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Lady Fancifull "Tinkerbell"

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Nespresso by KRUPS U and Milk Pure Cream Coffee Capsule Machine with Aeroccino, 1700 Watt
Nespresso by KRUPS U and Milk Pure Cream Coffee Capsule Machine with Aeroccino, 1700 Watt
Price: £130.00

5.0 out of 5 stars I love my arcane coffee rituals; guests not always prepared to wait that long - so the U + Milk scores!, 30 Sep 2014
Being a fan of hand ground coffee with a modestly priced manual ceramic burr grinder TIAMO Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder (Black) or the Hario Medium Glass Hand Coffee Grinder with Ceramic Burrs, Clear and then making it in the Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker is one thing, and it is my favourite cup of coffee, currently using Barbera Classica Espresso 1000g Coffee Beans, but there is no doubt this takes a little time. I find it a pleasantly meditative way to start the day.........but. That hand grinding and pressing does take a bit of welly, as well as time, and for guests my grinding arm loses its oompa when faced with doing the deed for a multiplicity of cups. Not to mention accommodating different taste buds.

So...I capitulated to the Nespresso experience, lucky enough to live within spitting distance of a boutique, so that I could TRY THE COFFEE FIRST!

And yes, I have discovered that some of the pods are very very hitting of the spot indeed.

I looked at several of the machines. Space being a premium, the larger models like Nespresso CitiZ and Milk by Magimix M190 Coffee Machine - Limousine Black or Delonghi EN520.S Nespresso Lattissima Plus Coffee Maker - Silver, whereas the Magimix 11328 Nespresso Pixie with Aeroccino 3, 1260 Watt, Chrome seemed a bit fiddly with the Aeroccino needing a separate plug etc. And the advantages of the Aeroccino were anyway coyly enticing me. Frothed milk on hot chocolate! Cappuccino for those that like coffee with milk! FROTHED SOYA MILK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Frothing is most effectively done with very fresh milk (and works as well with plant based milks as is does with that from animals)

And then I saw the neat little, nifty little, U and Milk. No huge wasted drip tray space, 3 coffee sizes (Ristretto, Espresso, Lungo) an amazing flexibility in being able to swivel the water tank and Aeroccino bases so that you could fit your particular kitchen space better (in a sort of V at the back for both of them, or one at the back and one at the side (choice of which one is back and which side) Once cup size selected, pop the capsule in, close the drawer and its all systems go. Plus, if you wanted to make your brew a little weaker, you can get more water through your pod by pressing the cup size area before the capsules drops out into the waster container/drip tray. It also has an auto switch off if you forget to do that yourself.

This has been a great buy. I like the fact that the pods are recycleable and use the Collect network, which was a big consideration for me.

The only downside is that its turned out that my absolute favourite of the capsules is one of the ones which is 'limited edition'

It's worth looking around to see where the best deals on the machine are. At the time I chose this Harts Of Stur came up big trumps on this precise model and colour I wanted, and this still seems to be the case a month or so on. I went directly to them, and the guarantees etc were the same as on this site

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
by Tom Rachman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Frustrating In Almost Equal Measure, 29 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Tom Rachman's book explores the troubled, mysterious life of Tooly Zylberberg, from her early childhood in Bangkok, in 1988, to her life as a semi-homeless young woman in New York in 1999 and 2000, to her present (2011) existence as an almost penniless thirty ish woman who has bought an unprofitable bookshop across the Welsh borders from Hay-on-Wye.

Tooly is a bit of a misfit with a love of reading. Her past, we know, has been `odd' since she was kidnapped by a rather eccentric anoraky man called Paul who traipsed her around the world, though at different times she appears to have been kidnapped and brought up by a small collection of other older people, in New York as well as Bangkok. In fact, its not immediately clear who her father could be, who her mother might be, nor why she was kidnapped in the first place.

