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joc66 (United Kingdom)
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The Kingmaker's Daughter
The Kingmaker's Daughter
Price: 3.66

4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent addition to the Cousins' War series, 29 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the fourth in the Cousins War series featuring the female characters from the Wars of the Roses. Although this story of Anne Neville, daughter of "Warwick the Kingmaker" works well as a stand-alone novel, you will probably get maximum enjoyment from it if you read the others in the series first, as the same events are seen from the standpoints of the different characters. Anne's story begins when she is a small girl, close to her sister Isabel who watch their father fight first for, and then against Edward IV. As the girls grow, they (through their marriages) become part of the political process, and Anne is first allied to the House of Lancaster, and then to the House of York, through her marriage to Edward IV's brother, Richard. It is clear that for women in 15th century, it is very difficult for them to control events. All too often, their lives are mapped out for them by men, first fathers and then husbands. Perhaps one of the reasons for the intense dislike of Edward IV's wife, Elizabeth Woodville (who is certainly portrayed as the villain of the piece here) is that she appears to control her husband, rather than the other way round. This instalment in the story allows Philippa Gregory to tentatively explore her theory about what happened to Elizabeth's children, the so-called "princes in the tower" and more on this is promised in the next book, The White Princess (Cousins War 5) which is published soon. This is an enjoyable series, weaving good story telling with known history. The fact that the key characters are women gives the novelist a bit more scope for creativity because less tends to be known about their stories than of those of men. Philippa Gregory writes a fast moving narrative and manages to convey a sense of the claustrophobia and frustration those trapped within the court environment must have felt. If you've enjoyed other books in this series, you'l definitely want to get hold of this one. It's good to see that historical novelists are now looking beyond the Tudors for inspiration, and Philippa Gregory is an excellent exponent of the genre.


XMI Xmini Max Duo Portable Mini Speakers for iPhone/iPad/iPod/MP3 Player/Laptop - Gun Metal Grey
XMI Xmini Max Duo Portable Mini Speakers for iPhone/iPad/iPod/MP3 Player/Laptop - Gun Metal Grey
Price: 30.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds good for small size - ultra portable stereo, 22 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've used the Xmini Uno speaker and it's a marvellous little thing. This package contains two expandable speakers (slightly smaller in size and output than the Uno) together with a cable which can be used to connect them together to produce a stereo effect which is then in turn connected to an audio source. (The ends of the cable are marked L and R so you know where to position each one to get a stereo effect). Each speaker can also be used individually, and if this is what you choose to do, you can dispense with carrying the cable around with you as each one as an aux cable attached and neatly stowed away in the base when not in use. For their size, the sound quality is excellent, whether used individually or as a pair. Unlike the Uno, there's no volume control on the speakers - you need to set the volume using the control on the wire, or (when using them individually, from the your music playing device). The internal rechargeable batteries are charged via usb either from a port on your pc or else from a usb adapter plug which you'll need to supply yourself as it isn't included. You do get a fabric drawstring back to keep the speakers in which is handy when you are travelling.
I like these speakers - they sound good as I expect from this brand. However, on balance, I prefer the Uno. There's no cable to worry about and it's got a bit more power than one of these on its own. I don't honestly think you can achieve a proper stereo experience with speakers which are relatively close together, although the sound that these two produce, for their size, will undoubtedly impress you. If you are in the market for some tiny speakers with good sound quality, then these are defintely worthy of consideration and if you require stereo sound, then this might tip the balance towards this pair. However, if stereo isn't that important to you, then I would recommend that you also consider the XMI Xmini Uno Portable Mini Speaker for iPhone/iPad/iPod/MP3 Player/Laptop - Gun Metal Grey. Whichever you choose though, you are unlikely to be disappointed. Happy listening!


