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Reviews Written by
Mr. Stuart Bruce "DonQuibeats" (Cardiff, UK)
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The Electric Car Guide: Nissan LEAF
The Electric Car Guide: Nissan LEAF
by Michael Boxwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An extended testimontial, definitely worth reading for potential Leaf buyers, 5 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you're thinking of buying any electric car, especially the Nissan Leaf, then this is an essential e-book read. It will definitely help you to get off the fence and decide for certain whether a Leaf is the right choice for you. That's the position I am in, and reading this book at the same time as doing a 48-hour Leaf test drive has been invaluable.

The book is in some respects an extended testimonial from a long-time Leaf owner (who happens to work on battery technology for, among others, Nissan), so while there are points at which you feel like you're reading an extended sales brochure, there are also a few honest reservations too- mostly about the range, which of course is almost every electric car's main drawback as of 2015. But largely, as a potential Leaf buyer myself, this book was a really important read for reassuring me both of my excitements and of my doubts.

The fact it addresses the issue of the "well to wheel" environmental impact of the car makes a big difference too, providing some facts and figures for people who worry about the fact that while the Leaf is zero emissions, obviously the electricity has to come from somewhere.

That being said, you could also argue that there isn't all that much in this book that you couldn't already have found for yourself, if you'd read Nissan's own brochure and a few online reviews. Besides a slightly unnecessary-feeling brief history of the 19th-century electric car (which you might have gleaned yourself from Wikipedia if you were interested), and a couple of accounts of the author's own test drive performance measurements, there isn't a great deal of unique content in here.

Some of the writing does feel a tiny bit padded out- for example the breakdown of the differences between different Leaf models and feature levels goes on for several pages and you end up feeling it would've been simpler just to put everything in a nicely laid-out table.

I was lucky to grab a Kindle copy of this book for free while it was being promoted, but now that the price has been bumped up, I'm not quite so convinced. If you're thinking about electric cars in general, and you haven't necessarily settled on a Leaf, then you should look for the same author's "Electric Car Guide", which is only slightly more expensive but which will cover the whole range of available vehicles.


Dew Sterling Silver and Gold Plate Stand Tall Giraffe Drop Earrings 6038GD
Dew Sterling Silver and Gold Plate Stand Tall Giraffe Drop Earrings 6038GD
Price: £16.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Discreetly quirky, 30 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A sweet, and surprisingly small, pair of earrings. Despite representing one of nature’s bigger animals, the earrings are decidedly discreet. Rather than being ‘novelty’, like I originally thought they might be, they end up liking quite classy, and just gently quirky rather than out-and-out ‘wacky’.

The gold spots are only visible on one side, but once they’re in the ear, the earrings can’t twist so that’s fine. If you didn’t like the gold spots, then with a bit of bending and re-bending you could turn them around so that the silver-only side would always be facing forwards. Personally I think the use of gold (which I normally don’t like) is quite subtly done on these and quite pleasant.

They come in a fairly standard decent-quality presentation box as well, that gives them a ‘medium luxury’ feel- not too cheap, not super-posh. There’s a white outer card sleeve as well but you would definitely take that off if giving them as a gift.

This is a rather nice little set of earrings that will work both as a treat for yourself if you like them, or as a sweet little gift.


HP E7U19AA Executive Capacitive Stylus
HP E7U19AA Executive Capacitive Stylus
Offered by IvoryEgg
Price: £8.12

5.0 out of 5 stars The pointy stick for professionals, 28 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a stylish, high-quality pointing stick. If in the old days you liked to have posh-looking pens sticking out of your shirt pocket to make you look smart and professional, well here is your modern-day equivalent. It has the posh aluminium feel of a good pen, and a smart and subtle "HP" logo on top to show that you're not someone who buys cheap Chinese knock-offs.

Crucially, of course, it also works very well on tablets. When I first got it out of the (moderately posh and over-sized) box, I thought the size of the nib would undermine the whole point of it, because it's not that much smaller than the tip of my finger, and I thought the point of a stylus was, among other things, to give you a better clicking precision than just using your finger. With my Linx 8 tablet, the standard screen resolution can prove a bit awkward for my clumsy forefinger.

