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Sandford "Sandy" (Kent, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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Searching for Amber
Searching for Amber
by David Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Path To Redemption, 2 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Searching for Amber (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In this intriguing novel, the author explores how the psychological concept of repression can so prolong human suffering. David Smith conveys in a quite masterly and confident manner how the constancy of repression has such an unforgiving influence on the self.

This itch on the status quo doesn’t quite want to be left alone in this tale. Somehow, somewhere, dilemmas need resolution; the reader unknowingly has a sense of this from the outset with Jade as the protagonist.

Jade as the photographer is the catalyst for all that happens. With her camera acting as tool, she feels she can look into the soul through this all-seeing lens. Whether this is acting out on her part, projecting her own wishes, her inner thoughts and hopes, or is a totally sincere quest for Martin’s redemption is for the reader to work out. There is plenty of time in the path of this narrative to ponder on these issues.

There is an inexorable feel for the reader of an ultimate price to pay for the actors, for those deeds and actions that would otherwise be buried deep within their respective psyches. Of course, a paradox here is that choice doesn’t exist, and the author cleverly alludes to this from the outset by the atmosphere he creates. This works so subtly well throughout the novel. Lack of emotional resolution leaves some unfortunates emotionally stunted and trapped, leading to the anticipated cathartic ending. In a humanistic sense conclusions in the final pages are presented in a tragic, but nevertheless satisfying way.

Jade seeks resolution and redemption, and she does find it. Is this a search for personal truth, a simple unadulterated quest to discover Martin’s essence, or both? Through her own life story, we see the story breathe and come to life. Indeed all the personal histories have a strong palpable feel. The reader may well conclude that acknowledging and accepting the pain of distressing emotion is far less than allowing it to fester, to be unrecognised and not dealt with.
This is indeed a novel well psychologically grounded, with a mature weight, and much to recommend it. I was captivated with the whole reading experience, so a well deserved 5 star.


Do Not Forget Me Quite
Do Not Forget Me Quite
by Richard Pike
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Missed Opportunity, 29 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Do Not Forget Me Quite (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This novel is too long, and could be edited into perhaps 400 pages for increased effectiveness. The author has too many themes going on, the busyness diluting the overall impact and impression, leaving it wandering and a bit disjointed. This lets the novel down, so hence the 3 star rating.

I had high hopes for this novel, but the twists and turns of the narrative left me feeling on overload. Some over sentimentalisation also makes some of the conversations a bit hard going, lacking a sense of reality. The complete disowning by John’s family on his return from war is overplayed, with the actual life experienced on the Home Front portrayed without much life or vigour. It just doesn’t work for me, and reads as quite odd at times. The stylistic use of coincidence is also overdone, which makes the narrative start to become implausible. Conversations often read as quite wooden and stilted, which are sometimes painful to read with a lack of perceived spontaneity. I anticipated enjoying a fresh new angle on World War One, but this is quite cliched, following a well trodden path with nothing very new to say.

The novel only starts to come to life in the final third, when the narrative seems to wake up with some much needed energy and vitality. At points the writing is quite gripping and authentic, capturing the horrific atmosphere of the conflict and the deprivation experienced by the men on the battlefront. I applaud the author for this, but unfortunately this is not sustained.

With a more intense focus, then this could get a 4, or even 5 star rating; it is all there to achieve such a grading. I feel some revision and careful editing would make this a highly rated novel, but much is extraneous.


ROCK JAW ARCANA V2 In Ear Headphone
ROCK JAW ARCANA V2 In Ear Headphone
Offered by Decold
Price: £29.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Satisfactory Value For The Money, 25 Nov. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These headphones are stated to have a “greater balance and sound separation”, which drew my interest. My main musical interest is classical music, opera and jazz, so excellent good drivers are required to cope satisfactorily with that frequency range…!

The phones are fitted nicely into a comforting foam package, which is pleasing. The “L” and “R” leads are not well identified, which I find perplexing, particularly as my sight is not very good. This should be far better highlighted. The sound is overall warm, although for me the treble is too pronounced, making it a bit harsh at times for my ears. I find the mid-range excellent, and the detailing is good.

