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Chantal Lyons "C.S. Lyons" (England)

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Leifheit 15 m Varioline M Indoor Clothes Dryer
Leifheit 15 m Varioline M Indoor Clothes Dryer
Price: £41.82

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 30 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although the dryer is plastic (and is prone to a little wobbling when putting things on it), don't be put off. It offers space for plenty of clothes, fits in the bathtub if needed, and has a great couple of extra features:

Adjustable lines (these can be a little stiff to move but it's a minor problem)
Handy sock/underwear holders

It also folds nicely, and I haven't managed to get my finger painfully stuck in it yet, which is always a plus. With a warranty of 3 years, the manufacturers must be confident that this dryer lasts. If mine lasts this long I'll consider it good value.

Jamie Oliver by Tefal 26 cm Anniversary Frying Pan with Calendar, Grey
Jamie Oliver by Tefal 26 cm Anniversary Frying Pan with Calendar, Grey
Price: £21.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great pan, 19 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not sure how much I can say about a frying pan but... this one performs very nicely. It's completely non-stick and is a dream to clean and dry afterwards. The handle doesn't get too hot, and the underside is a nice grey colour (and says that the pan is for Jamie Oliver's 10 years with Tefal).

The calendar that comes with the pan is A4 sized and fairly flimsy, though a useful thing to hang up in the kitchen (and each month has a recipe).

The Silver Bough
The Silver Bough
by Lisa Tuttle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bland despite its subject matter, 8 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Silver Bough (Paperback)
The cover for this book is gorgeous, and drew me in the first place. So did the blurb. And the author has endorsements from no other than George RR Martin and Neil Gaiman. Unfortunately, the story inside simply didn't live up to my expectations.

To start with, while I haven't read Tuttle's other works, I found the prose here utterly uninteresting. I don't like overly-florid sentences, but Tuttle's prose could be likened to the generic pictures or paintings you get in three-star hotel rooms. There was no spark of true life, true creativity, to it.

There were FAR too many POVs (point of views), and all of them lacking a voice distinctive from each other, so that I got confused between the women's ones and didn't get to spend enough time with anyone. In fact, one of them - the young man, Mario - could have been cut out of the book entirely, because it added nothing except to allow us to observe an event from a different perspective (without revealing anything new or insightful through that perspective). I'm no editor, but even a humble reader such as myself could see that Mario's POV didn't add a single thing to the story.

Despite the lack of separate voices, I could just about believe in the characters themselves. But as fantasy and reality begin to collide as the story goes on, the author seems to take this as free license to make the characters do anything, however odd or silly, in order to drive the plot forward. Thus we have two women both panting after the same man, even when they know he's dangerous and that his motivations are less than pure. I found it extremely irritating, and it distanced me from the story even more. The climax itself - tied to the improbable actions of the characters - felt rushed after a long build-up, and I finished the book with a frown.

The concepts make this book worth 3 stars just about (I'd give 2.5 if I could), but the execution is sadly poor.

KEF M200 Hi-Fi In Ear Headphone - Silver/Black
KEF M200 Hi-Fi In Ear Headphone - Silver/Black
Offered by home AV direct
Price: £114.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I feel kind of bad writing this but..., 23 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a caveat, I don't use earbuds/'in ear' headphones. I've always been a normal-headphones kind of gal. I've tried earbuds before and didn't like them, but thought that high-end ones such as these might work out better. They didn't. I also had members of my family, regular users of earbuds, test them out, and the response was similarly negative.

The big problem is the sound. It's quiet and tinny, almost as if it's playing the background. I don't think this is a problem of the earbuds not fitting in my ears - even when I try and hold them as hard against my ears as possible the sound doesn't change. I have to turn the volume up much higher than I do with my usual headphones just to get a comparable level of audibility.

The earbuds ARE comfortable, so that you can forget you're wearing them, but if the sound is so inaudible what's the point? The flexible arms are also as much an annoyance as a benefit, requiring some fiddling, and are rather impractical for people wearing glasses (though I wear contacts too so that wasn't the deal breaker for me).

