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Mendo Shutaro (Leamington)

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David Attenborough New Life Stories
David Attenborough New Life Stories
by David Attenborough
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £16.34

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More wonderful stories from Attenborough, 22 Oct. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You may have already heard these stories, as they were available as a podcast from the BBC earlier this year. This is how I heard them, so for me this CD turned out to be a little surplus to requirements. If you haven't heard them, you're in for a treat.

As with the first series of Life Stories, these are short little pieces from David Attenborough covering a fairly broad spectrum of his experiences travelling the world. They're all fascinating and of course, read perfectly by David himself. They're short, but there are lots of them, and I soon found myself saying "just one more", only to end up listening for hours.

Highly recommended.

Panasonic DMR-PWT500EB 320GB HDD TV Recorder with 3D Blu-ray Player and Twin Freeview HD Tuners
Panasonic DMR-PWT500EB 320GB HDD TV Recorder with 3D Blu-ray Player and Twin Freeview HD Tuners

85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feature rich, but surprisingly lacking, 22 Oct. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
On paper this BD player and PVR appears to do pretty much everything, so I'll go through each feature and try to show where it succeeds, and where it fails.

PVR - My everyday PVR is a Virgin Media TiVO, which is currently by far the best PVR money can buy. This Panasonic then, has a lot to live up to. First impressions are extremely negative, as the programme guide is absolutely terrible. Despite running in 720p widescreen, it uses only a relatively small part of the screen, filling the rest with empty space, tool tips, and a giant grey box which serves absolutely no purpose. This leaves little room to see the guide making finding things rather tedious. It's also very, very ugly.

It does however support something called FreeView+, which allows series links to be set, split programmes to be seamlessly recorded, programmes running late to end on time, and recordings to be set with the green button when a trailer is being shown. The PVR will also give you recommendations for some programmes, which while vastly more simplistic than TiVo, is still a nice touch. HD recordings are offered when you set a recording for something in SD when an HD version is available.

There are two HD Freeview tuners in this box, meaning you can record two shows at once, or record one while watching live TV.

BD playback - There's not much to say here other than BDs played fine and looked incredible as they always do. There's no menu buttons on the remote though, so you have to access that functionality through a pop up menu on the 'option' button. BD Live is also supported.

Wi-Fi - Wi-Fi is built in and it supports 802.11n as well as older standards. It found my 5ghz and 2.4ghz networks (running on an Apple Airport Extreme) It however refused to connect to my 5ghz network. When I connected it to my 2.4ghz network, it recommended I use 5ghz instead.

Streaming - We all rely on various streaming services these days, and this device has something Panasonic call Vierra Cast. I'll list some common services which you may want to use, and whether Vierra Cast supports them, or not.

- BBC iPlayer --- No
- 4 On Demand --- No
- Demand 5 --- No
- ITV Net Player --- No
- LoveFilm --- No
- Sky Go --- No
- Spotify --- No
- Last FM --- No
- YouTube --- Yes
- Flickr --- No
- Picassa --- Yes
- Skype --- Yes (but a Panasonic web-cam is required)

Pretty poor selection then. There is a movie streaming service called Ace Trax which offers movies for £3.50 in standard definition only. The user interface on this service is possibly the ugliest I've ever seen.

DNLA - Streaming from DNLA servers is also supported. I have a server set-up using Twonky Media at home which I used to test this. I had limited success with this. On the audio front it will play MP3s, but not AACs, so any music from iTunes won't play. Photos in JPG format worked fine, but I didn't try any other formats. On the video side of things it failed to play MKV (despite claiming to do so), XVID, and MP4. I could get it to play re-muxed MKV (H.264/AAC or AC3) video in an MPG enclosure, which is how the PS3 likes such files. These can be easily created using free tools such as MKV2VOB.

External Connectivity - This device also has a USB port and an SD card slot, both of which worked fine when connecting to my Sony point and shoot.

3D - I don't have a 3D HDTV, so I wasn't able to test this.

Overall - This device looks like it ticks all the boxes, but the combination of a truly awful user interface and dreadful streaming options make this a difficult device to recommend.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2012 9:18 PM GMT

Last Man in Tower
Last Man in Tower
by Aravind Adiga
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!, 17 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Last Man in Tower (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am a great fan of Aravind Adiga's books and `Last Man in Tower' did not disappoint! The richness of his worlds, the intricate details about the characters and their lives make this a joy to read. The plot revolves around two factions in a tower block ; the first, a group of people wanting to sell of their properties to a developer and dreaming of a new, seemingly unattainable dream and the second, a lone man who wants to stand up for his principles. The author engages you in an extremely clever manner that makes you question and shift your perspective with each new chapter. The story has a steady pace and is unpredictable, which was refreshing.

I highly recommend this book and shall look forward eagerly to the next from Aravind Adiga.

The Accident
The Accident
by Linwood Barclay
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work, 17 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Accident (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was very eager to read the new Linwood Barclay offering as I have truly enjoyed his previous books, having read most of them in one sitting. This book was fairly interesting with some twists, keeping you guessing how the different strands of the story connected to each other. The plot itself is a fairly simplistic idea but is well narrated. However, I feel that `The Accident' was not quite as involving or addictive as his previous books and certainly did not hold my attention as well as No Time For Goodbye or Too Close To Home.

Overall I would say it was entertaining enough but certainly not Linwood Barclay's best.

