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The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.00

3.0 out of 5 stars What am I missing?, 25 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Girl on the Train (Hardcover)
What on earth is all the fuss about? This is a pedestrian novel, thinly plotted and constructed around five characters who are, without exception, irredeemably unlikeable. Enough reviews here summarise the plot, so I won't bother, beyond simply observing that it stretches the limits of plausibility, both in terms of how the inter-connecting relationships are drawn and as a narration of police procedural..

The book comes in at around 340 pages. By about a third of the way through, and despite Hawkins' attempts to introduce red herrings along the way, the solution is pretty obvious.

It was an okay read: you'll read plenty worse and many better - but if, after all the hype that's driven the vast sales of this book, you're expecting to be blown away by some clever-clever plotting or edge-of-your-seat writing, you'll be sorely disappointed.


Vital Signs
Vital Signs
by Robin Cook
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Far from vintage Cook, 7 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Vital Signs (Paperback)
I'm usually a big fan of medical thrillers, and of Robin Cook in particular. But this particular novel was truly dreadful - and that's a shame because Cook is normally much, much better than this.

The plot is essentially this: we join the book as pediatrician Marissa Blumenthal and her husband are going through an in-vitro programme but without any success. The process is also taking its toll on their marriage, but when Marissa runs into an old medical college pal going through the same process at the same clinic, the pair's suspicions are aroused. Their amateur sleuthing leads them halfway around the world, to Australia, Hong Kong and China, where a diabolical scheme worth billions of dollars is uncovered.

The storyline is actually rather good - but the characterisation and plotting is so leaden and artifical that it's hard to see beyond the jarring dialogue, convenient cicumstances and paper-thin premises.

I've no doubt, for example, that contacting Triad members in Hong Kong or China would prove slightly more difficult than simply asking your hotel concierge where to find them. It's hardly the same as finding a bank.

The tedious American preoccupation with Communism is also prevalent: Cook insists on referring to China never simply as China but as 'communist China' or 'the People's Republic of China' or just the plain old 'PRC'. Okay, this was published in 1991 and so presumably written in 1990 or early '91 - but the Berlin Wall was either about to come down or had come down as he was writing it and, thanks to Gorbachev, glasnost and perestroika had been around for quite a while. Paranoia, as Cook presumably well knows, does not disappear overnight, but the way this is written you'd think he was penning it in 1956.

Worse, though, is the blunt trauma Cook causes with his ham-fisted stereotyping. An Australian character, supposedly a pretty bright doctor in his own right, is painted as some sort of culturally-defective Crocodile Dundee figure who seems to have at his disposal huge amounts of unexplained cash (which, by the way, has no link to the plot at the heart of the story). This character also speaks in a way that I've never heard any of the scores of Aussies I know speak. This perhaps isn't surprising for a writer who lives among people who seems utterly unable to tell British, Australian and South African people apart, but you do, perhaps naively, expect more from someone who's been to medical school.

There's no logical structure or progression to the book. The characters make decisions that make no plausible sense in the real world; the authorities behave and react in totally untypical ways to the trail of devastation Marissa and her friend Wendy leave in their wake; the goons are totally incompetent.

Put simply - nothing in the plot really works properly.

Another reviewer here wrote: No great character development, but that's not the job of the thriller writer.

I'd beg to differ. The absolute number one priority of any writer of any genre is to create characters you care about - and by that, I mean characters who prompt a response. You need to root for the hero or heroine and despise the villains. A great writer will put the reader in the shoes of his characters and make the reader feel what the character feels.

The problem with Vital Signs is, I think, that Robin Cook is a great thriller writer who, in this particular case, didn't do his job properly.


Ideal Textiles 16x16 Cushion Inner Pad
Ideal Textiles 16x16 Cushion Inner Pad
Offered by Ideal Textiles
Price: £3.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheap as chips, does a job, 3 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This cushion is as cheap as chips - we bought it as cheap filling for an old cushion cover we had and which my children wanted to use as one of a number of scatter cushions on their beds.

