When you are on a journey [...] the only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That's all there ever is.'

This is a book you'll want to dip into, rather than read from cover to cover. Some pages have denser text than others (page 94, for instance, consists of the rather oddly punctuated words: 'Breathe – and – smile!') and it's worth noting that, teeny tiny though it is, this book contains a lot of blank space for your buck. There are tips on meditation and inspirational quotes from Einstein and Mother Teresa, among others, and lots of tidbits about what, exactly, mindfulness is (sort of 'being in the moment', I think). Some tips, of course, are more helpful than others. 'Spend a day accepting yourself' is a great tip, yes, but I'm none the wiser about how I'm meant to achieve it. This one, however – a quote from Lin Yutang – I've got down to a fine art: 'If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.' Good-ish, but not great.


Feel Good: How to Change Your Mood and Cope with Whatever Comes Your Way
Feel Good: How to Change Your Mood and Cope with Whatever Comes Your Way
by Shane Pascoe
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.36

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much analysis and not enough strategy., 24 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I should probably say that, at the time of writing, I'm going through a period of clinical depression. This brings negatives and positives to the reading, and reviewing, of this book. As another reviewer has mentioned, when mood is low you're more likely to jump ahead to one of the appropriate chapters ('Distress' or 'Unhappiness', for instance) rather than following the route suggested by the authors, which is to read the book in strict order and take about a week to absorb the insights in each chapter. I certainly haven't managed to do this, but have taken the scattergun approach in the hope of quickly abstracting the useful bits.

And there are some useful bits, but for me they were mainly towards the end of the book. In another frame of mind I might have enjoyed and been more illuminated by the lengthy theoretical sections on the causes of particular types of mood. There's no denying that these form the major part of the book. There are 'post-it' notes offering simple, practical tips that you're meant to carry out, again in order, as you work your way through the book, and the chapter on 'Distress' concludes with some briefly described CBT techniques that are helpful, yes, but could have been more broadly elaborated on. The penultimate 'Relaxation Techniques' chapter was the best for me: the comments on Mindfulness I found especially useful, and have been practising the yogic breathing techniques as best I can.

One of the quotes on the back suggests this as 'an adjunct book for therapists to use with clients', and I think, in all honestly, for anyone with more than the very mildest depression or anxiety this book is likely to provide only modest benefits. I've marked about half a dozen pages in my copy with strategies that I think will be potentially useful in a practical sense, and will revisit them over the coming weeks. In essence, that's why this book has three stars instead of four: the theoretical outweighs the practical here, and for a self-help book I think the authors have got that balance slightly wrong.


Milius [DVD]
Milius [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joey Figueroa
Price: 14.11

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One for the boys, 3 Feb 2014
This review is from: Milius [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A film that opens with the Roosevelt quote: 'It is not the critic who counts' is always going to be dangerous territory for the would-be reviewer. In this documentary about legendary Hollywood screenwriter John Milius there's another, rather larger, section of the population that doesn't count either: and, unfortunately (since I'm one of them), that's women.

This All Boys' Club of a film sets out its stall in the opening minutes with more macho soundbytes than gun-hungry Milius could shake an AK47 at, the most striking amongst them being: ‘he doesn’t write for pussies and he doesn’t write for women. He writes for men. Because he’s a man.’

Well, excuse me raining on your male bonding session, but is this necessarily something to boast about? For a writer, having no empathy whatsoever with fifty percent of the human race is generally seen as a weakness, right? George Hamilton talks of their early days working together: the steady supply of fresh young prostitutes that he sent Milius’s way (‘give me girls, gold, and guns’ said Milius). Yes, oh yes. We’re in the unreconstructed world of the 1970s, Kathleen Kennedy’s almost the lone female voice in this baritone landscape (with two very minor exceptions), and it kind of gets my goat that this sexist tosh is all part of The Legend. For the first time ever I found myself missing a voice-over track, just to offer perspective. I’d have liked a few treats for the eye as well: there’s very little here in terms of visuals. Just a series of people in chairs, reminiscing, and fine, yes, those people are legends themselves (Scorcese, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, etc) but to all intents and purposes this could have been on the radio.

Perhaps my hackles had risen too early, but for two thirds of the running time little about this drew me in. I suspect, perhaps, I lack the necessary testosterone. Milius built a lifetime’s work on the giant shoulder-chip acquired by missing out on a military career – Milius is asmathic – combined with a passion for Kurosawa, and for me the first half of this film was a genuine struggle: far too much butt-kissing bluster about the good old days, with all the female-pleasing chops of a Robin Thicke video.

