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C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK)
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Medela B-Well Bottle Warmer for Newborn (Yellow)
Medela B-Well Bottle Warmer for Newborn (Yellow)

4.0 out of 5 stars Does The Job But Takes A While, 11 Dec. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Medela B-Well Bottle Warmer is a nice, safe way to warm milk for babies as long as you're not under any time constraints.

Its easy to use, with a simple four stage process to set everything going. It can take a bit of trial and error to choose precisely the right settings, but once you get the hang of it then it only takes a minute to set the warmer up. Its also small enough to be easy to store and relatively easy to keep clean

The only downside to the warmer is the speed at which it operates. For example warming 150ml of milk will take several minutes, which is fine if your doing a planned feed and you have ample preparation time. However if you're dealing with a screaming child in the middle of the night and speed is of the essence then waiting for the Medela to do its thing will not necessarily be your first option (the trusty microwave will probably fulfil that role).

For planned feeds however, the Medela is probably the best option as it warms evenly and to the correct temperature. It will also keep liquid at a stable temperature for up to twenty minutes, which can be useful if for some reason you're not able to immediately get baby and bottle together. There's even a cooling option and it will also warm baby food, although I haven't tried either of those settings yet.

Overall its a nice piece of kit to have and use when circumstances allow, and certainly beats the hassle of putting bottles in pans or bowls of hot water.


Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons
Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons
by Mick Inkpen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.69

4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Counting Book For Little Ones, 11 Dec. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Anyone familiar with Mick Inkpen's series of Wibbly Pig or Kipper books will know what to expect here; a nicely illustrated, easy to read story that promotes learning in small children without being too obvious about it.

Wibbly Pig has 10 Balloons is a fun way to introduce or reinforce basic counting skills. It also offers some nice lessons about sharing and looking after your belongings.

Like a lot of children's books its written in verse, but don't expect rhyming on Gruffalo/Julia Donaldson levels. Whilst Mick Inkpen is a talented illustrator and his stories are entertaining, verse is not his strong suit. Half way through this book for example, he seems to give up on it entirely before returning to it at the end.

Then again this is a book that is very much aimed at small children. Its not one of those books that will 'entertain child and parent alike'. I enjoy reading it with my son because he enjoys it; not because it works on multiple levels that appeal to both of us.

So overall Wibbly Pig Has 10 Balloons is a nicely illustrated children's book that entertains and educates, but not much more than that.


The Pure
The Pure
Price: £2.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fundamentally Flawed, 30 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Pure (Kindle Edition)
The Pure is not a bad book; indeed for much of its length it has all the makings of a pretty decent thriller. As you would expect from a professional print journalist Jake Simons prose is generally sound, even if he tries a bit too hard and unsuccessfully to achieve the profound now and again. The plot, at least in the early stages, feels fresh and contemporary (although the references to Wikileaks already feels dated and a detour to Syria no longer works in light of recent events there). The espionage aspects of book aren't too implausible to begin with. Overall it holds the attention, entertains and makes you want to know where its going.

Unfortunately, two thirds of the way through three fundamental flaws in the book emerge that sink it entirely. The first flaw is the central relationship that forms between Uzi, the book's hero, and Liberty, a female American drug-lord and ex-CIA agent. We're supposed to see this as a grand romance that can conquer cultural, political and religious differences and change those involved on a fundamental level, but it never comes across as that. It is developed too hastily and the passionate connection the two are supposed to have never leaps off the page. Without that many of the events that follow fail to really ring true.

The second flaw is that the key plot twist, not revealed until the book's final twenty pages, becomes glaringly obvious about two-thirds of the way through to anyone who has read a decent number of thrillers or watched any number of spy movies. Once you're aware of what's really happening much of what follows becomes predictable and therefore much less thrilling.

Finally, once you can see the twist coming then certain aspects of the plot become utterly non-sensical. For example Uzi 'discovers' something about someone that apparently comes as a complete shock but that you realise he really he should have known all along. His actions in this circumstance and others make less and less sense once you realise what is really going on and as a result plausibility is quickly lost. The situation not helped any further by the inclusion of some implausible action sequences, including a ridiculous motor-bike chase through central London. In fact, looking back once I'd finished the whole of The Pure I became aware that if you think about the whole story too much none of it really adds up, which is not good for a thriller of this sort. The odd minor plot hole is one thing, but The Pure has ones you can drive a coach and horses through and they're pretty obvious too.

So not a terrible book, but one that slowly falls apart under the weight of its own implausibilities and some very suspect plotting.


The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar)
The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar)
by Tad Williams
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Idea But Waaaaay Too Long, 12 Nov. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Before picking up 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' (TDSOH) I had never read a book by Tad Williams. I was vaguely aware of his work, but had never felt a desire to try any of it. Having finally finished TDSOH I can't say that feeling has changed.

