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

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Jakob's Colours
Jakob's Colours
by Lindsay Hawdon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tales From A Gypsy Holocaust, 6 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Jakob's Colours (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
From the start there are promising signs that this novel is heading for a 5 star rating. Lindsay Hawdon has an uncanny ability to communicate empathy, accessing an essence of the self that glimpses the soul of each individual character. The writer’s skill facilitates the reader’s embrace of the emotional and psychological pain that Lor, Yars and son Jakob experience at the hands of the Nazis, yet also simultaneously provides a skilful balance in revealing a constant sense of beauty that flows in tandem within this world of horror and chaos.

Hope comes near to being exhausted for this Roma family, but proves an indomitable presence from start to end of this struggle to exist, most notably for Jakob on his tortuous path in his desperate fight for freedom. Life is tenuous for this Roma family, but their hope in life is never extinguished, although at times desperately close.

I love the sensual intimacy of the author’s description of Lor and Yars evolving love for each other, and how the inner strength of Yars and his philosophy of life is inculcated in his son Jakob. It is from Yar’s belief in life and his symbiotic, organic attachment to the earth with all its natural wonders that is communicated so intensely to Jakob. This source of energy sustains this poor young boy through the most awful of experiences, again hope pushing him forward towards a future however desperate.

Although a work of fiction, it comes from extensive research into the background to the Gypsy Holocaust, the “Porrajamos”, of which there is a very clear and succinct précis at the end. This lends so much weight and credibility to the tragic tale of this particular family. I find this to be a most splendid novel from an author with a remarkable talent.


Flick Spot-on Flea Treatment
Flick Spot-on Flea Treatment
Price: £20.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfactory Outcomes In Ridding Fleas, 6 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have found using this product perfectly satisfactory, and has achieved its aim of keeping my dog apparently flea and tick free. It is good to see other manufacturer’s entering the market to supply such a Ripronil based product as it is important to foster competition with other more well known manufacturers. Recommended.


Europe Entrapped
Europe Entrapped
by Claus Offe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An Important And Relevant Study, 6 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Europe Entrapped (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book is an important and welcome addition to serious study on the problems now being encountered by member States of the EU. With most of us reliant on our daily quota of TV and radio to acquire up-to-date information, it is often difficult to get a dispassionate résumé that sums up all the cogent arguments, and not to be constantly seduced by irritating political rhetoric from those with vested interests that often leaves me rather befuddled and little the wiser. This intelligent study helps fill a needed gap.

With the fascinating yet alarming developments with the newly elected Greek government and the rise of the left wing Syriza party, we are yet to find out who will blink first in terms of any re-negotiation for Greece within the EU. Certainly from today’s headlines we see a test for Offe’s posit that the conditionalist strategy of the Troika continues to demand austerity and structural reform from countries such as Greece. As a particular “real life” unfolding scenario, this book helps in providing the meat to understanding such political and economic dynamics in the world of Realpolitik. So, Greece today and with Spain and her protest party Podemos joining the fray, this book does help any intelligent and interested reader to be able to make some personal sense of this weighty problem. A short but valuable insight as a foundation summary on current problems within the EU, as suitable for the lay reader as general academic study.


At the Water's Edge
At the Water's Edge
by Sara Gruen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.94

3.0 out of 5 stars A Formulaic Romance, 5 Feb. 2015
This review is from: At the Water's Edge (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am afraid that none of the adjectives used by reviewers on the book cover fit for me, neither “gripping” or “poignant”, “thrilling” or indeed memorable.

From the first pages I found it quite a comedic romp, although I’m not sure that this was the intention of the author. It felt tongue in cheek, a tad bit histrionic and OTT in conversational style.

To use a hunt for Nessie as a backdrop to this novel is frankly a ridiculous ploy if this novel is to be regarded as anything but comedy. The realism just doesn’t stack up, and feels like it could easily have come as a film from the Ealing Studios of the 1950’s.

The whole reading experience can be characterised as corny, relying on high expressed emotion to sustain the narrative. Where there is credibility in the interactions, it comes within the female to female relationships. The main character Maddie is too much a damsel in distress and prone to martyrdom, and the male characters, Hank and Ellis, the “Boring Mc Boringtons” are aptly named. Ellis in particular is tetchy, immature, spoilt and an archetypal baddie.

Although set during World War 2, there is no sense of atmosphere to suggest close connection to war, apart from a smattering of historical facts. These paragraphs often feel like they have been cut and pasted from a school textbook - they feel disjointed and don’t add to the narrative’s thrust.