She is a curious outsider, living practically on the margins, in squalor, and surrounded by other equally eccentric, mysterious individuals, magnetic Sarah who appears, and disappears following whims and lovers, the elderly chess-loving Humphrey who may or may not be Russian, and, most mysterious of all, charismatic, manipulative Venn, whom Tooly idolises.

Holed away in her bookshop in 2011, Tooly is tracked down by someone from her past New York life, to tell her that her father is seriously ill. The question is, which `father' might this be?

Rachman uncovers the mystery by a constant juggle between time frames, and places, as Tooly begins to explore and make sense of her past.

Initially, this did hold my interest, but by about two thirds of the way through it was beginning to become a little wearisome, and I became more and more aware of the author manipulating his characters, and, as reader, I began to engage with them less and less. It's a construct book, a game playing book, but curiously lacks heart. My suspicions began to be that when the mysteries began to unravel, and journey's end get reached, that the times, the places and the people would not really have measured up for the long time spent with them.

And so it proved. Particularly as almost the final unravel also included a rather clumsy polemic about the spread of history and cultural change in society, particularly with reference to the communications revolution, and America as a dominant power. It rather felt like the author finding a way to deliver a thought out lecture.

Not that this wasn't an entertaining book, but it's a much shallower book, I think, than the author might think it is. It is a clever book, it's at times amusing, but what is missing is a heart, and a spark which might have breathed real life into the characters.

Strange Meeting
Strange Meeting
by Susan Hill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written story about male friendships and the First World War, 28 Sep 2014
This review is from: Strange Meeting (Paperback)
Susan Hill, almost always a writer whose fictional books deal with ethical or philosophical issues as well as whatever else she is writing about, writes in three main styles, a couple of which are `genre fiction' Firstly, where she started, books with a supernatural, often gothic element - most famous of which was Woman In Black - book, then stage play, TV version, radio play, then film - I'm sure there is a tee shirt too! Then there is her incarnation as a crime writer, with the Simon Serrailler series (number 8 is the latest). Finally, there are literary fiction books which are outside a genre (though she is always a writer of literary fiction, whether or not her writing also fits within genre.

Strange Meeting belongs to this third category. Though of course particularly apposite in this hundredth year anniversary of the outbreak of the First War, Hill's book about two soldiers in that war, and the deep friendship which develops between them, was published some forty years ago.

It is a short, quietly powerful read. The focus is on the two central characters, young officers. John Hilliard comes from a typically correct, emotionally repressed background, and is isolated, restrained and unable to be easy with his fellows. David Barton is one of the golden ones, a young man of great charm, ease and likeability, with a natural warmth which pleases everyone he meets. He comes from an unusual family, where such ability to express delight, and to not keep a stiffened lip, is responsible for his sunniness.

The two develop a friendship and love for each other - though whether that love is platonic or sexual is never mentioned - and in many ways Hill is respectful of a time and place where the strong expression of friendship may or may not mean either overt or covert sexual feelings. (There of course are biblical echoes in the forenames of the two young men)

The relationship, and the changes which the horrors of the trenches visit upon the soldiers themselves, their relationships with their families and the wider society back home who are still caught up in early jingoism, and a belief that the way will be a short push and then over, are beautifully drawn

Given the facts of that war, there can only be 4 possible outcomes to this story, only one of which would be less plausible than the other three. In a sense the story of `what happens' is not the point of the book - which is the relationship, the characters, and the experience of the men in that war, and their estrangement, by and large, from an ignorant public at home, who, not having experienced the horrors themselves, cannot fully understand the terrible changes which happen when such hell is engaged with.