I needn't have worried though- it turns out that by holding the stylus at an angle, exactly like a pen, you get a pretty excellent precision, that even extends as far as doing some basic drawing work (I've tested this very primitively, I'm no precision architect).

The nib has a rubber feel to it which allows you to press with different weights, and even if you press quite forcefully, you're unlikely to ever be able to damage your screen.

While I'm sure you could get cheaper pointy sticks for the job, this is clearly the professional option and I can't think of anything to fault it on.


African Safari 3D [Blu-ray]
African Safari 3D [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Ben Stassen
Price: £10.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well shot travelogue- something a bit different, 26 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having been conditioned to BBC Bristol-style documentaries, with stunning photography, David Attenborough voiceovers and quite a formal structure, "African Safari 3D" made a refreshing change.

The photography was still pretty damn good in parts- there are some stunning wide shots across African plains, some excellent stuff shot from the air, and the occasional fun novelty shot where an elephant sticks its trunk into negative space to leap off the screen at you. The crew have used small, GoPro-sized 3D cameras which have given them a versatility. The 3D is generally of a good quality, 95% of the time- I've certainly seen much worse.

They've also broken the BBC-style 'rules' and gotten up close and personal with the animals. They've also, as they admit at the end of the credits, reconstructed some sequences "for narrative", though I don't know which ones (I have my suspicions about the night-time lion encroachment though).

Coupled with a travelogue-style narrative, the result is a much more "hands-on" style movie which feels a bit like what life would be like if you could go on the most extensive free-range safari trip of a lifetime, and you happened to bring along a mate who had a hot air balloon. It has a good sense of adventure about it.

There are a couple of weak elements. The two presenters spend a little bit too long talking about themselves (and in a repetitive fashion which makes it feel like it has been edited with US advert breaks in mind), and ideally would've spent a bit longer talking about the animals in a tiny bit more detail. You don't learn very much while you're enjoying the view.

That said, if you like using wildlife programs to show off your 3D TV to full effect, then this should definitely be in your collection.


Philips Multi-Groom Ultra Precise Beard Styler Series 1000
Philips Multi-Groom Ultra Precise Beard Styler Series 1000
Price: £17.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly effective, except on thicker hair, 25 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For a lower-end-of-range little trimmer powered by a single AA battery (provided), this beard styler is surprisingly effective. It couldn't be easier to use, and is mercifully painless (which for me was probably the biggest positive). The selection of heads and grills provided give you a lot of control over what you're trying to do, and the results are very consistent.

There's a "no frills" feel about this product, with its basic plastic tray packaging, no pointless stand, no carry bag, and so on, but personally I think that's fine, as it's more likely to serve as an additional shaver rather than your sole face-hedge management device.

Around my mouth and sideburn areas, it did an excellent job. In the depths of my beard though, the trimmer was out of its depth, somewhat literally. If you've got a relatively modest beard, like the gentleman in Amazon's picture or slightly thicker, then you'll be fine, but if you are a more hirsute gentleman with a more fullsome chin-topiary, you'll want something with a bit more "oomph".


BecoThings Eco-Friendly Poo Bag Refills
BecoThings Eco-Friendly Poo Bag Refills
Price: £2.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Also very useful as food recycling bags, 25 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Larger dog poo bags have a secondary use that doesn't seem to be widely known, as food recycling bags. If your council does food waste recycling, you may or may not get issued with free bags, but if you do, they tend to be thin and awkward. More than once we've ended up having to pick up half-rotted food from the hallway because the bag split before we could get as far as the outside bin. If that's happened to you- these bags are quite definitely the solution.

They're sturdy without being too thick, and they are large enough (just) to fit our kitchen food waste mini-bin. They're clearly strong, and they don't have either a plasticky or an artificially-induced sweet aroma, they just 'are'. They are tightly packed into mini-rolls which is very convenient too. Handles would have been a luxury but personally I'm happy to forego the handles if it keeps the cost well down.