TDSOH is essentially a urban-fantasy noir-ish detective story where the twist is that the 'PI' is an Angel and many of the characters involved are creatures of either Heaven or Hell. Set in the fictitious but contemporary city of San Judas, on the San Francisco Bay, the book is narrated by Bobby Dollar. Bobby is an Angel on earth and defender of recently departed souls on behalf of Heaven. As the story unfolds he also becomes amateur sleuth, investigating why some souls appear to be vanishing before they can be judged and dispatched to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. As with all film-noir detectives Bobby is cynical, world weary, beaten up, disillusioned and anti-authoritarian. Think a contemporary Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon but with wings.

At least I think that's what Tad Williams would like readers to imagine. Everything about the books screams out that it wants to offer a new, fantastical spin on classic detective motifs, from the seedy bar where the hero and all his friends hang-out, through the (literally) ice-cold femme-fatale, to the outwardly respectable but inwardly dastardly big boss with his lantern jawed henchmen. They and many other are all there, and many of them are interesting twists on old concepts and work very well.

Unfortunately the whole book suffers from two fatal flaws. The first is Williams writing style, which simply doesn't suit the genre he's trying to work in. Crime-noir needs to be punchy and hard edged, just like its protagonists. Dialogue and narrative both need to rattle along with the rat-a-tat tempo of a machine-gun. Prose needs to be spare and to-the-point. By comparison Williams writes like many fantasy authors; using three words when two would do. Brevity and conciseness are not his strong point. His dialogue doesn't fizz and the pace of the plot is just too slack.

He then compounds his error by giving the story too much flab. There is simply too much going on in the book. Detective stories require twists, double-crosses and blind alleys, but there are too many here. There are also too many incidental and unnecessary characters within the story, none of whom contribute anything but an extended page count. An example would be two ghosts who crop up in one lengthy scene. Its a nice concept and well executed, but adds nothing to the plot. It just slows the narrative down even further.

Overall TDSOH should have been half the length it actually is. It looks and feels like a typical-doorstep fantasy novel when it needs to be a far slimmer affair.

When I compare it to works by other writers working in the same genre it suffers by comparison, which is the book's other key flaw. If I compare it to Jim Butcher's Dresden series, even the early ones such as Storm Front: The Dresden Files Book One it doesn't even come close stylistically or in terms of plot and character. Butcher got the whole hard-boiled detective style spot on from the word go. The early Dresden novels are first and foremost great detectives stories with fantastical elements. Only once he had established the character of Dresden and his world did he begin to expand the books' scope and plots, but he has always maintained that hard-boiled style. Williams by comparison never offers up that same edge and tries to do to much world building too soon, burying the central plot in unnecessary detail and action and leaving it struggling for room to breathe.

The result is a book that is too long and struggled to hold my interest as its story went around in circles. There are other problems too, such as the whodunnit element being too obvious to anyone who has every read a detective story, plot holes you can drive a car through and some fantastical concepts that really don't work or are poorly explained, and when you compare it to works by the likes of Jim Butcher or Ben Aaronovitch it comes across as a second-rate effort.

Tad Williams may be a decent author when writing in his usual genres, but based on TDSOH urban-fantasy noir is simply not his strong suit. Having only just managed to finish this first Bobby Dollar adventure I will definitely not be returning for the next in the series.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2013 11:32 AM BST


The Highway Rat
The Highway Rat
by Julia Donaldson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner From Donaldson and Scheffler, 2 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Highway Rat (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you're familiar with any of Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler's other books, such as the Gruffalo or Room on the Broom, then you'll know what to expect with The Highway Rat; intelligent, witty verse combined with colourful illustrations to make a book that appeals to children whilst keeping adults entertained too.

If this is the first Donaldson and Scheffler book you've considered then it isn't a bad one to choose. It will appeal more to older children, with Gruffalo or the Smartest Giant In Town better for younger ones (certainly my son of two and a half prefers those) but its still a great book. Its also got a nice edge to it. The Highway Rat himself is genuinely boo-hissable, but without being too frightening. His punishment is properly severe without the need for violence, and he is ultimately redeemed in a way that will appeal to younger readers.

Of the half a dozen books by the same author owned by my family this probably rates second after The Snail and the Whale, and is easily on a par with Stick Man and Tiddler.

Highly recommended.


Jigsaw Books - On the Mover: 5 Jigsaw Puzzles (Jigsaw Boards)
Jigsaw Books - On the Mover: 5 Jigsaw Puzzles (Jigsaw Boards)
by Igloo Books Ltd
Edition: Board book

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Not Child Proof, 28 Sept. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The idea of this book/jigsaw hybrid is a good one; multiple, repeatable puzzles in one single, easy to transport package. The jigsaws themselves are good; colourful, interesting and difficult enough to challenge my two and a half year-old without being utterly impossible.

