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Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK)
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Station Eleven
Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.66

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Non linear, amateur dramatics, apocalypse novel, 12 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Station Eleven (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Somewhat to my surprise this novel didn't really work for me. I didn't find the the post-apocolypse travels of the Symphony particularly interesting and nor did I like the organisation of the novel switching between pre and post apocalypse worlds. Some of the links between key characters were interesting but for me didn't strengthen the story much. The keeping of the museum of pre-apocalypse artefacts at a provincial airport struck me as bizarre. Clearly most other reviews think this is an excellent book so I'm in a minority but on completion of the book I'm at a loss o think why others think it so outstanding. Three stars paying heed to what others think but probably close to two for me.


Jura Impressa Z9 One Touch TFT Coffee Machine, Chrome
Jura Impressa Z9 One Touch TFT Coffee Machine, Chrome
Price: £2,214.94

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant bean to cup machine, 12 Sept. 2014
Very nearly the most expensive stand-alone bean to cup coffee machine you can buy for the home market. As you would expect it does produce excellent coffee. I prefer milk-based coffee products and here the machines excels with a guaranteed quality, and automatically produced, cappuccino. Lattes are equally easy. All milk drinks can be produced without the need to move the cup.

Almost all settings can be adjusted to meet your own requirements including the fineness of the ground beans, water temperature, coffee strength, amount of water/milk etc. The LCD screen is a nice addition to the Jura range.

I guess the test of a fairly specialised piece of kitchen equipment is how long you use it for. This is my second Jura and both were used every day without fail. Plus remember that the machine can also produce hot water - so I now never use my kettle - plus hot milk. It's not just coffee.

If you're in the minority, like me, who think the price is not insane, thoroughly recommended and 5 stars.


Bolse® Wireless Presentation Presenter with Red Laser Pointer Pen
Bolse® Wireless Presentation Presenter with Red Laser Pointer Pen
Offered by T.M. Enterprise
Price: £19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent quality presentation aid, 4 Sept. 2014
It's really nice to come across a product where considerable thought has been placed in its design and its been constructed with quality materials. Both apply to this Bolse wireless presenter and laser pointer.

Good design because the highly portable Presenter (similar in size to a rather thick ballpoint pen and designed to be carried in a jacket pocket) is simplicity itself. It has four clearly marked buttons three of which work with presentation software such as PowerPoint. Two move either up or down through slides and a third has multifunction capabilities allowing active windows to be cycled through or web links in a presentation to be opened. The fourth button operates a high power laser printer. The design is also brilliant as the dongle that needs to be plugged into a USB on the PC or laptop being used for the presentation is built in securely to the top of this pen-like device. The presenter also comes in smart secure packaging, with the AAA battery needed to operate it, and clear instructions and illustrations for use.

Good quality is carried through from the packing materials and instructions to the materials used to make the Presenter. It's got a brass body, a smart silver and white finish, and feels solid and robust in use.

I've tried the Presenter with both Windows 8.1 and OS X using PowerPoint for both and Keynote for the Apple OS. It works fine with both.

If you're looking for a good quality Presenter with laser pointer at a really good price you won't go far wrong with this. Five stars.

Note that this product was supplied for the purpose of an independent review.


The Scarlet Thief (Jack Lark)
The Scarlet Thief (Jack Lark)
by Paul Fraser Collard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars First novel and with a focus on the Crimea, 4 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A fair to good first novel which follows the adventures and misadventures of Jack Lark and his later impersonation of an officer, in England and then in the Crimean War. The book is very readable and if not a page-turner certainly keeps the readers interest. The main focus of the book, and most chapters, are devoted to the Crimean campaign, and particularly the lead up and progress of the Battle of Alma. To be honest I found the earlier pre-Crimea sections more interesting. In historical fiction I really like sufficient detail to 'feel' like I'm there. Although there are attempts in this book I don't quite see that detail. The battle scene is very bloody but to an extent I felt this was almost a substitute for historical reality. The post battle section is fairly brief so again the impact of death and disease associated with the Crimea didn't come over well. The 'historical note' is noticeably briefer than something from Cornwell, Kane, Igguilden etc might include with one of their books.

