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Reviews Written by
A. Miles (Al Khor, Qatar)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

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Magix Samplitude Music Studio 2016 (PC)
Magix Samplitude Music Studio 2016 (PC)
Price: £79.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Even as a non-musician, I'd go for this one., 8 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not a musician, being both comically cack-handed and lacking the willpower and self discipline needed to learn an instrument, but I've always had an urge to tinker with some moody electronic soundscapes and DJ-Shadowy sampleadelia, and this last 6 months I've finally got around, courtesy of Amazon Vine and the music department at my wife's school, to trying a few different PC studios out before deciding which one to continue with.

Perhaps counterintuitively, I think I'm probably going to go with this one, the one in the Magix range that's most aimed at proper musicians and the one that's least friendly to inept cut n paste loop bodgers like myself: This is because it's does do cut and paste loop bodging, if you want it to, but it's a a proper virtual studio as well -with 19 instruments, and a seemingly endless messing-about potential. As you get all that for about the same price as a more basic dance/hiphop based program that's based around preloaded samples, there seems no contest.

One star off, however: As another reviewer has pointed out, I think you need a pretty high-spec PC to get the full use out of this and on mine their are often long pauses while the program gets it's act together. I think the manufacturer's should be a little more clear on this issue, or at least acknowledge it as an issue.


Lie of the Land
Lie of the Land
by Michael F. Russell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Orwellian alienation, 7 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Lie of the Land (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In a near future where the surveillance state has increased to such a degree that technology has extended to imposing mind control on the citizenry via a development of the internet, a huge swathe of the population is killed off when a development of this 'SCOPE' technology goes wrong.

Carl Shewan, an alienated and unlikable journalist, travels to a small Scottish island to research a tip-off related to the disaster, and finds that Inverlair is a 'Notspot' , an alternative community where mass technology has never reached, and therefore is safe from the killer radio waves. Having no other choice, he has to stay on the island and make a life there, whereupon he finds himself just as alienated and unlikable as he was back in 'civilisation'.

Someone once told me their pet theory that all of George Orwell's novels, apart from the allegorical 'Animal Farm' were about alienated outsiders who were unable to find a place in modern society, and thus that all of Orwell's protagonists were essentially Orwell himself, and I think that, beyond the sci-fi trappings, this outsiderdom is what this novel is concerned with. Shewan is a tortured misfit who was unhappy in a controlled, urban society, but he's equally screwed up in a freer, rural one. Thus the 'Land' (reading as 'Community') of the title is a 'Lie' to him.

At least that's my interpretation of the book. Interesting read, anyway: Not to be thought of as 'Dystopian SF' in the usual sense, though


Sustainable Materials - Without the Hot Air: Making Buildings, Vehicles and Products Efficiently and with Less New Material
Sustainable Materials - Without the Hot Air: Making Buildings, Vehicles and Products Efficiently and with Less New Material
by Julian Allwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Great pop-engineering, 7 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'Sustainable Materials' was originally published in 2011, and perhaps with it's sober academic-text presentation in that imprint failed to find much of an audience outside those studying engineering.

However, it ended up on a list of Bill Gates' favourite books, leading, I imagine, to this more attractively presented second edition. And a good thing too, as if ever a book about cutting-edge engineering issues deserved a popular audience, it's this one.

A genuinely readable and often witty account of complex issues and complex solutions, relating these problems through everyday examples and some eye-watering statistics about waste and the side effects of industrial processes.

It's not quite on the Bill Bryson etc level of reader friendliness, - it is a textbook, after all - but it is something that could be enjoyed by a general reader. Recommended.


Electrigirl
Electrigirl
by Jo Cotterill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.89

4.0 out of 5 stars An 11 year old female superhero is exactly what the world needs, 7 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Electrigirl (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When mild-mannered Bluehaven schoolgirl Holly Sparkes suddenly acquires superpowers, first she has to cope both with the effects of her having those powers on her relationship with her peers, and then with the machinations of the evil Cybersky mobile phone company. Fortunately her comics-obsessed sidekick (and little brother) is there for moral support.

A witty mash-up of superhero conventions(complete with comic-strip interludes), feminism and preteen concerns - in this case concerns about cyberbullying. Really good.


