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Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain)
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Smart Weigh CSB2KG Cuisine Digital Kitchen Scale with Removable Bowl 2000g x 0.1g - Black
Smart Weigh CSB2KG Cuisine Digital Kitchen Scale with Removable Bowl 2000g x 0.1g - Black
Offered by Five Star
Price: £13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical and accurate kitchen scale, 5 Mar 2014
Have been using these scales for a wee while now and am pretty impressed with what you get for the price.
The weight is displayed digitally, which makes it straightforward to measure out precise amounts when cooking. That's important is you're preparing meals for anyone with special eating requirements (or just need to make a recipe work properly!) The display is easy for me to read although I did have to swivel the scales around to get the light hitting the readout right to avoid reflections.

The plastic weighing tray looks a bit flim-flam initially but has hit the floor and bounced (utterly undamaged) more than twice already. It's easy to keep clean, and also pretty clever in that you reverse it to turn it into a cover which then stops things being placed on the weighing platform. This prevents the delicate measuring-bit being knocked out of kilter by having heavy weights placed on it inappropriately. The weighing tray/bowl also has a useful 'spout' which is really handy for tipping wet or dry items smoothly into a mixing bowl without the whole lot going all over the shop.

Just one tiny grumble; you do need to hold down the power switch for quite a while to get the scales to turn off. At first I wasn't holding it down for long enough and the scales stayed on... so I was wasting some of the batteries. But that's really minor.
Oh, and the scales take 'normal' long-thin batteries which we always have at home, not the weird rectangular ones with odd fittings, which is more convenient.
Top job!
8/10


The Undercover War [DVD]
The Undercover War [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet
Price: £9.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low key arthouse WW2 drama (ignore the tanks on the cover pic!), 4 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Undercover War [DVD] (DVD)
This is a foreign-language subtitled drama set in Luxembourg during WW2, which aims to tell one of the 'secret stories' of the war. Young men were conscripted into the German army and sent to fight on the Eastern front. Their only escape was to go into hiding, which often meant that their families were penalised instead.
'The Undercover War' follows the experience of one such young man who comes from a professional family in a small town. His engineer father is loathed by most locals for collaborating with the Nazis -- but believes he has done the right thing to safeguard his family. When the Resistance act against the father and the young man can no longer stomach attending a German university, he must go underground, literally, into hiding with a motley crew inside an old mine.

What follows is a subtle and understated exploration of his relationships with the other inmates; refugees and communists, an old rival and an assortment of hostile co-conspirators who neither like nor trust him. The Liberation is but weeks away but even so this cannot save all the men in hiding, as claustrophobia and paranoia get the better of them. Moral dilemmas face the hero as he is confronted by violence and distrust -- and clings to simple human contact in response. As the situation fragments so he loses his family, his social contact, his friends and even his freedom, and in the end must decide whether to sacrifice himself to save the others in hiding.

Filmed on what must have been a modest budget, this subtitled, slow-burn drama doesn't quite manage to bring home its core message with any real impact. The performances veer between low-key and over-the-top, although a couple of the supporting actors put in good turns (especially the cuckolded husband).
It's certainly not an action-adventure war movie as the cover seems to suggest.
Worth watching for fans of international arts cinema and hardcore WW2 historians.
7/10


Keep Calm Giant Matches
Keep Calm Giant Matches
Offered by Present Finder
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chunky fun (and usable) matches, 4 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Keep Calm Giant Matches
Bought these as a bit of a joke gift and was pleasantly surprised to find how practical they are.
The matches are around three times the length of a normal match and -- unlike the usual super-long matches -- they are considerably thicker, too. So they don't snap when you strike them, and they stay lit for a decent length of time. This means they're great for lighting charcoals or several candles, without burning your fingertips!

Surprisingly useful, and just as well we had them as the power went off in the winter storms...
8/10


The Three
The Three
by Sarah Lotz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cleverly constructed page-turning thriller, 4 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Three (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Three is an extremely accomplished and gripping thriller. Author Sarah Lotz is so good at what she does that the plot dragged me in to the narrative and kept the pages spinning past, although the style of story-telling normally sends me screaming from the room.