All that said, there's a second book in the series The Maharajah's General (Jack Lark) which I'll try. So that's quite a good recommendation. My one concern about the second book is that it seems to follow the premise of the first in the impersonation of a dead officer. We'll see.

Worth a try if you like historical battlefield novels and want to support a new author.


Brabantia Perfume your Bin Air Freshener - Starter Set
Brabantia Perfume your Bin Air Freshener - Starter Set
Price: £4.25

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bin-lid shaped bin freshener, 4 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A bin freshener to neutralise smells seems like a good idea and having a Brabantia bin with a motion sensor automatic lid (which I like) I was keen to test this new offering from the company.

I quite like the design of the replaceable freshener holder - it looks like a Brabantia bin lid. The holder should be fitted to the bin lid, which the instructions say should be clean and dry, and then left for 24 hours to ensure it's securely attached. No problem with this and after 24 hours I added the freshener capsule. Only one is included in this starter pack (replacements can be bought in packs of three for under £4). The capsule has a foil covering over a plastic breathable membrane which when removed allows the scent to slowly release. I found it slightly fiddly to fit the capsule - which needs to be aligned using a guide hole - and a fair amount of pressure was needed to close the 'lid' of the holder. Partly I wasn't particularly keen to touch the membrane. The scent fluid doesn't sound pleasant with various warnings of avoiding contact with eyes, skin and clothing! Plus you shouldn't drink it either! It will also kill your fish...

It's now installed and is meant to last for four to six weeks. There's no discernible smell but it may be that it is designed to neutralise bin smells rather than overpower them with another smell. For the moment it seems fine and I'll advise in a month or so on the freshener's longevity and anti-oder power. For now a cautious four stars.


AZATOM® Droid Black - Powerful Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker - Dual 5W driver and Woofer - iPhone 6s - 6 - 5s - 5c - 4s - Android. Deep Powerful Bass - Designed and Developed in the UK - Auto reconnect - Long life battery upto 15 Hours of Music
AZATOM® Droid Black - Powerful Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker - Dual 5W driver and Woofer - iPhone 6s - 6 - 5s - 5c - 4s - Android. Deep Powerful Bass - Designed and Developed in the UK - Auto reconnect - Long life battery upto 15 Hours of Music
Offered by 4 COOL TECHNOLOGY
Price: £49.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compact speaker, excellent for travel, 1 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a smart, compact, inexpensive, bluetooth speaker. It should connect wirelessly to any phone or tablet supporting bluetooth 4.0 technology - translated, any device no more than two or three years old. The manufacturer suggests that the battery life will last for up to 15 hours. I've only charged the speaker a couple of times but this seems realistic. Charging is via a USB and whilst a USB cable is supplied there's no charger packaged with the speaker. As a result you'll either need to use a spare charger of charge it from a PC or laptop.

I'm using the speaker exclusively when travelling on business. The small size is a major factor for me therefore. I'd have liked the speaker to come with a carry case but kit doesn't, although you can buy a specific one at AZATOM® Droid Carry case - Black - Full Protection - Custom fit - Original - Travel case, but at further cost. Using in hotel rooms, as expected, I haven't had problems with bluetooth dropout. The sound quality is good, a little too much bass for my taste but I mainly listed to voice radio stored as podcasts on my phone or tablet. For this the bass makes voices a little muffled. I'd imagine it would be fine for listening to music though. The volume levels are impressive reflecting the size of the speaker and is markedly louder than either my phone or tablet speakers. This is exactly what I needed.

Finally the speaker was extremely easy to set up. It just requires pairing with your bluetooth device(s). It copes well being paired with more than one device.

So little to dislike. I've dropped a star as it doesn't come with a carry case or charger. Otherwise strongly recommended.