These phones are OK, but don’t really stand out for me. They would be very good as a spare pair though


In Search of Solace
In Search of Solace
by Emily Mackie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Self As Smoke And Mirrors, 25 Nov. 2014
This review is from: In Search of Solace (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Each reader will make their own sense of this novel, as reaction to it will inevitably be highly individual. Reading it was a fascinating experience, perplexing yet calming, feeling surreal at times, but always rooted in an essential reality. The beautiful, intuitive use of language allows the narrative to unfold at a timely pace, and keeps unfolding to and from the end.
The sense of experiencing the "moment" is intrinsic to the elemental structure of this novel. The author has an uncanny way of presenting her observations from different angles and perspectives. For me, this compares to the visual experience of theatre performed "in the round", where attention becomes more fluid and potentially more involving. I found the style of writing hypnotic, where time becomes an illusory concept.
Jacob is certainly an enigma. His mother considered him a troubled soul, a young boy constantly bullied, who isolated himself through lack of friends. He confronts the bugging question of "Who am I" by acquiring, and being obsessed with, 17 very different personalities. This many sided alter ego camouflages him in a coat of dominant, colourful characters. It is always towards ephemeral Solace to whom he turns however, becoming fixated, her presence haunting him to distraction.
Jacob's conclusion that others create identity via a process of projection to the other self, (which is illusory) is an interesting proposition which propels the novel. I certainly became increasingly frustrated with this man who passively refuses to engage meaningfully with others, "Names are so binding, but with me you are limitless". When people become interested in him, he has a seductive power to generate varying levels of emotional disturbance and tension, playing the "limitless game" as Lucy comments. For Jacob, as a result of his epiphany, normal life is mere self deception, yet he spends his time constantly deceiving others as this "man of many heads".
The paradox is that Max, aka Lucy, in her connection with Jacob is able to create a very special identity for herself, and somehow uses Jacob and his personal philosophy to propel herself into her own successful future. So who is this Jacob, and by the end did he ever exist apart from others' minds?
The author breathes air into those facets of life that outwardly can seem ordinary and mundane, but she has produced an extraordinary accomplishment with this novel that an engaged reader won't fail to appreciate. A beautifully skilled observer, repercussions from this novel have been there for me long after finishing it. I was hooked.


Interlude
Interlude
by Rupert Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Our Mutual Friend, 24 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Interlude (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, quaffed in one sitting.

There is much vitality in Rupert Smith's writing. Regaling the joys of life is rightly balanced with appropriate attention to those sorrows and trials that afflict all of us on our unique and individual paths. Over time we will all have our share of adversity, and through this novel we learn how these fascinating and vibrant characters cope and learn to deal with life's vicissitudes. I loved them all.

The London of the Second World War is a turbulent, exciting world, where the horrors of life on the Home Front are balanced with an indulgent, at times decadent, approach to living from day to day. Fun and comfort are grabbed with this visceral awareness of mortality. For many tomorrow will never come, so live for the moment as it may be your last. Against this backdrop we accompany Teddy and Billy on their roller coaster love affair, a liaison which I found totally engaging. I dearly warmed to them both.

Billy in particular is such a colourful personality. He has a rawness, an intensity of being, which I found irritatingly likeable. I felt I could readily identify with his emotional dilemmas, and I felt so drawn to him. As for Edward, I gobbled the stuff down concerning his heady theatre years. The time he spends with Terence and Eleanora treading the boards is so deliciously camp, arousing many a titter, and of course I was enthralled by his life and exploits in and around his unrequited love for Billy. The torment of rejection and disappointment in love is always a painful thing to witness. I took both Teddy and Billy to my heart, mourning for them both in different ways as the novel progresses.

Of course, we learn of their lives and times through the eyes of Teddy's granddaughter Helen and her reading of Teddy's "secret" diaries, and of whose own personal tale is a wonderful vehicle to the story. This works so splendidly bringing a wholeness to the tale's unravelling. The novel has a solid foundation, is witty, comic, fast well paced and snappy with much pathos. A damn good tale, It's poignancy can't fail to please.


Vax Air Base U91-MA-Be Upright Vacuum
Vax Air Base U91-MA-Be Upright Vacuum
Price: £149.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suitable For The Smaller Household, 22 Nov. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This vacuum cleaner is ideal for the small house or flat, as it feels more compact than some other models. I can’t quibble with the suction power, although because it is powerful, it sucks up the ends of rugs, (I refer specifically to my dog bed here), so here I have to use a hand held vacuum cleaner. Unless you have more rugs than carpet, then this is not an issue. This observation is really a reflection on how effective the cleaner is.