TDK V513 Wireless Sound Cube Speaker with Remote - Black
TDK V513 Wireless Sound Cube Speaker with Remote - Black
Offered by Trusted-Goods
Price: 104.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing sound in a stylish speaker, 22 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First impression of this when the box arrived was that it was a weighty item and quite a substantial size. The build quality seems very good and the sound cube looks good sitting on a shelf in my home-office. It's very different to those smaller, more portable bluetooth speakers which have sprung onto the market in the past year or so. Although it is an integral carrying handle, you wouldn't want to be carrying it far. In any case, it is powered only by mains electricity with no options for battery power. The mains cable comes with a power block plus a range of different plugs depending on which country you live in (or useful if you decide to take this abroad on holiday I suppose!). Also included is a basic remote control (plus battery) which has buttons for on and off, mute, volume up and down, plus function selection (aux or bluetooth). You'll need to use the two gold knobs on the front for some things though, such as adjusting the bass and treble or selecting the direction of the sound output.
On the back are ports for power, aux in and also a USB port suitable for charging your MP3 player while you are playing your music (you'll need to provide your own aux and usb cable though).
I found the gold knobs on the front a bit of a fiddle - you press them until the little symbols round the edge light up and then turn. It's ok once you get used to it, but not quite intuitive. Bluetooth pairing with my Samsung Galaxy MP3 player was easy, and once that task was completed, it was time to hear some music. Sound quality is, quite simply, excellent. I'm not an audiophile, but even I could tell that the dynamic range is excellent, with powerful bass (if you want it and adjustable if you don't) and clear undistorted sound at the top end. I enjoy a wide range of music including rock and pop, folk, choral music and orchestral, and I tried a bit of everything. The sound cube made everything sound exceptional.
If you want it, (for a party perhaps) this speaker is capable of filling a very large room with sound with stated power output at 3x4W plus a 15W subwoofer.. It can get very loud! However, you don't have to play it loud, and you get the benefits of that power even at lower levels because you are not pushing the speaker to anywhere near its full potential. I like the fact that you can set the speaker according to whether you want sound to come out of all sides, or just focussed in one direction. What suits you best will depend where you want to position it (and it is quite large - check the dimensions!).
This speaker is at the more expensive end of the price range and you might be wondering if spending that much money is worth it. If your budget runs to it, I would definitely say yes. I have reviewed several speakers in the past few months, and the sound quality from this one is infinitely superior to any of the others. This is built like a quality product and sounds amazing. Thoroughly recommended.


The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time
The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time
by Mark Schaefer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read for Twitter newbies and those wanting to learn more, 22 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've dabbled with Twitter but was conscious that I'd never really used it to its full potential so I was intrigued by this book. It contains anecdotes about the power of making connections through Twitter, as well as useful information about both Twitter basics and more advanced features. The author is quite focussed on using Twitter as a business tool, but many of the ideas will work just as easily for making non-business connections as well. The emphasis is very much on the fact that the true power of Twitter is making links between the real people who use it and this is quite an inspiring thought. It was a fairly quick read, but I can see myself returning to some of the precise practical tips in the future.
Definitely recommended even if, like me, you aren't particularly interested in the business potential of Twitter.


Philips SBT30/00 Bluetooth Wireless Portable Speaker - Khaki
Philips SBT30/00 Bluetooth Wireless Portable Speaker - Khaki
Price: 37.32

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but there are better sounding speakers on the market, 22 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've reviewed several speakers for Amazon Vine in the past few months, and while this one is ok, there are better sounding speakers on the market. This offering by Philips contains a rechargeable battery which is charged over micro USB (cable integrated with audio cable is included but no mains adapter in the box. The manufacturers claim the battery life is over 8 hours which isn't bad. The barrel shaped speaker feels solid enough, and has a smooth, slightly rubbery texture around the side. It's the sort of thing Action Man might put in his kit bag with its colouring and carabiner clip on the side. You can connect your music (or phone as there is also a microphone included for phonecalls) device via either Bluetooth or audio cable. Bluetooth pairing worked well enough with my Samsung Galaxy MP3 player. The audio cable is joined to the charging cable, and fits into the same micro USB port that you use for charging. This seemed a bit clunky and I was concerned about the need to carry the cable with me particularly as if the audio out on the speaker was separate, I could just use my phone charger. Of course, this might not be such a problem for you if you intended to connect via Bluetooth most of the time. Some mini speakers have an integrated audio cable which I feel is a better solution than this.
Sound quality is ok but is never going to replace your room-filling hifi unit. The speaker output is 2W RMS which is about standard for units of this sort of size, but, perhaps as you'd expect, there isn't much bass, and at higher volume, there's quite a bit of distortion and it isn't pleasant to listen to.
Overall, this speaker doesn't really distinguish itself from the other small speakers currently available. It's fine but no more than that.