The only real problem is the book's resilience, and unfortunately its quite a big one. First the materials used to make the jigsaw pieces, card, is not tough enough to withstand the abuse heaped upon them by a small child. A bit of chewing, sucking, throwing and general manhandling and they begin to fall apart. After a little under two weeks of heavy use and several pieces are bent to the point that they no longer fit with surrounding pieces and others have lost part of their pictures.

The second problem is that there is no way to securely affix the pieces into the pages of the book. That means that seconds after little fingers have picked it up pretty much every piece has fallen out, leading rapidly to lost pieces. Only when every puzzle is entirely complete do they just about stay in place as you turn the pages, but if pieces are missing or misshaped they tumble out easily. After a while it becomes somewhat frustrating and also removes one of the book's selling points; ease of transportation. Velcro or magnetic backing would have been so much better.

So a nice idea well presented but not brilliantly executed. Considering the target audience it needs to be far more robust.


War Lord (Vin Cooper Book 5)
War Lord (Vin Cooper Book 5)
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Typical Action Hero, 24 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
War Lord is the fifth novel by David Rollins to feature Special Agent Vin Cooper, and only the second one after Ghost Watch to get a decent release in the UK in both e-book and printed formats. Its not necessary to have read any of the previous books before picking up War Lord, but I would recommend doing so anyway. Not only do they provide more insight into Cooper's personal history, they are also highly entertaining thrillers.

I discovered Cooper and Rollins purely by accident when I bought a copy of Cooper's debut adventure, The Death Trust, for my Kindle on a whim. I have since read every book in the series and consider them to be some of the most enjoyable contemporary thrillers out there. Even the weakest entry, Hard Rain: A Vin Cooper Novel 3, has a huge amount going for it.

Those strengths are also prevalent in War Lord, including, most importantly, originality. Whilst the Vin Cooper novels are all ostensibly military thrillers they don't read like your typical 'guys n' guns' action spectacular. In fact they seem to revel in inverting stereotypes and playing with expectations.

Take the character of Cooper himself, for example. If you're used to the handsome, stoic but troubled warrior character prevalent in so many modern thrillers and by now something of a cliche, then Cooper may come as something of a surprise. Yes, when push comes to shove he's pretty handy in a fight (but by no means superhuman and willing to play dirty if that's what it takes) but otherwise he's a breath of fresh air. Irreverent, anti-authoritarian, dishevelled and sarcastic, he's the polar opposite of the likes of Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp or Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon. Yes, he has a few emotional skeletons in his closet, including a dead ex-girlfriend, but Rollins doesn't allow them to dominate and define the character. He remains a charming, wisecracking, risk taking womaniser who sort of stumbles into situations and then sort of fumbles his way through them. Underneath he's got some depth and an innate sense of honour but outwardly he's a lackadaisical slacker constantly one step away from being drummed out of the US Air Force. Ice cold assassin or super cool secret agent he isn't and War Lord is all the more entertaining for that reason.

As with the previous books Cooper also acts as the book's first person narrator, which again gives it a very different feel to other military or spy thrillers. In War Lord the almost Chandler-esque narration gives the book the feel of an espionage novel crossed with a hard-boiled detective story. Throw in some mobsters, a Vegas showgirl or two and enough plot twists to confound Micky Spillane and the mix is complete.

That doesn't mean there isn't enough action to keep adrenalin junkies happy. Anyone who's read Ghost Watch can attest to the fact that Rollins is a good writer of action. Whilst War Lord is a different sort of thriller in terms of focus and subject matter, it still packs a punch when it comes to action.

Of course there are a few flaws here and there in the book. The labyrinthine plotting does get away from Rollins a little bit by the end. The fate of one character, kidnapped by the bad guys, makes no logical sense. The whole kidnapping feels shoehorned in to up the personal stakes for Cooper towards the end. Also some of the minor plot threads are tied up so perfunctorily that its hard to keep up with what actually happened amidst all the other activity.

Rollins also finds time to slip a couple of the now obligatory 'Cooper Get's Laid' scenes that pepper all the books. Whilst I don't have a problem with the rather graphic sex some readers might, and even I felt that the second sex scene was entirely redundant in terms of the plot.

Still the complaints are minor and easily outweighed by the positives. Here's hoping for more Vin Cooper adventures very soon, and if you haven't yet given one a try and you're looking for a military thriller that definitely isn't run of the mill I can recommend War Lord or any of the other books in this series


Redemption: (Ryan Drake 1)
Redemption: (Ryan Drake 1)
by Will Jordan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Vanilla Thriller, 11 Sept. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Will Jordan's 'Redemption' is not a bad book. Its competently written, reasonably well paced and full of action and incident. If you're in the market for a straight forward, 'what-you-expect-is-what-you-get' contemporary espionage thriller then it will probably satisfy.

