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Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK)
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Brothers in Blood (Roman Legion 13)
Brothers in Blood (Roman Legion 13)
by Simon Scarrow
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, 12 Oct. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hmm, I'm not too sure that I'm not reading Scarrow's Cato and Macro Roman novels more from habit now. That's not to suggest that this novel, the thirteenth in the series, isn't readable, but the ongoing adventures lack the excitement they once had. This is pretty inevitable. Coming up with new plots restricted to a specific time period, and representing a particular side (the Romans!) is going to test the skills of any author. I guess this is why there are few examples multi-series novels. They're normally restricted to trilogies or perhaps four volumes. Exceptions are there - Cornwell's Sharpe books or O'Brian's Royal Navy series - but to be honest I've never really got on with either. And anyway, I'm just not sure that Scarrow's writing is up to the job. I found the series late and read the first four or five novels all in one go so taken was I with them. But I don't think that the historical detail has ever quite been there when compared to Kane, Riches or Igguilden. I'll probably still carry on Scarrow's books but mostly because they're certain - a good read and something I know, a safe bet, and a bit like a comfort blanket.

If you're new to Scarrow, don't start with this book. It can be read in isolation but struggles a bit. I'd try his earlier books. I don't think new readers will be attracted now. Most readers will know Scarrow and are probably hooked by now and won't care what I say. So in brief, you'll get to see Britain and Rome (again) as Claudius' reign struggles on. The rivalries amongst Claudius' family is taken up again, but the hero's triumph in the end, again. What a surprise.

I'd like to give the book 3 1/2 stars but will lean to four for old time's sake.


Bose ® SoundLink Colour Bluetooth Speaker - Black
Bose ® SoundLink Colour Bluetooth Speaker - Black
Price: £119.95

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low cost Bose Bluetooth speaker., 10 Oct. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
An excellent low-cost Bose bluetooth speaker that's compact and easy to set up. This ultra-portable rechargeable Bose bluetooth speaker adds to their current range with the Bose ® SoundLink ® Mini Bluetooth Speaker - SIlver and the Bose ® SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III. SoundLink seems to be Bose-speak for bluetooth.

As you'd expect from Bose build quality is excellent and set up is extremely straightforward. It took about a minute to pair the speaker with a Sony Z3 smartphone and a Z2 tablet. Pairing is largely intuitive but Bose provides paper instructions as well and the unit has spoken commands built into its interface. Simply turn the unit on and you will be prompted to select your language (English is first) by using the + and - buttons. Once the language is chosen not only will the spoken instructions guide you through set up but will also advise when the battery power is running low. Without instructions, simply turn the speaker on and look for the Bose speaker on your phone or tablet bluetooth menu under available devices.

The speaker can be paired with a maximum of two bluetooth devices which is potentially restrictive. Usefully the speaker automatically switches between the paired devices without a problem.

In common with most Bose devices the speaker is simple to use. On the top of the speaker are six small buttons - on to turn it on and off, two for volume, one to pause what you're listening to and the bluetooth pairing and an aux button. The aux button, and a 3.5mm input at the rear of the speaker, allow you to listen to sources which do not have a bluetooth 4.0 connection.

Sound quality is very good reflecting the size of the speaker and a bluetooth connection. I don't have a SoundLink Mini to compare it to but it compares well with the SoundLink III although the maximum volume is not quite as high and the richness of music not quite as good. This reflects I suspect how you'll use the speaker. The SoundLink III can fill a small to medium room with music. The Soundlink Colour Speaker is really designed to carry around with you. If I was to criticise it, and it's perhaps a general criticism of Bose, the bass is a bit heavy.

Key to a portable speaker is battery life and charging time. Charging takes less than three hours and the battery I've found lasts for more than seven hours. The speaker comes with a compact USB mains charger and a USB cable. Unlike the SoundLink Mini which has a charging stand and seems designed to be on power continuously the SoundLink Speaker seems to be designed as a portable unit attached to the mains when the battery is running low.

The speaker is pretty portable. It weighs about half a kilo and is the size of a portable radio. It's good for taking with you while travelling although is a bit heavier and sizeable than many ultra-portable speakers. Disappointingly Bose doesn't seem to sell a carry case at the moment.

