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Bee of Good Cheer (England)
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PhotoDirector 4 (PC/Mac)
PhotoDirector 4 (PC/Mac)
Price: £39.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for going beyond the basics (but not too far...), 28 Feb 2013
This review is from: PhotoDirector 4 (PC/Mac) (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After some hiccups with the installation (first it wouldn't, then it tried to install it in triplicate) I eventually got the programme up and running on my laptop running Windows 7, whereupon it promptly asked me to register and to download an update. New our for review software and I have to update? Hmm...

However, once these trifling delays had passed, it was straight into the photo manipulation. The little manual included with the disc is straightforward and walks you through the main features, and to be honest, it's enough, even if you've never really used anything like this before. I'm an occasional user of Photoshop CS5 (usually dragged kicking and screaming to it, my main programme from that suite is InDesign) so although not a beginner, I'm certainly no expert.

I would imagine most people will skip through the adjusting channels section and go to the "beautifying people" bit - but the facility is there, and as effective as some of the leading top-end programmes. The effects you can apply to people can be as subtle or as obvious as you like, and are easy to get the hang of - usefully, as you adjust brush size, you can see the area it covers, taking out some of the guess work. The skill I've found with photo re-touching isn't what you do, but how you do it - you might want to practice your mousing technique!

Some of the "whole image" effects you can apply are a little harsh and gimmicky, but some people will no doubt get use out of them.

One of the interesting things you can try and do is remove unwanted background objects - wires, poles, people, for example. I've had mixed results, but it does work well on occasion, I think again it's more my technique and ambition that's to blame.

Good value, a good step up from freebie/included with camera software but possibly not for the pros.


Close to the Bone (Logan McRae, Book 8)
Close to the Bone (Logan McRae, Book 8)
by Stuart MacBride
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Close to excellent - but not quite., 28 Feb 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've followed Logan MacRae from the earliest days - well, with an interest in contemporary Scottish crime fiction and a personal connection to Aberdeen, the location of the series, it was going to be pretty much inevitable.

MacBride is often bracketed between such Tartan Noir luminaries as Ian Rankin and Christopher Brookmyre, and to a large extent, he does fall firmly between them. McBride's novels aren't the gritty social commentary/police procedurals that are Rankin's Rebus novels, bur neither are they the satire and violent slapstick of many of Brookmyre's, but they are somewhere in the (granite) grey ground inbetween. This is an increasingly uncomfortable place for this reviewer, however.

There is a good, taut, complex thriller in this novel, which focuses on obsession, fandom, identity - all good stuff. The story also uses as a plot device those (incredibly successful) vampire franchises and the fans they collect - and the humour is gentle, knowing, friendly. As a target for satire, it would be too easy, and MacBride shows restraint.

However, restraint goes out of the window when it comes to DI Steel. Always larger than life, she has become a bloated caricature and whilst the banter between her and McRae is very funny, the relationship between them (and between the rest of the force and those they come in touch with) just isn't terribly realistic.

So - an excellent, tense and nicely convoluted (if brutal) crime novel mixed with comic relief which is just too broad and unsubtle. It's worth reading, but the series is getting a little less rewarding as it goes on. 3.5 stars, really.


What To Do When There's Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day
What To Do When There's Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day
by Laura Stack
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.44

3.0 out of 5 stars Simple advice but a little lacking, 28 Feb 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's some good basic advice in this thin little book, but if you've read any other time management books, or been on a course, then there's nothing new here that you won't have heard before about organising, delegating, prioritising and sorting your tasks. Or at least your office based tasks - this book won't help you sort the rest of your life out. And it probably won't help if you're not in a position where you can move tasks onto other people.

Some of the advice verges on the patronising - for example, marking email as "junk" or unsubscribing from mailing lists you don't read, but on the whole it is sensible stuff. But sorry, not life changing, and I can't see anyway of the tips gaining you 90 minutes a day, every day.


The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed
The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed
by Judith Flanders
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great window into the Victorian house, 24 Jan 2013
I thought this book was fascinating on so many levels. The author wrote in an accessible and engaging style, the scholarship was worn lightly, and I loved the footnotes.

The attitudes of the Victorians towards women and cleanliness were intriguing and frightening in equal measure - I'm glad I was born in 1969 and not 1869! It's also interesting to see how many of them hang over into the present time.

I only have a couple of criticisms - the book was very London-centric, and middle class biased - although that is perhaps inevitable given the use of documentary sources.


Altered Land
Altered Land
by Jules Hardy
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars What happens when your world falls apart, 24 Jan 2013
This review is from: Altered Land (Paperback)
An unusual book - very down to earth about what could have been a sensational event. It's a book about what happens when your world falls apart and how you put it together again ... and again ... and again...

The characters were delicately drawn and relationships realistically depicted. I did like the use of narrative, flashbacks, diary entries and so on but I didn't think it came off entirely successfully - Joan and John's narrative voices were a little too similar for me - although that's perhaps the point? I would have liked Ian and Ellen to have been given their own voices as well. And the explanation about Joan's source of wealth (financial acumen) somehow didn't ring true either ...


The Love Hexagon
The Love Hexagon
by William Sutcliffe
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately fluff ... but fun while it lasts, 24 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Love Hexagon (Paperback)
Chick lit style stuff, but from a bloke. Mildly amusing, well written, good characterisations, easy to read but ultimately fluff ... nowt wrong wi' that!


Say it with Poison (A Mitchell & Markby Mystery)
Say it with Poison (A Mitchell & Markby Mystery)
by Ann Granger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Traditional whodunnit, 24 Jan 2013
A whodunnit with some traditional elements - village setting, a Vicarage, an amateur sleuth - brought somewhat up to date.
Light and easy to read, the heroine is sympathetic although oddly unemotional.


Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
by Amanda Foreman
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars What a frustrating subject!, 24 Jan 2013
Well written in a lively and accessible style, backed with good research and a real feel for the period. What a shame that Georgiana was such a foolish and unlikeable person! I'm sorry, I just couldn't finish the book because she irritated me so much (so full marks to Foreman for characterisation!) - Georgiana's inability to learn from past mistakes would have seemed unbelievable in a fictional work!


Missing Joseph (Inspector Lynley)
Missing Joseph (Inspector Lynley)
by Elizabeth George
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but doesn't feel original, 24 Jan 2013
Well written (although there are sometimes anachronisms due to the American author using a British setting). I'm beginning to find her books a bit samey, but as a one at a time read, quite a good bed time book ...


Daughters of Jerusalem
Daughters of Jerusalem
by Charlotte Mendelson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating, 24 Jan 2013
This review is from: Daughters of Jerusalem (Paperback)
I found this tough going as - although humourous in places - I didn't find any of the characters were actually very likeable. Each of the Lux family were so wrapped up in themselves and their problems that they ignored the other family members or completely misunderstood them. I guess if you like black (sort of) comedies set in academia, this might appeal, but I felt slightly disappointed and frustrated with it.


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