The reason I've given two stars instead of one is the presentation - the packaging is great - and the accessories. There is an adaptor for using the earbuds in aeroplane seats, three different sizes of silicon covers for the earbuds, and a handy box that fits everything inside it. Although the small and the medium size silicon covers are very easy to get muddled up because they're not noticeably different - some kind of lettering/numbering would have been helpful!

I'm actually kind of confused about this product. As of posting this review someone else has already reviewed it, and found the sound crisp and clear. That wasn't my experience at all, but I don't see how it could simply be down to me not being used to earbuds since - as already mentioned - I got regular earbud users to test it out too. I guess I'll have to wait and see what other reviewers think.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2013 10:47 PM GMT

More Than This
More Than This
by Patrick Ness
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.79

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must. Have. Sequel., 23 Sep 2013
This review is from: More Than This (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's quite hard to write a proper review for this book. I managed to finish it in a day - a sure mark of how compelling it is. So why only four stars? I'm not good with ambiguous endings, or ones that are left unfinished. The fact that there doesn't seem to be any indication that Ness will be writing a sequel makes it worse! I'm just not one of those people who can accept that there might be more than one true ending (or that there isn't any true ending) to a particular story.

Apart from that, the book was a completely absorbing read. Having read the blurb I actually approached it thinking "a grittier 'The Lovely Bones'"? Very, very wrong. I won't say much about the plot except that whatever way you think it might go, it won't. Its direction is unexpected to say the least. If the book is at all flawed (apart from the aforementioned lack of resolution), it's that the concept it ends up with isn't particularly original. But the framing of it is.

The plot wouldn't work without the wonderful characters. You want to follow the protagonist, not simply because of the tragic event that begins the book but more because of the pain and the love driving him. And there are others who you'll feel for too, and want to laugh and cry for. Ness is excellent at capturing the thoughts and behaviour of people caught in situations no matter how unreal they are (or seem).

In summary - a book you'll either really enjoy (as I did) or absolutely love (which I sadly could not because I crave resolution). It may be classed as YA but, as with the title, it's more than that.

P.S. Love, love, LOVE the cover

Joby UltraFit Sling Camera Strap for Women
Joby UltraFit Sling Camera Strap for Women
Offered by Tech Tigers
Price: £29.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal, 17 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wouldn't go back to the usual neck-strap you get with a DSLR now that I've tried this.

The strap is wide and the arrangement of it means that the weight of the camera is distributed well. You might still start to get an achy shoulder after a while of using it on the move - but it's that or an even achier neck! The strap is fairly easy to re-adjust, and I find the most comfortable length is one which has the camera sitting on the hip. Though you won't get a bruised side if you leave the camera to its own devices as you're on the move, you might still want to keep a hand on it or the strap connecting to it, just to reduce the jogging. Also, though this is common sense, the camera can stick out a bit more when it's fixed to a side strap like this one, rather than on your chest, so be careful when you're amongst a crowd of people.

The strap connects to the camera with the same kind of screw used for tripods, so regular DSLR users shouldn't have any trouble. I've used the strap several times now while out on walks, and I've never had an incident where the screw has come loose.

Overall, you'll obviously still want some kind of travel bag for your camera for things like longer trips, but this is a great strap for days out, excursions and photo sessions.

Doctor Who: Series 7
Doctor Who: Series 7
Price: £13.66

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Consistently good but still needs a few more sparks of brilliance, 10 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Doctor Who: Series 7 (Audio CD)
No Doctor Who soundtrack has surpassed Series 5 yet, but that's a tall order since Series 5 was just so incredibly fantastic. In a way Series 6 and Series 7 have clung on to its coattails - and that's no bad thing. I'll never be able to get enough of Matt Smith's Doctor theme, however many new takes on it Murray Gold gives us.

