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P. Sanders "prhsuk" (Belfast)

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This is the Life
This is the Life
by Alex Shearer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Keep trying..., 30 April 2015
This review is from: This is the Life (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this book hard to get into but ultimately rewarding. Is it fiction or autobiography? You be the judge of that. The subject matter can be heavy but there is also a lightness there. Not for everyone, but an enjoyable read nonetheless once you get your head into it.

Oral B Vitality Plus Floss Action Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Oral B Vitality Plus Floss Action Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Price: £39.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff., 30 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have used Oral B electric toothbrushes before and always found them of a high standard. This one continues that standard. I have to floss as my gums are sensitive so I was keen to try it, it feels a little odd at first, but you get used to it and you can feel the benefits of the different bristle shapes on this model. Good stuff.

Philips HR1836/01 Viva Collection Compact Juicer, 1.5 Litre, 500 Watt - Brushed Aluminium
Philips HR1836/01 Viva Collection Compact Juicer, 1.5 Litre, 500 Watt - Brushed Aluminium
Price: £64.31

4.0 out of 5 stars A good juicer - but..., 4 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an perfectly acceptable juicer. It's efficient, attractive, compact and can take most fruit or veg. And importantly, it's prety quick and easy to clean.

However, as with most juicers there's a lot of waste left behind. There are other products available that use the whole fruit or veg without any waste, so it may be worth checking that out. But if you just want a straightforward juicer, this is a good example.

Bibetta Wet Bag (Blue)
Bibetta Wet Bag (Blue)
Price: £5.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, and not just for babies..., 4 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This turned out to be a handy little bag to have - very practical. But in actual fact it turned out to get used for more than just nappies and baby stuff (the original intention).for instance on a flight it offered great extra protection for liquids to stop any leaking in luggage.

Good quality, soft touch fabric
Strong quality zip
Loop handle very useful for hanging (on pram handle, hotel bathroom door handle / towel rail etc)
Good waterproofing - no issues for us with leaks (though probably wouldn't take a soaking wet item for hours)
Small size useful for packing away compact and for dealing with smaller items
Washes nicely and can even tumble dry
Great also for keeping sand and moisture out of books and phones down at the beach!

Not big enough for several cloth nappies when out and about for the day (though larger bags are available)
Wouldn't take a soaking wet item, eg a swimsuit, for many hours as it may leak through the zip (though obviously that's not really the intended purpose anyway)

Final word? Pretty nifty!

Ghost Story
Ghost Story
by Peter Straub
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good winter's read..., 15 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ghost Story (Paperback)
If you're looking for an effective, creepy page-turner for when the nights draw in, "Ghost Story" is a good choice.

At first glance a ghostly revenge story, Straub's novel is more slippery and, like its menacing villain, keeps changing the game when you think you've got hold of it. It starts with a mysterious kidnapping where the young "victim" may not be what she seems. Then we are introduced to four (once five) old men who meet regularly to tell ghost stories, and are being haunted by nightmares from their past...

Straub calmly and methodically builds a small community, then once the pieces are all in place he just as methodically starts pulling it apart. The timeline jumps forward and back in time, and often Straub will casually drop into conversation that a minor character we've got to know over the course of the novel has died or is about to - the matter-of-factness makes it all the more effective. Likewise Straub casually mentions a figure that someone sees and the reader realises the dark significance without needing any explanation.

This book is also a tribute to classic horror - one of the stories we hear has very clear echoes of "The Turn of the Screw", but its significance within the novel reaches far beyond a pastiche when the characters from the story return to become dangerous hunters.

I would say though that when we finally learn the secret of what happened to Eva Galli it's not that big a deal: after everything we've read already it's a bit of an anticlimax. Also during the sequence of the mysterious Anna Mobley there are moments where it gets a bit too "writer writing about what they know about writing" - the protagonist being a writer and lecturer, some of the literary references feel a bit forced and knowing).