"Immediately, he was conscious of his own flesh, of the nerves beneath the skin, of the bone and muscle which obeyed him: clench, unclench, move this finer, bend that. His hands looked huge and pale under the water. He had never realised before how much he cared about his own body, simply because it was so familiar, because he knew better than he knew anything every shape and crease of it, the exact width of knuckle, the flatness of his fingernails. So that, when he imagined his hand torn off at the wrist it was not the thought of the pain which so terrified him, but simply the loss of a part of himself, something he had always known. He was his hand - and his legs and neck, ribs and groin"

My only cavil with the book is the full and frank letters which Barton writes to his family. Officers of course censored the letters home which the `other ranks' sent, but I found myself working hard to suspend a sense that Barton's letters would surely have been censored by those of higher rank, and if not, as Hilliard was party to the letters Barton sent and received, that he, as a very correct man, would have intervened and censored the truths which Barton was telling his family about the awful futility of the war.

However - why the present front cover of the Kindle edition shows a group of remarkably modern squaddies is a bit of an artist and publicist goof I would have thought!

Mr Mac and Me
Mr Mac and Me
by Esther Freud
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, observant writing about place; intricate and respectful characterisation, but lacks the dynamic of plot, 22 Sep 2014
This review is from: Mr Mac and Me (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For the first two-thirds of Esther Freud's outbreak of first world war, Suffolk coast set novel, I was absolutely content with her fine delicate observations of the natural world, of the world of her twelve year old central character and first person narrator Thomas Maggs, the only surviving son of the local Innkeeper, a man too full of disappointment and of using his own beer as a solution. Tommy is a bit of a dreamer, a quiet observant boy with a twisted foot, fond of drawing, yearning to go to sea, though his disability will preclude that.

The thrust of the book looks at the unchanging world of this shoreline community and the precipitation of war as the start of change. The light draws summer visitors, artists. One such is Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his artist wife, Margaret MacDonald, all the way from Glasgow.

Freud has woven a story of the known biography of a part of Mackintosh's life - he did spend a year at Walberswick, at the lead-up to and first year of the war,and did get briefly arrested on suspicion of being a spy of behalf of Germany as his constant prowling along the coast, examining birds and the horizon through binoculars was misinterpreted as passing signals to Germany. The local home front was expecting invasion to start along the Suffolk Coast.

Freud examines art, the natural world as an inspiration for art, and the artistic productions and relationship of Mackintosh and MacDonald through the eyes of her sensitive narrator, on the cusp of sexual awakening, longing to escape the life mapped out for him, and with his own desire to go to sea, to travel, to create art and to heal the dysfunctions within his family.

Her evocation of time and place is always beautiful, proceeding slowly and patiently along, but there came a point (following a scene at an auction, following the shooting down of a Zeppellin) where it suddenly felt as if Freud had realised that there ought to be some dramatic plot and drive to the end of the book, and the last 70 pages, not that successfully, in my opinion, particularly the final section, feels like a tacked on wrap.

As the story progressed, from time to time I came away from enjoyment of Freud's finely crafted wordsmithing, and I found I did not always believe Thomas's gender (despite his interest in a young Scottish summer visitor and in Margaret MacDonald) nor his class and degree of refinement.

A gentle, lovingly crafted book, more meditative than dramatic. Much is made of a local craft - rope making, and I wished for some of the tension of the twisted skeins of twine to have happened in a turning up of storytelling tension

"Mac stops when we come to the top of the marsh and snaps off a twig of hawthorn. He examines its crinkled leaves and the swivel of its thorns and slides it into the pocket of his cape. He stops again when we reach Hoist Wood. There are old trees here, ghost trees I think of them, so long have their trunks been stranded from the sun, but their tops are green where they stretch them, and some leaves grow in shafts of sudden light"

If you enjoy closely observed, sometimes elevated writing about the natural world, this will be a deeply enjoyable read (this was my enjoyment of it) but there isn't the same mastery of the drive of story as there is in the observation of here and now