Fry's English Delight: Word Games
Fry's English Delight: Word Games
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Audio CD

3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining enough, but not worth buying, 13 Aug. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I imagine most have been used to downloading podcasts for several years now, including many from the BBC. (all of which are sourced from BBC radio) This is also sourced from BBC radio, but rather than a free podcast is a paid for CD. It's entertaining of course, as is anything from Stephen Fry, and quite educational too, but it's a listen only once type of thing, at least for me.

Unless you're a Stephen Fry superfan then I'd say catch these on iPlayer as sadly the BBC doesn't seem to want to release them as podcasts.

Braun Silk-epil Women's Cordless Shaver
Braun Silk-epil Women's Cordless Shaver
Offered by Activecare Online
Price: £33.23

3.0 out of 5 stars Does its job well, 19 July 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A review from the wife...

This Braun shaver works well and gives an extremely close shave. It comes with three attachments, a long hair trimmer, one to use for shaving legs and an exfoliation attachment. I've found the exfoliation attachment to be the most useful leaving smooth skin after use. The shaver is also rechargeable which means there is no need to battle with tangled wires while shaving.

Now for a few negatives - the attachments are plasticky and feel a bit flimsy. I'm not sure they have a lot of wear in them. The charge in the shaver also does not seem to last a long time and struggles if unused for about a week. I'm comparing this to my husband's body shaver which seems to hold it's charge for 3 - 4 weeks on a single charge and minimal use.

I have used epilators for many years and am used to having smooth legs for 2 -3 weeks after a single use so I have not been convinced to convert to shaving every third day. For people who prefer shaving though, I think this would be a handy device despite the few difficulties.

Carl Sagan's Cosmos [DVD] [1980]
Carl Sagan's Cosmos [DVD] [1980]
Dvd ~ Carl Sagan
Price: £10.57

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best cosmology series of all time, 22 Jun. 2011
Given the recent explosion in TV science documentaries, I wanted to go back and see one of the classics. Brian Cox often cites Cosmos as the TV show which sparked his interest in physics and cosmology, and having now watched all 13 episodes I can see why.

This is an epic series, covering the origins of the universe through evolution of life, the history of science, and it even spends time debunking popular myths and looking at where our species will venture in the future. Sagan is an engaging and hugely likeable presenter - for those that may not be aware of him, he was something of an American equivalent of David Attenborough, but his interest lay with cosmology instead of natural history. Sagan was also an active campaigner for rational thinking and the advancement of science, something which is commonplace today but less so back in the 70s and 80s when Sagan was active. His passion for rational thought is made throughout Cosmos too, as Carl himself says- "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Wise words from a great man and a swift way to stun believers in superstition, myth, magic, UFOs, and gods.

Cosmos has dated visually, and the picture quality on these DVDs is fairly low. The soundtrack however remains a joy with a score from Vangelis (famous for Blade Runner), as well as several classical composers.

For anyone who has developed an interest in cosmology from Wonders of the Universe and the like, this is a must see. Carl Sagan is much missed.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (BBC Audiobooks)
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (BBC Audiobooks)
by Derek Jacobi
Edition: Audio CD

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent audiobook collection, 21 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As someone who had only experienced the stories of Holmes through the many TV and movie adaptations, I came to this collection of Holmes stories (as well as the first volume 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' - curiously unavailable through Amazon) with interest. To my surprise, the stories are all rather short, and follow a fairly standard formula of a client coming to visit Holmes in Baker Street, Holmes visiting the scene of the crime, making a deduction, and then being quickly proved right. They're all over in no time at all, although that's not to say they aren't interesting and entertaining.

As someone who listens to a lot of audiobooks, I know all too well how the quality of the reader can make or break a book. Some ill advised comedy accents, overly dramatic reading, or just sounding plain bored are all common problems in audiobooks. Here we get Derek Jacobi, and he does a great job throughout.

I'll now move on to 'The Return of Sherlock Holmes' in audiobook format again.

The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath
The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath
by Jane Robins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Much duller than it should have been, 21 May 2011
The premise of this book - an examination into the mysterious deaths of lonely women in their bathtubs as the science of pathology was gaining ground and respectability - sounds like it could be very interesting. However the author has chosen to dedicate most of this book to describing the frankly tedious everyday lives of the women in question. It feels never ending with page after page of details devoid of interest or merit until they finally marry and are disposed of. Then it's off to the next case and more tedious descriptions of everyday life. This is an author in serious need of an editor.

Admittedly I listened to the audio version of this book (unabridged and read by Carole Boyd) and it's so poorly done it made slogging through all the endless detail harder than it might otherwise have been. Boyd adds a series of grating Northern accents to every character and also chooses to read some passages in a near whisper and others in a loud booming voice. It's difficult to listen to at the best of times, so it's probably for the best that Amazon don't carry this version.

The only shining light here is the character of Spilsbury himself, who also pops up later in history during the famous World War 2 mission Operation Mincemeat. Then however his time has passed, and he's more a hindrance than a help.

The Midwife's Confession
The Midwife's Confession
by Diane Chamberlain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ho hum..., 16 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I think `The Midwife's Confession' is an average book. The beginning of the book was interesting, drawing you into the story of a woman with a secret who chooses to end her life. Unfortunately, I felt that after the first few chapters, the story was extremely predictable. The characters appeared to be struggling too hard to hide the obvious twists within the book. The press reviews claim that Jodi Picoult fans will love Diane Chamberlain, however, I feel that this story at least lacks the richness and depths of characters that Jodi Picoult books show characteristically.

If you want a really easy read, this may be the book for you but don't expect to be blown away!

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