The set-up here is that there have been four unconnected plane crashes in different countries, with three children miraculously surviving. A warning from a dying passenger suggests that there’s something strange about them, and indeed weird circumstances surrounding the kids then spiral wildly in all directions. Worldwide speculation ensues; religious zealots and internet nutters compete to come up with wilder conspiracy theories while the families of the dead attempt to adjust to their loss and the families of the survivor children struggle to cope with cuckoos in the nest.
All this is told in the format of ‘found footage’ (if it were a movie); in transcripts, emails, message boards, reports, interviews and newspaper articles compiled into a (fictitious) non-fiction bestseller. There’s no linear narrative at all, and instead the plot skips, hops and jumps between the survivors, their families, witnesses, accident investigators, journalists and even a hooker with a heart of gold. Like I say, this type of stunt-writing normally repels me but here it’s been so well sculpted that it forms a seamless flow which tightens the tension as the story surrounding the surviving children gets stranger and stranger.
Along the way, the author neatly stitches in all sorts of pithy observations about modern society – from the influence of Christian fundamentalists in America to the high-tech housebound teenagers of Japan, to the worst excesses of ‘investigative journalism’ and the frightening and very real social isolation caused by depression, alcoholism and psychological illnesses. There’s truly gritty social comment in here about life in urban African slums, and the reality of caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease. Oh, and of course there’s the possibility of apocalypse when it turns out that a fourth child might well have survived the fourth crash…

The downside to this complicated form of story-telling is that there’s no single core protagonist, no hero or heroine to truly identify with, and a vast cast of characters who we only get to know superficially. Even the three main families on whom the story centres felt distant to me. I was fascinated by the notion of an anguished Japanese scientist creating an android entity through which he could talk to his dead wife and returned child – an extrapolation of the trend towards preferring intercourse with machines over other people – but as with much of the smart ideas in The Three this one wasn’t exploited to its full potential.
In fact many intriguing threads and suggestions were dangled enticingly under our noses but then left without being explored or resolved. The ultra-short chapters force the pace of this book up to full-speed-ahead, but at the end I was left a somewhat unsatisfied by the lack of a solid conclusion..

So overall I’m awed by the expert construction of this novel, and thoroughly enjoyed most of it while I was reading it. Afterwards, however, it left me with that kinda junk-food feeling of having eaten an awful lot but digested very little of substance. Maybe that’s part of the point…
7/10
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2014 12:13 PM BST


Sacred Games
Sacred Games
Price: £9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning epic to saturate yourself in, 25 Feb 2014
This review is from: Sacred Games (Kindle Edition)
This is a dazzling, complicated, bewildering and magnificently compelling novel set in modern India. Its reach is extensive. Sacred Games trawls back to the times of Partition and explores the nature of India's divided society, its inherent and functional form of commonplace corruption, and the threat of international terrorism involving the most potent of WMD.
All of this is expertly and gradually revealed through the personal tales of two protagonists on opposite sides of the law: an upstart young Hindu gangster who becomes one of the leading crimelords in Mumbai and a stalwart if unambitious Sikh policeman. Their paths cross, and the telling of their stories explores the complexity of today's Indian society, with the spice of an international thriller thrown in.

Many people will find Sacred Games hard going, and a very long read. It took me about 200 pages to feel comfortable with the language (some of it in Hindi, Gujurati, Sanskrit or slang, so English-only speakers will need to use the glossary at [...] or get a feel for the meaning and go with the flow). There is a considerable level of sex and extreme violence, as you might expect with a realistic depiction of criminal networks -- but the beauty of Sacred Games is that these appear alongside moment of poetic purity. Evens the in the darkest moments of depravity there are glimpses of devout human spirit and even the most corrupt individuals can be unexpectedly righteous.

A book to be read slowly, savoured and digested at length. Let it overwhelm you for a while, and get to know the main characters. Definitely a book to take on holiday and read for several hours at a time - would be very disjointed if grabbed in short sections. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, revelled in the life-story of Ganesh the gangster, and adored the insight into modern Indian society. Will definitely buy the author's other novels. (It only fails to gain five stars for me because of the confusing opening which may well prove too much of a barrier for many readers.)

8/10


Convergence (Dandelion Trilogy)
Convergence (Dandelion Trilogy)
Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dizzying dystopia, 23 Feb 2014
Convergence is the kind of speculative / futuristic fiction which has been horribly over-shadowed in recent years, shoved off the shelves by supernatural romance, urban fantasy and sword-n-sorcery questing epics. It's very much a modern novel - not old-fashioned in the slightest - but it draws on the great traditions of sci-fi writing to examine the human condition in the most extreme circumstances.
Books like this place their protagonists in outlandish positions which deliberately stretch the bounds of credibility. They test the moral boundaries and mortal capabilities of the central characters; examine the core fundamental truths of human existence, and pass comment on real-life society, religious and political situations in passing. Convergence aims at all of these targets, and hits a fair few of them. Sharp-toothed satire is a writer's greatest weapon, and it's used here to excellent effect.