Scholl Pedi Velvet Smooth Essential Pedicure Collection Gift Set
Scholl Pedi Velvet Smooth Essential Pedicure Collection Gift Set
Price: £80.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rating based on wild overpricing, September 2014, 19 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a rather nice kit for someone wanting nearly all the gubbins to pursue a dedication to the foot beautiful. It comprises a battery powered foot sander, which is the high end item in the bag - and very good it is too, taking the hard work out of using manual pumice stones, exfoliators, foot sandpaper tools and the like. The rest is more or less useful padding to make it into a kit - a glass file/emery, 4 wooden cuticle pushers, some toe separators for ease of da varnishing of toesies, and Scholl Moisture Cream for feet. Everything is in Scholl's current colour scheme of a kind of French Blue and white/off white, so it is all popped into a bag to match, with room a plenty for some varnishes, varnish remover etc. And the foot sander comes with batteries, so you or your pedi keen friend, loved one or rellie (it has 'geared for a Chrissie or similar' present stamped all over it) will be good to play footsie

However, with the high value item Scholl Velvet Smooth Pedi Electric Hard Skin Remover currently retailing at under £30 the value of the rest of the items surely clocks in at under £10. Making the perfectly adequate but in no way a must have piece of designer art bag, responsible for the doubling of current cost of the item (listed at £80 on Amazon at the time of writing this review) Frankly, I'd be more inclined to shop for a more attractive similar sized bag, source the items singly, pop in a toenail clipper or toenail scissors, a metal manicure/pedicure set, some spare rollers for the electric hard skin remover, and maybe a bottle or two of varnish and remover, if your desire is to give a more complete essential pedi set and STILL come in under the outlay on this one.

Personally, I do think that the Electric Hard Skin remover could have notched itself up into being a little more special if it had different grades of coarseness. If you have a particularly hard area of skin on ball or heel, that could benefit from something with more exfoliation. The fineness is perfect for those who with an established pedi routine and no particularly challenging areas of rhino horn hardness.

Had the cost of the set been about half, or a little more than half, the current price, this would have been a great value for money nifty little gift, whether for yourself or another, and would certainly have made at least a four star rating from me - the lost star due to there only being one grade or fineness/coarseness in the roller itself

Smart Weigh Precision Digital Vanity / Bathroom Scale, "Smart Step-On" Technology, Tempered Glass Platform and Large Backlight Display
Smart Weigh Precision Digital Vanity / Bathroom Scale, "Smart Step-On" Technology, Tempered Glass Platform and Large Backlight Display
Offered by Five Star
Price: £19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free product in return for honest review: Well I'm Honestly Delighted, 16 Sep 2014
These simple, lightweight, streamlined digital scales are visually pleasing and, I have to assume, accurate. I have to assume accuracy unless I could immediately step on scales at the doctors. I APPEAR to be a couple of pounds heavier than my old fashioned bathroom scales, but of course the problem with those old fashioned scales is that they are not that easy to read, and adjusting the dial so that zero sets precisely to zero is a little hit and miss. And then of course peering at the dial, tips weight forwards and back fractionally so I could increase and decrease my weight on a lean alone!

The Smartweigh scales do not offer recalibration, so they obviously stand by their accuracy.

What I did discover though was that having a completely flat surface was crucial, otherwise there will be variation in the weight recorded.

No need to peer, squint, lean back and forth to do the reading, immediately there, very easy to read against the black.

Ease of reading means anyone wanting to keep track of a pet cat going porky will easily be able to weigh self, weigh self with porky one, and calculate. With the old scales and the squint to read this was impossible due to the porky furball wriggling to avoid me reading the evidence of his shame, hence skewing the reading wildly. He will now be weighed without even knowing it is happening.) One happy person, one disappointed feline as portions in bowl are reduced, and howls for MORE ignored

Preferred units of measurement can be altered by pressing a unit button underneath the scales : pounds, kilograms, stones and pounds. The preferred unit is remembered unless you manually change it.

Machine shuts off for battery life conservation after 10 seconds. And wakes up as soon as it is stood on. It weighs up to 23 stone 8 lbs.