I'll get the bad stuff out of the way first. I don't think the sheer quantity of tracks on the album is necessarily a good thing. The Series 1-2 and 3 soundtracks suffered a bit due to a lack of or the amalgamation of tracks, but I think Series 7 has taken it to the other extreme. We get a lot of incidental music, most notably in the 'Dinosaurs On A Spaceship' episode. Additionally the pacing of the album seems quite inconsistent - one or two episodes get just a single track on the album while others (including the aforementioned and fairly dreadful Dinosaurs episode) get a whole wad. However I can't complain too much, because the music from some of the other episodes is so strong. I barely noticed the music in the cowboy episode, but I love it on its own, and one track in particular, "Make Peace", has a cyberpunk edginess to it (I got more cyberpunk hints later on in the album too). I've love to hear more of this kind of inventiveness. Murray isn't afraid to be different, radical even, and mostly it works very well.

My favourite track, hands down, is 'Together Or Not At All'. It's the stand-out piece on this album, and probably helped by the fact that no other track comes close to equalling it. Clara's theme is lovely, but perhaps a bit too delicate to really pack a punch.

Whereas the Series 5 soundtrack was dazzling, I'd call Series 7 (and 6) 'sound' more than anything else. The album is consistently good, but apart from 'Together Or Not At All' lacks moments of sheer brilliance. I also felt that the album went out with not a bang but a whimper; the last track, 'Remember Me', is enjoyable, but doesn't soar and simply tapers away. To be honest I would've been very happy with a remix of 'I Am the Doctor'!

Still, I think we can expect great things from Murray Gold with the series 8 soundtrack which, unless you've been living under rock, you'll know will be the beginning of Peter Capaldi's tenure. What with Murray come up with next? I'm eagerly waiting to find out.

P.S. If I can't boast about this on an Amazon review, where can I? I was lucky enough to be sitting on the row in front of Murray Gold at 2013's Doctor Who Prom, and he was gracious enough to sign my programme for me - right on the vast expanse of his photograph's forehead. One awesome dude.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22l AW Bag for DSLR Camera - Galaxy Blue
Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22l AW Bag for DSLR Camera - Galaxy Blue
Price: £72.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love my new bag!, 6 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Being still fairly new to the world of DSLRs, this is my first camera-specific rucksack. So I can't compare it to others - but I'm certainly very pleased with it.

To start with, it looks good, and not like a typical camera bag. While some reviewers have said the big faded 'Lowepro' on the front might attract the attention of thieves, I think that it's nondescript-looking enough to avoid standing out. The padding on the back of the rucksack and the straps make it comfortable even when it's loaded to the brim, and there are straps for the stomach and upper-chest area to give a bit more support (though the upper-chest strap has not exactly been designed with women in mind...).

The lower half of the rucksack is the storage space for the camera body and lens. With the help of velcro, you can rearrange the padded sections as you like to store equipment of varying shapes and (some) sizes. It's perfect for me, with my Nikon D3200 with 55-300 mm lens attached and my smaller 18-55 mm lens. But this is the maximum it fits - photographers with more equipment can make use of the upper half of the rucksack too, but it's not as padded, so they may be better off getting a rucksack with more capacity. But certainly for someone like me, and probably for the typical day-tripper, the capacity is just right. The fact that the camera storage section also has to be opened from the back also makes it a bit more secure, if slightly less convenient in terms of access.

A removable divider splits the camera storage from the upper section of the rucksack. The upper section isn't terribly big, but adequate for a day's trip. What makes this rucksack truly versatile is that you can take the camera section out entirely, leaving you with an ordinary rucksack. I've already used it in this way for an over-nighter, and it fitted my laptop as well as my clothes etc.

It's fun exploring all the extra bits the rucksack has. A waterproof cover is folded into a pocket under the rucksack; there's a snug little neoprene pocket within the camera storage section to fit an SD card; there is a stretchy pocket on either side to store water bottles; and a few other zip pockets on the inside and outside.

