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Reviews Written by
P. J. Smith (High Peak, England)

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Copag 4 Colour 100% Plastic Playing Cards Poker Size Jumbo Index (Red Back)
Copag 4 Colour 100% Plastic Playing Cards Poker Size Jumbo Index (Red Back)
Offered by Poker Shop Europe
Price: £9.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A bit fussy and slippery - overall worth it, 23 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These are OK, but not the amazing plastic cards I expected. I've been hosting regular home games of Hold'em for a few years now and although everyone enjoys the Bicycle Dragonback plastic coated cards, it's apparent after several games the cards become gummed and one deck has shown a split - hence the quest for plastic cards.

I would recommend buying these Copag four colour cards for the following reasons:
They're plastic, the cards are very flexible and forgiving of flexing.
The four colours are sharp, green and blue are clearly distinguished (to my 46 year old eyes) - the image I see as I write this review is misleading.

Reasons I wish I'd bought another deck are:
The four pip design is too fussy - giving the card a cluttered appearance. Two pips are better, to my tastes.
The cards are slippery, often when the hole cards have been dealt, and the dealer returns the deck to the table cards in the deck slip and slide off. Thankfully, this hasn't yet revealed any cards but it could happen.

Tellingly, when we've played games with these cards all of us have been happy to return to the Bicycle cards later on. I'm going to keep using these cards as maybe we will get used to them, and I'm confident they'll endure.

Toshiba Satellite C50D-B-120 15.6-inch Laptop Notebook (Black) - (AMD E1-6010 1.35GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Windows 8.1 with Bing)
Toshiba Satellite C50D-B-120 15.6-inch Laptop Notebook (Black) - (AMD E1-6010 1.35GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Windows 8.1 with Bing)
Offered by TT Technologies

2.0 out of 5 stars Painfully slow and not fit for purpose, 26 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is poorly designed and disappointing. I have used Toshiba laptops for the last five years and found them to be excellent machines. This particular model, however, is a disappointing surprise.
When I first received it, the browser immediately filled with pop-ups despite Windows 8 telling me that all was secure. I downloaded Ad-Aware to ensure I and my family could browse safely.
When Windows 10 came along, I immediately upgraded because my thinking was it would make the machine faster. Which actually it did as Windows 8 jammed a whole load of useless apps in the start-up window. Windows 10 is cleaner and faster.

My main issues with this laptop are:
Processor speed, it's clear the chip installed, the AMD, just isn't fast enough. Often, my wife or myself can load the web-page we want on our phones faster.
Overly sensitive mouse that either selects everything or clicks when your finger is barely touching it. Obviously, my USB mouse is used as frequently as possible.
Heavy screen - a laptop that is top heavy! Tilt the screen back too much and it falls over!

Having said all that, it does function very well as a MP3 player. And if you only have one window open at a time, it can do that job reasonably well.

In summary, this is a budget option laptop which can do most of the things you expect from a laptop but at dial-up speeds.

Currently, as I type this, I'm moving a desktop folder of photo's to the Photos folder and it has taken five minutes to achieve 0% transfer. It's like watching a simpleton with the Times cryptic crossword, you feel sorry for it.

EAGET V80 Dual Use Micro USB 3.0 High Speed Flash Drive USB On-the-Go for Smartphones / Tablets / PCs - 16GB
EAGET V80 Dual Use Micro USB 3.0 High Speed Flash Drive USB On-the-Go for Smartphones / Tablets / PCs - 16GB
Offered by TechMe UK
Price: £11.82

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars My Android 4.0+ phone can not see it!, 11 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This device does not work.

I bought this device because I wanted additional storage for my phone.

I have a phone that is running Android 4.4.3 but it can not see the flash drive. It knows something is in it USB port but doesn't do anything else.

I was able to use the drive to transfer files from my laptop to the device, but I was not able to use the device as additional storage for my phone. I was hoping to be able to play more music from the EAGET V80 as I'm about to be travelling for a week. I chose this drive because of the delivery times (it arrived very promptly). However, there is no information on the drive. Or supplied with the drive itself. The drive has a *.rar file that when unzipped runs an install program that doesn't actually do anything.