Batteries (included) are two CR2032 coin batteries. Curiously the instruction manual says as screwdriver will be needed to open the battery compartment, so I was very impressed to discover, that without even being aware of it my fingers must have changed into screwdrivers. Either that, or a designer changed the battery compartment but the instruction manual writer wasn't told (or vice versa!)

And this is nitpicky, but in the troubleshoot section of the manual, trouble 2 Problem: Display weigh fluctuates randomly, appears to be without an offered solution (I did find this happened, depending on where the scales were put so I suspect the answer is flat floor placement.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2014 12:06 PM BST

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: £8.10

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for the unfortunate combination of: green credentials, need to save time, opinionated taste buds, 14 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Flavour MUST be a matter of personal preference, so, if these do please yours, you may disagree with this statement:

I don't think any pod experience matches the arcane pleasures of hand grinding a quantity of beans that fit your particular taste demands, freshly for each cup, and preparing according to your preferred modus operandi (Aeropress, in this case)

This is an experience which is satisfyingly ethical (if you choose to source Fairtrade) and completely environmentally friendly as far as waste disposal goes - the Aeropress squeezes the liquid out and offers a satisfyingly compact plug of coffee grounds for compost, avoiding blocked drains, grubby sinks and the like, quickly and efficiently

However, there is no doubt that such labour intensive processes take some time. And this, I guess, is where the pod experience arrives, offering far better tasting coffee than other `instant' options, and moreover particularly useful if you lack a really high end ceramic burr electric grinding machine. I'm perfectly happy to practice zen-and-the-art-of-coffee-preparation for my modest but discerning (fussy) taste buds, but the recent need to provide coffee for different taste buds, acceptably decent, in some quantity and without everyone needing to sit in quiet or impatient waiting mode whilst dangerously RSI levels of hand grinding went on, brought the pod machine into efficient overuse.

Nespresso score strongly - despite being a pricier option than Cafe pod because they are not only quick to make your cup, but have a variety of complete recycling options (collected when you make your next large reorder; dropped off in their bags at Nespresso boutiques, or, even more useful, posted back (for free) via their bags at the nationwide `Collect' points

The problem with Café Pod is - each individual plastic coffee pod comes in a foil wrapper (not recycleable) and though the plastic coffee pod can be recycled and so can the `spent' coffee itself (but in different bins - plastic pots in one, coffee to compost in another) the film lids on the pods are also not for recycling.

So, whatever time I saved by avoiding the lengthy hand grinding (from a day where various people drank a lot of cups) was MORE than made back by - cutting off the film lid (into the landfill bin) using implement to thoroughly scrape out the coffee grounds into compost. Rinsing out each plastic pot, inevitably and messily sending some grains down the plughole, possibly to clog things some time down the line, placing plastic pot in the general recycle box. Cleaning the sink now grubby with coffee grounds residue.

Now IF the taste of these were far superior to Nespresso (and with all that malarkey, far superior to my hand grind), these might be worth it. But they were okay only, to be honest lacked nuance of flavour to my tastes. As an espresso, they had just too much burnt and bitter to my taste buds, without enough subtle flavour. I tried one as a lungo, and it was too thin and stretched, and ended up making a long mug which was okay, but with 2 as espressos and one as lungo. Which therefore negated cost savings anyway.
And the pennies saved do not outweigh the WORK involved.

Nespresso it remains then, for saving time, and being greener

The Bone Clocks
The Bone Clocks
Price: £6.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Mitchell, flawed, is still a far finer writer than many writing at the top of their form, 14 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bone Clocks (Kindle Edition)
David Mitchell is a curious writer - he has the ability to effortlessly inhabit many different kinds of voices, of differing character, and believably writes first person narrative from a male or female perspective, from young and old, from different cultures, places and indeed from different times. (The 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas)

He can also plagiarise himself, mock himself, and write concertedly in a single voice (Black Swan Green)

He is an author who is always best read with focus and attention, as even when he is being most flashy, most showing off his writerly `bling' the reader will suddenly be dropped into playfulness with words, juggling voices and genres, pastiche, and - when you think you have this man's measure as a sleight of hand merchant, a music-hall master only of illusion and cleverness which needs admiration (and might evoke a little envy) , he drops you down into darkness, suffering, existential terror and pain, despair, cruelty, soulfulness and all the unbearable truths that make the glitter and legerdemain necessary as a foil to the depth.

