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M.D. Smart (London, UK)
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No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome 2)
No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome 2)
by Sarah Hilary
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars, 12 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the second book in Sarah Hilary's Marnie Rome crime series, the first of which was featured in the Richard and Judy book club and duly became a bestseller. I usually like to read a series in order, but in this case if, like me, you missed the first book, worry not; this book contains all the background you need to know about DI Rome and her team.

No Other Darkness is a traditional police procedural, beginning with the macabre discovery of two small children's skeletons in an underground bunker. They have lain hidden for five years, sending Rome and her detectives on an investigation into both the past and the present, with many twists along the way - several of which caught me by surprise. It all leads to a quite tense climax in the disused tunnels under the Thames...probably not the ideal read for anyone claustrophobic.

The plot certainly goes at a rattling pace, with very short chapters. The prose is simple and serviceable, if slightly clichéd in places and a little clunky in some of its metaphors. The characters were rather nondescript, nothing particularly to distinguish them from many other similar police officers in similar novels, except for DI Rome's rather eventful past. The story certainly kept my interest up and managed to surprise me at times...yet I felt there was nothing in particular that set this novel apart from so many other titles in the already overcrowded crime genre. Having finished it, I didn't feel the need to rush out and buy the previous book, and I can't say I'd definitely rush to buy the next one either. I did enjoy it for what it was, but felt it was competent rather than outstanding in any way.

Nevertheless, if you're looking for an easy holiday read that will keep you guessing, you could certainly do a lot worse than this. 3 1/2 stars from me (as a side issue, I do wish Amazon allowed us to mark in half-stars!).


Purina ONE Indoor Wet Tuna & Chicken Mini Fillets in Gravy, 8 x 85 g (Pack of 5)
Purina ONE Indoor Wet Tuna & Chicken Mini Fillets in Gravy, 8 x 85 g (Pack of 5)
Price: £19.45

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit expensive but it went down a treat, 11 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This particular variety of Purina One's wet food contains eight sachets per box, four each of chicken and tuna. The food itself resembles a stew, consisting of finely chopped meat and a few vegetable pieces in a generous portion of thick gravy. In my experience, gravy always goes down well (if noisily) but my taste tester did eat a fair bit of the meat too. She certainly seemed to enjoy these....how much of that is down to it being something new, I can't say.

My only real criticism is the price; compared to typical brands like Felix or Whiskas, you get less sachets per box for a higher cost. I'm sure it's better quality, it certainly smells better! However I don't think I could afford to feed my cat on this daily. If the price isn't a problem for you, I definitely recommend this food - as does my cat.


Purina ONE Adult Wet Ocean Fish & Lamb Mini Fillets in Gravy, 8 x 85 g (Pack of 5)
Purina ONE Adult Wet Ocean Fish & Lamb Mini Fillets in Gravy, 8 x 85 g (Pack of 5)
Price: £19.45

4.0 out of 5 stars A bit expensive but went down a treat, 11 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This particular variety of Purina One's wet food contains eight sachets per box, four each of either lamb and ocean fish or chicken and beef. The food itself resembles a stew, consisting of finely chopped meat and a few vegetable pieces in a generous portion of thick gravy. In my experience, gravy always goes down well (if noisily) but my taste tester did eat a fair bit of the meat too. She certainly seemed to enjoy these....how much of that is down to it being something new, I can't say.

My only real criticism is the price; compared to typical brands like Felix or Whiskas, you get less sachets per box for a higher cost. I'm sure it's better quality, it certainly smells better! However I don't think I could afford to feed my cat on this daily. If the price isn't a problem for you, I definitely recommend this food - as does my cat.


Rebel Heart
Rebel Heart
Price: £9.99

18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The good definitely outweighs the bad - but go for a deluxe version, 9 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Rebel Heart (Audio CD)
To answer the essential questions: Yes, this is easily Madonna's best album since 2005. No, it's not on a par with her career best (Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light) although some of the songs are right up there. Yes, there are too many tracks included. No, it's not consistent. Yes, it's still worth buying.

