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Asphodelia (Brighton, UK)
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Find Me
Find Me
by Laura van den Berg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Style over substance but a good read, 14 May 2015
This review is from: Find Me (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What would we do if the world was afflicted by a terrible sickness that wiped out people’s memories? A twenty year old woman called Joy finds herself in suca a predicament in “Find Me”, Laura van den Berg’s post-apocalyptic debut novel.

Set in present-day United States, the first part of the novel takes place in a hospital. There, patients are under the care of a mysterious Norwegian doctor searching for a cure to the sickness. Some patients get sick and disappear ‘upstairs’, some don’t, some attempt to rebel or escape. Apparently significant things occur: after a storm, TV reception ceases and cannot be restored. People referred to as ‘pilgrims’ turn up at the hospital doors for no apparent reason. One has the sneaky suspicion throughout that some unexpected twist will reveal that nothing is what it seems. Are patients actual patients? Are they inmates? Is this all a Truman Show-style setup? I honestly had no idea.

The second part is less structured and more episodic. I wonder how much the author was inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s 'The Road' - another post-apocalyptic dystopian novel with very little in terms of actual plot. Only ‘The Road’ is a masterpiece and ‘Find Me’ is, by all means, a good first novel but that’s where the comparison stops.

What works more than the actual story is van den Berg’s beautiful, lyrical prose and her short, punchy sentences that actually sound as if they’re the internal monologue of a protagonist barely out of her teenage years. What doesn’t work so well is the deliberately vague story, which attempts to keep the reader guessing what’s really happening without ever providing any answers. I kept expecting twist after twist, double guessing myself and the author, although none of my guesses were correct. On top of that, I was left guessing once more at the end - and I’ll leave it at that in the name of spoilers. Just be aware that if you are looking for a book with a strong plot and a conclusion that neatly ties all loose ends with a perfect bow, this is not the book for you.

‘Find Me’ is undoubtedly a very promising step up for Laura van den Berg from short story to novel writing; despite its flaws, it’s still strangely compelling. Style over substance, maybe, but sometimes that still makes for a good read.


Ink Jet Remanufactured Ink Cartridge Replacement for HP 301 - Black
Ink Jet Remanufactured Ink Cartridge Replacement for HP 301 - Black
Price: £14.43

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Press a couple of buttons and it works, 26 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have an HP Printer (Deskjet 1050A) which is a few years old and as such, it doesn't have any form of display or screen so when I installed this cartridge, I didn't get any flashing messages saying that the cartridge was empty. What did happen was that the 'ink low' button on the actual printer flashed instead. All I did then was to press the 'test page' button (the button with 3 coloured dots on the bottom left hand corner of the printer), which printed a test page perfectly well. I then scanned the test page (as you always do after changing a cartridge) with no problem whatsoever, and the cartridge was successfully installed.

It's too soon to say how long this cartridge will last but it certainly works so far.


Fire TV Stick
Fire TV Stick
Price: £25.00

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good solution for streaming, 16 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Fire TV Stick (Electronics)
Please note: The following review is based on first impressions. I will update it if necessary.

I had been looking into some sort of streaming solution for a while, after discovering that most the apps my 2009 Samsung “Smart” (inverted commas intended) TV no longer worked. I’d considered Chromecast but it seemed expensive. Then, the FireTV stick was launched, with a special offer to Prime members and I thought, why not?
I was slightly worried, however, after reading the reviews on US Amazon, as several customers with older TV sets like mine had reported problems with Netflix.
I am glad to report, however, that, at least so far, I’ve had no problems whatsoever.

SET-UP
Set-up was very easy (make sure you have an available power socket near the TV).
The hardest thing was actually opening the back of the remote control to insert the batteries - I’m sure there’s a knack to it and I managed eventually, but it was a struggle.
The stick didn’t fit properly at the back of my TV so I had to use the adaptor which is also included in the box. That leaves the stick dangling off the adaptor’s lead - I hope that that won’t weaken the lead’s components but hopefully Amazon have thoroughly tested the device for sturdiness.

Just like the Kindle, this device comes with your Amazon accounts details pre-installed, which saves you a lot of faffing. However, should you wish to use a different account, you can opt for that, too.

MAIN SCREEN

The instructions provided in the booklet are very clear and so is the instructional video that automatically starts upon installation. Just follow the prompts and you will soon be taken to the main menu. Amazon Prime/Instant Video is already pre-installed; links to popular apps like Netflix and BBC iPlayer already appear on the main screen - you just have to actually select them and download them.

NETFLIX
[Edited]

With much trepidation, bracing myself for the worst, I launched Netflix, and lo and behold, it worked (at least, it works so far - I know that it did work initially for some US users and then stopped).