The man is almost TOO clever, and I sometimes wonder if his refusal to be pigeon-holed creates a certain distrust of him, from certain quarters. He is an unpredictable writer - except that he is always an excellent one.

Here, he is back to the voices of several narrators, with the linking devices of major and minor figures from previous sections of this book (or previous books) turning up as major or minor characters in later stories.

As in Ghostwritten `interconnection' is a major thread. And so is writing itself - Mitchell's `cleverness' asks you to look at the illusions art creates - he pulls you into the story, and pushes you out, effectively saying `this is illusion' The deliberate Alienation Effect'

The central image which floated, always, through for me, was the image of a poem by Shelley, Ozymandias'. Death stalks, `look on my works, ye mighty, and despair' Ozymandias builds a monument meant to give him a legacy through the ages, and that is the inscription. Time, and entropy, has caused the monument to crumble, and the inscription is what remains. Ozymandias is the mighty who despairs, in the end. And this is a theme, the desire to avoid aging, the helpless, hopeless desire to avoid that end, to live for now, as glitteringly as we can

So, this major theme - cheating ageing and death, the desire for immortality, - for us as individuals, or collectively as a species, is explored severally.

The central, linking character who starts off the journey in 1984 is Holly Sykes, a 15 year old from Gravesend (Hah! Mitchell slyly peppers his novel with reminders, obvious and subliminal, of his themes) She is stroppy, tremblingly in first love, and full of attitude. Holly also has a younger brother aged 6, strange and wise beyond his years. At this point, Holly's voice is pretty well normal for a 15 year old lovelorn girl with some lip and feist to her nature. BUT, there are strange incursions from a mysterious set of people who could almost have strolled in from the hinterland between the two incarnations of Mr Banks - that is Iain, and Iain M.

And these incursions do re-occur, throughout the book. Yet, it is in no way `magic realism'. The real is very real....and yet, reality is not quite solid, not quite fixed. Neither does this sit as science fiction, nor fantasy. Mitchell resolutely eschews the neat pigeon hole of genre. Yet he picks and weaves in genre stock in trade as he chooses. And, for my money, he does this consciously, precisely, and largely, well.

The second section, 1991, in which Holly also makes an appearance (as indeed does another character from that first section) follows the journey of a sharp, amoral, upwardly very mobile young man, Hugo Lamb, and stands as a critique of early 90's Thatcherite inheritance - `there is no such thing as society' Hugo fits right in. Yet there is more, and underneath the razzamatazz and the fierce partying he has a clarity about this `Ozymandias' legacy, of all comes to dust - there is a wonderful section on this where Mitchell dazzles, as he so often does, as a sleight of hand, magician of words, and the reader (well this one) enjoyed hugely the demonstration of linguistic delight and playfulness

The third section, into 2004 sees us back in `the Holly fold' and she and her family, 20 years older, are gathered for a family wedding. The narrator of this section is someone we have met before, now an acclaimed war reporter, embedded in Iraq, and back briefly to attend that wedding. The reporter is deep in the here and now of events at the wedding party, but is having also another internal dialogue (as we do, since often most of us are both in our here and now AND either reliving memory or imagining future memories) That other dialogue concerns war torn Iraq, and there are many arising conversations and thoughts which demonstrate Mitchell's ability to get underneath and inside black and white viewpoints into nuance. He is, as ever, much more than merely a clever writer. He is a writer with emotional subtlety. Empathy, compassion and tenderness, as well as intelligent analysis and a display of dazzling skill in working with words, all guide his writing

