Profile for B. D. Breen > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by B. D. Breen
Top Reviewer Ranking: 23,685
Helpful Votes: 103

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
B. D. Breen (London UK)
(VINE VOICE)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
pixel
Ultrasport Men's Key West Polo Shirt - Blue, Small
Ultrasport Men's Key West Polo Shirt - Blue, Small
Price: 49.99

4.0 out of 5 stars You get what you pay for, 6 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ultrasport have produced a polo shirt that feels very high-quality and looks great. The product looks exactly as it does online, and feels like it will last for a long time. In my assessment, the fairly hefty price-tag is justified by the feel of the shirt, and is something I would definitely buy again for casualwear.


Acts of Omission
Acts of Omission
by Terry Stiastny
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull, 17 May 2014
This review is from: Acts of Omission (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Acts of Omission" examines the fallout from a loss of government documents on a taxi. The documents detail informants for the East Germans after the second world war, and is something the Germans want back. Caught up in the fallout from this are the fresh-faced foreign minister, the civil servant who lost the files and the journalist who winds up with them on her desk. Unfortunately, none of these characters is relatable in the remotest sense. The civil servant comes across as wet and bland, the journalist as under the thumb of pretty much everyone and the foreign minister as one dimensional. This results in a complete lack of caring in the plot of the novel, and even at points of unexpected reveals its very hard to give a damn.

The plot itself is reasonably well-paced, shifting every fifty pages or so and following several character's stories at once. However, any benefit of this is completely negated by the wooden, one dimensional characters living in this world. What results is a tedious, uninspired tale that I didn't look forward to reading at all. If I hadn't been writing a review, I probably wouldn't have finished it.


Out of The Furnace [DVD] [2013]
Out of The Furnace [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale
Price: 7.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A Gritty Drama with a Strong Cast, 1 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Out of the Furnace" tells the story of Russel Baze (Christian Bale), a steelworker fresh out of prison. His girlfriend left him, his aging father died and he is wracked with guilt, but at least he has his brother Rodney (Casey Afflek). However, Rodney is forever in debt, and in a last-ditch effort to clear what he owes has become involved in bare-knuckle fighting. Rodney takes a fight upstate in a hillbilly fight league, led by the intimidating Harlan Degroat (Woody Harrelson). When Rodney is killed, and the police seem powerless, Bale's character sets out to take revenge, whatever the cost.

The characters are very well developed, and the all-star cast does them real justice. Bale is very convincing as a man in emotional turmoil, full of anger and guilt, and has a perfect counterpart in Harrelson, playing a wild, out-of-control killer. The supporting cast are also very strong, from the ex-girlfriend to the local police officer, all of whom add real drama to the piece. It is in following these characters that the film shows its real strengths, and these roles are perfectly cast.

The plot itself is also very believable, and depressing. There really isn't a happy moment throughout the whole film, which fits the subject matter well. This mood of depression is matched by the cinematography, showing eerie steel-mills and cold, dark woods. Unfortunately, it is also in the plot that "Out of the Furnace" is let down; the ending is not explicit, which can be great when executed well, but here just leaves the audience feeling unfulfilled and the plot unresolved. This is compounded by the fact that at two hours, I would have been happy to see the film go another 20 minutes or so, particularly with such a strong cast.

"Out of the Furnace" is a slow-burning drama, built around violence. With an overwhelmingly bleak atmosphere, and a plethora of unhappy characters, there is a real vein of depression running through the whole piece. But it is this that really marks the film out - it isn't an action film, it's a study in humanity at its worst, and is very believable in that. The trailer ([...]), whilst being a little too action-oriented, does a good job of describing the film and is well worth a watch if you're considering buying "Out of the Furnace". It isn't a classic, but it's a solid film nonetheless.


Monarch [DVD]
Monarch [DVD]
Dvd ~ TP McKenna
Price: 10.23

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong Characters Seem a Little Lost, 27 April 2014
This review is from: Monarch [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This DVD is a superbly remastered release of the mid-90s film 'Monarch'. Starring T.P. McKenna and Jean Marsh, the audience experiences a night in the life of King Henry VIII and his courtiers following an attack. They hunker up in a manor house deserted except for the groundskeeper's son, unsure as to whether their attacker is planning another attempt on the King's life, or indeed whether it was an inside job.