It's hollow fibre and insubstantial, but in the end it does the job that we bought it for. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time using it for comfort - it's too thin and unforgiving for that - but, again, that wasn't the purpose of it, so not a reason to give it a lower rating.

If all you want is a decorative cushion, then this will do a perfectly good job at a really good price.


Grey Stamps Square Cushion Cover Queen Design Decorative Throw Pillow Case
Grey Stamps Square Cushion Cover Queen Design Decorative Throw Pillow Case
Offered by Arcobaleno London
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely elegant, good price and great quality, 3 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a good quality cushion cover at a decent price. The seams are durable, the zip appears to be made to a good standard and it has quite a plush feel.

Good value at the price.


Yellow, Grey & Pewter Faux Suede 18" Cushion Cover
Yellow, Grey & Pewter Faux Suede 18" Cushion Cover
Offered by Red Rainbow Textiles Ltd
Price: £2.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Nice quality, decent price, 3 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a good quality cushion cover at a decent price. The yellow in the picture is a bit brighter than the actual tone on the cushion itself, but that's a small quibble.

The seams are durable, the zip appears to be made to a good standard and it has quite a plush feel.

Good value at the price.


The Chimes (Christmas Books series Book 2)
The Chimes (Christmas Books series Book 2)
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely festive offering from the master, 3 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are a number of reviews on Amazon and elsewhere for which talk about The Chimes (and The Cricket on the Hearth, Dickens' other Christmas story) 'letting Dickens down'. To me, it sounds rather as though those reviewers were expecting to read two stories which were equal in stature to A Christmas Carol - the story by which all Christmas-themed literature is judged, of course. On that basis, those people were almost certain to be disappointed - but letting Dickens down? Oh, please ...

It is an unequivocal certainty that no author, living, dead or yet to be, can possibly write a collection as vast as that for which Dickens was responsible and also maintain an absolutely consistent standard.

But ... this is Charles Dickens. For those who are foolish enough to believe The Chimes represents in some way a disservice to his standing, let me point out that we're talking about one of Britain's greatest novelists. A man who, deservedly, stands alongside the Austens, Brontes, Swifts et al when we talk of enduring literature.

Do I like all of Dickens' work? No, not at all. Some of it I find heavy going and overly moralistic. Do I recognise his astonishing ability to write a perfect turn of phrase, his uncanny knack of finding exactly the right word at the right time. his instinct for creating characters who are thought-provoking or situations which cause moral discomfort? Yes, absolutely.

Does The Chimes prompt the same immediate sense of affection as A Christmas Carol (a book I have read 35 times, by the way). For my part, no. But is it enjoyable, heartwarming and rich in festive cheer? Without question.

Do yourself a favour and ignore those reviewers who seem unable to look beyond the commercial popularity and Disney-ised interpretation of Dickens' greatest Christmas book and instead judge this on its own merits. I promise you won't be disappointed.


4 X Quad Battery charger dock for Wii remote Controllers + 4 2 Battery Packs UK
4 X Quad Battery charger dock for Wii remote Controllers + 4 2 Battery Packs UK
Offered by Goolrc
Price: £9.35

1.0 out of 5 stars Yet another Wii docking system that doesn't work, 3 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've now bought and thrown away several of this type of charger. They're great in principle and, if they work, save a fortune in batteries. The problem is they don't work properly - or if they do, it's only for a relatively short period of time.

I thought I'd cracked it with this one. When it arrived, I unpacked it, swapped out the existing battery packs on the Wiimotes and plugged in the dock. Everything worked beautifully. A month later, the metal contacts at the back of the battery packs were starting to lose connection with the contacts on the docking station. You could still use it, but you had to jiggle the Wiimotes in the dock to find the right connection.

Two weeks after that, only one docking slot worked. A week later, that failed, too. So, within two months, the whole system had failed completely.

