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Reviews Written by
Marius Gabriel "Author" (London)
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The Gnomes Of The Night
The Gnomes Of The Night
by Itzik Klein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.69

4.0 out of 5 stars A very charming little book about a naughty little boy who turns the tables on his father., 26 Mar. 2015
I have a weakness for stories told in rhyme, and this very sweet little book about picking up after yourself charmed me. The text, by Itzik Klein, rolls along merrily, and the delightful, vivid illustrations by Fanny Liem make this perfect for reading with small children.

An Artist of the Floating World
An Artist of the Floating World
Price: £2.13

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully assured, brilliantly observed novel, permeated with unease and rich in atmosphere., 25 Mar. 2015
Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and came to the United Kingdom as a little boy. The theme of assimilation permeates his work, and many of his novels (including "The Unconsoled" and "Never Let Me Go") are about characters who do not understand their origins, and struggle to find a place in a society which is alien to them. In Ishiguro's novel, the world is always floating -- unstable, impermanent, evanescent.

"An Artist Of The Floating World" is the only one of Ishiguro's novels which is set entirely in Japan, and which portrays, in some depth, three generations of a Japanese family. It is a wonderfully assured, brilliantly observed novel; but like all of his work, it is permeated with unease.

The story again touches on assimilation and identity. In the years shortly after the end of the Second World War, a formerly celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, is concerned to marry off his rather waspish daughter, who is in danger of getting too old for the marriage market. The marriage negotiations are difficult, and have fallen through in the past, since it is important that the two families recognize each other's status for the match to be suitable; and Masuji Ono's status is uncertain.

As a young artist, he achieved great success. In this novel, the phrase "the floating world" has a specific meaning, referring to "ukiyo," the pleasure district, a night-time world of sake and pretty girls which was the cradle of "ukiyo-e," the classical Japanese art form celebrating geishas and their clients; and it is in ukiyo-e that Ono-san has his first training. But he abandons this gentle, decadent form, and his later, "patriotic" works, extolling an ideology of militarism and ultra-nationalism, are associated now with a Japan everyone wants to forget, the Japan of expansionism, aggression, and a catastrophic war with America. He struggles between guilt at what he has done, and what this means for his daughter, and pride in his achievements; and more specifically, a denunciation he made against a "decadent" fellow-artist continues to haunt him.

In order for the marriage to come off, and for Masuji Ono to find peace with himself, he needs to atone: but how can he acknowledge his guilt without dismissing his life's achievements?

This is the basic plot of "An Artist Of The Floating World," but it is a book rich in many things, including an illuminating comparison between pre- and post-war Japan, and a wonderful portrait of the relationship between an ageing grandfather and his energetic grandson.

This is a very fine novel which will repay reading and re-reading. Highly recommended.

Shimaya Dashi Fish Stock 50g
Shimaya Dashi Fish Stock 50g
Offered by Concept4U (UK)
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emphatically not the same thing as bonito flakes, but it's a lot easier to use. Contains MSG, but the flavour is pleasant., 22 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is not the same thing as bonito flakes, which are very expensive, and have to be boiled and strained out, but it's much easier to use (just dissolve a sachet in a litre or so of water) and gives an approximate taste of katsuobushi (if you're not a gourmet).

It also contains a fair amount of MSG, so be warned. Japanese and Chinese dishes, especially in restaurants, are possibly more prone to contain this "flavour enhancer" than Western ones, so although it's artificial, the taste is a familiar one.

A good "secret weapon" to have in the store cupboard if you make miso soup or fish dishes.

Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars An Ironic, bitter, tragic tale that will be too sad for many readers., 21 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dakhmeh (Kindle Edition)
This powerful novel is about the gulf between our dreams and the reality. Arash left Iran as a child, before the Revolution. He has lived abroad while the Shah was deposed and the Ayatollahs took over. Now that he is an adult, and Iran appears to be "liberalizing," he is drawn to go back to his roots, and contribute to the country which he feels he loves above all others.

But his sojourn in Iran turns into a Kafkaesque horror story. He finds a disillusioned and embittered people, who are no better off than they were under the Shah. He himself begins to feel the same cynicism. Scrawling a vulgarity on a banknote is the apparently harmless action of protest which unleashes the fate that has been hanging over him all his life.

An obsessive policeman traces the banknote through its many hands back to Arash -- and now the nightmare really begins, as he faces arrest, torture and imprisonment.

For many readers, this story will be very gruelling to read. It certainly haunts the imagination long after the last page. But it's well-written, and a devastating portrait of an innocent man in a repressive society.