The problem is that I could say the same about dozens of novels written by the likes of Vince Flynn, Andy McNab, Chris Ryan and numerous others. What Will Jordan's debut lacks is anything unique that makes it stand out. Beyond the fact that he's a Brit working for the Americans there's nothing about Jordan's leading man, Ryan Drake, that separates him from any other contemporary fictional action hero. He's tall, dark, handsome, a natural leader and talented soldier and warrior, but one softened by personal doubts and a few inner demons (but not so many that he becomes unattractive or too complex). He's as interchangeable as they come.

The same can be said of the plot, which sucks in the CIA, the invasion of Iraq and dirty government secrets. Chuck in a 'mismatched partners on the run from the authorities' plot thread, 'innocent family members in peril' as a motivating factor and simmering attraction between male and female leads and you have a variation on a story that has been done to death so many times that you can almost tick off the plot developments as they occur.

Before picking up 'Redemption' I had polished off War Lord, David Rollin's latest military thriller (which I would highly recommend). The contrast between the two books couldn't have been starker. Whilst Rollin's novel was fun (and funny), exciting and unpredictable and his lead character Vin Cooper world weary, cynical, flawed but heroic, Jordan's book felt dour, shallow and predictable by comparison. The former hummed with life and vitality whilst the latter read like it had been written by committee with one eye on marketability and screenplay rights. The comparison just brought it home to me how utterly ordinary 'Redemption' is.

So, if you want an unchallenging, comfortable read that doesn't throw you any curve-balls but provides a bit of vicarious excitement along the way Redemption will probably offer what you want. However it remains a bland experience, a 'vanilla thriller' in a market where there are far tastier options available.


Rivers of London (PC Peter Grant Book Book 1)
Rivers of London (PC Peter Grant Book Book 1)
Price: £5.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Genuinely Magical Book About Magic, 7 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Writing an urban-fantasy book must be really hard. Not only do you have to plausibly insert magic into a recognisably contemporary setting, but you have to make the magical feel genuinely fantastical without making the everyday seem unrealistic. Fail to get the balance right and the whole confection collapses.

Unfortunately I've read too many urban-fantasy books where the ingredients just don't mix well, leaving the resulting book either a.) a mess of implausibilities, b.) overly burdened with ideas that get in the way of a compelling plot, or c.) flat and lacking a sense of genuine magic.

Thankfully however, with Ben Aaronovitch I have finally found an urban-fantasy series that appears to have gotten the blend just about right. The 'real world' bits feel grounded and vaguely plausible (even if a riot in Covent Garden does stray into OTT territory), characters behave like real human beings rather than characters from an entirely fantastical world, the laws of physics are not ignored but neither is the story drowned in exposition as the author tries to come up with a coherent justification for why magic exists. When its meant to be disturbing it genuinely is creepy, but without resorting to grand-guinol blood letting or excessive gun play. There's wit to go along with the darkness too, with a few genuinely laugh out loud moments. Best of all the magical elements feel genuinely magical. Scenes set around the various River Deities that punctuate the plot had a genuine air of the inexplicable and the supernatural about them; as did the various spectral encounters.

There are a few weak spots here and there. The plot itself, although it starts strongly, becomes a touch muddled by the end, with Aaronovitch trying to squeeze in too many subplots and not juggling all of them successfully. Some of the concepts he comes up with work better than others too.

If I had to draw comparisons I would say that it mixes elements of Neil Gaiman (I'm thinking Neverwhere and American Gods) with aspects of the Dresden Files and bits of your typical, British contemporary police/crime procedural. The fact that it hold together as a coherent, cohesive and genuinely entertaining whole is testament to how successful a novel it is.

I look forward to reading the next instalment.


A Bed of Your Own
A Bed of Your Own
by Mij Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Illustrated Bed Time Rhyme, 5 Sept. 2012
This review is from: A Bed of Your Own (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Funny, easy to read, not too long and nicely illustrated, A Bed of Your Own is a great bedtime book.

My son, aged 2 years and 5 months as I write this, certainly enjoys having it read to him before bedtime and I enjoy reading it. Some of the verse doesn't quite scan, but that's a very minor problem. The concepts and imagery are easy for young children to grasp without being so simplistic that it annoys the adult doing the reading. The ideas of cows in pyjamas and horses with toys are funny whatever age you are. The illustrations, colourful, bold and sometimes surreal (cows in tutus?) also appeal to children and adults alike.

Its also blissfully brief. At the end of a long day with a small, tired child you don't want a book that takes ages to plough through and tests their's and your patience. A Bed Of Your Own is just about the right length.

Finally its the perfect subject matter for a bedtime story, since it deals with the primary subject at hand, and that's always helpful.

Recommended.


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