The Golden Egg: (Brunetti 22)
The Golden Egg: (Brunetti 22)
by Donna Leon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Brunetti back again, 16 Jun 2013
I always look forward, with considerable anticipation, to the coming of spring and the publication of the latest Brunetti novel by Donna Leon. He and his family have become almost like old friends during the course of this long running series (this is the 22nd book to feature them), and the city of Venice provides an opulent yet decaying backdrop for Donna Leon's subtle and compassionate mysteries. As always, we have the cast of Brunetti's colleagues at the Questura (police headquarters) and they become increasingly multi-faceted as we discover a bit more about them in each novel. This time, the story centres around the unexpected death of a deaf mute man who worked at the dry cleaners used by the Brunetti family. It isn't even a full-scale police investigation because there is no foul play suspected, but the plot allows Donna Leon to explore a number of themes including the divisions between north and south, corrupt officials (this one often crops up in Leon's books) and honesty and deceit.
This isn't an all action cop thriller. The pace is slow and considered and the mood evocative of the sights and tastes of a languid, beautiful and ageing city. It isn't a novel to rush through but rather one where it is worth savouring every word and reflecting on every conversation between the characters because with Donna Leon, there is nothing superfluous and everything adds in a subtle way to our understanding of the story we are being told.
I love this series of books, and am only sorry that I have now read the Brunetti book for 2013, and now eagerly await the coming of next spring and the next episode.


Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01UK 11.6-inch Laptop (2GB RAM, 16GB HDD)
Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01UK 11.6-inch Laptop (2GB RAM, 16GB HDD)
Offered by UK ONLINE
Price: 499.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, small and speedy machine, 16 Jun 2013
I hesitated for a while before finally purchasing the Samsung Chromebook. Like many people I suspect, I was reluctant to move away from the Windows machines we've become so familiar with, but the price of this, combined with its portability, excellent keyboard and modern appearance persuaded me in the end. I'd tried to get a feel for what it would be like to work almost exclusively within the Chrome browser by doing just that on a Windows machine and exploring the apps and extensions offered in the Chrome webstore. If you are wondering whether you can do what you need to do on a Chromebook, I'd recommend that you do the same. Everything you do on a Chromebook is done from within the browser itself, so you can't install Windows programs, but you can do a huge amount. Note that I did say that you can't install Windows programs, but, if you've access to a Windows system (either on another PC in your home or through remote access to a work network) then you can actually use Word, Excel etc, as long as they are installed on the Windows system you are remotely accessing. Google provides word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software of its own (which can be used offline), if you are not tied into Microsoft's offerings.
The Chromebook is super speedy to power up, and very easy to use. For the price, the build quality is fine. It is made of plastic rather than aluminium but feels sturdy overall. The screen isn't the sharpest, and it doesn't have the widest of viewing angles, but it's perfectly serviceable for a device like this which will probably only be used by one person at a time. I like the mat finish of the screen which I find better than a glossy finish in sunlight, and the brightness can be controlled by dedicated buttons at the top of the keyboard. The keyboard is a really strong feature of this machine. It is well-spaced out and as comfortable to type on as my full-size Windows keyboard. I can whizz along with my touch typing, and the ability to do this was ultimately what persuaded me to go for the Chromebook as my portable device rather than a touch screen device. The trackpad is large, and although it takes a bit of getting used to, it does its job perfectly well, although there are 2 USB ports (one of which is a USB 3) so you can attach an external mouse if you prefer. There is also a full size HDMI port so you can watch video on your TV if you wish. There are stereo speakers underneath the Chromebook which sound adequate rather than spectacular, and was much improved by plugging in my X-Mini speaker. There is limited bluetooth connectivity but this does not extend to streaming music over bluetooth. There is a VGA webcam, once again, nothing spectacular but perfectly fine for Google hangouts, although note that at the time of writing, Skype is not available, so if this is important to you, then don't buy a Chromebook.
You'll notice, if you decide to buy this machine, how quiet it is. There's no hard drive whizzing round, and no fan. The Chromebook gets a bit warm on your knee, but nowhere near as much as some Windows laptops I've used in the past. Of course, no hard drive means very little internal storage. There are just 16GB of flash storage onboard, with the possibility of adding more via the SD card slot on the side. However, cloud storage is what this machine is designed for. You can 100GB of Google Drive space for 2 years, and you can also use other cloud storage providers such as Dropbox or Skydrive.
The reason this machine gets 5 stars from me is that it is portable, quick and so easy to use. It doesn't have the highest specifications but it is definitely more than the sum of its parts, and for the price Samsung are asking, it seems like a bargain. If you can do everything you need within the Chrome browswer - and you probably can (particularly if you have remote access to a Windows network), and you like the idea of a proper keyboard rather than a touchscreen, this is a great buy.


