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P. G. Harris

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Rapesco P-830 2-Hole Punch with 30 Sheet Capacity - Blue
Rapesco P-830 2-Hole Punch with 30 Sheet Capacity - Blue
Price: £8.66

5.0 out of 5 stars chunky, easily stored hole punch, 22 Oct. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a good chunky hole punch. It is advertised as taking 30 sheets at a time, and I can confirm that it does that.

The paper guide is useful, and I like the locking switch which holds the punch flat for easy storage.

Not a lot else to say, really.

Paul Hollywood by KitchenCraft Round Bread Proving Basket / Banneton, 22 cm (8.5")
Paul Hollywood by KitchenCraft Round Bread Proving Basket / Banneton, 22 cm (8.5")
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Branded proving basket, 22 Oct. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a fairly small proving basket,suitable for one decent sized loaf. So, if you bake in small quantities, it's perfectly fine. It's made from natural fibre, rattan, which is nice. My main problem is the ridging, which the makers say give loaves a nice rustic feel, but which makes it difficult to clean, especially if you are make a wet dough, particularly sourdough. I suspect the price includes a premiumforthe name.

Logitech Z337 Multimedia Bluetooth Speaker (UK Plug) - Black
Logitech Z337 Multimedia Bluetooth Speaker (UK Plug) - Black
Price: £69.30

3.0 out of 5 stars Muddy sound, 18 Oct. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In the world of blue tooth/remote speakers, this is a big old unit, comprising a bass speaker and two peripherals. The coolest bit of the set is a remote control. I have the speakers sitting on the shelves in my study and have the on/off switch and volume control sitting on my desk. That is probably where this set is best suited,in a study, or maybe a youngster's bedroom. The sound quality is resolutely lo-fi.

I ran my usual test tracks through it.

Mahler's 1st symphony. The ethereal strings test the sensitivity,and this unit fared badly, they were barely audible.
Pump up the volume by Marrs. This tests the bass. I was hoping a unit this size would making everything rattle. It was abitunderwhelming. The bass line lacked precision, it was more of a dull thud.
Superstitionby Stevie Wonder.that high-hat tests the top end. Again, this had a lack of clarity.
Dark Side of the Moon. This is my test for complexity. This was the most successful on this unit, probably because there is so much mid-range melody, with which this was pretty successful.
Knights of Cydonia by Muse. Pull out allThe stops rock song. Not great with the lack of precision at the top and bottom end.

So, this is OK as a fairly cheap system, if you aren't too bothered about getting top quality sound. I suspect there are better (and smaller) systems around.

Beckham Instinct Sport Hair and Body Wash, 200 ml
Beckham Instinct Sport Hair and Body Wash, 200 ml
Price: £5.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pass the smellies, 18 Oct. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Many years ago, when I played rugby, after a game and everybody had showered, the cry would inevitably go up "Has anyone got any smellies?" The smell of this product took me back 25 years to those days. While this is a shower gel, it does smell like 80s aftershave, Woody, citrussy,faintly musky. For a shower gel it is a pretty strong aroma, not unpleasant, but definitely there. I assume it is meant to be layered with other products from the same range.

In common with others who have ordered this product, I have to say that Amazon need to sort the packaging, a cardboard envelope doesn't work. Half of the tube had leaked out in transit

His Bloody Project
His Bloody Project
by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shades of grey, 15 Oct. 2016
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This review is from: His Bloody Project (Paperback)
My brief impression of this book is that crossing Hannah Kent's Burial Rites with Sebastian Faulks' Enderby would give a pretty good picture of what is on offer here. Indeed, one publicity blurb I have seen suggests that this will appeal to "fans" of Kent's Icelandic tale. That is always a phrase with which I struggle owing to the whiff of plagiarism. That is a very strong word to use, but the remote rural setting, the unforgiving wheels of 19th century justice, the gruesome murder, the seemingly open and shut case, the unusually intelligent protagonist, all make it difficult to believe that author Macrae Burnet is completely unfamiliar with the earlier work.