Overall a good small portable speaker


Philips LED lamp replaces 40 Watt E27 2700 Kelvin - warm white, 5.5W, 470 lumen
Philips LED lamp replaces 40 Watt E27 2700 Kelvin - warm white, 5.5W, 470 lumen
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good 40w equivalent but limited power saving, 10 Oct. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While there are now a vast range of LED bulbs on the market it's reassuring to buy one from an established manufacturer such as Phillips. However, there's no mention of a guarantee on the packing of this light bulb which is possibly concerning. The Philips website indicates a 12 month guarantee which is less than more expensive bulbs.

Positively the bulb comes on instantly, with no lag common with florescent low-enegy bulbs. It also looks like a traditional incandescent bulb. The 'warm white' light matches that of traditional light bulbs. So all good. Possibly less positively the bulb is a fair bit heavier than a standard light bulb which may cause problems when used in a desk lamp for example. Also the energy saving compared to fluorescent bulbs is not particularly marked. A 40w equivalent as a fluorescent bulb will be around 8w and this LED version is only 2 less at 6w. Of course this bulb is forecast to last for 15 years and will not take longer to reach full brightness as it gets older. But it is a fair bit more expensive so you need to consider whether this is really a money saving option.

Overall the bulb is fit for purpose but the cost of being an early adopter and the limited energy saved need to be borne in mind. You'll obviously realise that this bulb has a screw fitting and is not a bayonet UK standard fit.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2014 3:54 PM BST


Philips A5PRO/00 DJ Headphones (3500mW RMS, Sensitivity: 105dB, Cable up to 4.7m, Gold-Plated) Including Replaceable Ear Cushions and Innovative Folding Mechanism Black
Philips A5PRO/00 DJ Headphones (3500mW RMS, Sensitivity: 105dB, Cable up to 4.7m, Gold-Plated) Including Replaceable Ear Cushions and Innovative Folding Mechanism Black
Price: £214.18

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Headphones for life, 9 Oct. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These are exceptionally robust but compact headphones which are Phillip's version of professional DJ headphones, a product of collaboration suitably with the Dutch DJ Armin Van Buuren.

Whilst I can't comment on how well they would suit a DJ I can see that they might fit the bill in terms of sound quality, sound volume and build quality. First on build quality, these are extremely well made headphones. The headphones have a substantial anodised-aluminium construction with replaceable leather ear cushions and a leather headband. The headband is held in place with secure stitching and the ear cushions are removable via a detachable camera lens like multiple-point locking system. These headphones are not going to fall apart pretty much no matter what you do to them. There's no plastic parts to break off and the headband and headphone housing is all metal.

You're not going to have concerns about the acoustic qualities of the headphones either. In terms of volume the headphones have a significant punch with 3,500mW of power output, 50mm drivers, and virtually no distortion (less than 0.1% THD if you want the exact figures). The sound quality to my ear seems excellent with clear rich sound across the spectrum. It should be noted that the headphones don't have noise-cancelling technology built in. They rely on the around-ear ear cushions to help block out surrounding noise and, in noisy environments pure sound quality and volume. This works well but they are not as suited as Bose noise-cancelling headphones for use on a plane or train listening to a film for instance.

This is a pity because the headphones are not over-heavy and are remarkably compact. Compactness is largely due to the fact that headphones turn through 90 degrees and have a folding mechanism which means that the earpieces fill the area beneath the headband. The hinge structure allowing this is all-aluminium so isn't going to break. The aluminium construction adds lightness and because the headphones are so strong they don't need a large protective case. A loose canvass bag comes with the headphones for carriage which works fine. So they're great to carry everywhere with minimal fuss.

Other plus points for the headphones. Well the ear cushions are not just replaceable but they come in three different sizes to suit, I assume, the size of your ears. There's no issue with figuring out which is the right and which the left earpiece - there's large 'L' and 'R' letters on each. And the headphone cable can be attached to either the left or right headphone for added flexibility. It also locks in place if you plan to do anything energetic when wearing the headphones - like DJ'ing! Plus the headphone cable is replaceable and has gold fittings plus a 6.3mm 'large' headphone socket adapter.