U.S. History For Dummies
U.S. History For Dummies
by Steve Wiegand
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Limited introduction to US history, 1 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
US history gets the Dummies approach in this book which charts the history of the United States from, well, before it became the US, right up to the present. The early years get rather shorter treatment though with less that 20 pages on pre-European settlement to the early seventeenth century. In marked contrast, and perhaps more suited to a current affairs or US politics book, US 'history' from 2000 covers four chapters and close to 50 pages. Moreover the book seems to be largely aimed at an internal US market, especially for students, which impacts on the viewpoint the book takes. There's not much on US history and the world apart from a very US-focussed viewpoint. So some problems with this book for a non-US market where some issues would benefit from a different emphasis. This even comes down to the breakdown of chapters where the Cold War and its end doesn't really feature with chapters on 'TV, Elvis and Reds Under the Bed', 'Camelot to Watergate' and 'No Sex, Please, I'm the President.'

On a more positive note the book follows a straightforward chronological approach with each chapter broken down into many (too many?) subsections. There's the usual Dummies emphasis on remembering key facts and issues, and there's a good bibliography. It's a substantial book as well stretching to 400 pages.

Overall though, I can't help feeling there must be better ways of cramming for US history. I'm a fan of Dummies books but in this instance I don't think the book quite works. As a result three stars.


Tacwise 181ELS Electric Nail Gun
Tacwise 181ELS Electric Nail Gun
Price: £63.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faultless low-cost electric nail gun, 30 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a relatively low cost electric nail gun. It has to be plugged into the mains, no battery option available. It handles brad nails (nails that come in strips for easy loading a little like replacement staples for a stapler) from 15mm to 35mm. The gun is designed to work with soft and semi hardwood. Putting nails into brick walls will not be successful although it will work with plasterboard walls.

The nail gun is light and easy to use as long as you have access to a suitable power socket or extension lead. It kicks a little in use which isn't a problem. Most notably it is extremely load in operation but again not a problem. Using in wood it needs a bit of practice to get the gun to shoot nails completely in - without the need to use a hammer to push the nail home. It is possible though. I find it particularly useful for smaller nails where it's very difficult to hold a nail in place using a hammer.

The gun comes in a large, very robust, case.

Strongly recommended. Five stars.


McAfee Total Protection 2014 - 1 User -1 Year (PC)
McAfee Total Protection 2014 - 1 User -1 Year (PC)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Installation problems, 30 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Not the most exciting of products to purchase but pretty essential for Windows machines. I'm not convinced there's much difference between anti virus software and McAfee seems as fine as any. Except when I try and install their products. In this instance this Total Protection 2014 pack comes with a CD. I don't have a CD drive for my laptop. No problem as the instructions printed on the inner packing material say that the software can be installed over the Internet. However no internet link is provided. Looking at the McAfee website I could not find mention of the Total Protection software. After I Google search I managed to find a download link and downloaded the software. There appears to be no where to enter my product code however. McAfee when I ask it to manage my subscriptions simply take me to a page to buy the software. So at present I have working anti virus software but only for 28 days when the month's free subscription runs out. Who knows if then a window will open allowing me to enter a registration code or I will just be taken to a link to buy it, again!

Why do McAfee make everything so complicated. Two stars only.


Cafe Pod Nespresso Compatible Intense x(Pack of 4, Total 40 Pods)
Cafe Pod Nespresso Compatible Intense x(Pack of 4, Total 40 Pods)
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fair to good taste and low cost, 29 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've tried a range of different coffee pods for my Nespresso machine now that Nespresso itself no longer have a monopoly on production. While these pods, like other alternate brands, are made of plastic rather than metal, they work very well in my machine. They fit perfectly, puncture easily, and produce good coffee.

On the coffee, this is a more generic blend than others in the CafePod range. They are made from beans from several South American sources. Notwithstanding this, using good Arabicas beans, the taste is robust but not bitter. Marginally I prefer the single-source coffees by CafePod but these are pretty good and well worth a try if you're looking to save some money compared with Nespresso's own pods.

As is the case with other pod systems there's a lot of waste especially as the pods come in their own individual airtight bags. From Amazon you get four boxes each containing 10 pods.

Recommended.


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