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Simon Brooke (Auchencairn, Scotland)
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Dragon Age Inquisition (PC DVD)
Dragon Age Inquisition (PC DVD)
Price: £16.45

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Visually beautiful, but unplayably fragile., 10 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'd very much like to be able to recommend this game, but I can't. It is beta quality at best; the longest it will stay up for on my computer (i7, eight cores, 16Gb RAM, Radeon HD 6850) is about twenty minutes. My computer is not normally fragile; The Witcher 3 has never crashed on it, nor have Dragon Age Origins or Elite Dangerous.

Worse is that when it crashes it does not save state, so that you have to repeat sections of gameplay.

Obviously, with these problems, I haven't been able to get far enough in to comment on plot. It's certainly potentially interesting, and - especially at the highest resolution settings - extremely beautiful. But it seems to me that it grows more fragile with increasing resolution, so you're unlikely to see this for long.

Obviously, judging from other people's reviews, it does run for some people on some hardware, so you might be lucky - but it's a lot of money to spend on a gamble.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2015 11:39 AM GMT


The Heresy Within (The Ties that Bind Book 1)
The Heresy Within (The Ties that Bind Book 1)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good dark fantasy, 26 Oct. 2013
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Let's get the basic criticisms out of the way first. This book is under-edited; it's under proof-read. There are few actual spelling errors but a lot of homonym errors, and (for me) that's irritating.

This is fantasy without a lot of magic and without a lot of monsters: fantasy, in fact, about human beings and how they interact. Which is to say, frankly, fantasy as I like it. But it's nevertheless extremely dystopian fantasy. The civilised empire (in which the narrative spends very little time) is a theocracy where orthodoxy is policed by an all powerful inquisition; what precisely constitutes heresy isn't clear, at least from this book, but it has to do with the use of magic. Which is odd, because the inquisition are, for most of the narrative, the only people with the power to use magic. The principle protagonist is an officer of this inquisition.

The bulk of the narrative, however, is set in 'the wild', a very large area of lawless steppe nominally ruled by nine aristocratic families. In this lawless, chaotic and wartorn region, outlawry is rife. The novel follows a band of outlaws who ally with the protagonist to help him complete his quest - they have a contract to assassinate the aristocrat whom he has been sent to question.

Most first books of new trilogies spend a lot of time world building. In this book the world building is done very lightly, in the course of the narrative, never interrupting the flow; and it's done by showing, not telling. We learn only broad brushstrokes about parts of the world this narrative doesn't visit, and we learn them en passant; the parts the narrative does visit we see as the protagonists encounter them, through their eyes and from their viewpoint.

Characters are strongly drawn, and, despite the fact that all the key characters have profound moral flaws, are interesting and engaging; as a reader it's not hard to engage with them, ride with them, root for them. The magical physics are well explained and consistent, and although there is a mild Deus ex Machina moment, it is consistent with magical physics which has already been established.

All in all this is definitely writing on a par with authors like, for example, Joe Abercrombie, who have been much more extensively promoted. I recommend it!


Unraveled: A Novel About a Meltdown
Unraveled: A Novel About a Meltdown
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not the novel I expected!, 11 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If I had written a review immediately I finished reading Unravelled, I would not have written this review. But I have been turning it over in my head for a couple of weeks...

The book is not what I expected. What did I expect? It's explicitly set against the background of the Icelandic kreppa, the meltdown of the banking system, and I expected that the events of the economic catastrophe would interweave with the collapse of the protagonist's marriage, acting, as it were, as a post-modern take on the pathetic fallacy. This doesn't really happen. The two collapses proceed at different paces and don't really counterpoint one another.

Again, the protagonist's husband is the British Ambassador to Iceland. As such he had to be involved in the most startling development in the whole economic mess - the British government's (almost certainly illegal) decision to declare the Icelandic banks 'terrorist organisations' in order to freeze their assets. I had expected the protagonist to see this as a profound betrayal, something which would completely overturn all trust and respect she had for him. Again, it doesn't really happen.