But those are minor quibbles. "Ghost Story" is a cracking page turner. In his trestise on horror "Danse Macabre", Stephen King discussed the novel at length, and the two have since collaborated. This story of ancient evil destroying a small town resonates with the feel of "Salem's Lot" (which I think was out around the same time - Straub says that after King said something complimentary about "Ghost Story, he in turn read abd enjoyed "Salem's Lot"). Later in King's career it's clear that Straub's novel influenced "It" (though they are still very different books). Also if you liked this book I recommend Straub's first horror novel "Julia" - some similsr elements, but on a smaller, more intimate scale.

Grinny: Grinny & You Remember Me
Grinny: Grinny & You Remember Me
by Nicholas Fisk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic creepy double-bill for any children who like Doctor Who, etc, 18 May 2014
I read these and other Nicholas Fisk books back when I was about 11. I'm delighted to see them reprinted and recognised as great children's fiction.

GRINNY tells the story of Great Aunt Emma, who turns up unannounced and unexpected one day at the door of a 'normal' family. Or us she unexpected? One smile and the words "You remember me" seem to be enough for any adult to think they know her. But the children aren't taken in so easily, and the truth about Grinny and her plans prove that she is no innocent old lady...

The idea of a nice old lady being something horrible in disguise could easily be played for laughs, or a Roald Dahl-esque twisted fantasy. But Fisk plays it deadly serious. Plus his young heroine isn't the most instantly likeable - even her older brother (the narrator) thinks she's just being a brat. But soon it becomes clear that she's the smartest of the lot - it's good to see well-drawn characters like this.

The children return, a little older, in YOU REMEMBER ME, and so does Grinny - but in a new body. This time she's a right wing politician, proving very popular despite her extreme policies - all wrapped up in a smile. How can a few childen stop her?

In this sequel the backdrop is much wider, taking in not one family but the whole of the UK. Why invade when you can get elected? When I read it I was living in the Thatcher era, but it was written before that. In many ways it's even more relevant today as extreme politicians have learned how to use charm and charisma to seem acceptable. It also features a great setpiece as our villain sends a crowd to attack our heroes. They don't even know they are doing it - as they move in to crush the children the people are still chatting innocently away.

Fisk writes books where the characters feel believable and the danger feels real. Exciting stuff.

The Sundial (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Sundial (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Shirley Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A witty apocalypse, 18 April 2014
Delighted to see her works back in print, I am working my way through Shirley Jackson's novels. "The Sundial" is a lot of fun as it showcases the writer's ear for witty dialogue. It's not as obviously psychologically dark as some of her other novels, but it is often very funny. This isn't to say it's frothy - it is after all about a family of pretty ghastly people waiting for armageddon - but there's a lightness of touch in the way these selfish braggards and schemers are portrayed.

As the cold-hearted Mrs Halloran inherits the family home following the death of her son, her sister-in-law believes she has received a warning that the whole world is to be destroyed, except for the house and the people in it. As time passes the family seem to become a rather more genteel doomsday cult, but still find time to play tennis and hold a garden party as they make their plans for the end of the world.

As well as Jackson's dry wit, there are several eerily evocative moments as members of the household encounter the mysterious fog. Not the best Jackson novel (so far my favourite is still the beautifully menacing "We Have Always Lived in the Castle") but still a cracking read.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Shirley Jackson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Novel..., 12 April 2014
This is probably my favourite book, though I first heard of Shirley Jackson via "The Haunting", the film adaptation of Jackson's fine book "The Haunting of Hill House", and her masterfully creepy short story "The Lottery". I first found a copy of "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" in a second-hand shop, bought in on a whim and forgot about it for over a year. When I did read it I was blown away.

As a plot it could sound melodramatic and unrealistic - the survivors of a mass family poisoning live like recluses in a big house above a village full of resentful countryfolk. But in Jackson's clean prose it feels believable and yet dreamlike. Plus in the teenage Merricat we have one of the best unreliable narrators in literature - she talks so casually about the strange rituals she carries out to keep evil at bay.

The heart of this novel is the rich characterisation, and the way Jackson makes a family of "weirdos" far more human than the "normals" around them. The climax of the novel is both heartbreaking and beautifully poetic in the writing.