Madonna spent most of 2014 in the studio, working on this follow up to the disappointing MDNA (which was apparently dashed off in a few short weeks), and it shows - not just in the gargantuan number of songs on the complete, 'Super Deluxe' version, but in the strength of the best melodies and in her most coherent lyrics in about fifteen years. A lot of love and attention has gone into Rebel Heart, and the rewards are a number of songs which are fit to stand alongside her best. This album really shines on the heartfelt numbers - of which there are many. Madonna has often produced her best work when she allows her steely outer persona to open up and show us a glimpse of the vulnerability underneath, and that holds true here. There's the powerful next single, Ghosttown (an excellent choice), the hurt and angry HeartBreakCity, the haunting Wash All Over Me and Inside Out, torch song Messiah and the affecting Joan of Arc, on which she lets down her guard and admits that, yes, all the criticism and hate does get to her at times.

The thing the album lacks, which may surprise some, is much in the way of danceable material - the 90s deep house tribute Living for Love is about as close as the album gets to a 'floorfiller'. There are a number of decent mid tempo numbers, most notably the excellent title track, but the remainder of Rebel Heart is composed of contributions from the likes of Diplo and Kayne West - and it's here things run aground somewhat.

Madonna has worked with producers from a range of backgrounds and genres over the years; cynics like to suggest she has merely ridden on their coat tails, her only talent being an eye for what's in vogue (pardon the pun). This is clearly nonsense, because no matter who she has worked with and how her sound has changed and evolved, at the core of all her best material lies Madonna's own impeccable pop sensibility - she takes experimental influences and forges them into something consistent with her own legacy. However, problems have arisen in the past when she's tried to stray too far from her roots, i.e. pop and dance music, most obviously on Hard Candy. Perhaps she doesn't feel quite as sure of herself outside her natural sphere, because at these times the core Madonna sound seems overwhelmed and the end result is dominated by her collaborators with her demoted to the role of guest vocalist.

That's pretty much what seems to have happened here on most of the Diplo / Kanye etc tracks. Not all of them; There's Living for Love of course (surprisingly a Diplo effort), and personally I like the blustery Iconic and the career retrospective Veni, Vidi, Vici - but much of the rest just doesn't sound like Madonna, and you can understand where some of the 'trying too hard' accusations come from. I fully support her in celebrating her sexuality at 56 or any other age, but 'Holy Water', 'Best Night' and 'SEX' are three of the worst songs she's ever released - they're tuneless, crass and beneath her.

In spite of these criticisms, I do actually recommend the album, there's plenty on it to enjoy - and in these days of iPods and playlists, it's easy to edit out the weak material - if only Madonna herself had done so! You'll still end up with a standard length album containing some of her best work since Ray of Light. As to which version to get? My advice is discount the standard 14-track version immediately, bizarrely you don't even get the title song on that. The deluxe is probably the most casual listeners will be prepared to go for, but fans will want the super deluxe of course, which contains the sunny 70's groove Beautiful Scars and a couple of other uptempo numbers (something the main album lacks).


Rebel Heart (Super Deluxe)
Rebel Heart (Super Deluxe)
Price: £17.99

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The good definitely outweighs the bad, 9 Mar. 2015
To answer the essential questions: Yes, this is easily Madonna's best album since 2005. No, it's not on a par with her career best (Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light) although some of the songs are right up there. Yes, there are too many tracks included. No, it's not consistent. Yes, it's still worth buying.

Madonna spent most of 2014 in the studio, working on this follow up to the disappointing MDNA (which was apparently dashed off in a few short weeks), and it shows - not just in the gargantuan number of songs on the complete, 'Super Deluxe' version, but in the strength of the best melodies and in her most coherent lyrics in about fifteen years. A lot of love and attention has gone into Rebel Heart, and the rewards are a number of songs which are fit to stand alongside her best. This album really shines on the heartfelt numbers - of which there are many. Madonna has often produced her best work when she allows her steely outer persona to open up and show us a glimpse of the vulnerability underneath, and that holds true here. There's the powerful next single, Ghosttown (an excellent choice), the hurt and angry HeartBreakCity, the haunting Wash All Over Me and Inside Out, torch song Messiah and the affecting Joan of Arc, on which she lets down her guard and admits that, yes, all the criticism and hate does get to her at times.

The thing the album lacks, which may surprise some, is much in the way of danceable material - the 90s deep house tribute Living for Love is about as close as the album gets to a 'floorfiller'. There are a number of decent mid tempo numbers, most notably the excellent title track, but the remainder of Rebel Heart is composed of contributions from the likes of Diplo and Kayne West - and it's here things run aground somewhat.

