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Mark F. Davies (Dundee, Scotland)
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Rosewood Natural Nippers Tuff Rope Ball
Rosewood Natural Nippers Tuff Rope Ball
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 10 Aug. 2014
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One of my dog's favourites. It's strong and durable and copes with daily contact with teeth.


Petstages Cool Teething Stick
Petstages Cool Teething Stick
Price: £3.98

3.0 out of 5 stars It's a good toy for a young puppy but they soon grow ..., 10 Aug. 2014
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It's alright but my dog hasn't really taken to it, preferring something a bit hardier to chew on. It's a good toy for a young puppy but they soon grow up a bit and move on to something else; in my dog's case, well before he even started teething.


Royal Canin Medium Junior 15 kg
Royal Canin Medium Junior 15 kg
Price: £40.79

5.0 out of 5 stars I don't really love it but my dog does, 10 Aug. 2014
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I don't really love it but my dog does. He has it for every meal and wolfs it down. The only thing I'd say is that whilst it might be nutritionally complete my dog began to play with it after a while, craving some variety. I give him about half a cup at each meal and make up the rest with mince or fish or something a bit more tasty. It keeps his coat looking great and he has boundless energy (sometimes a negative!). Well worth paying the bit extra for great quality dog food rather than the cheaper alternatives.


OXO Good Grips Corer
OXO Good Grips Corer
Price: £6.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Does anyone really love their apple corer, 10 Aug. 2014
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Does anyone really love their apple corer? Anyway, the corer is sturdy and has a really good handle on it. Dish washable which is always a plus. All in all, it's good.


Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez 2014)
Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez 2014)
Price: £6.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, 10 Aug. 2014
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When I bought this I was a touch sceptical about the quote on the back of the book claiming that the writing was the closest thing to sensual pleasure prose can offer. Only being half way through I can now completely agree. Normally I storm my way through books, reading as many as three a week but with this I've found myself holding back and savouring every word. It's a treat to read and completely wonderful.


The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal, 10 Aug. 2014
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In my view this is Wilde at his best; it's dark and moody and utterly sublime throughout. Being from another time, it's a little more effort to read than modern prose is but well worth the effort.


Fifty Shades of Grey: Movie Tie-in
Fifty Shades of Grey: Movie Tie-in
Price: £3.66

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Missed Opportunities, 25 May 2013
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I must confess to something; I bought this book when everyone was talking about it, but then read and heard various reviews which made me feel a little snobbish about it. As someone who studied English I'm used to dealing with the classics and so I must confess to feeling that 50 Shades was somewhat beneath my normal reading material, a tome intended for bored housewives in need of some titillation. However, I also believe that you really can't express an opinion on something if you haven't experienced it for yourself and so, one weekend, I settled back on the couch and began to read.

It is my view that the story could have been fantastically executed in the hands of a great writer however, E.L. James' limited vocabulary and poor grasp of literary technique mean that she frequently descends into ridiculousness. I understand why the 'inner goddess' sections are there, revealing Anastasia's inner turmoil at the BDSM world she's entering, but really this could have been executed far better. Indeed it is these sections which turn out to be the funniest: "My inner goddess reclines on the sofa, smoking a cigarette and gazing at me wantonly." Or something to that effect. By the end of the novel you come to wonder if Miss Steele is actually schizophrenic or at the very least very, very disturbed. E.L. James' writing leaves a massive amount to be desired and, as I've said, in the hands of a competent writer this series of books could have been transcendent, bringing the sexual exploits of the BDSM crowd into the mainstream and inspiring those naughty housewives to be a little daring in the bedroom. However, this isn't high brow stuff; it's a low brow book, written by a low brow author, for people for whose literary horizon doesn't expand past what's currently on the chart shelves at Tesco. That's fine though, whatever encourages people to read is a triumph in my view.

The plot itself is excellent, and manages to stir carnal feelings in even the most uninterested of readers. I won't lie, throughout the novel I was thinking 'ooh, I could try that' or 'that's a bit hardcore' but I think that's what books are supposed to do - inspire readers to expand their horizons and explore ideas they hadn't previously considered. Granted those ideas are usually philosophical or moral in terms of elevated high brow writing, but I don't see any reason they shouldn't be sexual. Lady Chatterley's Lover certainly attempted to explore the idea of class and sexual desire so why can't E.L. James take a look at sex in the modern world? She can, but I think that given her lack of literary ability, the idea for the books represent a missed opportunity to elevate something normally viewed by the British public as sordid and unspeakable into a conversation piece. I would be willing to venture that most of the people who discuss this book at water coolers haven't actually read it or would be too ashamed to own it given its content.