In recent years I've bought this book for various friends who have all enjoyed it. I was delighted to see that Jackson's other novels have finally been republished and have ordered the lot. This, her final novel and justifiably called her masterpiece, is a fine place to start.

Doctor Who - The Moonbase [DVD]
Doctor Who - The Moonbase [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick Troughton
Price: £7.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong release for an atmospheric tale..., 5 Mar. 2014
I was reluctant at first to buy 'The Moonbase'. I am grateful that other stories with missing episodes have been completed with animation, but often found the animated episodes dragged - not through any fault of the animators, just that it's more entertaining to see the real actors in actual episodes. And with only two out of four episodes in existence, it means half of this story in animated.

I needn't have worried. This is the best animation so far - the animated episodes zip along nicely, are well-made with excellent visual characterisation and most of all are creepily atmospheric.

Extras-wise there is a nice making-of documentary and commentaries that include interviews with various folks involved (or their relatives).

As for the story itself, it's a simple but effective tale where atmosphere covers any plot-holes and dodgy science. There are several classic moments: episode 2 ends with one of the best cliffhangers of the Troughton era (even with a wobbly bed!) And the Cybermen's attack on two crewmen on the moon's surface is surprisingly brutal

'The Moonbase' as a sequel to 'The Tenth Planet' not only cemented the Cybermen's role as a recurring menace, but also consolidated the claustrophobic "base-under-siege" storyline that was really introduced in that tale, and would become a Troughton era staple. It also sets up the notion of Cybermen as ragged groups of survivors trying to regain power, a role they often played in classic Who.

It's also pointed out in the making-of that this was the story where much of Troughton's earlier clowning was really dialed down by the director and the Troughton character we recognise today really cane together.

A lot of people mock the sexist "Polly is sent to make coffee in a crisis" element of the story, but it's worth noting that she is the strongest companion here - Jamie spends most of the story unconscious and Ben wanders about the base looking for things to do (the two boys are also having to split dialogue between them as the writers try to find ways to cater for a larger TARDIS crew). Polly gets to help save the day and use her brain so she comes out of this story very well overall.

A pleasant, chilling surprise.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 7, 2014 3:30 PM BST

The Essential Collection: 25th Anniversary Edition
The Essential Collection: 25th Anniversary Edition
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £12.84

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Start here, 21 Feb. 2014
If you're relatively new to Marc Bolan and you're confused by all the different compilations out there, then this is the place to start. It has all the best known hits and a few nice surprises too. Some lesser known singles haven't made the cut (eg "Soul of my Suit"), but everything you need to ease you in is here.

Firstly, the band were originally called Tyrannosaurus Rex and were very much acoustic with a hippy vibe. A little of that period is represented here, but most of this set covers the period when Bolan introduced electricity and a dash of what would become glam to the mix and shortened the name to T.Rex, when is when he became a big star (in the UK at least, where T.Rextasy became the early 70s version of Beatlemania - even Ringo Starr was intrigued by the phenomenon and directed the "Born to Boogie" film).

Anyway the great hits are all present and correct: "20th Century Boy", "Children of the Revolution", "Get It On"... Plus some lesser-known but good later singles - "Teenage Dream" drips with pathos and sounds like it could be from Rocky Horror (in a good way); "Laser Love" has a great riff. With so many songs here everyone has their favourites and their duds - for me "Dreamy Lady" sounds like a cheap wedding band, but I know others love it.

Received wisdom will tell you that Bolan's muse deserted him along with his fans when the drink, drugs and attitude took over, that his work became dull and derivative until a sudden renaissance near the end of his trahically-short life (dead in a car crash at 29). I don't believe this - I find the "missing years" are a lot of fun as he explored funk and soul and became the godfather of punk.

So where to go next? If you like the career-peak stuff, "Electric Warrior" and "The Slider" are for you. Personally I adore the variety of "Tanx" and the psychedelic glamfunk of "Zinc Alloy". Go play...

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