Madonna has worked with producers from a range of backgrounds and genres over the years; cynics like to suggest she has merely ridden on their coat tails, her only talent being an eye for what's in vogue (pardon the pun). This is clearly nonsense, because no matter who she has worked with and how her sound has changed and evolved, at the core of all her best material lies Madonna's own impeccable pop sensibility - she takes experimental influences and forges them into something consistent with her own legacy. However, problems have arisen in the past when she's tried to stray too far from her roots, i.e. pop and dance music, most obviously on Hard Candy. Perhaps she doesn't feel quite as sure of herself outside her natural sphere, because at these times the core Madonna sound seems overwhelmed and the end result is dominated by her collaborators with her demoted to the role of guest vocalist.

That's pretty much what seems to have happened here on most of the Diplo / Kanye etc tracks. Not all of them; There's Living for Love of course (surprisingly a Diplo effort), and personally I like the blustery Iconic and the career retrospective Veni, Vidi, Vici - but much of the rest just doesn't sound like Madonna, and you can understand where some of the 'trying too hard' accusations come from. I fully support her in celebrating her sexuality at 56 or any other age, but 'Holy Water', 'Best Night' and 'SEX' are three of the worst songs she's ever released - they're tuneless, crass and beneath her.

In spite of these criticisms, I do actually recommend the album, there's plenty on it to enjoy - and in these days of iPods and playlists, it's easy to edit out the weak material - if only Madonna herself had done so! You'll still end up with a standard length album containing some of her best work since Ray of Light. As to which version to get? My advice is discount the standard 14-track version immediately, bizarrely you don't even get the title song on that. The deluxe is probably the most casual listeners will be prepared to go for, but fans will want the super deluxe of course, which contains the sunny 70's groove Beautiful Scars and a couple of other uptempo numbers (something the main album lacks).
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 10, 2015 1:14 PM GMT


Sennheiser OCX686G Ear Canal Earhook Headset - Galaxy
Sennheiser OCX686G Ear Canal Earhook Headset - Galaxy
Price: £79.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality but a little expensive, 6 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Well, Sennheiser certainly made their packaging secure...attempting to get these out of the packet to actually try them was an ordeal, I warn you now. However, when (if?) you manage that, you'll find a light, rather snazzy pair of in-ear headphones, in a slightly sickly colour. I had never used 'ear hook' phones before and the over-the-ear clips took a little getting used to, but they do hold the actual buds in the right place fairly effectively. Ideal if you listen to a lot of music while exercising or doing physical work; there's nothing more annoying than having to stop and fumble for an ear bud that has suddenly fallen out.

The sound is crisp and clear, however the bass is pretty low - which could be a positive or negative, depending on how you like your music. There's a small volume unit on the cord and a removable clip to keep your wires tamed, plus a case and the usual size variety of ear bud covers.

I do think the price is a bit steep. It's a good brand, but I can't say I noticed a huge difference in sound quality from my usual Sennheiser pair which cost less than half as much. Nevertheless it's hard to fault them otherwise, so if you do a lot of physical activity while listening and feel like splashing out, I would recommend these.


My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Odd, irritating and unconvincing...yet somehow I liked it, 3 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have to admit, it took me a fair bit of willpower to keep ploughing through the first half of this book but if you're feeling the same weariness and disinclination to continue, take heart: upon finishing I was surprised to discover I had enjoyed it more than I thought, although I'm not entirely sure why - certainly my irritations with the characters in particular didn't really go away, but somehow I found I cared more than I expected about what happened to them.

While the whimsical synopsis of a barmy, irascible grandmother telling stories to her granddaughter sounded quite appealing, unfortunately I found them both difficult to either believe in or warm to. Seven-year-old Elsa is far too precocious, while Granny is not so much adorably batty as obnoxious and certifiably insane. Granny's fantasy stories come to act as a kind of guide for Elsa in her task of fulfilling her grandmother's final wishes of contacting the people she has offended and hurt, both to apologise and to help them resolve their individual issues at the same time as encouraging Elsa to open up and move on. However I found the endless references to Granny's fantasy kingdoms eventually became rather tiresome.

