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Reviews Written by
J. Mcdonald "Yelochre" (Glasgow, UK)

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H2D iR Ionic and Infrared Professional Hair Dryer
H2D iR Ionic and Infrared Professional Hair Dryer
Price: £77.50

4.0 out of 5 stars H2D Ionic and Infrared Hairdryer., 19 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This professional standard hairdryer certainly looks the business, arriving in a black presentation box with a moulded insert holding the unit body, attachments and tangle brush.

I have short hair myself, but it tends to frizz and take a set when drying, so any product that claims to dry hair gently, quickly and without damage is certainly of interest to me. Another family member has long, fine hair which can become brittle if the dryer is too hot, so we both tried it out over the course of 10 days.
The hairdryer is a sturdy - and fairly heavy - unit with a hard plastic body, a good long substantial power cable with a three point plug on the end and three switches on the handle; there are three heat settings and five speeds which require a little experimentation to find, as different combinations of the two lower switches are used to control them. A single button switch produces a cold blast which is intended for style setting.
Generally, we both found the bright glowing infrared setting a little too strong; the instruction booklet warns that the attachments should only be used with the lowest speed and heat settings and that was generally the most satisfactory solution for us both.
The drier was certainly as efficient as we could hope for and seemed to dry both gently and thoroughly; whether this was down to the ionic generator or not I can`t really say, but we were both pleased with the results.
My only criticisms are that it is both heavy and bulky (though its fast drying time means it doesn't require extended use) and once an attachment was put on it was the very devil to get it off again, but these are relatively minor points.

A good product then, but the asking price is a rather high; if you are into styling, have long hair and/or family members who are likely to give it good regular use it may be worth considering.

Facing the Music
Facing the Music
by Tim Thorogood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Facing the Music., 17 Sep 2014
This review is from: Facing the Music (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this debut novel from Tim Thorogood thoroughly enjoyable and engaging.

It has a well-constructed plot covering the events over some three days as widower Gary Cochrane, his teenage children and their friends camp over at the Glastonbury festival. Thorogood uses the device of beginning with an episode late in the story and presenting part of the tale in flashback; Gary's thoughts also provide much of the back-story as run-up to the present happenings - but are things quite as his memories and perceptions seem?
The writing style is straightforward, entertaining and easy-going; the characters well-drawn and believably flawed; the teenagers are suitably surly, moody and rebellious, Gary and the other adults both exasperated and exasperating - we see things through Gary's eyes throughout, the twists and revelations as he realises them. This was a very effective strategy and it held my attention right to the end.
The atmosphere and ambience of the big out-door festival is - I think - nicely conveyed, though I admit I've never been to it myself.

The novel was a fairly quick, engrossing read and I'm happy to recommend it as such.

Grillo: Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years 1946-1948 (Art Design Styles from C 1960)
Grillo: Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years 1946-1948 (Art Design Styles from C 1960)
by Susan Landauer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £34.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Grillo: Abstract Expressionism: the Formative Years., 14 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
John Grillo has been neatly excised from most histories of Abstract Expressionism, mainly because (a) his most seminal work (which is presented in this volume) was made during the three years he spent in California and (b) when he eventually moved to New York, he was not recognised as one of the select group who were promoted as the leading lights of the movement.
It didn't help either that he eventually turned to Expressionist Figuration.

This volume will help redress the balance a little; a beautifully presented hardback, it contains 60 full-colour, full-page illustrations of his remarkable gouache and watercolour abstracts - the first true action paintings, anticipating New York trends and influencing many painters in the San Francisco Bay Area.
There are a few brief texts included which provide a little background and context to the work.

This is the first volume of three that at last present all the phases of Grillo`s work; it really should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Abstract Expressionist painting.
Highly recommended.

Heli [DVD]
Heli [DVD]
Dvd ~ Armando Espitia
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Heli, 13 Sep 2014
This review is from: Heli [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Mexican film is certainly not easy viewing and despite being technically crafted and beautifully filmed, it is a drab and disturbing experience.