I can not find a supplier's website for FAQ's, I can not find a resource on-line that helps and there is no 'Read me' file on the drive itself.

If you are reading this review, my advice is to proceed with caution. In my experience it can function as a USB stick for your laptop, but not as additional storage for your phone.

Kubik Evo 8GB MP3 Player with Radio and Expandable MicroSD/SDHC Slot - Black
Kubik Evo 8GB MP3 Player with Radio and Expandable MicroSD/SDHC Slot - Black
Offered by ARC UK
Price: £49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars the sound quality is good; it is a slim and compact item, 9 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this player as a gift for my wife.
The plus points are: the sound quality is good; it is a slim and compact item.
The stand-alone charger is very fast, much faster than the previous USB via laptop player
However, it isn't easy to organise songs or to delete them.

Mini Butterfly Kite
Mini Butterfly Kite
Offered by Blyme
Price: £6.93

1.0 out of 5 stars Poor flyer, 17 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mini Butterfly Kite (Toy)
We bought this last year for our daughter, and have flown it, or tried to fly it, on a number of windy days over the last year. Even with a good strong wind the kite rarely stays in the air for long. I don't think it is very well designed in terms of flying. My daughter has since made a kite out of a plastic bag that stays up in the air much, much better.

This is a pretty kite, but it just doesn't fly very well.

Ancient Astronauts: The Gods From Planet X [DVD] [2011]
Ancient Astronauts: The Gods From Planet X [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Jason Martell
Price: £14.29

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Zero production very poorly filmed, 26 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Thankfully, I rented this from LoveFilm. However, the review feature of LoveFilm appears to be broken. Also it seems far better to warn potential buyers who stand to lose more money.

If you are hiring this from LoveFilm, it is not worth the free postage. Please do not buy it.

This should not be listed as a documentary. In my opinion, a documentary is well produced, has good graphics, and an intelligent commentary. Life on Earth with David Attenborough is one of the things that you think of when you hear the word 'documentary'.

With this particular documentary my wife and I were expecting something along the lines of Graham Hancock.

What we got was as follows:
A recorded lecture given at a conference.
Poor sound at times.
Poor graphics (why couldn't the 'film-makers' have asked the presenters for a copy of their slides)
No editing: there were several minutes watching a presenter standing around doing and saying nothing.

The content could have been interesting, but the presentation of this content is extremely poor. This is not a documentary, this is not a film, this is not even a wedding video recorded by the drunkest guest. It is a lecture that has been recorded by someone in the audience. Very, very poor.

Inheritance (The Inheritance cycle)
Inheritance (The Inheritance cycle)
by Christopher Paolini
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The wind from Eragon's passage, 25 Nov. 2011
Quick review:
Like the three books that preceded it, Inheritance highlights the faults and talents of Christopher Paolini. This book is much like the others. So if you liked them, you'll find lots to like here too. The book ends much as you expect. There aren't too many twists but there are still some tricky situations that the main characters have to solve. The book is long, overly long in places, with too much text given over to battles. There were definitely sections where I skipped to the next chapter to find out what I wanted to know.

Longer review (CONTAINS SPOILERS):
The success of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle no doubt provokes varied feelings for many. On the one hand, having parents for publishers was extremely helpful. On the other hand, being a young man growing into adulthood, and being responsible for a best-selling book can't have been easy. And whatever your feelings, Master Paolini has written four books that many, many people have bought.

Having finished reading this 850 page book yesterday, many thoughts came to mind. Like the other three books, many of Paolini's faults as an author are displayed in this book and are easy to spot. Identifying the areas where Paolini has some skill is more difficult, yet something made me keep reading - and indeed made me buy it in the first place.

His faults like so many faults.
1. Poor characters - very few of his characters are likeable and believable. For example, Roran's transformation from farmboy to tactical genius whose personal body counts during the many battles get into the hundreds is never explained. It just happens. Nasuada fails to evoke sympathy even when she's being tortured. Angela is still incredibly annoying, and ruins the setting's verisimilitude on several occasions. However, as Inheritance is the final book nearly all the characters have become what Paolini wanted them to be.