Would it have been a better novel if it had fulfilled my expectations? Read on.

This book isn't really a novel about the meltdown, despite what is says on the cover. The (economic) meltdown happens, but it happens in the background. It's scenery, not plot. And it isn't even, really, a novel about the breakdown of a marriage. It's a caustic retelling of the Cinderella myth.

Frida - the protagonist - is a girl from a poor background in Iceland. After a traumatic childhood, she escapes to London, where the course she had set her hopes on lets her down. In this vulnerable state, Cinderella - Frida - meets Prince Charming. He's rich, urbane, cultured, handsome, beautifully dressed, twice her age, and called - naturally - Damien. Damien, for me, didn't ring true for the first several chapters he inhabited. Filtered through Frida's eyes, he seemed a cardboard cut-out emotionally cold English aristocrat, almost a Fifty Shades of Grey character. But as Frida's own understanding and perception develops through the narrative, suddenly one sees why this sophisticated man would choose to marry a young woman at such a low ebb: he wanted someone malleable, whom he could mould, Pygmalion-like, into a perfect wife. This revelation is chilling, and makes the character of Damien more believable, if not more likeable.

But this isn't a book about Damien. It's a book about Frida, and Frida's is a delicately and beautifully drawn portrait; she's a very fully realised, believable and - yes - likeable character. It's a book about Frida's growing up, a growing up which is delayed from her broken childhood and through the frozen years of her dysfunctional marriage, to flower quite suddenly against the stark background of Iceland's west fjords. And it is an interesting detail, I think indicative of the construction of this text, that the incident which sets her free to flower is a mistaken inference.

I'm not sure, now, whether or not the failure to use the obvious counterpoint in a more formal way is a deliberate choice - 'I could do this, but I shan't' - I'm interested. It's not the choice I would have made. It isn't the novel I expected. But that does not make it a poor novel. On the contrary, it's a very fine portrait of a woman coming of age, and well worth reading for that.


Edz Merino Wool Gloves - Black
Edz Merino Wool Gloves - Black
Offered by EDZ Direct
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make all the difference when working in cold winter conditions, 11 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Although these are liner gloves, I actually use them mostly for typing, My fingers suffer badly in cold weather and that makes tasks like typing a chore, but with these gloves I find that my fingers remain perfectly comfortable.


Dyson Digital Slim DC35 Multi Floor Lightweight Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
Dyson Digital Slim DC35 Multi Floor Lightweight Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
Offered by EuroFairy
Price: £268.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet, easy to use and startlingly efficient, 11 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Visiting my niece recently I used her new Dyson DC35, and was so impressed I immediately bought one myself. It's small and light, as you would guess from the pictures. What you wouldn't guess is that it's very much quieter than conventional vacuum cleaners. And, although when I got it I assumed it would be useful only for small cleaning jobs, I find I was wrong. The motorized head is so effective that my carpet visibly changed colour the first time I used it!

The battery life seems adequate to me, although my house is small - I don't know how it would cope with acres of carpet. The only negative comment I'd make is that because the dust collection chamber is small, it needs to be emptied much more frequently than with a conventional vacuum cleaner.

In summary, it seems very expensive for such a small machine, but when you see how effective it is, it's worth it.


Cherry Compact Keyboard Black G84-4100
Cherry Compact Keyboard Black G84-4100
Offered by Kikatek
Price: £54.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unless you're an accountant, this is the perfect keyboard, 7 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Keyboards today are increasingly 'low profile' and mushy feeling with no decent feedback. You cannot tell without looking at the screen whether a key has registered or not. This keyboard, however, is Old School, with proper mechanical switches, which perceptibly (and audibly) click. The keystroke is relatively long - three or four millimetres - which is much easier on the fingers than a 'low profile' keyboard. It's solidly built and durable - you'll be using it for a long time. And though the key pitch - the spacing between the keys - is standard, it's nevertheless very compact and doesn't dominate your desk. There's a cost to compactness, of course - it has no separate numeric keypad - but unless you're an accountant or a data entry clerk you won't miss that.