Heli is a decent young man, the head of a household which includes his wife, baby son, his sister and father; when the sister's naive cadet boyfriend tries to steal from a corrupt federal police unit, Heli and his sister fall into the hands of the local drug-gang; what follows is a harrowing sequence of events which changes their lives forever and will seriously challenge the viewer with its depictions of sadistic violence - be warned - this is a raw, upsetting film almost from the outset and it's bleakness doesn't let up at any point throughout.
With it's theme of innocents being sucked into the activities of the criminal and corrupt, it explores similar territory to a film like "Miss Bala"(2011), but while that film was fast-paced and wider in scope, "Heli" is painfully slow and has an isolated small-town setting; together with the naturalistic cinematic style it has an almost claustrophobic intensity which emphasises the sense of frustration and helplessness confronting Heli as he pieces his life back together and determines to try and seek out his tormentors.
The film runs for 1 hr. 40 mins.; extras are a 44 min. "behind the scenes" documentary, which provides background to the largely first-time acting cast, and a 6 min. Q&A with director Amat Escalante which is a little more illuminating.

I can't recommend this without the caveats mentioned above; it is a well-made and hard-hitting film, but not for the faint-of-heart - it isn't something you'll want to view again in a hurry.

The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath
The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath
by Jane Robins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Magnificent Spilsbury., 7 Sep 2014
I found this to be an engrossing and informative read.

Jane Robins does three things in this book rather well; she re-examines the career of Bernard Spilsbury, reassessing his reputation and considering his contribution to the role of forensic pathology in the first part of the 20th century; she gives an excellently narrated account of the "Brides in the Bath" murders - the case that consolidated Spilsbury`s standing and brought him to public notice, and throughout the book she presents a wealth of historical detail providing a context for the modern reader which helps explain the social conditions, mores and position of women from the Edwardian era, on into the period of the First World War.
Robins - I think - treats Spilsbury with respect but is not afraid to question some aspects of his reputation; there is no doubt that he heralded in a new appreciation for scientific evidence and a fresh approach to crime investigation, but she also questions his working methods and objectivity, which I think is fair - I for one, feel that the Crippen case may well have been a miscarriage of justice.
The historical background she provides also makes it easier for the modern reader to understand how a rather weasel-like character like Smith was able to carry out his crimes, the social vulnerability women suffered due to the male/female population imbalance - and at a time before the further depletion of men of marriageable age due to the war.

There are probably better and more specific studies on both Spilsbury and this particular murder case available, but as a useful introduction for the casual reader this is a very good, recommendable book.

Bononcini: Luci Barbare
Bononcini: Luci Barbare
Price: £22.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Bononcini: "Luci Barbare"., 4 Sep 2014
This review is from: Bononcini: Luci Barbare (Audio CD)
Bononcini was a contemporary of Handel and for the few years he stayed in London the two men were - presumably - friendly rivals, as both had operas staged in turn (together with a few other composers) at the newly formed Royal Academy of Music.
Bononcini was an exponent of the Arcadian style of Italian opera, Handel the high dramatic.

It is very much that pastoral, Arcadian approach that is on display in the music on this CD; six works are presented running thus:

Trio Sonata No.2 in g minor
Cantata: Misero Pastorello
Duetto: Si fugga, si sprezzi
Trio Sonata no.9 in b minor
Cantata: Il Lamento d`Olimpia
Duetto: Luci Barbare

Each cantata begins with a Preludio: Affettuoso followed by a sprightly Allegro, then a recitativo, aria, a second recit. and a final aria.

The first cantata concerns a shepherd far from his cabin as night falls; his aria expresses his worry about succumbing to the cold as he sleeps on a rock, but as the dawn rises he sings of the joy of his return to his home and companions.
The duetto which follows is a good natured argument between two lovers about the positives and negatives of love.
Separated by a Trio Sonata, the second cantata on the disc sees Olimpia wake to find her lover has departed from her; she sings a lament as her first aria, takes time to think about it in her recitative, then pours her scorn on him in her second aria (Handel would have had her spitting fire, but Bononcini resolves things quite admirably in his own way).
The final duetto celebrates the joy of faithful lovers.

The running of the programme on the CD is very much how works like this would have been presented; Bononcini was celebrated for his duetti and they would have been paired with his cantatas in this manner (this isn't mentioned in the sleeve note, my source for this information is Donald Burrows` excellent book on Handel).

The performers are soprano Monique Zanetti, (you may know her from recordings with William Christie) who is never less than a delight to listen to, and counter-tenor Pascal Bertin, another excellent voice (I know him from the jazz vocal group Indigo).
Fons Musicae are an early-music group, a quintet made up of two baroque violins, viola da gamba and two theorbos; the group have added authentic ornamentations to their performances throughout the disc and provide an exemplary accompaniment to the voices.
The music is - of course - Italianate, very tuneful and characterised by Bononcini`s penchant for letting the voices weave around each other with just the bass continuo; the violins interjecting in appropriate fashion. There is a beautiful clarity to the sound as befits chamber music of this type.
Full texts in Italian and English are included.