If you're round and about with the headphones - which increasingly seem to be fashion statements - these are surprisingly understated. They do have 'Philips' in white sticking on the head cushion but the overall black anodised aluminium finish and back leather cushioning doesn't make these headphones into an egregious fashion statement (or faux pas). In fact bearing in mind their size they couldn't be much more understated.

Shortcomings, well for once in a review I struggle to find anything. For some environments noise-cancelling would be good but I suspect the sound quality would suffer with the compromises needed for the technology. The cable doesn't have a microphone or inline controls - not needed if you're a DJ but more relevant if you're on the train and want to take a phone call. Phillips have thought of this and, at extra cost, sell a 1.2m alternate cable. I guess most significantly the headphones are not cheap. But they'll last a near to a lifetime. These quibbles not deserve the loss of a star.

Really fully-recommended and five stars.


Scalextric 1:32 Audi R8 Police Slot Car
Scalextric 1:32 Audi R8 Police Slot Car
Price: £34.94

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great car, 6 Oct. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a high-quality 1 in 32 Scalextric Audi R8 model. It is a part of the Scalextric Street Range, is DPR ready, and has working headlights, rear lights, flashing blue lights, and emergency siren. This is one of the most detailed Scalextric cars I've come across and unlike others is compete out of the box with no need to add stickers to the model yourself.

In use the car holds the track very well and the siren is not so loud to become annoying. The car works with standard Scalextric setups (those which are not digital). To use the car fully with a digital system a DRP chip needs to be added. The only slightly incongruous element to the car is the enormous rear spoiler - which came detached after a spectacular crash. The car works fine without it - with no loss of roadholding! And it probably looks better.

Recommended.


Driving Test Success All Tests 2015 Edition (PC DVD)
Driving Test Success All Tests 2015 Edition (PC DVD)
Price: £6.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair theory test DVD, 1 Oct. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A compendium of information and tools relating to the driving test. The DVD is no only concerned with the theory test but also the driving test itself with a video of a test detailing each part of it. With regard to the theory test all current DVSA questions are included and there are a comprehensive range of hazard awareness tests. However, the video quality is pretty poor making some hazards (even) more difficult to spot. Nor does the disk feature the new animated hazard clips featured in the theory test. I've dropped a couple of stars for this.

Overall a fair package at a very low price.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 6, 2014 9:52 AM BST


Philips LED Light Bulb (E27 Edison Screw 9.0W A60) - Warm White
Philips LED Light Bulb (E27 Edison Screw 9.0W A60) - Warm White
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LED replacement bulb, 30 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While there are now a vast range of LED bulbs on the market it's reassuring to buy one from an established manufacturer such as Phillips. At least the guarantee perhaps means something. And at the price of these bulbs a guarantee is relevant.

Positively the bulb comes on instantly, with no lag common with florescent low-enegy bulbs. It also looks like a traditional incandescent bulb. The 'warm white' light matches that of traditional light bulbs. So all good. Possibly less positively the bulb is a fair bit heavier than a standard light bulb which may cause problems when used in a desk lamp for example. Also the energy saving compared to fluorescent bulbs is not particularly marked. A 60w equivalent as a fluorescent bulb will be around 11w and this LED version is only 1.5w less at 9.5w. Of course this bulb is forecast to last for 15 years and will not take longer to reach full brightness as it gets older. But it is significantly more expensive.

Overall the bulb is fit for purpose but the cost of being an early adopter and the limited energy saved need to be borne in mind. You'll obviously realise that this bulb has a screw fitting and is not a bayonet UK standard fit.


QuickBooks Pro 2015 Plus Payroll - 1 Year Subscription (PC)
QuickBooks Pro 2015 Plus Payroll - 1 Year Subscription (PC)
Price: £179.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One-Stop-Shop, 27 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
QuickBooks Pro seems to be the near standard software now for managing small business accounts and bundled with Payroll is really a one-stop-shop.

I first came across Intuit, the company producing QuickBooks, some years account through their personal finance software Quicken. Alas Quicken is no longer available in the UK, and hasn't been since 2004. It's a mark of how good the software was, however, that I am still using it, coaxing to run on a Mac even though it was designed for Windows XP! QuickBooks follows the same ethos as Quicken with a brilliant GUI and clear instructions if you need help. The real strength of the software is that everything has been thought of.