HTC One X 32GB Sim Free Smartphone - Grey
HTC One X 32GB Sim Free Smartphone - Grey

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cool, beautiful, but just a little big - and spoiled by mapping, 30 Oct. 2012
This phone (which I've been using for four months now) has, in my opinion, just two faults. The one that gets me most often is that it's just a little bit big. I can't wear it in a belt pouch, which is how I used to carry my Nexus One - it's too big for that. It fits in a jeans pocket, but because it's so big when you do something like tie your shoelaces it digs in uncomfortably. It's OK in a jacket pocket.

The performance is of course peerless. Lots of processor power - more, really, than any current generation app needs. The most incredibly beautiful screen - big, bright, excellent colour rendition, very readable. And very good network performance.

Battery life is not a problem. Yes, it does need charged every night, but typically unless I'm driving a long distance it's charged only at night. The GPS module doesn't seem to suck nearly as much power as on older Android phones. The camera isn't quite as good in terms of optical quality as I'd like; it replaces a point-and-shoot camera but when I'm wanting to take serious photographs I still need to take my SLR. Otherwise I'm very pleased with the phone...

Except for the other fault. HTC have loaded their own additional software which you can't remove, in addition to Google's software which you also can't remove. I wish phone makers wouldn't do that. In particular, they've loaded a mapping app. If I try to navigate to one of my friends' houses by selecting from the address book, I get HTC's mapping app. It isn't nearly as good as Google's mapping, and it keeps asking you to pay for maps (which Google's, of course, doesn't). Of course you can back out of this app, start Google maps, enter your friend's address and get good, free directions which will actually get you there... but I don't need that sort of annoyance, and that's why my next phone won't be an HTC.


The Pirate Devlin (Pirate Devlin 1)
The Pirate Devlin (Pirate Devlin 1)
by Mark Keating
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No redeeming features, 21 Jun. 2012
I hate giving bad reviews, but this book has no redeeming features. The writing is poor, the plotting creaky, the characterisation wooden; but worst of all the continual technical howlers which show that the author not only knows nothing about either sailing ships or the sea, but cannot be bothered to do basic research, utterly overwhelm the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. If the Pirate Devlin, together with his amanuensis, had both been strangled by the pirates in chapter one, the world would be a better place.


Shuttle SH67H3 XPC Case - Black
Shuttle SH67H3 XPC Case - Black

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, easy to build barebones, 19 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very nice piece of packaging. Although the Amazon product description doesn't say so, if you've done your research you'll know this is a barebones system, not just a case. It needs to be: to package a well specified i7 system into such a small case, the cooling system is very carefully designed, which means the system comes with a pre-installed motherboard and cooler. Everything is well laid out, and the construction of the drive cage is very thoughtful. Documentation is also very good and very clear, with many clear colour pictures showing you step by step how to assemble a system.

I have fitted mine with a DVD R/W drive, a two terrabyte hard drive, a 64Gb SSD, a double width video card and 16Gb out of a possible 32Gb of RAM. It all went together very easily indeed.
Comment Comment | Permalink


Intel 3rd Generation Core i7-3770S CPU (4 x 3.10GHz, Ivy Bridge, Socket 1155, 8Mb L3 Cache, Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0)
Intel 3rd Generation Core i7-3770S CPU (4 x 3.10GHz, Ivy Bridge, Socket 1155, 8Mb L3 Cache, Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comes with a heatsink..., 19 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Which is probably a perfectly good heatsink, but most people who are building their own system will be using some form of non-standard cooling system, so you're paying for something you don't need. I don't know whether it's possible to buy it without the heatsink, but if I'd known I'd have searched harder.

Apart from that, it's an i7; it installs quickly and easily, and should be a little faster and run a little cooler than a Sandy Bridge i7.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2012 10:01 PM BST


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