So in summation, the story is excellent but very poorly executed and as such this novel, and its sequels, represent a missed opportunity to do something fantastic. That said, however, it has become such a runaway success that it has encouraged people to read more and perhaps that is as noble an achievement as any modern writer can hope to achieve.


Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.50

305 of 335 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars We've Been Here Before..., 25 May 2013
I actually wasn't going to buy Inferno given how woeful I considered The Lost Symbol to be; however, I received a copy of the book as a gift and plunged in, consuming the book in a matter of a couple of days. Whilst my earlier review of The Lost Symbol was quite positive in terms of what Brown was trying to do, large parts of my criticism of that book also apply here. The novel opens with an amnesiac Langdon waking up in a hospital room after apparently being shot in the head - we're not in Cambridge anymore Toto. I actually consider the opening of the book quite fresh; taking away Langdon's memory proves a successful literary technique for Brown, allowing him to effectively retrace Langdon's footsteps (and his own work in previous novels).

What follows is more of the same types of shenanigans we read about in Brown's previous efforts. There's a biological weapon (Angels & Demons), an assassin tracking Langdon (The Da Vinci Code), a litany of literary/art references (The Da Vinci Code) and a professor who seems far too in control. Part of what I loved about the early Langdon books was that they always showed Langdon as being out of his depth, a humble academic sucked into a situation he doesn't fully understand. He survived and saved the day through using his intellect and his instincts, making him a sort of bookish Indiana Jones. In short, he was a very good hero for the series. You'll note I'm using past tense for this; it's because he now has transformed into caricature. Everyone knows Langdon; museum curators, security guards, the Director of the World Health Organisation; basically wherever Langdon goes, he is known, accommodated, and assisted in his exploits. He isn't a man alone anymore, he's a man with a massive following and this is where the novel descends into the ring of Hell reserved for tired writers who rehash plots (Dante has a place for Brown, several actually, Circles 5, 8, and 9). Moreover, there isn't a building Langdon doesn't know in the novel; he's certainly quite the traveller, so much so that one wonders when he actually has time to write the books he's so famed for...

On the point of symbols, there aren't many. There's no deduction, there's no reasoning, there's just explanation after explanation of art, messages written in text which Langdon also knows all about. Due to the fact Langdon knows it all, and this does get rather annoying after a while, the reader is left with the distinct impression that they've read this novel before. In fact, we have. Several times. Brown's decision to give Langdon amnesia is actually very clever (or manipulative and devious) because it could be argued that the 'been here before' feeling one gets when turning the page is caused by Langdon's feeling of having been here before. However, I actually just think that Brown didn't have anything new to offer us and so he's rehashed old ideas whilst dressing them up as the déjà vu of an amnesiac.

The truly ridiculous part of the novel, however, is the WHO (World Health Organisation). I'm willing to accept that government agencies, global enforcement bodies etc. etc. are willing to consult academics from relevant fields when trying to assess threat levels. I'm willing to accept that such academics are in a privileged position to know things that others do not, thereby allowing them to play a pivotal role in helping avert disaster. What I am not willing to accept however, is that an organisation such as the WHO, or any other organisation for that matter, would entrust the mission of locating a biological weapon of mass destruction to a man who spends his life analysing symbols and obsessing about a Mickey Mouse watch he wears in order to not take himself so seriously. My hopes soared when the timepiece was lost but then, the Director of the WHO found it for him and returned it to his wrist, ready to tell time another day. I eye rolled here.

For me, the moment Langdon utters the words, as he does twice I believe, "It's a matter of life and death!" in the novel, I found myself rolling my eyes again. Langdon is an academic, not a field agent and yet the WHO were concerned when he stopped 'checking in' with them whilst in the field. Why was he in the field? Why are they trusting this man with anything beyond his area of expertise? Why did Dan Brown think this would fly? Oh the questions. Yet again Langdon is the ONLY one who can help. The ONLY one who knows. The ONLY one who can overcome a severe brain injury within hours and spend the rest of the novel running (not recommended as running increases blood pressure and could cause bleeding in the brain - not so for Langdon). In short, Robert Langdon is amazing. Too amazing. The more amazing he becomes, the more ridiculous the books become and, for me, we're really at critical mass in terms of the amazingness of Robert Langdon.