The paranoia of the King is expertly acted, and offers a unique take on Henry VII. It is undoubtedly these performances which make the film entertaining, and McKenna is a real asset. Jean Marsh also puts in a strong performance as the wives of Henry VIII, with these scenes serving as the most dramatic of the . The primary antagonist of the film also plays his part very well, and his dialogue is very cleverly written. Unfortunately, as good as the dialogue is the plot isn't - the central idea is solid enough, but developments are confused and the ending really isn't explained at all. It seems like a lot of plot threads are discarded half way through, without a resolution of any sort. This greatly detracts from the enjoyability of the film.

The restoration itself is very well done, and there is really no difference between this DVD and any other standard definition film, which is a real credit to the restoration team. In terms of extra features, there's an on-set interview with T.P. McKenna, a retrosective on the film with the rest f the cast and crew recorded recently and a photo gallery. For me, the gallery adds nothing to the presentation, but the other two pieces are interesting looks at the production. Unfortunately, this cannot make up for the poor plotting of the rest of the film.


In God's House
In God's House
by Ray Mouton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic, Believable, Phenomenal, 23 April 2014
This review is from: In God's House (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"In God's House" is an epic novel following Renon Chattelrault, a lawyer hired to defend a priest against charges of child molestation. Determined to do his job and represent his client, Chattelrault faces opposition from the church (interested in their own public image). Renon sees it as his duty to defend the priest, and collides head-on against the power structure of the catholic church. The situation worsens as Renon delves deeper into the church and its responses to pedophilia. Told primarily in the first person, the reader develops a real empathy for - and understanding of - Renon Chattelrault, caught in a dilemma trying to do the right thing.

Spanning almost 600 pages, the plot and characters are fully developed. The reader is introduced to many individuals, each with their own background and motivations, none of whom are obviously good or evil. Each character believes they are doing what is right, and the reader is left to decide who they agree with. Renon Chattelrault is a fallible character, frequently caught in a moral quandary and unsure how to act. This makes him relatable, and the story consistent with real life. There are a number of dilemmas throughout the novel - what is the job of the church? Is a full trial fair on the victims? How far should a lawyer go to defend their client? - and their effect on Renon is clearly visible. Beginning the book happily married with three children and a successful law practice, the case's effect of these things is painfully, emotively documented. Everything is viewed through the eyes of realism - there is no good or evil, just shades of grey.

Most striking about "In God's House" is it's realism and believability. Not every event of the novel is tragic, and equally not everything builds into one dramatic conclusion. It is this uncertainty, and this truth, which adds a fantastic amount of tension and tragedy to the piece. This is attributable to the skill of the author, Ray Mouton, who has lived the events of the novel. Like his primary character, Mouton defended a pedophile priest, fighting against the catholic power structure, before going on to publish one of the most cited documents on child molesters in the church - "the greatest scandal of our time". This experience shines through in the richness of emotion, and the strength of the dilemmas, presented throughout the novel; at times "In God's House" reads like an autobiography, further elevating the tragedy and pain of the novel, painting a truly engrossing picture.

Mouton cites Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" as an inspiration, and indeed both novels share themes of injustice and tragedy. But where Mouton diverges is in the reality with which his novel hits home, and in a lack of absolute morality. Many people talk about the profound effect "Mockingbird" had on their outlook, and I feel similarly about "In God's House". Telling such a harrowing story with tact, whilst communicating powerful emotion, is a rare skill in writing, and Mouton delivers this expertly. The result is a powerful, tragic and thrilling novel packed with tension, raw emotion and realism. A must read.


Cirrus Earplugs Premium Soft Foam
Cirrus Earplugs Premium Soft Foam
Offered by Rubber Soul Healthcare
Price: 6.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Wouldn't be my first choice, 20 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These earplugs are made of a soft foam, designed to expand inside the ear to give a tight fit. However, I have found that, due to their slight cone shape, this expansion leads to the plugs rising out of the ears. The packet directs you to hold the plugs in place for 30 seconds to allow them to expand, but this has limited success. When fitted properly, noise reduction was very effective, but getting to this point was very hit-and miss (with a lot more misses than hits). I use earplugs for sleeping, and they served this purpose fairly well - neither being uncomfortable nor falling out half way into the night.