2. Verbosity - the battle scenes often get into a blow by blow commentary. In Inheritance, I found them boring, and skimmed through them. For example, the fight between Roran and Lord Barst goes on for twenty pages. The battle of Uru Baen goes on for one hundred pages. At the end of this book, Paolini thanks his editor. I strongly suspect he'll be the only one.

3. Purple prose. The words 'like so many' appear often in this book. Usually as metaphor. This may be a difference between the American that the book was written in and the English of this particular reader, but it gets annoying. There was also a scene where Eragon and Saphira are flying over some water (a lake or an arm of the sea) and the description starts of as very evocative but then more and more metaphors are crammed in.

4. Clumsy language. there are numerous examples where the language is just plain odd, or laughable. Again this may be the difference between the American of the author and the English of this reader. Examples are: 'sunlight planking the valley floor' (page 506) I've no idea what is meant by planking. Nasuada gets 'coronated' not 'crowned'. And most funny of all we have 'the wind from Eragon's passage' (page 17). It gets worse, because at the end we have to contend with the wind from Saphira's passage. I'm sure he meant 'passing'.

5. Smart Alec - Paolini can't resist showing off that he watches Dr. Who and finds Monty Python funny. In order to do this he often uses the tedious Angela character as the vehicle for destroying the verisimilitude of his setting. A prime example is when Angela says 'Be seeing you' to Eragon. Had Paolini left it there, the reference would have been understood by others who have seen The Prisoner, but Paolini had to describe Angela doing the precise gesture too. This is plain immaturity.

I could go on, but the fact of the matter is that I've read the book, and kept turning pages at the start. What made me do that.

His talents
1. Nice solutions to tricky problems. Paolini has a nice touch when it comes to finding neat ways out of situations. I particularly like the way Roran conquers Aroughs. The appearance of Umaroth could displease some, but I liked it. It made sense in terms of Eragon's character.
2. Basic plot. The overall plot of the Inheritance Cycle is simple. A tyrant must be overthrown. As the story progresses, it's apparent the tyrant is very powerful and the hero needs to get just as powerful as quick as he can. Simple plots are easy for readers to understand, and that means readers quickly grasp what the book is all about.
3. Eragon and Arya's relationship. I liked the fact that Eragon clearly fancies Arya, but she sees him more as a friend she's fond off. I kept expecting them to get together at the end, and it's good that Paolini doesn't do that.
4. Ability to write a best-selling book series. I can't quite work out how Paolini has done it, but he has written books that have sold very well. He's successful and he has many years ahead of him in which to improve his strengths and dispense with his faults. I don't expect the next thing he turns his hand to to be as successful but then again he could surprise me.

So in conclusion. I don't think Paolini has matured as a writer during this quartet. Some of his bad habits, such as purple prose have receded but there are still many faults to spot. However, he has written a successful, straightforward fantasy. It's a simple, undemanding read, and as a means of relaxation, I enjoyed it.

McAfee Family Protection, 3 User (PC)
McAfee Family Protection, 3 User (PC)

1.0 out of 5 stars Not easy to get working, keeps crashing Firefox, 11 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are several things that this product has against it in my opinion.

1. You must download the software. Downloading software is a problem when download speeds are slow. In our case it took five minutes, timed for when the local neighbourhood was quiet, i.e. mid-morning.
2. All you receive from Amazon is a cardboard box with hardly anything in it - just a slip of paper and a plastic card.
3. There is no help manual. There's one online but that's not much use if your bandwidth is taken up with downloading the software.
4. It took a long afternoon to get the software installed and working. Two hours with a lot of help from McAfee Tech Support.
5. Once installed, the software kept causing my web browser, Firefox to crash repeatedly.
6. There's an option for several different user accounts but this seems as though it needs new user accounts to be set up on my laptop. i.e. what I wanted was for my family to use the same desktop and the same browser but to use different accounts via the browser.

Dissatisfied and disappointed with the software I uninstalled the software and have no option but to ask Amazon if I can return it.

The Magician's Apprentice
The Magician's Apprentice
by Trudi Canavan
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maintains her standards, (*Spoilers!*), 15 Jun. 2009
Last weekend, I had the misfortune to be ill in bed. Thankfully, my daughter's Father's Day present arrived early, so I was able to read The Magician's Apprentice in two sittings.