Stainless Steel Freeflow Pourer - Pack of 5 | Tapor Pourers by bar@drinkstuff, Spirit Pourer, Drinks Pourer, Oil Pourer, Bottle Pourer
Stainless Steel Freeflow Pourer - Pack of 5 | Tapor Pourers by bar@drinkstuff, Spirit Pourer, Drinks Pourer, Oil Pourer, Bottle Pourer
Offered by Mallard123
Price: £6.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Very common item on the Continent, but not so easy to get hold of in the UK. Well-made and cheap -- and extremely useful!, 19 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An amazingly handy product. They are used by barmen, but I find them a lot more useful in the kitchen. I seem to end up with lots of things in old wine bottles -- gifts of olive oil, home made vinegar, sauces etc -- and I hate to be wasteful by pouring more than I need. Using one of these gives you the ability to pour a dribble, a trickle, or just as much as you require. These are so common in Italy and France -- every household has several, and every supermarket carries them, but in the UK they aren't all that easy to get. This is a great, cheap, easy source!

Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour 500 g (Pack of 2)
Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour 500 g (Pack of 2)
Price: £13.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent product for turning ordinary flour into strong bread flour for loaves or pizzas, 19 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Where I live, strong bread flour is hard to obtain. The flour is all poor in gluten, especially the brown and wholemeal flour. Adding about a tablespoon of this to every 300g of flour gives a better dough and an easy-slicing, compact loaf.

It also makes really robust, elastic pizza dough, which doesn't tear or get holes when stretched thin.

Having a packet of this in the store cupboard means you don't need to go out for strong flour if you decide on pizza for supper or home-baked bread.

Not exactly cheap, but a very useful product -- oh, and very high in protein!

Knorr Fish Stock Cubes 8 Pack 50g
Knorr Fish Stock Cubes 8 Pack 50g
Offered by Blue Mountain Peak | Afro-Caribbean Food Store
Price: £1.90

5.0 out of 5 stars New improved version is really excellent. A great start to lots of fishy dishies!, 19 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These are really excellent now -- no more MSG and a good, delicate, fishy flavour. Making fish stock isn't always an easy business. It's messy, for one thing. These days, it costs a fortune to get even the cheapest fish to do it, and it smells up the house while it's boiling; and frankly, the flavour of these cubes is an acceptable substitute, especially if you're going to be poaching seafood and vegetables in the broth anyway. For the few pennies each costs, they're great value for money

I use these as the basis of fish soup, bouillabaisse, tom yum, fideuada, sauces and lots of other fishy dishes. Highly recommended.

Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires (Law of Attraction)
Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires (Law of Attraction)
Price: £5.69

2.0 out of 5 stars Don't Ask And You Won't Get -- some wisdom here, but over-fanciful, repetitive and only an inch deep., 19 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Despite the large amount of common sense in this book, the claim that all this wisdom came from a ghostly entity, which visited the authors and gave them supernatural hot tips on Life with a capital L, spoiled it for me.

And although the power of positive thinking can't be denied, there is something really depressing about the idea that all the bad things in your life are your own fault. Tell that to the thousands of children being driven into refugee camps in Syria and elsewhere.

As self-help manuals go, this one has many good points, but is over-elaborate, repetitive and fundamentally heartless.

Belgian Pearl Sugar
Belgian Pearl Sugar
Offered by Steven francis ltd
Price: £2.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Very pretty, crunchy yet soft, won't melt when baked, makes excellent topping for brioches, cakes and biscuits., 18 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Belgian Pearl Sugar (Misc.)
This is the stuff that the Italians and the French sprinkle on brioches. It's crunchy but soft, and it doesn't melt at oven temperatures, so won't harden or turn into a glaze. You just need a teaspoon or two to get a twinkly effect.

It adds a very stylish touch to sweet dough recipes, panettone, cakes and biscuits. It's fairly cheap, but shipping one packet actually costs more than the sugar itself, so it makes sense to order 3 or 4 packets. And as this sugar is quite hard to get hold of, this is an easy way to get it.

Excellent product, highly recommended.

Wolf Hall (Original Television Soundtrack)
Wolf Hall (Original Television Soundtrack)
Price: £7.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessentially English, with clever references to Renaissance music and a number of lovely melodies., 18 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I loved the series, and the music provided much of that enjoyment, so I decided to buy the soundtrack. I'm very glad I did.

Like the series itself, the soundtrack, composed by Debbie Wiseman and performed by her ensemble, doesn't pretend to be an accurate portrayal of the Tudor musical world. In fact, the music is New-Age-y, and I mean that in the best possible way. It's original, dynamic and yet contemplative, and it evokes a wide range of moods. You can play it as ambient music (I find it great while I'm writing), but it's easily good enough to listen to with both ears.

Debbie Wiseman has cleverly woven references to Renaissance music into her score without (as one reviewer has put it brilliantly) falling into the temptations of crumphorns and Greensleeves (although there are the obligatory "Early Music" excursions by percussion, lute and mandolin. Generally, a string quartet is the mainstay of the tracks, with some exquisite melodies for the oboe, the principal wind instrument used, which has a very "Tudor" sound. There are a few pieces for solo piano ("The Unicorn's Horn" is especially pretty) which are evocative of Olafur Arnalds and Ludovico Einaudi. The result is a throbbing, melancholy and often spine-tingling set of arrangements, very atmospheric and evocative of the tension which is maintained throughout the series.

It's a very successful, enjoyable collection, and one which I will cherish for a long time to come.

Highly recommended.

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