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Carl Spencer "Carl" (UK)
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The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder
The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder
by John Ironmonger
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Work of Genius, 4 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was a bit put off reading this book at first, simply because the pages are fairly large and the font is small. For some reason, this just puts me in mind of a boring, tedious story - text book flashbacks from school I suppose. In this case though, I was completely wrong. The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder is a work of complete genius and the best book I've read in a good long while.

The story is fairly straightforward. Maximilian Ponder lies dead on his dining table and his best (and for many years, only) friend Adam Last is tasked with lopping his head off for posterity and then calling the police. Max Ponder has locked himself away in his house for 30 years in order to try and catalogue every memory he possesses. What was originally supposed to be a three year philosophy study steadily transformed into a life-long obsession.

Whilst preparing to perform the gruesome decapitation and then waiting for the police, Adam takes the time to tell us Max Ponder's story, from a childhood shared in Africa, through eccentric teenage years, and up to the present day. He includes excerpts from The Catalogue to help us understand Max's character. This is what he will show to the police to explain what has happened.

The star of the tale is undoubtedly Max Ponder himself and indeed the entire Ponder family. Whether through Adam's story, or Max's own Catalogue entries, his personality is perfectly sketched out for us. His upbringing, his personality, his motivations, his strengths and - most importantly - his flaws. As a result of some unfortunate family losses, and a probable personality disorder, Max becomes obsessed with the thought that someone's memories and experiences die with them and that, within a couple of generations, the memory of the person themselves is gone too. The Catalogue is an attempt to preserve the contents of the human mind.

Meanwhile, Adam is left to tend to Max during his obsession - Max's one and only link to the normal human world. We briefly learn about what Adam has done with his life, why he indulged Max so much and his struggle to deal with Max's unique perspective on death, history and philosophy.

JW Ironmonger's writing is just incredible. The wit, humour, intelligence and tragedy seeps from every line. The characters and locations are vivid and well-defined and the mixture of Adam's narrative and excerpts from The Catalogue is brilliantly done. My only complaint would be that I would have liked MORE from The Catalogue at times and less from Adam. Adam does seem to repeat himself slightly in the first few chapters as he establishes the backstory.

The story itself is engaging, enjoyable, upsetting and most definitely thought-provoking. You can't help but feel a little depressed at the thought of being forgotten within years of dying but, as Adam says, you're dead so why does it matter? That's just one of the philosophical life questions that The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder will make you stop and think about. But please don't think that it's dry, or preachy, because it most definitely isn't. In fact, it's one of the most human stories you'll ever read.


The Glovemaker
The Glovemaker
by Stacia M. Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting History but Lacklustre Tale, 26 Mar. 2012
This review is from: The Glovemaker (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The blurb for The Glovemaker is undeniably enticing and promises a fascinating read for anyone interested in history. The history component of the novel lives up to expectations, but the story itself falls a little short.

The story is set in Oliver Cromwell's England in the year after Charles I's beheading. London is a dirty, gritty, decaying place and war is still breaking out across the Country between the various factions. Religious and non-religious groups vie for followers, and those in charge seek to rule with an iron fist. Rachel Lockyer is a glovemaker's apprentice who falls pregnant after an affair with Leveller Wiliam Walwyn. After a dead baby is uncovered from the woods by glovemaker Mary Du Gard - who followed Rachel the night before - Rachel is investigated for the murder or concealment of the newborn child and found guilty of murder.

The history is truly fascinating, from the law under which Rachel is convicted, to the socio-political landscape of the time, to the living conditions and treatment of prisoners. However, the way in which the history is conveyed can be a little "text book" at times, meaning that it is told matter of factly, rather than through the narrative tale.

As for the narrative itself, it is told as a group tale. Most events are told and then re-told through each of 3 or 4 main character's perspectives. Some characters are more successful than others. Rachel is an intriguing character but a little irritating in her stubborn behaviour and also seems a little unhinged at times, although that may well be because of her physical and emotional ordeal. William Walwyn can be equally irritating, although you ultimately pity him. Elizabeth Lilburne - Rachel's best friend - is ALSO irritating, though admirable for her loyalty to others.