To sum up, if you're a 'middling' DSLR photographer like me, with 1-2 lenses, this is a brilliant rucksack to buy. The price might be restrictive for some budgets, but it looks built to last.

Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire (Unnumbered Hardcover))
Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire (Unnumbered Hardcover))
by Naomi Novik
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely atrocious, 27 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first Temeraire novel enchanted me. I loved the characters, the humour, the world and all the detail of it.

How things change (warning: mild spoilers ahead, but nobody dies or anything. That would've been too interesting)

'Blood of Tyrants' is one of the most poorly constructed novels I've ever read. The story is disjointed, feeling more like 'minisodes' than one continuous plot. This didn't come as a massive shock for me. The previous books, after the high of the first one, were reasonably good, then became average and slightly disappointing, largely due to the formulaic plotting. Novik appears to have spent all her imagination on the world of the dragons and none of it elsewhere. It was inevitable really that she would resort to the trashy TV staple that is amnesia. And so 'Blood of Tyrants' begins with Captain Laurence washed up on a beach with - rather conveniently - no memories from the time onwards that he has known Temeraire.

After a brief and pointless whistle-stop tour of Japan (that's one more country ticked off the list!) we're whisked off to China. And I mean this almost literally. Here we encounter undoubtedly the most clumsy transition ever conceived of by an author. One moment Laurence and Temeraire are sailing between Japan and China; the next, Laurence is in a Chinese throne room and someone's thrown a bomb. I actually considered phoning up the publishers to check that I didn't have a defective copy of the book; not even the unbroken page numbers could assuage me of my confusion.

In the second minisode, we are treated to a tour of the Chinese countryside, some tedious political intrigue, and one or two pages of genuinely interesting aerial fight scenes (how gracious of the author). At this point Laurence suddenly gets his memories back, reinforcing the irritating fact that the amnesia ploy added absolutely nothing to the development of the plot or the characters.

With another sudden and awkward transition, we are transported to Russia. This is where the book reaches its zenith of tedium and boredom. Ninety percent of the last third of 'Blood of Tyrants' is centred around military men arguing at each other in tents. There's plenty of fighting, but it's always in the distance, or being relayed to us by thick wads of exposition. Simply, it reads like a dry history textbook that happens to mention dragons every now and then. I had to scan over a lot of these sections and even then my reading style, usually quick, was limping along desperately trying to get to the end of the book and have it over with. Of course, we were never going to get a proper ending - just a sudden halt to the war between Napoleon and Russia.

I will not be wasting my money on the final book. I care about the characters, but not THAT much.

Population 10 Billion
Population 10 Billion
by Daniel Dorling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A social scientist who should stay away from hard science, 18 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Population 10 Billion (Paperback)
As an environmentalist I've been of the opinion for a long time that there are simply too many of us, consuming too much. I'd love for it not to be true, to not be afraid of what future awaits the planet and our descendants, but while it has its moments Dorling's book hasn't reassured me in the least.

Population 10 Billion has one strength - the argument that income inequality is a major driver of population growth, and so by reducing income inequality we can decelerate population growth and ultimately stabilise it (although the evidence that income inequality is on the rise globally does put a dampener on this hope for me). But I found it odd how so much of the book is then devoted to deriding rich people and their ideals. I'm not sticking up for them, but I felt that far too much time was spent fixating on rich people when there are other issues related to population which needed, and in some cases did not get, attention.

Much of Dorling's belief that we don't need to be so worried about the effects of overpopulation is justified by his claims that consumption of various commodities and resources has already peaked or is about to, for example petrol or shop goods. Yet I think much of this supposed peaking can be owed to the economic problems which began in 2007 and continue to dog many countries' economies. If the 'good times' ever roll again, I expect we'll see a rise in consumption of these resources again. Elsewhere, when hard statistics aren't available, Dorling simply brushes aside concerns; on the subject of meat he rightly notes that many of us need to eat much less meat, but ends with "Luckily...increasing numbers of people are choosing to eat no meat at all" - if this is true, then even greater numbers of people are choosing to eat MORE meat, particularly in places like China.