The top of the handle is not very ergonomic, as if looks as if something is “missing”, with just the hole at the top, (the handle serves as the hose to extension connector). I feel some further design work could be made here to make it more rounded to the hand, (perhaps a cap of some kind?).

It is certainly intuitive to use once removed from the box, with no puzzle as to how things fit together. The instructions are very clear, although I would have preferred a larger and bolder print for my not so very good eyesight…! Just a minor point.

I feel for the price and its size, I would certainly recommend this for the smaller household. It is robust, feels sturdily built and fits quite snugly into the corner.


The Labrador Theory
The Labrador Theory
by Cheever Hardwick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Growing Old Together, 20 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Labrador Theory (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A labrador doesn’t own me, but a golden retriever does, who is possessed of a similar temperament and with similar traits…it’s a gun dog thingy.

This is a lovely, albeit short book that is very thoughtful and warming in its message, written very much from the heart. It really brings home the nature of the bond between a dog and his owner that only dog lovers can understand. The constant parallels between the behaviour of man and dog is portrayed very nicely and simply. The illustrations are beautiful, cheeky and warm, and are highly reflective and in tune with the message of the words that they mirror.

This is a gently, re-affirming account of the man/dog relationship. I was also jogged with the reminder that my boy lives only for each day, an apposite reminder for me to nudge myself to enjoy the moment, as that’s all we have in life, today. This would make a superb present for any dog lover, not sole preserve of the labrador….!


Braun ThermoScan-5 IRT6020 Ear Thermometer
Braun ThermoScan-5 IRT6020 Ear Thermometer
Price: £32.67

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reassuring Addition For The Medicine Cabinet, 19 Nov. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Now my nieces have 4 young children under 5 years old, I decided that this thermometer would be very handy and convenient for times of suspected pyrexia. With a fretty and wriggling child this thermometer is so easy to use, as the recording is so quick. The disposable lens filters are of particular importance too to prevent spread of any infection, (I am thinking of possible ear infections). I feel this is an invaluable addition alongside anybody's First Aid Box, so highly recommended


Daughter
Daughter
by Jane Shemilt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets Are Dangerous, 19 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Daughter (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an impressive and accomplished first novel. It has a maturity more often encountered from a seasoned and established author. The story line is taut, the closely related themes linking strongly together with no loose ends.The result is a very satisfying read that I found both immersive and absorbing. The writing seems to flow effortlessly. Jane Shelmit certainly understands her characters well.

This family’s complex dynamic is communicated in a deceivingly uncomplicated way, as she drives towards the essence of each individual’s emotions, a kind of distillation. Her detailing and observation is quite exquisite at times, fostering an intimacy that is very pleasing and demands attention.

All her characters are unique and separate, very much personalities of their own. She captures the angst, discomfort, the unease of young people struggling with their move towards adulthood in a poignant, empathetic way and positions the adults coping with this in a kind of collective madness, groping a way to make sense of chaos. Lies certainly become easy in an environment when the need to survive is so palpably felt.

Jane Shemilt directs the story in a grounded, progressive manner, having a clear and assertive direction as to how she wants the plot to develop. This is certainly one of the most emotionally intelligent books that I have read this year. I have no negative comments whatsoever. Where has this author been hiding? She is certainly someone to look out for in the future.


Rapid 23256500 F30 Flat Clinch Stapler Half Strip ABS 26/6 Throat 55 mm - Black
Rapid 23256500 F30 Flat Clinch Stapler Half Strip ABS 26/6 Throat 55 mm - Black
Price: £14.91

5.0 out of 5 stars A Well Designed Sturdy Stapler, 14 Nov. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was firstly struck by the neat, rounded shape of this stapler which fits the hand beautifully. It feels solid, is unobtrusive and easy on the eye. I found this so easy to refill compared with the smaller type of stapler that I have been used to, and the flatness of the staple makes for a neater collation of papers. All in all, I have no quibbles at all with this product and would recommend its purchase as it is well worth the price.


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