Tip: check the viewing quality in your Netflix account settings (on your computer or tablet) *before* you install the app. I had it set on ‘medium’ and when I launched the app on the FireTV stick, video quality was in Standard Definition. I changed it (from my laptop) but still it made no difference. I then quit the app, signed out, and signed back in; some programmes were now in HD but not everything, until I realised that ‘resuming’ a programme was obviously not refreshing the video quality. I selected ‘watch from the start’ and then the quality finally changed from Standard to HD.

Edit: 20/04/15 - I noticed that on occasions, for instance if I select a program to view and then wait a few minutes before starting viewing, the definition reverts from HD to Standard. I have to 'go back' a few times and re-select the episode, sometimes more than once, until it finally shows in HD. This is far from ideal and as such, I will remove a star from my review.

AMAZON PRIME/INSTANT VIDEO

[EDITED]
I’m a Prime member but I haven’t used their instant video yet. At a first glance, Prime content is not clearly marked as 'HD' - it misleadingly looks as if to get the video in HD one has to rent or buy the movie/episode. However, once you start streaming the Prime video, if it's available in HD it will show in HD. I hope this clarifies some confusion. Prime's selection is not is not as exhaustive as the selection on offer on Netflix. Hopefully it will improve, also in terms of original content.

OTHER APPS

There are plenty of apps to download from the store - I ended up buying a couple of screensavers like aquarium, fireplace and storm (payment is automatically taken from your Amazon account). There are also other entertainment providers, like Curzon Home Cinema, 5 On Demand, Berliner Philarmonica with live-streamed and on demand concerts and plenty more.

MUSIC

Another really cool feature of the FireTV Stick is that suddenly you have access to any music you ever purchased on Amazon as digital downloads; therefore, you can just select the music menu and enjoy your music through your TV sound system.

PHOTOS

If you are an Amazon Cloud user, you can view your photos on the TV as well. I don’t use that service but it’s a useful feature if you want to bore all your neighbours with your holiday snaps.

MOBILE APP

I downloaded the iPhone app which allows you to use your smartphone as a remote control. So far, I’m not entirely sold: I was impressed by the voice recognition (which surprisingly worked!) makes searching for a title a lot easier, but the touch screen seems almost too sensitive and I found it very hard to navigate the menus through the phone. I will need to practice that - but it’s good to have it as backup plan. I haven’t tried the screen mirroring feature so I can’t comment on that feature.

OTHER

There are lots of other features, such as gaming, ‘X-Ray’ content to be found in movies/TV and so on, quiz apps, educational apps, religious apps - you name it, it’s there. Some features are gimmicky and you might not use them that much, but on the other hand, you really could just spend all day exploring what’s on offer.

CONCLUSION

So far the FireTV Stick seems to do what it says on the box - i.e. it turns your TV into an entertainment hub easily and without breaking the bank. Set-up is simple and doesn’t require a qualification in electronic engineering; the interface is intuitive; the streaming quality is excellent, with no buffering (obviously depending on your connection speed). Would I recommend it? So far, absolutely yes. It almost seems too good to be true.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2015 8:33 AM BST


The Penguin Guide to Punctuation (Penguin Reference Books)
The Penguin Guide to Punctuation (Penguin Reference Books)
by R L Trask
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All you need is this guide, 15 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Put down your style guide and grammar books, because this short manual is all you need. Clear, concise and accessible, the 'Penguin Guide to Punctuation' is really all you need if you're unsure about commas, stops and semi-colons. I can't believe I've only just discovered this great little book - it has already become an essential title on my bookshelves.


Point Of View: Understanding Which P.O.V. is Best for Your Story and Using it Effectively (Tip, Tricks and Tools of the Writer's Trade Book 1)
Point Of View: Understanding Which P.O.V. is Best for Your Story and Using it Effectively (Tip, Tricks and Tools of the Writer's Trade Book 1)
Price: £2.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best POV manuals out there, 15 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you are a fiction writer, you will no doubt have struggled, at some point, with narrative Point of View. First person, third person limited, third person omniscent, third person objective - there are so many labels to define it that no wonder writers are confused. The author of this manual herself says:'in only four books on writing, I found 24 names for various points of view listed'. Thompson stresses that some are just different names describing the same thing and this book is her attempt at simplifying things.

It's worth pointing out that this book only deals with the First and Third person POVs, but as Second person is very rarely used, and it's also very easy to spot, this is no big deal. I have found Thompson's explanations of Third Person really clear and the examples provided are helpful, although I would have preferred quotes from better known novels, but this is common to all inexpensive books on POV, and I suspect might be a copyright issue. 'Point of View - Tips Tricks..' might not be the most exhaustive book on POV, If you're looking for a concise, clear guide, with a special focus on Third Person, this is one of the better titles out there.