The fourth section brings us to now, and to a little ahead of now. And our central narrator here (oh dangerous, Mitchell, this game, but how WELL you walk the tightrope) is a dark and bitter version of the writer you might have been - one passed over several times for a thinly disguised version of the Booker (as Mitchell has of course been, several times, and again most recently) and moreover a version of the Booker now bankrolled by a thinly disguised Sir Alan Sugar. There are vengeful little cracks made by our narrator (part of the peripheral circle from section 2) about the incestuous world of publishing, writing, literary fashion. In many ways Mitchell is setting himself up as his own fall-guy in this section. But it's lovely, audacious stuff

Again we meet Holly, and, again there is a sustained influx of what some might call `fantasy supernatural elements' Except - Mitchell reminds us that there are other cultures who take some of this quite seriously. There is a section set in Australia where Holly taps in to Aboriginal myths, Aboriginal ways of interpreting the world. This feels quite important - Mitchell himself has been castigated from some quarters for his usage of `fantasy' when he is a serious literary writer. And yet....IF he had been a writer from some cultures, I have no doubt the `mythic culture he is writing from, would not have been dismissed. It is as if a serious twenty-first century literary writer, not a genre writer, who is British, should NOT BE DOING THIS.

The fifth section, set in 2025, is the one where the `fantasy elements' really bite hard, with some psychic battles between the forces of good (Horologists) and bad (Anchorites) are played out, with Holly Sykes again, now in her 50s, with a grown up daughter, being played for, or being played with. Here is the section where I believe Mitchell's risk-taking does not really quite work. Elemental battles between the forces of dark and light have of course been part of many great pieces of classical literature, but also have a tendency to reek of Komik Kuts, and I don't think Mitchell makes a completely clean escape from the latter.

At this point, I was veering towards a 4 star. Until:

The final section, Sheep's Head, is set in 2045. Holly is in her seventies, living in rural Ireland. We are in the period of the Endarkenment, heading towards the end of days - not through any supernatural agencies, only through our own neglect, greed and wastefulness, our `live now and let future generations pay later' mindset. Climate change has, as the warning voices insistently tell us, created many changes, much of the earth is uninhabitable. Elderly nuclear reactors have sprung leaks, political instability and the emergence of new power bases, the collapse of the global economy, the rise of militia, the end of taken-for-granted-endless-supplies of fossil fuels, gas and oil, and thence electricity has ended everything we take for granted. The technological advances of recent decades are gone. Mitchell presents as brilliant, bleak, and heart-breaking a future, with small lights bravely attempting to keep the kindness of humanity, still flickering, as I have ever read.

For sure, this is not by any means a faultless book. But flawed Mitchell is a far more rewarding read, to my mind, than many writers at the absolute top of their form.

Finishing this book, puts me back in the same place as every previous one of his books - other reads, will for a while feel curiously empty and lacking.

CafePod Nespresso Compatible Arabica Colombia (Pack of 4, Total 40 Pods)
CafePod Nespresso Compatible Arabica Colombia (Pack of 4, Total 40 Pods)
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper than Nespresso, acceptable (for a pod); fiddly recycle, 31 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Firstly, I don't believe that the pod experience can ever rival the carefully sourced beans (and variety of beans) which can be had with the loving hand-grinding experience coupled with my new best coffee method Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker (or even the French Press, cafetiere, for more cups at once) Though I'm the first to admit this takes some time.