I softened, though, as the film moved into sadder territory. Milius’s stroke in later years, that left him sadly deprived of the language he’d traded on his whole life long, touched a personal nerve and was hundreds of times easier for me to relate to than the gun-toting bluster of his early life. Having watched this, though, I'm still none the wiser about Milius as a human being: we heard lots about Milius the legend, but far less, I feel, about the real man underneath.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2014 11:03 PM GMT


Sea of Whispers
Sea of Whispers
by Tim Bowler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, 2 Feb 2014
This review is from: Sea of Whispers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My teenaged daughter is a massive Tim Bowler fan, so I've commandeered her for the reviewing of this product. Here's what she had to say:

I loved reading 'The Sea of Whispers'. Apart from the fact I love Tim Bowler's books, I found this to be an amazing read. Lots of chapters kept me on the edge of my seat. I found it difficult to put the book down. I have say, throughout the first few chapters I felt we might be getting into the drama and action too quickly, without getting to know the protagonist, Hetty, well enough. As I kept reading, however, I realised that what I'd thought was drama to begin with was nothing compared to what happens later on…

I grew to love and understand Hetty throughout the novel. I empathised with her situation, but some of her actions were so bold it was hard to put the book down as I had to find the consequences to Hetty's actions. The fact that Hetty has her own beliefs, and I would even say her own power, makes her different from the other islanders. This makes her special in our minds and helps us understand her passion towards certain elements in the book.

I would recommend this book to people who love adventure stories, or mystical novels.


Braun Silk-Epil 3 3270 Epilator with 2 Attachments
Braun Silk-Epil 3 3270 Epilator with 2 Attachments
Offered by HealthXpress
Price: 39.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Fine if you have a couple of hours to spare..., 26 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First off: a couple of complaints. The product I was sent for review came with only a two-pin EU plug (meaning I had to shell out for an adaptor), and no case or protective covering at all. The former is something you might want to check before purchasing; the latter is something that might persuade you to try a different model. Having a case is pretty handy, really.

As for the product itself, the light seems like a good idea (although slightly blinding after a while), but surely it ought to be optional rather than compulsory? Instead it comes on automatically as soon as the epilator's switched on. For me this was an entirely pain-free experience (although, admittedly, my legs are pretty much numb after years of aggressive hair removal), and I don't dispute at all that the Silk-epil is far gentler than the epilators I tried in the dim and distant past. My skin certainly feels softer than it does after waxing or shaving. However (and it is rather a big however) it takes FOREVER to finish a single leg! Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards I went - all too often to no avail. As others have mentioned, this product has fewer tweezers than some epilators on the market. You have to catch the hairs at exactly the right angle. The Silk-epil seems only to like hairs of a particular length, and I saw no evidence whatsoever of the so-called 'Soft Lift Tips' that claim to remove even flat-lying hairs: this was NOT my experience.

Having wavered between two and three stars I've plumped for three. I've a feeling this is a product that might become more effective with practise, and - as with all epilators - the proof is in the regrowth pudding. I have to admit I'm hairier than the average female, so it may be simply that I need something more hardcore... If you've never used an epilator before, this could be a good 'starter' product: the process grows markedly less painful over time, and once your legs have adjusted to the sensation you might consider switching to a different, and more efficient, version.


Braun Satin Hair 7 BR170 Iontec Brush
Braun Satin Hair 7 BR170 Iontec Brush
Offered by SMDIRECT UK
Price: 28.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The appliance of science, 30 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ions. They're everywhere these days. In my hair dryer, in my straightening irons, and now in my brand new glow-in-the-dark BATTERY-OPERATED hairbrush. (Two AAAs. Included with the product, I'm happy to say.) What's an ion? I've got no idea. But I've always been cursed with that 'snap crackle' feeling of flyaway hair... and this stupidly-priced battery-powered glow-worm of a brush is the only one that's ever stopped it. So, yes, it's expensive and, no, I'm not hugely convinced by the promise of extra shine, but if you, too, have hair prone to levitate towards the ceiling, then THIS BRUSH IS FOR YOU.


eMedia My Piano (PC/Mac)
eMedia My Piano (PC/Mac)
Price: 19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars My piano...? My keyboard..., 15 Nov 2012
This review is from: eMedia My Piano (PC/Mac) (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Far better suited to those with electronic keyboards rather than acoustic pianos, this oddly-named product is American and therefore refers to note values in terms of 'whole notes, quarter notes etc' rather than the crotchets, minims and so on used in British music teaching (and exams). This might be a fun way to encourage a young child in preparation for (or as a complement to) music lessons, but it's certainly no real substitute for an actual teacher. Perhaps spend the money on a couple of trial lessons instead...


Eat Yourself Young: Take Years Off Your Looks with This Revolutionary New Eating Plan
Eat Yourself Young: Take Years Off Your Looks with This Revolutionary New Eating Plan
by Elizabeth Peyton-Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

3.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read; hard to stick to, 15 Nov 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A lovely-looking book with a jaunty, easy-to-read style and lots of simple, sensible advice. Since I managed about 48 hours on the suggested eating plan I can't really comment on the 'youthing' possibilities of swapping burgers for beetroot (although I did feel rather excitable after a poached egg and fennel salad), but logic - and perhaps cynicism - persuades me that any major benefits are likely to be internal rather than external. Not that I wouldn't jump at the chance to feel younger internally... but apparently the regime excludes Marmite, so it's not for me I'm afraid.


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