Hysteria (The Dystopia Series Book 2)
Hysteria (The Dystopia Series Book 2)
Price: £3.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant second instalment in the Sasha Hunter Series, 10 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
‘Hysteria’, the second instalment in the Sasha Hunter series, is set a few weeks after the end of ‘Dystopia’. Sasha is a trainee at the Academy, the mysterious organisation of which her father is now in charge. To qualify as an Agent, she needs to travel to the Academy’s HQ in Boston, United States where she must undergo a rigorous selection process: there’s a lot at stake, a lot more than even Sasha knows. At the same time, two black witches are on the loose in nearby Salem, so what better opportunity than to send all three characters to the US and get them into all sorts of trouble? I can’t tell you any more without revealing too much but rest assured that a lot happens in this book - action, spooky stuff and some really unexpected twists.

If ‘Dystopia’ did a great job in setting the scene for a potentially great series, now ‘Hysteria’ shows the direction the series will take: a combination of a lot of genres, with elements of Harry Potter-style magical fantasy, police procedurals and Scooby Doo, which the author references through a knowing wink: “The VW bus trundles up the ramp and out underneath the garage door. As we head out into the city I feel like I’m part of an episode of Scooby Doo.”

Aside from the page-turning plot, Anthony Ergo’s writing style really stands out. Simple and accessible to be enjoyed by his target teenage readership, but never too ‘young’ in the choice of vocabulary and dialogue to alienate older readers, Ergo’s prose is a pleasure to read and as a more mature reader, I enjoy reading it as much as the fast-paced plot.

I keep telling myself that I won’t be getting sucked in with another series - there are too many books on my reading pile and not enough time to get through them all. But unfortunately, I fell into this author’s trap and now I’m going to have to keep reading. Luckily I won’t have to wait long: the third novel in this brilliant series, ‘Porphyria’ will be out soon.


Band 1 - Ach, wär ich nur zu Hause geblieben (German Edition)
Band 1 - Ach, wär ich nur zu Hause geblieben (German Edition)
Price: £1.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, easy read if you're studying German, 3 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wanted to read something in German to practice my vocabulary and someone recommended Kerstin Gier. I chose this book because I thought the short, episodic chapters would suit my very basic level of German.

Despite my poor German, I found these stories really amusing and I really enjoyed following the protagonists' misfortunes during her holidays. Its a cross between chick-lit and comedy writing and although it's not usually my genre, I'd definitely read more from this author in the future.


Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Pedi Extra Coarse Hard Skin Remover Refill - Pack of 2
Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Pedi Extra Coarse Hard Skin Remover Refill - Pack of 2
Offered by EveryDay-Shop
Price: £14.21

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not compatible with the Scholl Express Pedi, 2 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm going to have to leave a 'neutral' review here because I haven't been able to use these - they are not compatible with my Scholl Pedi Machine which must be an older model Scholl Express Pedi Electrical Hard Skin Remover (from 2 years ago). My fault - I should have checked, but the brand is the same so one would expect the newer rollers to be backward compatible...never mind. Back to the pumice stone, which does the same job for a fraction of the price.


Irrefutable Evidence (Sasha McCandless Legal Thriller Book 7)
Irrefutable Evidence (Sasha McCandless Legal Thriller Book 7)
Price: £3.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's good to be left wanting more, 23 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After six novels and a novella, you would be forgiven for thinking that, surely, by the law of diminishing returns, the next one in Melissa F Miller’s series might not be as gripping as its predecessors. You might also think that insurance is a somewhat odd choice as the subject matter of a thriller.

Wrong. “Irrefutable Evidence”, the seventh instalment in this hugely successful series, once again grips you right from the first chapter, and if anything, keeps you turning the pages even more frantically than its predecessors did by means of a really convincing plot that starts with insurance fraud and leads straight into a federal investigation into the Pittsburgh mob. Add a generous sprinkling of legal fairy dust, and the recipe, once again, works perfectly.

The only problem with Irrefutable Evidence is that it’s just not long enough - after the last frantic couple of chapters, in which, as I am sure we have all come to expect, our heroine faces imminent danger, I was left wanting more. But the ending - which Miller subtly signposts throughout the novel - does open new avenues for character development, and although that kind of turn is not normally one I tend to favour, I am positive that this immensely talented author will handle it brilliantly and turn it into another success for Sasha. I am very, very curious to see how it will all work out.


Oral B Pro 3000 White and Clean Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Oral B Pro 3000 White and Clean Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Price: £45.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good investment, 25 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've used the previous model of this toothbrush before and it has lasted me for years. This newer model offers a wider base stand (more convenient if multiple people are using the device), Gum Care and Sensitive settings and the Visible Pressure sensor, which is very useful for when you're a bit heavy handed as the light flashes and you'll know that you need to be a bit more gentle.
Three brushes are included, which will help spread the cost of the device as you won't need to replace them for a while.
I'd give it 5 stars if it wasn't for the price, which is a little steep - however, Oral B toothbrushes last for several years so in the long term, they're a good investment on your oral hygiene.


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