However, I made a mistake in reading this book before the other two novels in Mike French's Dandelion Trilogy. The blurb suggests that Convergence can be enjoyed as a stand-alone and, indeed, I was wrapped up in it for several days, propelled through the bite-size chapters at a fearsome pace by the relentless drive of the central narrative. It is a non-stop end of the world story, in which the fate of humanity and the whole planet rests on the shoulders of two star-crossed lovers, divided by strife indeed.
So the story really grabbed me, but where I struggled was with the supporting characters who presumably played other roles in the earlier books and whose stories are brought to a conclusion in this one. I probably spent the first third of Convergence in a slightly bewildered daze, enjoying what was going on without actually understand what was relevant to this book and what was mopping-up from previous episodes. It would certainly have benefitted from a 'story so far' prologue - or indeed, I should've read the first parts before the final part...
On the other hand, it was a refreshing change to be challenged by such an intricate and creative universe -- and not be spoon-fed set-piece action-adventure. Sci-fi should stimulate the brain, not send it to sleep! Convergence definitely kept my entire attention throughout.

Even so, I found it tricky to engage with many of the characters, even the central pair upon whom the story depends. Without their back story I struggled to understand their motivations and reactions, and had the continual feeling that I'd missed a point.
Despite that, I found Convergence to be eminently readable and was thoroughly entertained by the myriad tangle of interwoven sub-plots. The action hops between a dozen or so different scenarios, which range from the depressing to the droll, underpinned by a distinctly biblical theme. The pope plays a prominent part - he's based in London these days, having bought the palace of Westminster from the UK government. Oh, and we sold the white cliffs of Dover to the French. The Russians have abandoned earth already and gone off into space (or not...), while the Americans have a habit of recreating past presidents in the form of clone copies of Reagan and JFK. It's kinda hard to tell the bad guys from the good guys. And they switch sides anyway. Or perhaps our perception of 'sides' changes as the novel progresses. Anyone could be a clone of their past self or a convergence clone, a distillation of their most treasured moments, or an AI pretending to be a clone. Or god. The action takes place all over the globe, in low earth orbit amid the wreckage of old satellites, and in an alternate reality which might be imagined or which could actually be the end of everything. Keep up at the back there.
Every one of the snappy chapters is packed with droll observations. Pete - the hero, if you want one - spends much of the novel being shipped around interrogation and torture and his time spent battling the customer service drones of the 'interrogation service' is cripplingly funny. Ditto the interaction with the over-aggressive checkout assistant whose role it is in life to make the shopper feel inadequate at packing. And there's a telling jab at soft-drinks marketeers, with their attempts to personalise their products. Juicy observations on everyday life, scattered throughout. And I adored the Great Stink: an appalling prospect for a future prison system.

Convergence has some considerably more serious points to make, too, about life, love, loyalty and redemption, but I'll let you discover them for yourself. I would start with The Ascent of Isaac Steward to understand more fully what the author is saying...

8/10


Sachal Jazz-Interpretations of Jazz Standards & Bo Import Edition by Sachal Studios Orchestra (2011) Audio CD
Sachal Jazz-Interpretations of Jazz Standards & Bo Import Edition by Sachal Studios Orchestra (2011) Audio CD

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ulifting interpretations of jazz classics, 23 Feb 2014
This is a superb collection which fuses the complex sounds of Indian/Pakistani traditional instruments with new arrangements of familiar friends. It's extremely accessible; risky in places but sculpted with a deft, delicate touch, so that the weight of unfamiliar instrumentation never overloads the structure of each song.
Take Five, for instance, sounds like it could have been written for the sitar. Mountain Dance is utterly infectious and you'd have to be half-dead not to be moved into motion. The sweet and sultry Desafinado oozes through the speakers; the pure vocals cutting through the humid sensuality of the dreamy melody, enhanced by the bossa nova beat. And there are two quite different versions of the Girl From Ipanema.
There are a couple of less successful tracks - This Guy's In Love With You almost collapses under the weight of the brass section in places - but overall this is a superbly successful melding of traditional and Latino jazz and the sounds of the subcontinent. It's accomplished without being over-bearing: a little of bundle of bliss to cheer up any dreary day.
8/10