The story is that of crofter's teenage son, Roddy Macrae who is accused of the brutal murder of three neighbours, a crime of which he openly admits he is guilty. The book opens with a series of statements made by Roddy's friends and neighbours about him and his crime. Roddy himself then takes over for around half of the book as we learn about his life leading up to the killings, written from his prison cell at the behest of his lawyer. The story is one of a loving mother who dies in childbirth, a brutal father, an unusually intelligent and sensitive boy and crucially, a bullying and vindictive neighbour.

The second half of the book is taken up with Roddy's trial, told from the viewpoint of expert witnesses, but mainly from an account of the proceedings in court put together from newspaper reports and from a published record of the trial.

By telling the story through the Victorian equivalent of found footage, Macrae Burnet gives the reader a rigorously subjective tale. If something is not observable, it is uncertain. By telling his story in this way the author leaves a great deal to the reader's interpretation. Indeed, by the end one remains in the dark about Roddy's true nature and his motives. There is a crucial fact which emerges during the trial which suggests that Roddy's whole account of himself and his actions is unreliable. Similarly, the nature of the relationships between Roddy's mother and sister, and his victim Lachlan Mackenzie remain unknown. We see certain things happening, but never learn what is truly behind those events.

This sense of uncertainty spreads to the identity of the author of Roddy's account. His intelligence is referred to frequently, but he remains relatively uneducated, and his writing and vocabulary fail to ring true. However, there is a hint early on that he did not, in reality, write his own story, which would turn a potentially unconvincing piece of writing into a subtle and clever plot device.

The more I reflect on this book, the more I find myself wondering if things which felt like flaws while reading are in truth the result of clever writing. So, for example, the book is set in one of the most stunningly beautiful parts of Britain, and yet there little or no sense of place comes across. Is this a weakness or is it in fact a credible reflection of the lives and attitudes of the crofter's whose existence is made claustrophobic and insular by the grinding poverty in which they live. Similarly, some of the characters seem rather two dimensional and stereotypical. In particular, Lachlan Mackenzie comes across as a virtually pantomimic villain. Flawed writing, or credible portrayal of Roddy's viewpoint (or that of his ghost writer).

One point about which I believe I can be unequivocal is that for all of the multiple, and questionably authored, viewpoints, this is a remarkably linear narrative, which deviates very little from its course. It is certainly a gripping story, and I found myself racing through the second half, but it is almost as if it grips only to shove the reader in the same direction as s/he was heading in the first place.

By making his story-telling so relentlessly subjective, Macrae-Burnet seems to question the very existence of objective reality, certainly in a legal context. I found myself questioning whether I would ever want to be called for jury service. Unless evidence is genuinely scientifically undeniable (and again, the idea of an expert witness is challenged here), how can one possibly reach a confident decision based on conflicting accounts of the same reality?

To bring everything together, this is a really artfully crafted book, a cleverly constructed piece of writing, but ultimately I found it to be a little unsatisfying. I think that is because of the sheer level of equivocation, the lack of certainty, the lack of a sense of place, the lack of any twists in the plot. To put it another way, my initial summary was to compare this novel with two others; my closing summary is to suggest that there are either flaws in the writing, or it is just a tiny bit too clever for its own good.

The Stars My Destination
The Stars My Destination
Price: £5.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Paradise Lost, 9 Oct. 2016
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I suspect this book is to speculative fiction what the Velvet Underground and Nico album is to music. Not everyone will find it easy to get on with, but it is massively influential.

It is the story of Gully Foyle, a grunt in the interplanetary merchant navy who is the sole survivor of an attack on his spaceship in a war between the inner and outer solar system. After six months scrabbling to survive, a passing ship chooses not to rescue him, and this becomes the catalyst for him to save himself and embark on an odyssey of revenge.