Coupling that with the eco green credentials (assuming you can believe everything it says on the box), these are a product that's both worthy and really very useful, in more than one way.


Atlas
Atlas
Offered by Shop4World
Price: £3.28

3.0 out of 5 stars Polished but flat, 22 April 2015
This review is from: Atlas (Audio CD)
"Atlas" is a strong album that drips with a professional polish, but falls short of being properly outstanding. The house beats and sharp, sometimes bouncy electro basslines are very slick, but unfortunately over the course of 12 tracks, there's just not enough variety or inspiration to really sustain your interest or to make you want to tell your friends about it- and I suspect that's why it's now avaiable at a bargain price.

Some of the problems lie in the vocals, where the melodies, which are an attempt at nonchalant cool, actually end up being lacklustre and devoid of any passion or energy. With a strong vocal, then Rufus could've been following acts like Disclosure, Clean Bandit and the like into the high areas of the charts and radioplay. All the other ingredients are in place- tracks like "Simplicity Of Bliss" show that.

Having heard a bunch of remixes of tracks like "Desert Night", I'd high hopes for "Atlas", but was left rather disappointed.


Strange Adagio
Strange Adagio
Price: £3.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genetically modified super-music, 21 April 2015
This review is from: Strange Adagio (MP3 Download)
I have a confess to being biased about this release, as my username might suggest, but since it's my 1000th Amazon review I'm going to let myself off just this once. To be clear: THIS REVIEW HAS A SLIGHT BIAS.

This may well be the best piece of music ever recorded, if not the best recorded piece of audio of any kind.

The vocal mix, starring Jenny McLaren of Spray (Spray being to music what the Beatles are to music), is a perfectly-wrapped little nugget of modern pop. If you don't find it both uplifting, tear-jerking, funny and disquieteningly serious at the same time, then it's possible there might be a little something wrong with you. The lyrics are a Creme Egg; bite off the sweet chocolately surface layers of the wordsmithery to find interesting textures tempered a second sugar hit within. But unlike Creme Eggs, it's gone Easter now and you can still buy this track; therefore it's better than a Creme Egg.

Track 2 is the original mix. It's a funky piece of instrumental house, as heard in "The Shaun The Sheep Movie" where it appeared as "Strange Adagio For Barbers"- if you squint at that name for long enough, a joke might appear. Naturally it stands up as a musical juggernaut in its own right, and when it appears in the Aardman movie, I can only presume without evidence that at least half of every audience was both bent over double with laughter and dancing in the aisles at the same time, leading to minor health and safety issues about passable walkaways.

Track 3 is a smooth piece of remix work by renowned German chin-stroking muso BitPusher. Upping the tempo yet cleverly relaxing the energy, this mix wouldn't sound out of place on one of Sasha's "Involver" compilations, or on one of those more high-brow "Chillout Ibiza" compilations that's actually good, rather than one of those "Chillout Ibiza" compilations that's crap. Alternatively, if you work for Fashion TV and you are putting together another montage about yachts, this piece of music is your man/music.

Track 4 is the DonQuibeats remix, at which point the potential bias in my review increases exponentially, as my username might re-suggest. This takes the power-walking pace of the original and adds just a hint of threat, in a "don't put that trolley in my way, I'm power-shopping" way. Hints of distortion and a healthy dose of glitchiness make this the perfect remix for trampolining, or filling in some of the easier kinds of tax forms. I can only hope that Mr or Mrs or Ms DonQuibeats' remix work is more prolific in future.

Track 5 is an instrumental version of the opening track, which is absolutely *the* perfect piece of music you've always been looking for, no matter whether you're a news journalist making a report about statistical upturns in British IT white collar job creation in the Midlands, and you're looking for background music, or not.

You should have bought this release before you even started reading this review, because then you could've had "Strange Adagio" in your life for longer. You would retrospectively have thanked me.

The "Buy MP3 album" button can be found towards the top right of your browser window.