In my review of The Lost Symbol I wrote that Dan Brown has kind of exploited Langdon enough and should consider stopping writing him and move on to pastures new. With this novel, in my view, Dan Brown has made it clear that he should absolutely stop writing the character and move on. There's nothing new Langdon can do without the book either being so ridiculous it is caricature or so boring it becomes unreadable.

A quick word on Dan Brown's writing ability. Critical reviews of the book have focussed on the fact that Dan Brown isn't a tremendous writer. Let's be clear, he's not, but that doesn't matter. Just as a Michael Bay summer blockbuster will never be Citizen Kane, so too will a Dan Brown blockbuster never be able to accomplish the dizzy heights of Dumas, Brontė, Shakespeare or Proust. I don't expect Dan Brown to be an amazing writer because if he was the book would be an effort to read and that isn't what you need or want from a blockbuster. So whilst critics focus on Brown's inability to write brilliantly, I choose to largely ignore that because the book isn't intended to be a literary work of art. The skill is in the story, not the execution; it's just a shame that the story has been told before.

The book isn't bad, hence my three star rating, it's just overdone. Readers would probably get more out of reading The Da Vinci Code than reading the new novel and could actually get away with substituting The Last Supper in The Da Vinci Code and anti-matter in Angels & Demons with Dante's Inferno and still have read the new book; after all, that's essentially what Dan Brown has done in order to write it.
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2014 2:00 PM BST


Hush Puppies Men's Titanium Dark Brown H1288132D 12 UK
Hush Puppies Men's Titanium Dark Brown H1288132D 12 UK

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 24 Dec. 2011
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These shoes are fantastic; they're comfortable and didn't give me blisters. They're casual enough to be worn with jeans but formal enough to not look out of place at work. I can't praise them enough.


Let Them Talk
Let Them Talk
Price: £4.99

206 of 219 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Observations, 11 May 2011
This review is from: Let Them Talk (Audio CD)
I heard Laurie's album playing in Tesco this afternoon and loved it but was hesitant about buying it, purely because of what I call the 'crossover curse'. Sinatra was a good singer, horrific actor. The same can be said of many actors, singers etc. who attempt to cross over into something different. Only very few have managed the feat credibly and in my opinion, Laurie has managed it. In his favour, he clearly knows his voice very well and knows that in some ways, it's very limited but in blues, that doesn't really matter. Solomon Burke was not really a great singer, but blues music needs a bit of rough around the edges charm to be really good and it's fortunate that Laurie has that in abundance. It's also to his credit that on songs that need a 'good' singer, Laurie defers to someone else who is much better suited to the task - Tom Jones being one such instance.

The album won't suit some people's tastes, particularly those buying the album purely because it was made by Hugh Laurie of House fame. For me, I love the album because of the instrumental performances first and Laurie's voice second. Listening to the album it is clear that you're being taken to the New Orleans music soaked atmosphere and those who appreciate that type of music will love it. It's sincere and mixes joy and pain together very well whilst maintaining an air of sophistication possessed by someone who really does love the music he's performing - and no one can deny that Laurie is very talented, particularly on piano and guitar. Yes, the vocals are rough, but if they were polished and perfect I think that the album would be somehow be lacking, blues needs that feel of being performed after a heavy night of drinking in order to work properly.

I've read one review elsewhere that objected to Laurie's use of an American accent when singing, but really this strikes me as a bit of a nonsensical argument because there is no way that you can take a genre of music so quintessentially American and then sing it with an British accent. It would be like Lily Allen singing without the cockney accent - it wouldn't work. Similarly, some have raised eyebrows at an Englishman attempting blues classics, but to them I say that music is the one thing in life, or one of them anyway, that should be genderless, colourless and geographically free. There's no harm in trying something, and as a listener, I am able to choose my preferred option. For example, I really love Procol Harem's A Whiter Shade of Pale but consider Annie Lennox's version as an inferior version. Cat Power's version of Sea of Love is amazing and I prefer it to Phil Phillips and the Twilights' version. Good music done badly just makes you want the better version, whilst good music done well, as Laurie does it, just makes you appreciate it more.

In summary, I'm pleasantly surprised by Hugh Laurie's album. It's instrumentally fantastic and his vocal ability, whilst not up there with the greats, adds a great deal of warmth and sincerity to the material. What shines through for me is that he really appreciates the music and in my opinion, there's a great many singers on the charts today who, although technically better singers, could take a leaf out of Hugh Laurie's book and learn to love music as opposed to using it as a money making venture.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2011 8:39 PM BST


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