In terms of reusability, the plugs have a tendency to get dirty very quickly, and I wasn't comfortable using them for more than a couple of days. Which means for the price these are comparatively expensive. I have had more success with silicon earplugs, which take a lot less time to fit and can be reused for longer. I'll be using the remaining earplugs I have in the pack, but won't be purchasing any more.


Peppersmith tingz 100% xylitol sweets - Strawberry and Vanilla 15 g (Pack of 18, Total 450 Sweets)
Peppersmith tingz 100% xylitol sweets - Strawberry and Vanilla 15 g (Pack of 18, Total 450 Sweets)
Price: 12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Children Will Love Them, Adults Won't, 28 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Tingz are a low-calorie sweet, coming in pellets of a size similar to tic-tacs. In order to contain as few calories as possible, Tingz use zylitol - a sugar substitute that provides sweetness without the calories. The sweets come in a colorfully designed box which will appeal to children, and have a definite taste of creamy strawberry. The pellets themselves look like tablets, which I find a worry in a product marketed to children. And even aside from this, aesthetically some colouring really would make the sweets look more appealing and bring them into line with the packaging.

Unfortunately, the sweets are very artificial tasting. There is a definite chemical sweetness behind the (much nicer) strawberry and vanilla flavourings. This leaves an somewhat unpleasant aftertaste. As well as this, xylitol is known to have laxative effects, so it is advisable to limit consumption to one (quite small) pack a day. This chemical sweetness won't turn children off, but certainly detracts from the overall product when consimed by an adult.

In concluding, as a low calorie sweet Tingz are perfectly servicable, but do come with a chemical aftertaste. However, if you're a parent the combination of low calories with a sweet, strawberry-like taste could be a real blessing. If I were rating the product for children, it would get 4 or 5 stars, but if I were rating it for adults it would get 1 or 2. It really depends on who will be eating them as to whether Tingz are a worthwhile purchase.


The Bees
The Bees
by Laline Paull
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like Disney for adults?, 24 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Bees (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"The Bees" tells of Flora 717, born a sanitation worker bee - the lowest class of the hive - with unusual strength and the ability to talk (usually reserved for the higher classes). Due to these differences, Flora experiences a number of jobs in the hive, allowing her to build up quite an understanding of how things work (and helping to keep the reader engaged). 'The Bees' is definitely aimed at adults, with gore, violence and adult themes popping up throughout the book; but the overall feel of the novel contradicts this. Unfortunately, the result is rather confused - neither adult fiction nor children's story.

Through the course of the novel, the tone shifts from wild optimism to despair and on to panic. The reader's guide through all of this is Flora, who seems a little too perfect to be true. In the real world, a bee works at one job until they die, but Flora tries most jobs in the hive and manages to succeed at all of them. From the "flow" production necessary to nurse babies to the strength and energy to go foraging, Flora seems to miraculously possess all of these adaptations and is often better than bees specifically bred for the purpose. This makes the story incredibly unbelievable, and as a result the novel is difficult to engage with fully. The one flaw Flora does exhibit is a sense of independence, which is unbecoming for a bee. This is vital in keeping the story in any way interesting - without independent thought what is the point of a narrator at all? However, independence clashes with the devotion to the hive that a bee must exhibit. This struggle with independence against the brainwashing of a hive mind mentality is actually the most interesting part of the novel.

Factually, many events in the novel seem well researched. From the way bees deal with wasp attackers (piling onto them and "cooking" them with body heat) to their UV sight (which allows flowers to broadcast to them), these little touches add some real interest to the writing, and a genuine sense of discovery at several points. Unfortunately, were this accuracy maintained, a mutated sanitation worker like Flora would have been killed at birth.

Killing is a big theme throughout the novel. The fertility police prevent anyone but the queen from breeding, dispatching mother and child alike with murderous force. Wasps feel like second-class citizens in the eyes of bees, and so take every opportunity to cause suffering to their honey-producing brethren. And of course the dangers of modern life - insecticides, mobile phone masts and urbanisation - rear their ugly heads. It is clear that the author is trying to communicate a message, but this sadly doesn't really come through. And the plot itself seems a step removed from these ideas. Unlike animal farm, which carried a powerful, evocative message told through the prism of animal society, "The Bees" just reads like a story about bees.