If you have read and enjoyed The Black Magician trilogy (TBM) and The Age of Five (Ao5) trilogy, I'm confident you will enjoy this addition to the Magician's Guild stories. As ever, Trudi Canavan writes well and chapter after chapter flows into a good read.

There are some problems, however. For a prequel set hundreds of years before TBM I often found it difficult to actually notice this. The culture of Elyne is the same, as is that of the other countries. Apart from the magicians, the day to day lives of normal people seems the same. The character of Tessia is very similar to Sonea (BMT) and Auraya (Ao5). I liked her and enjoyed reading about her, but I think Trudi Canavan would have been better writing about a male protagonist, a magician who wasn't a natural or at least someone who differs significantly from her standard main character.

My review is titled 'maintains her standards'. Ms Canavan certainly does that with this book, but she doesn't really improve on them. We still have a young woman with a strong interest in healing who discovers she's a natural magician. As Tessia is so like Sonea, I found myself wondering why Imardin still has slums in Sonea's time.

There was no real sense of place for me, the story did not feel like it was set hundreds of years before Sonea, even though it was before the Magician's Guild was formed. The character of Narvelan changed quickly and the really interesting stories such as the devastation of southern Sachaka by the source-stone were not given much pages. The war between marauding Ichani and Kyralia has been written about before and didn't need re-telling.

That said, I found the discovery of healing magic enjoyable. The side story of Stara was fascinating, offering hints of what might happen in the sequels to BMT. The hints of Duna are also intriguing. It's easy to immerse oneself in the setting and as a read it satisfies.

I have read most of the reviews posted here and I agree with most of them too. If I had to be critical, there could be lots I could find in this book to criticise. This book is not as good as TBM or Ao5; those two trilogies are better. However, the Magician's Apprentice does compliment TBM very well and although a lesser book the differences are slight. However, I still think this deserves three or four stars. It's an enjoyable read, Ms Canavan's writing engages the attention and it's a good story. There's a lot I found in the book that I enjoyed. It's just that it's not the first time we've met this sort of character and this sort of situation.

Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle)
Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle)
by Christopher Paolini
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read but not a good edit, 22 Oct. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It seems to be a fashion with young adult fiction that after the first two books the third rapidly expands in size. It happened with Harry Potter and it's happened with Brisingr. Leaving aside the fact that at times the influences of young Master Paolini are easy to recognise (Star Wars, Tolkien, DragonLance, Pern, Dungeon and Dragons, etc) what we have with this book is a tale that improves with each chapter. It doesn't start well, as if Paolini struggled to get started, but by the end it is clear he has found his story and knows where it is going. If you enjoyed the first two books you'll enjoy this one since you'll know what to expect.

My criticisms are that at times the writing is too purple, especially at the start. This could have been trimmed had the editor done his or her job better. For example comparing bells to winter rutabagas (which is a type of turnip), saying at exactly which part of a roast lizard a character stops eating, etc. There are times where a whole sentence of description could be replaced by a single word.

The main character of Eragon continues to be likeable and I think Paolini does a good job writing about him. Eragon debates over the ethics of killing in the name of a rightful cause. This would be OK but for the fact that Roran has the same moral debate. It would have been better, in my opinion, if the step-brothers had had different views. Unlike Eragon (who has had strong magic cast on him, is bonded to a dragon and has a powerful sword), Roran has no excuse for acting in a superhuman fashion. The scene where he kills almost 200 soldiers is not only ridiculous but throws a bad light on his frankly annoying moralising. The character of Angela is also annoying. I can only hope she meets a nasty end, but fear that she won't.

With Eldest, Paolini showed that he had matured as a writer. With Brisingr, his progress seems to have halted, and at times it seems to have reversed - there were parts where Brisingr reads like fan fiction. That said, he has written a page-turner and something that is enjoyable to read. It doesn't start well but does improve.

To summarise, some times very enjoyable, other times rather florid. I found the main story enjoyable. The main character is likeable. However, two of the support characters should be removed, namely Angela and Roran. Neither seem as though they really belong in the world.

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