Machines are good for the varying demands for coffee, and several cups of these, all at once. My hand grinding muscles can't cope with crowds. Machines also provide the added touch of crema, not to mention the delectable possibility of froth for the cappuccino heads

I don't know what the beans used for this would be like to my tastebuds if I had done the handgrinding and the Aeropressing on them, but, certainly the taste of the coffee lacks the layers of flavour available in my two current favourite beans Barbera Classica Espresso 1000g Coffee Beans JJ Darboven Movenpick Cafe Creme 100 Percent RFA 1 Kg

I couldn't find the described notes in this - the orange zest particularly, which is very evident in the Movenpick. Though these do indeed work beautifully in the Nespresso by KRUPS U and Milk Pure Cream Coffee Capsule Machine with Aeroccino, 1700 Watt in the end the real downside to the, well, acceptable but not memorable, an average cup flavour is the issue of recycling. Which is kind of the real challenge, to me, with pod machines.

Nespresso, particularly for those of us lucky enough to live close enough to a boutique where we can collect a little handfull of recycle bags, have this sorted well as the pods can be packed as they are in the nespresso post bags and returned, for free to Nespresso for recycling using the widely available Collect outlets. More difficult for those who have to wait till they re-order a quantity and meanwhile may be gathering mould on their existing used pods.

Cafepod are half-recycleable and half not, with disassembly needing to be done. The foil individual wrappers are NOT recycleable. Landfill then. The pods are - but not AS they are. The film lid (not recycleable) has to be removed. The grounds from the pod are then scraped out for your compost bins. The rinsed plastic pots can then go to plastic recycle.

Well, on a day recently with several people drinking several cups of coffee, I realised the amount of time I then later spent of doing my environmental bit easily made the fully recycled Nespressos worth their extra cost, and possibly I could have made 'grind those beans by hand' a game for guests to share around and delivered better coffee with even less waste!

A Question of Identity: Simon Serrailler Book 7 (Simon Serrailler 7)
A Question of Identity: Simon Serrailler Book 7 (Simon Serrailler 7)
Price: £3.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Serrailler 7 - has the series outstayed its welcome?, 31 Aug 2014
Hill is a fine and crafted writer, and her Simon Serrailler detective/crime series are equal to her writings in more ghostly, supernatural vein.

But this one, I'm sad to say, seemed tired, even formulaic. Of late Serrialler has dealt with some big ideas, ethics, and metathemes. In theory, this one examines identity, which must always be built of memory too, and given to us by others, as much as put together by ourselves. So what happens when someone's identity is taken away because they are given a new life? This isn't a spoiler, it is in the 'blurb' and we know this has happened very early on.

A series of murders happened, the suspect, who was the perpetrator, was acquitted, but the potential public outcry meant a new identity had to be manufactured for his own safety. Move on 10 years to a different part of the country and crimes being committed with the same modus operandi, down to the smallest, hidden from public knowledge, detail.

So....we know that whoever it is on Serrailler's patch who is responsible is going to be within the cast of characters we meet, probably early on. Easy to spot the red herrings, easy, very, to finger the real 'perp' But that wasn't my problem with this. What holds the interest in crimes, police procedurals and whodunnits, is not just the who, its the psychology and the process which the hunters and the hunteds go through, and also how those in the wider community - victims, families and friends of, etc are touched by this. Less sophisticated writers can go through implausible after implausible twists and herrings because they are trying to keep the reader guessing through shock and surprise alone. Any writer will have their own well-worn grooves, so, particularly with a series, the reader will be well ahead of the writer, and probably able to nail the 'who' within minutes of their first appearance. But that isn't the point. The centrality of this book is not really the police side of things.

Where my disappointment lay with this book is that the introductions of some new family and other relationship complications for Serrailler and the rest of his family almost make this book 'a chapter setting the scene for the next book' There's actually remarkably little in this book about his relationships within his workforce. This side of things has stalled somewhat. Far more centre stage is the Deerbon family, their dynamics, particularly some troubles between the two older children, and the relationship between Serrailler's father and his wife, Serrailler's stepmother. These are being set up for the future. This book feels like the slip road between one major road and another. It's...okay, it's not a bad book, but it is rather a dull one

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