This novel should be listed under “Romance” and not general fiction. It is overall disappointing, although it is written well enough for me to finish it. This novel has a typical formulaic style for this genre, with no surprises. There are odd moments of charm and intimacy that kept me going, again due to the more credible interactions between the female characters which contributed a certain comfortable quaintness. This sisterly comradeship could have been made far more of. Deliciously camp though at times, it is perhaps this inadvertent reaction that resulted in my 3 star rating as opposed to 2 star.


The Well
The Well
by Catherine Chanter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spirit of The Rose, 4 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Well (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This novel takes a few interesting themes on issues that affect the individual in society, incorporating them into a fictional tale that I found engrossing. It is very easy to read, expertly written, the words running off the page with a pleasant flowing style.

The nucleus of the novel is the disintegrating marriage of Jane and Mark, and their relationship with their daughter and grandson. Their stoic efforts to rescue their fractured relationship by moving from city to live a rural idyll has a sense of doom from the start. A need to start again only results in further ostracism and hostility from their tight knit community when it is discovered that in a protracted period of national drought, their land continues to have a bountiful supply of water - The Well.

Man’s subsequent fight for survival results in a selfishness that reveals the darker side of people. Cornered in a fight for existence with lack of water, from jealousy and envy,an anarchical situation arises where neighbour fights neighbour for this vital resource, and in threat of breaching national security, the State invokes extra powers that threaten civil liberties.

Against this backdrop we are witness to the effects of a quasi-religious cult, the cult of “The Rose”. The land being now seen as blessed and holy, the omnipotent head of the cult, Sister Amelia, inveigles herself into the life of Ruth, seduces her and all but destroys her in a dramatic process. Here lies the main thrust of the novel. Ruth’s family is torn apart by the pernicious and dangerous activities of the cult that result in an untimely murder. Nobody is spared in this novel, and although there is some resolution with a sense of the ordinary returning, havoc has been reeked for what is an uncertain future.

This is a substantial novel, addressing several strongly inter-linked themes that works splendidly, a sobering presentation of man’s essential selfish nature at a primal level, and that when everything is stripped away, do we really know anyone? It is gutsy and kept my attention throughout.


Pure Jongo S3X Wireless Speaker with Bluetooth - Graphite
Pure Jongo S3X Wireless Speaker with Bluetooth - Graphite
Price: £109.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sound - but fiddly set-up!, 2 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Minor problems in setting-up Bluetooth but that was mainly due to that technologies limited range.

My prime requirement was to stream iTunes Library from iMac to Jongo in the kitchen, with Wi-Fi enabled - albeit via rather clunky instructions on the Pure site- it works perfectly.

From such a small sized unit the sound output is excellent, strong but not overwhelming bass, clearly defined treble and really surprising separation.

A highly portable unit, that is very stylish with its matt finish cloth mesh speaker grills.

The Bluetooth adaptor is simply a USB dongle and looks an afterthought, would have been much better if the USB socket could have been used to charge the unit, negating the supplied power unit.

Battery charge state is by means of a small window on the rear, the speaker has to be switched on to gain a reading!

To sum up, i found set-up surprisingly fiddly, the IOS App is functional but clunky.

As a stand-alone speaker - sound quality is excellent, and for my stated purpose it ticks all the boxes - however if I had not received it via The Vine program - i suspect i would have been disappointed and possibly looked elsewhere!


The Snow Kimono
The Snow Kimono
by Mark Henshaw
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Path To Atonement, 29 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Snow Kimono (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
To acknowledge the positive relevance of a moment is creative; to further embrace its significance on life's future direction, or of its promise, gives a philosophical edge that steers and directs this novel. Take heed and note the instant; expect the unexpected on life’s trajectory.

The moment that Jovert and Omura’s paths cross in such an apparently minor coincidental way, initiates a sequence of actions and reactions that lead to irrevocable change for them both. From their strikingly diverse pasts, historic moments have festered in a paralysed state, negativity breeds, and they both sense the stagnation of things unremembered. Whatever their nature or origin, these instances serve to be but perniciously intrusive in Jovert and Omura’s daily existences.

Sharing experiences of life’s fragility, they enter each others’ inner worlds, mourning things previously unsaid in this calm and studied intimacy that develops between them. Omura’s contemplations and wise words are muse-like. Jovert discovers that he can now start the painful scrutinising of his own guarded self, and thus we appreciate that they are “two parts of an uncompleted whole” inexplicably bound to each other.

Both do share remorse. Jovert certainly seeks penitence, but does Omura…Ha…! here lies the enigma. Dear reader have we been duped…? There is a final piece of the jigsaw presented us, but does it fit properly? I tend to think that the books are being balanced for Jovert, as there is a clear and definite path for him to steer, but as regards Omura, is this the man we think he is? Resolution and atonement for one, but the reader will have to make up their own mind with the evidence to hand as regards Omura….or is this Katsuo, the subtle control freak, omnipotent and calculating, sucking the life out of everything? We will never really know…

The personal histories of both Jovert and Omura are well crafted in this intense engaging and sensual narrative. The writing is striking in its gentle intimacy and poignancy. I found it satisfyingly demanding to read, particularly the vignettes that sensitively illustrate the fragility of life, its unpredictability and inherent tragedy. This novel is something special.