Mr. Baboomski and the Wonder Goat
Mr. Baboomski and the Wonder Goat
by Richard Joyce
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Spike Milligan for 8 year olds., 7 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Tom's Dad takes him to live in Cornwall after he splits up with Tom's Mum, and no-one is having a very good time - Dad is working in the fish-finger factory and Tom's finding his new school difficult. Salvation arrives when Tom meets Mr. Baboomski, an ex-circus performer from Eastern Europe who has a performing goat and a creative approach to his adopted language.

Great for 8-10 year olds to consider both aspects of change and the formation of language, then, and great for Dad's to read at bedtime because of it's Milligan-inspired silly verse and general daftness.


Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain
Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain
by Lisa Mckenzie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Shoots itself in the foot a bit., 21 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The establishment of a permanent underclass was probably an inevitable consequence of neoliberal economics: The universal demonisation of sink-estate dwellers, however, was perhaps less expected, and seems to be a consequence of 30 years relentless propaganda that's internalised in most of us the idea that the only possible aim one can have in life is to be a mortgaged-up drone aspiring towards the middle class.

This book then, seeks to counter the Jeremy Kyle/Benefits Street representation of a disenfranchised group of feckless layabouts, presenting the lives of the residents of the St.Anns estate in Nottingham as amultidimensional, dignified and self-reliant group of people in a mixture of academic discourse, interview and anecdote, the author being a long term resident of the estate.

That's very praiseworthy, and it's necessary to give a counterview .The problems, arise, I think, with the author's closeness to her subjects and the uncritical acceptance of their viewpoints: Residents buying designer goods they can't to 'cheer themselves up' is explained away by the idea that ''everyone wants these things but we can't afford them' whereas most solidly middle class people I know couldn't give a monkeys about designer sunglasses and overpriced trainers, (which might of course partly explain how they got to be middle class in the first place). Similarly, unemployed mothers seem to find the idea of both working and managing a household an unimaginably difficult task, and unemployed men refuse to do jobs they feel are unmanly: The cumulative result is that a book that I'm sure was written from a supportive, leftwing perspective could just as well serve as research for a dozen Daily Mail articles. This honest reporting is praiseworthy, then, and it's a valuable book, but it's somewhat ineffective if taken as a polemic.


L'Oreal Paris Paris Colour Riche - 5 ml, Flashing Lilac (Number 828)
L'Oreal Paris Paris Colour Riche - 5 ml, Flashing Lilac (Number 828)
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Funky evening nail colour, 21 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A bright violet gel polish with glitter highlights

Positives: Really eye catching, unusual shade. Good brush which covers quickly

Negatives: Despite it being what I'd call a party colour, it's a matt finish, so it'll need a glossy topcoat both to bring out the colour and to protect it


L'Oréal Paris Infaillible Nail Polish Number 021, Always a Lady 5 ml - Pack of 2
L'Oréal Paris Infaillible Nail Polish Number 021, Always a Lady 5 ml - Pack of 2
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Gel varnish., 21 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A double layered nail varnish: The base coat is the main colour, whilst a second coat adds a deep gel gloss. It arrives packaged with both bottles stuck into either end of a short tube, doubtless to remind you to keep the two together.

Plus points: The second coat gives a very deep,gel-like gloss. Lasts a long time without chipping or peeling.

Negative point.Quite a small amount for the money -5ml of each coat.


L'Oréal Paris Infallible Nail Polish Number 020, Fuchsia for Life 5 ml - Pack of 2
L'Oréal Paris Infallible Nail Polish Number 020, Fuchsia for Life 5 ml - Pack of 2
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Gel varnish., 21 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A double layered nail varnish: The base coat is the main colour, whilst a second coat adds a deep gel gloss. It arrives packaged with both bottles stuck into either end of a short tube, doubtless to remind you to keep the two together.

Plus points: The second coat gives a very deep,gel-like gloss. Lasts a long time without chipping or peeling.

Negative points: The bottom colour takes several coats to cover your nails - it really needs a base coat. Quite a small amount for the money -5ml of each coat.


Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with acclaimed birdwatchers
Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with acclaimed birdwatchers
by Mark Avery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Well produced twitchchat, 19 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book surprised me a little when it arrived, as a lot of the birdwatching literature I own has a bit of a self-published feel about it. This, on the other hand, is a handsomely produced hardback with a nice layout and some well-reproduced colour photographs. As such, it would make a nice gift for your favourite twitcher.

The idea of the book itself is simple: twenty long interviews with famous birdwatchers* , the term famous admittedly being stretched beyond it's breaking point - about their hobby. It's a niche read, obviously, but it's very well done for what it is.

*No Bill Oddie?


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