It's not a particularly expensive product, so the lost cost isn't a huge problem. But I'm just sick of Wii accessories that just don't do what they say they'll do. The lesson? I'll only by official Nintendo Wii products from now on.


Funland by Laymon. Richard ( 1990 ) Paperback
Funland by Laymon. Richard ( 1990 ) Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Good story which is longer than it needs to be, 29 April 2014
Context first: I've read a handful of Richard Laymon's books. I've enjoyed all of them to one degree or another - some more than others - and while I feel satisfied when I finish one, I can't say I feel the sort of sense of loss when I come to the end of fellow genre writers such as Stephen King or James Herbert or Robert McCammon. There are a couple of exceptions, but overall he's a perfectly good read and can be relied upon to deliver a pretty solid story.

What he writes: Laymon's books are, almost without exception, thrillers that live at the edges of psychological horror. Generally speaking they're dark and almost unremittingly believable - which, in the end, is what makes them so disturbing

How does this compare to his other work: In truth, this is at the lower end of his personal scale. Funland was written in 1989 (published in 1990) is, chronologically, at the midpoint of his published career. Slightly lazy and with a bloated narrative, it features an altogether too convenient (and therefore trite) ending. But in the moments where it counts and where Laymon finds himself writing from the darkest parts of his mind, the pace is blistering.

Plot: People in the seaside resort of Boleta Bay, California, are disappearing and the townsfolk think the growing vagrant population are to blame. A group of teenagers have taken it upon themselves to rid Boleta Bay of the problem by targeting the bums and hobos. But something wicked is lurking beneath the boardwalk and the kids are about to find out just how bad things in Boleta Bay can really get.

The book runs to 500 pages and the headline from me is that that's about 150 pages more than it probably needs to be. There's an awful lot of superfluous narrative here which bloats the pace and deadens the effectiveness of Laymon's usually on-point writing.

Sex - or the fascination with it - has always featured prominently in Laymon's novels, but here it's ridden with teenage angst written by someone who was 43 when he committed it to the page. With the best will in the world, it's hard to recapture that first flush of youthful enthusiasm when you're close to 30 years away from it! And so it proves here. At every opportunity, a sweater is lifted, a breast is glimpsed, the paleness of a thigh is revealed, a warmth is growing somewhere. My awkwardness at reading it had nothing to do with prudishness and everything to do with a lack of credibility. And even the adults are at it every chance they get - including the two cops at the centre of the story. I've no problem with sex scenes in books - really. It's just that in most cases here they're not relevant to the story.

The characters - particularly the teenagers - are hard to like and given they drive the body of the storyline that makes it a hard proposition: how do you get emotionally involved in the stories of people you could care less about? The arch-villain of the story is a throw-away character who you never really come to know and therefore never really come to despise.

The dialogue is, at times, a bit clunky, as though even Laymon realises this is a by-numbers project.

In the end, I just didn't feel there was enough of the author invested in the book to make it a real page-turner. The question is: who to blame? The fact is, I know plenty of authors who write 'long' and rely on the skills of their editors to excise the unnecessary fat (there's a good reason why most authors acknowledge their editors in print!) This book feels like it hasn't really been looked at by an editor at all - and suffers as a result.

I've concentrated on what's wrong. But there's a lot right, too. It is, in true Laymon tradition, disturbing, almost to the point of being in bad taste. It's descriptive and evocative in places and the core of the story is strong enough to make you forgive, if not forget, the flaws. But for a 500 page book, this is awfully shallow.

As the stars say, it's okay. But there's much of Laymon's work that's great.


The Christmas Books: A Christmas Carol, the Chimes, the Cricket On the Hearth (Penguin Popular Classics)
The Christmas Books: A Christmas Carol, the Chimes, the Cricket On the Hearth (Penguin Popular Classics)
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Manage your own expectations, 13 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are a number of reviews for this collection of stories which talk about The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth 'letting the book down'. With all due respect, it sounds rather as though those reviewers were expecting to read three stories which were equal in stature. On that basis, those people were almost certain to be disappointed - but letting the book down? Oh, please ...