This is a very pleasurable CD of unfamiliar baroque music; there really is nothing to dislike, it's only fault being that the 61 min. playing time is over all too soon.
A lovely, recommendable find.

Leitz Style A5 Soft Cover Ruled Notebook - Titan Blue
Leitz Style A5 Soft Cover Ruled Notebook - Titan Blue
Price: £22.09

3.0 out of 5 stars Leitz Style A5 Notebook., 3 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a fairly decent notebook and I have no issue with it as a functional product; I do however agree with the majority of reviewers on this page that it is very expensive for what it is.

Some issues; there are 80 pages, 100gsm (which is about the same weight as average cartridge paper) and although it is FSC certified - i.e. environmentally friendly, this indicates it is a wood-pulp paper; that being the case, there is no labelling to indicate if the paper is acid-free; wood-pulp papers - unless treated - contain acid which over time turns the paper yellow and causes deterioration - I would have expected an expensive product like this to carry such a label and be of reliable archive quality. The binding isn`t particularly sound either - with my product sample the spine of the cover is already separating from the paper block.
Verified, acid-free A5 ruled notebooks with three times the number of pages and stitched binding can be found for £7 - £10 in high street stationers - so why buy this?
I tend to use unruled notebooks myself - a Seawhite Classic artist's journal, A5 has 128 pages 130gsm cartridge, acid-free with a similar pocket and elastic retaining band; I get them for £4.49.

Properly priced, the Leitz is probably okay for general use but the current £22+ is ridiculously uncompetitive.

Jim Dine (Modern Masters)
Jim Dine (Modern Masters)
by Jean E. Feinberg
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Jim Dine (Modern Masters), 31 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's good to find that this book is still in print and available.

Dine is one of the most underrated artists to emerge from the Pop Art era and he has consistently followed his own path; a multi-disciplined artist, he has made his mark in painting, print-making, photography, sculpture and performance.
His photography isn't represented here; the Abbeville series are all rather dated - this was published in 1995 – and none of the volumes have been revised; this is nevertheless a good solid introduction to Dine`s work. There are 125 illustrations, 55 in colour; of particular note is a rather good selection of his drawings which I know from experience have impacted on many artists who work figuratively; there is a chapter devoted to this aspect of his work.
The texts are generally good and informative with notes on technique and artist's statements at the back – the standard format for the series.

A very worthwhile book, both for those who know of the artist and those curious to learn about him.

Misty Morning and No Time
Misty Morning and No Time
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £14.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Misty Morning and No Time., 30 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was saxophonist Tommy Smith's second album recorded for the Linn label in 1994 and featured a commissioned suite based on the poems of fellow Scot Norman McCaig.

Smith's regular group at that time, the trio Forward Motion (Terje Gewelt - bass, Ian Froman - drums) – was joined here by Guy Barker – trumpet, Julian Arguelles – alto/soprano saxes and Steve Hamilton - piano.
The piece consists of 14 tracks with an overall playing time of just over 69 mins.
There are four fully-written pieces placed throughout the suite, but the majority of the tracks consist of the fairly standard set-up of themes, ensemble passages and soloing; this is good, serious British modern jazz of the period, post-bop in nature and with some very good writing and arranging in evidence. There are some driving, imaginative tracks and a nice variety of moods are featured throughout. Performances are of the highest standard as one would expect from such a line-up; given that this was Smith`s first jazz suite (he had already written two classical pieces by this time) the result is a mature and well-considered piece.

This is a very fine album, certainly recommendable on the terms I have stated.

Cthulhu: Dark Fantasy, Horror & Supernatural Movies (Gothic Dreams)
Cthulhu: Dark Fantasy, Horror & Supernatural Movies (Gothic Dreams)
by Gordon Kerr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Cthulhu (Gothic Dreams)., 29 Aug 2014
This is another book in the Gothic Dreams series of square format paperback volumes from Flame Tree.

It follows a standard formula of brief, read-in-an-hour texts dealing with - in this case - the phenomena and influence of the Cthulhu myth inspired by H. P. Lovcraft`s seminal tales; the author looks at literature, film, games, comic-book/graphic novels and popular culture.
I found much of it pretty lightweight, nothing explored in-depth - but I expect that most people will buy it for the illustrations - there are inspired images, some film-stills and excellent graphic work on every page; this is the main selling point of the series.

Though the subject matter is a little limited compared to other GD titles, this is a worthwhile little book to have if your taste runs to horror/science fiction illustrations.
Do check out the "look inside" option if it's available.

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