At its core the book is a fast moving thriller of retribution as Gully bounces between weird space cult, underground prison, parties of the super rich, and nuclear exchanges in an increasingly deadly war.

The Stars my Destination is absolutely bursting with ideas. It is about to progress through struggle, looking back to Milton and a long hard way which leads out of hell into the light. It is about power in society, the manipulation of the masses by a commercial and legal elite. It provides that rare thing from mid 20th century SF, a strong feminist heroine. It is a definitely Judeo-Christan story of sin, redemption and ascension.

In its central plot device of telepathic travel, it is definitely a book of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, looking to , perhaps, A E Van Vogt. The vaguely hallucinogenic stream of consciousness style of writing is echoed by writers such as Michael Moorcock and M John Harrison. In centring the book on a low life anti hero in a disintegrating society, this is a grandparent of cyber-punk. When Foyle pays to become an enhanced super soldier, the book becomes a pre-cursor to any number of works from Peter Hamilton's Greg Mantel series, through Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon Novels, to the military SF of Haldeman and Scalzi.

So, this is definitely a book which has stood the test of time. There are elements in it which probably wouldn't appear in a contemporary work, but it remains a fast paced thriller sitting on top of an intelligent thought provoking work which bears comparison to Philip K Dick.

Shakespeare's First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book
Shakespeare's First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book
by Emma Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.31

3.0 out of 5 stars The Theory of Everything But, 2 Oct. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a highly erudite book telling the story through time of Shakespeare's first folio, in particular a copy originally bought by a fashionable young gentleman, Sir Edward Derring. I'm sure it adds to the academic understanding of how the physical manifestation of the playwright's work has interacted with the society around it. However, As a lay reader, the biggest problem I found with it is thatit shares something in common with the film, the Theory of Everything. Laudable though that film was, brilliantly acted, beautifully shot, it could have been about any couple struggling with one of them having a debilitating illness. In short, there wasn't enough Stephen Hawking! Similarly here there isn't enough Shakespeare! This could be about any book of historical import. Admittedly the author's intention is never to talk about the text, but the problem is that that is where the true interest lies.

Women Make Noise
Women Make Noise
by Julia Downes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fiercely intelligent account of the women's music scene, 1 Oct. 2016
This review is from: Women Make Noise (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is certainly not the book I was expecting it to be. It is better. What I was expecting was a lightweight (in tone) coffee table type book charting the history of the most famous all girl bands. Perhaps the Ronnettes, Supremes, Bananarama, the GoGos, All Saints, that kind of thing.

OK, so I didn't read the blurb thoroughly, if at all. This is a far more intelligent and interesting book than that. First up, it isn't a single author's history of the all girl band. The chapters have different authors and hit a tone three quarters along the spectrum from top end magazine article to feminist academic paper.

While some of the most famous names appear, the real subject is much more underground, more garage than that. Different chapters take the story from country in the 50s, through some of the best known groups of the 60s, touching on even prog in the 70s before hitting the real ground zero of punk. If I were to take a single theme of this book it would be that punk was even more of singularity for women's music than it was for the general scene.

Almost inevitably, after touching post punk, riot grrrls, and queercore, the book arrives at its epilogue of Pussy Riot. Along the way, the most notable, but probably not surprising absence is hip hop, which is barely touched upon.

So overall, this is a book which deserves serious attention. It is one which needs to be properly read rather than dipped into.

Death's End (The Three-Body Problem Book 3)
Death's End (The Three-Body Problem Book 3)
Price: £3.32

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The massive scale is both a strength and a weakness, 27 Sept. 2016
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This is one of those books where the blurb avoids spoiler by bearing only a passing resemblance to the actual plot.

It is the final part of Cixin Liu's Three Body Problem trilogy of interstellar invasion.