It is an unequivocal certainty that no author, living, dead or yet to be, can possibly write a collection as vast as that for which Dickens was responsible and also maintain an absolutely consistent standard.

But ... this is Charles Dickens. For those who are foolish enough to believe The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth represent in some way a disservice to his standing, let me point out that we're talking about one of Britain's greatest novelists. A man who, deservedly, stands alongside the Austens, Brontes, Swifts et al when we talk of enduring literature.

Do I like all of Dickens' work? No, not at all. Some of it I find heavy going and overly moralistic. Do I recognise his astonishing ability to write a perfect turn of phrase, his uncanny knack of finding exactly the right word at the right time. his instinct for creating characters who are thought-provoking or situations which cause moral discomfort? Yes, absolutely.

Do the other stories in this collection prompt the same immediate sense of affection as A Christmas Carol (a book I have read 35 times, by the way). For my part, no. But are they enjoyable, heartwarming and rich in festive cheer. Without question.

Do yourself a favour and ignore those reviewers who seem unable to look beyond the commercial popularity and Disney-ised interpretation of Dickens' greatest Christmas book and instead judge each of these on its own merits. I promise you won't be disappointed.


SEBO X4EXTRA Automatic Upright Vacuum Cleaner - 1300 W
SEBO X4EXTRA Automatic Upright Vacuum Cleaner - 1300 W

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous machine, 7 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We bought this after yet another Dyson vacuum cleaner gave up the ghost (don't get me started on Dyson - wonderful technology, dreadful build quality).

The Sebo, though, is German engineering at its best. The 1300W motor delivers unbeatable suction, getting even the most stubborn bits of cotton and fluff out of the carpet. And unlike other upright machines which lose suction when you use a hose attachment, the efficiency of the Sebo isn't compromised at all when you switch from normal use to one of the tools.

These, too, are brilliantly engineered. Not only do you get a robust, extendable hose built into the machine (no fiddling about trying to connect a separate hose, unlike with some other makes) but all the attachments live on the machine itself, meaning they're always to hand when you need them. All, too, are universal connections so they all just slot onto the main hose attachment.

Changing the bags is simplicity itself: open the front cover, squeeze the connector clip, pull the old bag out and reverse the process to put the new bag on. Not only that, but each box of replacement bags comes with caps to fit the old bag so there's no escape of dust and grime.

The handle is ergonomically designed, so comfortable to use and it's surprisingly light for an upright vacuum, too. Getting it up and down stairs isn't really any problem.

The machine has a built in bag alert warning light so you know when it's time to change the bags - and you do need to keep an eye on that as the performance does drop if the bag is full (just as it does with other uprights)

If I were being picky, I'd point out two slight flaws:

1. The point at which the power cord attaches to the machine isn't as sturdy as it could be and the rubber surround came away on ours after about two years, meaning the cable is now bound with electrical insulating tape. No great drama and doesn't impair the performance of the machine. And it may just be down to the way we wrap the cable.

2. The design of the hose means that you do need to have the machine pointing the right way if you want to use the attachments a distance from the main unit, otherwise the hose simply pulls the cleaner over. But, again, I've not yet encountered a vacuum cleaner that's effectively solved that issue, so I'm not going to mark it down on that account.

Our machine has never clogged (except for once when my 11-year-old son used it to vacuum out the fire - a decision which meant I spent half an hour trying to break up large bits of coal trapped in the hose - as well as having to thoroughly clean every attachment) and in four years has never given us a moment's trouble.

Yes, it's pricey at the thick end of £300 (although you'll find it for much less than that if you shop around - and as I write this, Amazon is offering it for £230) but in the end you get what you pay for. Would I buy it again? Absolutely - wouldn't even have to think about it.


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