Dylon DYE Salt 500g for use with Dylon Dyes 6002414800
Dylon DYE Salt 500g for use with Dylon Dyes 6002414800
Offered by Spotless Punch Ltd
Price: £2.49

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Normal salt does the job just fine, 23 Feb 2014
With most popular home-dye products (like Dylon), you don't need to use a specialised 'dye salt'. Just normal cooking / eating salt will do the job fine. And you can buy it at the supermarket, and save the delivery price.
Nothing against this particular brand of 'dye salt'... but can't see why anyone would need it!


Stalin's Ghost
Stalin's Ghost
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb crime detection in post-Soviet Russia, 23 Feb 2014
This review is from: Stalin's Ghost (Kindle Edition)
This is part of Martin Cruz Smith's long-running series set in contemporary Russia, featuring the awkward, obstinate and brilliant detective Arkady Renko. In fact, the real star of these novels is Russia itself, as the twisting plotline is set against the backdrop of the post-Soviet state with all of its strange developments, political, sociological and criminal.

If you haven't read any of the earlier books in the series then the main plot won't be a problem, but much of the subtle backdrop will be lost on you, because you need to have developed a relationship with Renko, and an understanding of his personal situation, to feel the impact of events in this book.
Still, you don't need an in-depth knowledge of the characters to enjoy Cruz Smith's brilliant portrayal of the Russian winter, nor to understand the melancholic and nostalgic longing for Soviet-era order or how a military hero in Chechenya might rise to the top of a nationalistic political party.
There's also a good mystery to unravel. Why did travellers start seeing Stalin's ghost at an underground railway station? (And, of course, the deeper meaning of the title: how much of Russia is still dominated by Stalin's shadow?)

This isn't a page-turning, rip-snorting action thriller. Very often the most shocking moments come in mundane situations, when you least expect them. So it's best to pace the reading a little, enjoy the concise, well-crafted text, and let the Russian ambience surround you for a while so you get the most from the clever revelations as they jump out and grab you.
Thoroughly recommended for lovers of thoughtful political thrillers.
9/10


I Come with the Rain (2009) Josh Hartnett, Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Byung-hun Lee
I Come with the Rain (2009) Josh Hartnett, Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Byung-hun Lee
Dvd ~ Josh Hartnett
Offered by Scorpion DVDs
Price: £8.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More arthouse than action movie, 23 Feb 2014
If you're searching for a Saturday night action flick, then keep looking: 'I Come With The Rain' may be a blood-soaked and brutal slice of contemporary Eastern life but it's filmed with the patient precision of art cinema. It's definitely not a typical Josh Hartnett movie. Similarly, the extreme violence and set-to-stun levels of soundtrack will repel many arthouse enthusiasts. So I'm guessing that this film will appeal to a limited audience; there can't be many of us who will revel in a mash-up of Hannibal Lecter, Asian ganglands and the ultimate revelation of Christianity...

For many, 'I Come With The Rain' will be hard going and unrewarding. I was delighted to be shocked and surprised by its originality, its daring, the intensity of the performances and the beauty of the filming. At the same time, the casual violence is delivered in a matter of fact, bone-breakingly blunt manner. It's not meant to be glamorous, but still... the serial killer's human sculptures are weirdly compelling, not unlike HR Geiger's biomechanoid art.
The cinematography is gorgeous but static, and lingers on empty frames which contrast the Bladerunner vistas of high-tech Hong Kong with the ramshackle shantytowns of the homeless and hopeless. The plot weaves together the lives of a detective who became far too intimately involved with a serial killer he was hunting; a missing young man who may have been murdered but may also be a very special healer; a ganglord who cannot bear to be without his woman, and a superb supporting cast. The pace may be slow but every scene is important - the dialogue at times is vital in contributing to a modern interpretation of a pivotal set of beliefs. Pay attention: even the seemingly trivial moments are significant.
There is some action in the traditional sense in the shape of some fast car scenes and triad-style stand-offs, but all the tension comes from the slow crescendo of cruelty which pervades the film. It kicks off with explicit viciousness, and that sense of merciless malice is sustained throughout.

A film full of shadows, featuring some astonishing acting and a bold premise. Don't expect to understand all of it when you reach the end: you may want to watch it again in a while, to soak up more of the incidentals.
8/10


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