It is a book which managed to confound my expectations. As I reached the end of the second part,the Dark Forest, I did wonder where the final part could go,so much seemed to have been resolved. As I started Death's End, the fear that this had nowhere to go grew. It felt as if the author was just filling in incidental detail to the main, almost completed story. But then, blimey Charlie, Cixin whips off a cloth to reveal that the original story of the conflict between Earth and Trisolaris is only a small part of a vastly greater canvas.

This is science fiction on an enormous scale, possibly surpassed only by Stephen Baxter's Xelee sequence in its scope in time and space. Having read unhealthily large quantities of science fiction, I find myself looking for authors who will say something new. While this trilogy explores similar themes to Greg Bear's Forge of God and Anvil of Stars, it is original enough to satisfy that craving. Its unique selling point is a virtually sociological approach to the universe. It is a book about how whole societies respond to pressure. As such it could be seen as a second cousin of Asimov's Foundation novels and science of psycho-history.

While the sheer scale is a great strength of the book, it is also something of a weakness. Sometimes the brush is just too broad to be satisfying. Mid way through the book, the entire human race does something, and then a couple of chapters later, reverses that action. The events are just too momentous to be skated over in such perfunctory fashion.

My other main problem with Cixin as a writer, on the evidence of these books, is over reliance on a repeated plot device. On two or three occasions in the trilogy the human race (once again acting as a whole) does something crushingly stupid, where the foolishness of the action is blatantly obvious to the reader. It's a bit like watching a horror film and wanting to shout at the characters "for goodness sake don't go down that darkened corridor, don't you realise you're in a horror movie?"

So, this is rip roaring space opera, with enough originality to be interesting, written on the biggest possible scale, where that scale is both the biggest strength and the greatest weakness.

The Countenance Divine
The Countenance Divine
by Michael Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very clever, but is that enough?, 20 Sept. 2016
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This review is from: The Countenance Divine (Hardcover)
Chris is a programmer. He lives in 1999. He is working on trying to fix the millennium bug. There is a girl called Lucy. She is a bit strange. She has piercings. She gives Chris a book about Jack the Ripper. Chris has worries. Is he Christ? Is the world about to end? Is it all his fault? Is there someone following him?

Jack livs in Lundon in 1888. He rites to his misterious master about how he cuts up women.

In 1790, William Blake looks back thirteen years to 1777 when he did have a vision of the future.

In the year of our Lord sixteen hundred and sixty six, Allgood doth become engaged unto the poet John Milton, who becometh his master.

Author Michael Hughes uses these four different voices to tell four interlinked stories which rub off each other and weave together to create an apocalyptic thriller. That is probably the most successful element of the book, the creation of four different and credible voices. For me the most successful was that of Jack which, while horrific, had an insistent power which put me in mind of Patrick Bateman, American Psycho. Chris, while interesting as an innocent abroad is a figure who is becoming rather repetitive in contemporary fiction, the borderline autistic nerd. He is,like so many characters, only one or two steps away from the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Similarly, Lucy is another manifestation of the manic pixie dream girl, albeit in the form of a goth with an horrific background.

There is a great deal of numeric imagery at the heart of the book, with the numbers of divinity and the devil, 7 and 6 figuring prominently. The first time Chris meets Lucy, for example,there is a reference to six or seven piercings. This all points to an anomaly at the very heart of the book, when a character uses binary notation to suggest that the devil is at the heart of things. However, there is a mistake, which suggests that it is really God whose hand is on the tiller. Either that, or Hughes just got it wrong, but I doubt it.

So, there are interesting characters, and the book is very cleverly constructed, but I'm not sure it amounts to much. There is some beautifully, and horrifically, atmospheric writing, but it didn't really say anything to me, other than to underline its own cleverness. Also, at times it is somewhat on the self indulgent side. I got to the point where I'd had enough of seemingly endless theological discussions.

So, if you are looking for a well written, supernatural fantasy thriller, you may well enjoy this book, but in the end I found it somewhat unfulfilling.

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