The plot of the novel tends to lurch around a bit, but central to it - as to any hive - is the wellbeing of the Queen. This is a large focus of several sections of the novel, requiring Flora to regularly meet the queen. Once again, it would be unusual for any worker bee to be around the queen, especially a sanitation worker. The climax of the novel comes as a result of the Queen's actions, to a certain extent, and brings a major shift to the dynamic of the hive. Unfortunately, much of this climax can be predicted early on, sapping the excitement from the finale.

In concluding, "The Bees" feels confused as to what it wants to be, and who it wants to read it. I get the feeling that the story was intended to carry a deep message, drawing parallels with our own society. However, this lacks any power in the narrative and as a result the novel seems without purpose. Think less "Animal Farm", more Disney for teens.


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

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel novel, 8 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Three (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'The Three' is a book within a book. Aside from the opening and closing few pages, the entire novel is told in the form of a non-fiction piece: 'Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy'. This reports on the events of black Thursday (when four planes crashed killing all passengers save for three children) and the ensuing aftermath. As a result of this, much of the book is in the form of interviews and transcripts, slowly peeling back the layers in a tragedy that turns into a disaster.

As all of the reported interviews occur after the event, the reader is teased from time to time with hints of what is to come: "at the time, I never knew he was capable of what he did to that child", for example. Each character - and there are many - has their own unique personality and backstory, which gives each interview a different tone and personality. And of course, many people are fallible and will have lied in the interview or forgotten important details. This leaves the reader in a permanent state of uncertainty as to what is fact and what is fiction.

Humanity is painted in a bad light for much of the book. Many characters are deliberately deceptive and manipulative, whilst others are easily controlled and weak. 'The Three' focuses on the dregs of society - alien abductionists, religious fanatics and journalists. Religion is shown in a particularly bad light, with nearly every religious character being seriously flawed and either controlled or controlling, and these characters lead to much of the strife in the novel. It is worrying how believable the extreme reactions in the novel, particularly from the religious, are. Out of a thick book (~450 pages) shine the flaws of humanity and a distrust of religion.

The copy of 'Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy' printed in 'The Three' is an anniversary edition; and with this comes a series of after-the event features at the end of the novel. These both tie up some loose ends in the story, and unravel a new one for the reader to ponder. This involves the author of the piece, and is once again an expose of the flawed nature of humanity. It is this loose end which really serves to keep the reader thinking.

All in all, 'The Three' is a novel told in an innovative style that on the face of it sounds like it wouldn't work. After all, in real life non-fiction accounts by journalists are usually tedious no matter the subject matter. But this gamble most definitely pays off, giving the book a fresh feel and containing a complex plot of many components. A great read.


The Woman Before Me
The Woman Before Me
by Ruth Dugdall
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, 23 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Woman Before Me is a re-release of a novel which came out to much critical acclaim in 2010 - being shortlisted and longlisted for numerous awards, as well as winning the Crime Writer's Association Debut Dagger. It tells of Rose, a woman convicted of the manslaughter of her friend's baby, in an incident occurring only a few weeks after the death of her own child. Cate is the probation officer who must decide whether to recommend Rose for release. Child killing and obsessive love dominate the novel, both topics requiring a delicate approach. Ruth Dugdall achieves this in a captivating novel.

The story develops from the viewpoints of three characters - Rose, Cate and Emma (the mother of the dead baby). Each individual has their own problems to deal with, but are brought together by a series of tragedies. Much of the novel is told in the form of a diary Rose writes for her boyfriend. Rose is an unreliable storyteller, leading to twists and turns throughout the book and culminating in a dramatic reveal at its conclusion. The story is dominated by complex female characters, with men taking a back seat, in a refreshing change from most thrillers.

Rose's mental state is examined through the prism of her childhood, leading to insecurity and obsessive love. These traits expertly developed and explained, showing a clear understanding of the human mind. Ruth Dugdall was a probation officer for ten years, and her experience in this field shows. From working in a male-dominated prison environment, to the uncertainty in deciding whether to release a prisoner, the atmosphere of the book is incredibly believable. This makes the characters much more relatable, and a joy to follow through their own heartbreaks.

This re-release comes with some bonus material: an epilogue taking place several years after the rest of the novel (which fits well, not feeling tacked-on at all) and a question and answer session with the author. These are very interesting, but it is the plot of the novel that really matters. The reader is transported inside the minds of three women, all of whom are in their own way damaged. You are left to decide along with Cate: has Rose changed?

For an interesting, engaging crime novel with something a little bit different, there are few books I could recommend more highly than The Woman Before Me.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7