And yet....I finished the book feeling that somehow it had just about worked. I did feel moved, despite almost giving up on the book a number of times. I'm not sure I can even explain why...the story does have a certain kind of magic after all, it is ultimately a celebration of love and compassion which can't help but warm your heart, no matter how mad Granny and Elsa drove you on the journey.

An odd book, it certainly won't be to everyone's taste, and I can imagine many giving up before the end, but I recommend persevering; the rewards are there if you stay the course.


Igenix Convector Heater with Thermostat, 3000 Watt
Igenix Convector Heater with Thermostat, 3000 Watt
Price: £39.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple but does the job, 25 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a simple heater with nothing more than the most basic functions, but really what more do you need? It's simple to assemble (just the feet need screwing on) and simple to operate with a thermostat dial and three power settings from 1200 to 3000W. I can't actually imagine using the 3000W unless you live in a draughty castle or similar; the 1200 is enough to heat an average sized room pretty quickly, with the 1800 for a boost on cold nights.

The main negative point about these heaters is they gobble electricity at an alarming rate on the higher settings, so don't forget you've left it on! Minor niggles: the power cord is a bit short and the carry handles are awkward, otherwise I can't really fault it. The unit does become very hot while on but as with the power consumption, that's a common trait of heaters. If you need an occasional extra burst of warmth in your house, this fits the bill nicely and at a fairly reasonable price.


Philips Sonicare HX9331/04 DiamondClean Rechargeable Toothbrush White
Philips Sonicare HX9331/04 DiamondClean Rechargeable Toothbrush White
Price: £121.89

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very swish and effective but rather expensive, 24 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although I have a bog standard electric toothbrush, the charge always seems to dwindle rapidly and I end up using a manual toothbrush more often than not. I'd never tried a 'sonic' brush before and found it did take a bit of getting used to, but now I'm very happy with the results; my teeth feel cleaner than ever before, although I'm not sure whether or not the whitening function has made a difference yet. One minor quibble - it has no light or other indicator to warn you if you are pressing too hard - my basic electric brush has this useful function and yet cost about a quarter of the price of this one. I also didn't find the manual very helpful in suggesting how often and in what combination to use the various settings designed to polish your teeth or massage your gums.

It's a sleek, attractive brush, with a neat glass tumbler you use to recharge it and a display that is invisible until switched on. The charge seems to last a decent while, and you can even charge via the included USB cable if you're travelling (a travel plug is also included). However, I'm not sure I would ever want to pay this much money for a toothbrush, even at the reduced price. If the cost isn't a problem, I would probably recommend it.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, gripping, insightful...but stretches credulity, 4 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gone Girl (Paperback)
With over 7000 reviews already posted it seems slightly pointless adding another...but after finally getting around to reading this book (after two years of meaning to) I thought I'd add my opinion for what it's worth. It's quite difficult to discuss the specifics of Gone Girl without any spoilers, but I'm going to try.

This book is a thriller, of course, but it also has a lot to say about men and women, their wants and needs from a relationship and their attitudes to each other. The narrative is split between husband Nick and wife Amy, but we know very early on that Nick is keeping things from us and that Amy's diary entries bear little resemblance to his memories of their marriage. So we have not one but two unreliable narrators. This is handled very well by the author; the writing is very good throughout, the two main voices are distinct, and Flynn's observations on the relationship between the sexes are sharp and penetrating.

The mystery aspect - what did happen to Amy? - is also well managed, the tension building nicely as more and more secrets are exposed. There's also a twist, naturally; it's not unguessable by any means but that didn't spoil the plot for me, I was still anxious to know how it would all turn out. I should add that later events in the novel require some fairly major suspension of disbelief; I was enjoying the book so I accepted them and carried on, but you may find some developments highly questionable when you think back on them after you've finished reading.

I'm not surprised to see some criticism of the ending. Again, it's difficult to talk about without revealing details, but I can see why some readers felt it didn't bring the closure they wanted. Personally I thought it fitted the tone of the book so I wasn't disappointed; besides, I don't really like neatly tied conclusions, life is rarely so perfectly ordered. I believe the film version has a different ending, so I'll be interested to see how that concludes the story.

Overall then, an enjoyable and frequently gripping read with piercing insights into relationships, but parts of the book do strain the credulity of the reader somewhat.


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