A Place for Us
A Place for Us
by Harriet Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ties That Bind, 28 Jan. 2015
This review is from: A Place for Us (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A novel concerned with a time of reckoning, a re-evaluation on life, and the need to come to terms with life’s vicissitudes. Is the past best left alone, or should everything unpleasant be unearthed to resolve unfinished business? Such a rocky road is thus travelled as we explore such issues within “A Place For Us”.

Throughout the book we are reminded of how fractured many families are, even those that appear outwardly happily functional. Initially the members of the Winter family seem reasonably stable, although there are intimations and stirrings that perhaps things aren’t quite right. This interesting foray into the lives of the Winter family does make one wonder if something like the “perfect family” can ever be believed to exist.

There are indeed various family secrets that emerge from the woodwork as the story progresses. The only thing that bothered me about the essential secret, the core to the existence of this tale, is that in the context of the novel’s style, it is odd and implausible. The divulgence of this ultimate secret doesn’t really work for me as it feels dissonant to the overall emotionality of the novel - it would succeed if occurring within a different genre to this, but not here as general fiction. I still remain perplexed about it as this behaviour is psychologically unsound in the context of how the personalities are constructed. When the pack of cards in the family does collapse, it is the revelation of this greatest secret that almost lets the novel down - it is plainly just peculiar.

However, the story’s progression is an engaging one, and we learn in this particular instance that expression of honesty has proven to be worth it in the end. The resolution is both cleansing and satisfying. I found this book a comforting and easy read, all the characters having their own uniqueness and individuality, their personalities all interestingly divergent which kept me engaged.


Kent's Kitchen 8 Chicken Stockpots 224 g (Pack of 4, Total 32 Pots)
Kent's Kitchen 8 Chicken Stockpots 224 g (Pack of 4, Total 32 Pots)
Price: £11.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Fine But Salt Content A Bit High For Me, 27 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It is good to see a different manufacturer for prepared stock aside from the usual products seen on the supermarket shelves. Making chicken stock is easy, but now there are fewer carnivores in my household, I don’t have the carcasses to make it worthwhile.

I have tried these stock cubes in 3 different recipes, a mushroom risotto, a chicken casserole, and potatoes boulangères. The result using this stock was perfectly satisfactory, and I will undoubtedly buy them again as they are such a boon to have in the cupboard. The only negative for me is that the salt content is higher than I would wish. You can add salt, but can’t take it away, and I only now use it for baking bread and making rice. This is of course up to the individual palate. Overall I am very happy with using it.


The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman
The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman
by Mamen Sanchez
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dandy and The Gypsy Girl, 27 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A Spanish caricaturist’s hand is at work here with this delightful portrayal of Atticus, an example of quintessential Englishness from “Perfidious Albion”. He dresses like a dandy, wears winter clothes in the sweltering temperatures of inland Spain, drinks phenomenal amounts of Earl Grey tea, and loves salmon and cream cheese sandwiches. Appearing outwardly effete, he does however have a surprisingly profound sexual appetite. He is up for anything exciting, revelling in anything risqué -the ability to charm the ladies seems coded in his genes. Maman Sánchez has succeeded in creating a fascinating and colourful character that thrives so well in this excellent novel.

Flown in on a mission to close down his father’s failing literary magazine, “Librarte”, Atticus encounters the 5 colourful and highly individual señoras who produce it. Desperate to keep their beloved operation open, they devise a devilish plan which leads to many developments that are near on farcical, but it all works out perfectly in the end.

A plot is designed to whisk Atticus away, into deepest Granada, a viper is found amongst this seemingly cosy nest of señoras, and attempts by Atticus’ parents to locate their poor son’s whereabouts aided by Manchego, a bumbling and maverick detective, leads to farcical consequences.

The various strands of this novel come together so well. The love story of Atticus and Soleá, (one of these 5 lady musketeers) is developed beautifully, a different love story and a great essential romance. The path to true love is indeed paved with obstacles for them both, and we share it all the way with this sometimes hapless Atticus, who we see in his adventures that he has the heart and courage of a lion. No longer the gringo, Atticus, nickname now “Tico” is firmly adopted by his new Spanish family. Couple this with a kidnap, the chasing of villains and a fantastic stand- off, this is a fast paced comic drama that won’t fail to please. A big thumbs-up with this one.


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