If you're new to QuickBooks the key issue to bear in mind is that it will take time to get your data into the software. It's pretty important that you take your time with this. The software is only as good as the data that goes into it. Due to the comprehensive nature of the software, and its integration, it's worth thinking about all aspects of your business and how QuickBooks might be used. It goes well beyond invoicing and credit control to balancing bank accounts and assessing net worth. However, the software does work, and begins to pay its way, from very limited information. Once you've installed the software, which I found worked without a problem, some basic company information allows you to chose to set up bank accounts, products sold, or the people you sell to. The beauty of the one-stop-shop is that data reentry is kept to a minimum. Your customer database links to the products you've provided for them and the payments they make can be tracked into you bank account.

Moreover, a strong feature of QuickBooks is its customer support which ranges from software updates to take account of always varying revenue changes to the option of 60 days free return - so if the software really doesn't work for you it can be sent back!

In a world of free and low cost software QuickBooks might seem expensive. I would expect most business to recoup the cost readily - in terms of saving your time, making good business decisions based of firm financial data, and saving in accountancy fees - together of course with making sure you're paid on time! As such I think the software is brilliant value for money.

So I'm sold on this software - definitely five starts


Topstar Sy HE20PBC00E Head Point Comfort Swivel Chair with Contour Shaped Mesh Backrest
Topstar Sy HE20PBC00E Head Point Comfort Swivel Chair with Contour Shaped Mesh Backrest
Offered by LUXURY EXPRESS
Price: £325.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid adjustable computer chair, 25 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This computer chair is made by Topstar the German manufacturer of a vast range of high-end office chairs. It comes well packaged in a very large box. It is largely disassembled although all but the arm rests can be assembled without tools and within a couple of minutes. The chair casters simply attach to the five-spoke base, the pneumatic spring and cover slide into the base, the chair sits on top and the backrest slides into the mechanism at the rear of the seat. You will need to use the two allen keys and six screws to attach the arm rests. I'd suggest that you do this before assembling the rest of the chair, not doing so last as the instructions sort of suggest. It's much easier to access the screw holes on the base of the seat before it's completely assembled. The chair would seem to work almost as well without adding the arms if you're short of space and want to be able to push the chair completely under a desk.

In use the chair can be adjusted in several ways. The height is set by a lever under the seat. The pneumatic spring is adjustable based on the user's weight via a swivel knob on the seat base, the backrest angle and seat angle adjust through a second lever under the seat although together and not independently and the height of the seat back can be adjusted by standing behind the seat and moving it up or down. If fitted the armrests also adjust up or down through a ratchet mechanism. Once you've got the settings to suit your needs - which might take a bit of time to get completely right - the seat is very comfortable in extended use. Topstar suggests that it should be used for up to 8 hours which is reasonable.

The chair is very solidly made and I would expect it to last for many years. The polyester seat cushion and backrest can be cleaned using any standard upholstery cleaner.

One point to note is that if you plan to use the chair on a hard floor and not a carpeted floor the casters are not suitable and need to be replaced with Topstar 6991 Hard Floor Castors Set available from Topstar.

Overall a computer chair that's hard to better


Scalextric 1:32 Scale GT Lightning Slot Car (Green)
Scalextric 1:32 Scale GT Lightning Slot Car (Green)
Price: £19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a brilliant Scalextric car, 25 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Disappointing. This 1:32 slot car lacks almost any detail making it a rather poor plastic model. Most of the paint detail on the car come in the form of a sheet of stickers which have to be attached at home. I’m not sure why Scalextric don’t do this themselves as some are pretty fiddly to fix to the car - and without the aid of pictures with the exception of those on the box it’s not clear where most of them go.

More importantly, the Amazon description is incorrect. This car is not Digital Plug Ready. Part of the confusion may arise as Scalextric have a ‘Car Features Icon Guide’ on the side of the box which lists many features which can come with a Scalextric car - including DPR, working front lights, working rear lights etc. This does not mean this model comes with those. To establish that you have to look as the icons displayed on the front of the box.

In use the car, as the ‘lightning’ moniker suggests, is fast. Largely that’s because it’s very light indeed. As a result it leaves the track with ease.

Overall not one of Scalextric best efforts. Three stars…just.


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