Lonely Planet France: 10 (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet France: 10 (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful and comprehensive - a good travelling companion, 2 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a regular visitor to France over the years, I was keen to review this Lonely Planet guide book and I'd definitely say that it will earn its place in your suitcase if you are going there. Beginning with some general sections such as what is going on in France month by month, food and drink advice and suggested itineraries, it then moves on to the region by region coverage beginning with Paris. Each region's chapter begins with a useful summary giving reasons why you might want to go there, together with short lists of the best places to eat and stay - very helpful to be able to access this information quickly. There's also a weather summary, as well as a list of the key towns and cities, plus hints on regional foods and wines. There are also useful colour maps (plus a fold out Paris map at the back), plus a few double page spreads with photos or plans of key monuments such as the Louvre. There isn't the glossy lavishness of the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Guides but that doesn't really trouble me too much. The emphasis here is on extensive coverage combined with useful practical information about transport, hotels, shops and restaurants. The chapters on the areas of France that I know seem well done and this gives me confidence that the information in the chapters in areas that I haven't yet visited can be relied upon. This guide is useful to browse through when planning/dreaming about a trip to France and will also be invaluable when you get there.


Pentax WG-3 Waterproof Digital Camera - Green (16MP, 4x Optical Zoom, GPS, Front Screen) 3 inch LCD
Pentax WG-3 Waterproof Digital Camera - Green (16MP, 4x Optical Zoom, GPS, Front Screen) 3 inch LCD

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good photos, rugged and feature packed, 26 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is definitely the camera for you if you are into outdoor adventures. It's built with a rugged robustness which suggests that it will cope well with the great outdoors, come rain (because it's waterproof) or shine. The 4x optical zoom doesn't protrude beyond the camera, but is all sealed in, and the charging port is behind a waterproof seal too, although you can buy an additional accessory to charge wirelessly. Photo quality is pretty good, sharp well exposed images and a responsive zoom. The camera is quick to respond to pressing the shutter button.(this is important. Shutter lag drives me crazy!) The HD video looks pretty good too. The menus look a bit dated to me although there quite a few options both when shooting and viewing images, most of which I probably won't use.
All in all then, a pretty solid camera which should suit the most intrepid explorer although you might want to ask yourself how much you really need underwater shooting, or a GPS on your camera and the other bells and whistles this camera has in order to decide whether it's worth the price tag to you.


Belkin Neoprene Sleeve for Kindle - Blue
Belkin Neoprene Sleeve for Kindle - Blue
Price: 15.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for my Nexus 7 too!, 21 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought the midnight Kindle Keyboard sleeve at a bargain price thinking that it might be suitable for my Nexus 7 when its in my handbag. It fits snuggly and works a treat. (I also have a Kindle Keyboard, so can vouch for the fact that it works well for this too although that isn't why I bought it). The deep blue colour of the neoprene is attractive, and it's lined with a bright turquoise colour. If you are looking for an inexpensive Nexus 7 cover, this could be what you are looking for!


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