Other environmental issues barely get a look in. Overfishing, one of the most pressing crises currently facing us, is mentioned by Dorling, with a quote added in from the brilliant work of Callum Roberts (author of Ocean of Life), but Dorling seems to have some kind of cognitive dissonance going on because he doesn't connect the issue at all to population, only remarking that aquaculture is increasing to fill the gap - a gross error given that aquaculture still relies on wild fish stocks. I'm pretty sure we can't blame rich people (themselves a tiny minority) for eating all the fish, and wasteful fishing practices are only one side of the story. Neither did Dorling satisfactorily address the use of inorganic fertilisers, which have managed to increase food yields phenomenally but at the cost of severe environmental degradation. No mention either of what'll happen if/when the availability of inorganic fertiliser decreases, and we still have so many mouths to feed!

Even more worryingly, there is a total absence of an examination of climate change and what it could mean for the human race in relation to population. Dorling pays the occasional lip-service to "human-induced climate change" and does at the end of the book say we should be worried about it, but yet again he fails to connect the dots. There is no mention of what climate change might mean for water scarcity and the resulting effect on a large (and still growing) human population, or land availability or any of other resources which are necessary to provide our needs, or climate refugees.

I'm also a bit dubious of some of Dorling's 'science'; he describes a time during our distant past when we lived as hunter-gatherers, where due to the inconvenience of caring for an infant while following migrating herds of reindeer we would routinely leave newborn babies behind to die. This simply doesn't make sense in evolutionary terms, considering the amount of energy and risk involved in gestation and childbirth. Elsewhere, while Dorling gives us the impression that he really is concerned about the environment, he seems to think that diverting oil into making plastic rather than fuelling our cars is a good thing! (Definitely not when you consider how long it takes for plastic to degrade, and the catastrophic effects it has on our ocean systems).

Dorling's overall message is "Relax - things will probably sort themselves out". But this is a monumental gamble to take, considering that the well-being and indeed the future of our species is at stake. Furthermore Dorling distracts from his own central argument that income inequality drives population with a largely irrelevant veer towards rich-bashing, to the point that he seems to isolate wealthy people into a new species, while every person on the planet who doesn't have lots of money is somehow 'noble', and only desires what they need rather than what they want. It's a lovely view, but simply untrue. Most people if given the chance will consume as much as they can, even to the detriment of the environment. And while Dorling tries to provide evidence of people in the developed changing their behaviour to reduce their consumption (for example people in the UK decreasing their water use by 1% between 2007-2010 - wow!), these are minuscule changes barely worth celebrating, considering how much people - particularly those in the developing world and not only the rich - consume. Major behavioural change is required of us all and I don't think Dorling has fully recognised this. I would also have liked to see Dorling discuss the relationship between population and employment. He tells us we need to cut down on things like buying clothes - no disagreement from me there - but he doesn't consider the knock-on effect this would have on unemployment, particularly in the developing world where so many industries get their labour force from. For example, several times I have read commentators and authors (most recently Shereen El Feki, who wrote Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World) attribute much of the tragic political instability in Egypt to there being a huge youth bulge but no corresponding availability of jobs.

Dorling uses the analogy of a car in motion, with the natural deceleration of population growth being the equivalent of depressing the brake. But I'd argue that this isn't braking; more like just taking a foot off the accelerator. The car could still crash. We still urgently need to scrutinise the relationship between overconsumption and overpopulation, and do everything we can to ensure that population growth stops - through long-term changes like educating women, establishing stable state institutions to provide welfare in old age, and preventing treatable diseases, and through more immediate changes such as family planning and widespread availability of contraception. Time will tell if places where population is still growing at an alarming rate will see a slowdown, but it may not be enough to simply hope for it.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2014 4:55 PM BST

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