Science in Sport 60 ml Energy Gel Variety - Pack of 7
Science in Sport 60 ml Energy Gel Variety - Pack of 7
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A very positive introduction to sports jelly, 21 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This was my first time with gels. It seems I do more leisurely exercise than most of the other reviewers. I jog or do power walks (I know, I know), and for the sake of the review, I even tried them at work to see if I’d notice a difference in a sedentary situation.

Although it’s impossible for me to put any kind of quantitive report on it, for me I felt that, both while active and less active, the effect was broadly similar to drinking a Lucozade. (I drink a lot of Lucozade so this is an easy comparison for me.)

There was a definitive and gentle uplift, both physically and in alertness, that tailed away in a roughly equivalent way. Unlike Lucozade of course, with these gels you haven’t taken on 330ml or 500ml of liquid at the same time, which does give them an edge if you don’t want to take on too much water. But apart from the difference in water content, I wouldn’t say I could feel any significant difference.

If I was trying to use these properly on-the-go (i.e. with one hand still on the handlebars, or while jogging at pace), they would be far too fiddly for my liking. They’re easy to open, sure, and getting the first half of the gel in your mouth is easy, but after that it’s a bit like trying to get the last bits out of a toothpaste tube. That would be a little irritating if I was against the clock, for sure.

The flavours are mostly all fine, and largely just a variation on the same theme; they all taste a little bit like sweets but with all the sugar removed. As artificial flavourings go, they are definitely above-average, by far.

The blackcurrant was probably my favourite, and apple and orange were both surprisingly nice. The lemon & lime flavour was like eating an above-average sugar-free lime jelly through a straw, and the pink grapefruit was pleasant and not bitter. On the flip side, the tropical and pineapple flavours were both a bit nothing-y- more like weak orange. But then, I guess the point of this sampler pack is that you can pick your own favourites.

Overall I would, and will, buy these again; they’re as convenient as my normal Lucozade but without the weight. For the sake of cost I’ll probably buy a bulk pack of the orange flavour, which was fine (sadly Amazon don’t seem to sell bulk packs of the blackcurrant flavour, which would’ve been my preference). I’m also curious about the coffee and cola flavours, though those sound almost too good to be true!


Acoustek
Acoustek

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful album, not just a novelty album, 21 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Acoustek (Audio CD)
This is a very simple idea, beautifully executed. A string sextet (with a dash of flute) performing an interesting selection of 1990s dance classics in a simple, stripped back, yet somehow quite faithful way, is an absolutely fantastic listen.

The results are somewhat akin to Philip Glass compositions in some ways- deliberately and mesmeringly repetitive, with a gradual dynamic. The arrangements are nicely thought-out, in that they're not necessarily a note-for-note copy, but effort has been taken to reflect the original song structure as well. On top of that, a few nice touches like the hand-made distortion on the violins in "Consume" show that there was a fair dollop of imagination at play here.

The choice is tracks, again, is surprisingly good. It has to be praised that Instrumental, rather than going for the 'obvious' tracks, decided to do tracks like "Re:Evolution" (thankfully minus the Shamen's original embarrassing Terence McKenna rambling) instead of going for "Ebeneezer Goode" for novelty value, or that they did Moby's "Hymn" instead of "Go", and so on. Despite being released in 1999 they shied away from doing any 'big trance numbers' (no "Cafe Del Mar", no "For An Angel", etc.)

"Little Fluffy Clouds" is perhaps the track that sounds the most awkward, with its dubby bassline not translating all that well. I would've liked to have heard that minus the bassline really- though since it's heavily based on a Steve Reich sample originally, perhaps the results would've actually ended up being a re-arrangement of the Steve Reich composition by then. It was because of the Orb that I first heard Instrumental, who did one of the remixes on their "Oxbow Lakes" single.

The production is very good. There's a rich, slightly warm texture to it all, which suits the arrangements nicely.

There was a bit of a trend in the late 90s and early 2000s to do cover versions of famous songs in different styles, and in a way, this release does appear to have jumped on the bandwagon. That's a shame though, since this is a forgotten gem of an album.


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