My favourite character is the chief investigator Bartwain, through whom most of the law and philosophy comes. Bartwain expresses many of the thoughts and feelings that most readers will be having. In particular, his reflection on why the law only asks if the act of murder/concealment WAS done, rather than WHY it was done, is the author's pivotal theme.

The chief story of the investigation and conviction is interspersed with side stories for most of the characters. These are hit and miss, but help fill out the story and make the characters more human.

All in all, The Glovemaker is a worthwhile read, particularly for those with an interest in law and/or history. The story itself is a little weak. There is no real mystery in the death of the unborn child, nor any major unexpected twist as the tale unfolds and the dependence on religious undertones is a bit too heavy at times. That said, the narrative chugs along nicely enough, with a good exploration of law, society and philosophy thrown in.


Retardex  10.4ml Oral Spray (Pack of 3)
Retardex 10.4ml Oral Spray (Pack of 3)
Offered by Dental Direct UK
Price: £11.49

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Effective Bad Breath Solution, 17 Mar. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've got to be honest, I've never used a fresh breath spray before in my life. It all seems a bit American, 90210 for me. You can fix basic breath issues quite well with a couple of extra strong mints, a polo or a piece of Extra gum.

Retardex (a shockingly bad brand name) claim that their bad breath spray is clinically proven to not only deliver fresh breath, but also to kill bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay, plaque and gum problems. In reality, that isn't really saying too much since Extra gum claims to achieve the same thing and it's impossible for us to actually judge whether it's at all true.

So, the only thing you can really judge the spray on is its bad breath beating skills. On that front, it is impressive. A couple of quick sprays feels like biting into three or four polo mints at once. The taste quickly subsides, so won't leave an aftertaste if you're eating or drinking, but the mouth does feel cleaner and fresher.

Given the fact that you get three sprays, and you only need one or two sprays at a time, these should last you a long time and are good value at £4 or £5. If you're just after a minty sensation, probably best to stick with the mints or gum. But for a proper, strong bad breath solution, this is the product to choose - and no chewing required.


Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level (Blu-ray) [2012] [Region Free]
Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level (Blu-ray) [2012] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Patrick Stewart
Price: £7.15

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Class Treatment, 4 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was very excited when I found out that Star Trek: The Next Generation was being converted into blu-ray, and even more so when they revealed how meticulous the conversion will be. This sample gives you a taste of what the brilliant Okudas, and everyone else at CBS/Paramount, are capable of doing. It includes three episodes - Encounter at Farpoint, Sins of the Father, and Inner Light - but it's worth noting that you're actually getting four since Farpoint is a two-parter.

THE EPISODES:

First, a quick word on the episodes. Encounter at Farpoint obviously isn't one of the strongest TNG episodes, but watching it again after quite a long time made me realise just how big a foundation this episode built for the characters (and story direction) we would all come to love over the following seven seasons. Sure, the pacing is a bit scatter-brain and the premise is very TOS-esque, but otherwise it's a joy to watch just for the memories it invokes.

Sins of the Father is, in my opinion, the strongest of the three. TNG did so well to turn the Klingon Empire from pantomime villains to a fully fleshed Alpha Quadrant species and this episode is just one example of it. Picard and Worf always had their best moments in these episodes, and there a fair few tear-jerkers here. Finally, there's Inner Light, which tends to be one of the most lauded TNG stories. Personally, I did find it emotionally devastating the first time around, but it isn't one that I would choose to watch again and again.

THE VIDEO:

Wow, there just aren't enough words to describe the video quality of the episodes... amazing, phenomenal, incredible and mind-blowing would be just a few possibilities. The clarity of the image, vibrancy of the colours and quality of the special effects are all top notch. Sure, there are a few problems now and then, such as a little over-saturation of colour, some graining and blurring (particularly on Farpoint episode), but that doesn't prevent this release standing lightyears above the standard definition episodes we normally watch. The video also allows you to spot intricate details that you won't be able to see normally, and some weaker elements which are less welcome (for example, Data's very obvious stunt double on the holodeck in Farpoint).

The one (very minor) setback is that the newer the episode is, the less you notice the difference. With seasons 1-3 we are bound to be blown away by the difference from our memories of the episodes, but from season 4-7 the quality of the special effects and video generally tended to gradually improve. This means that, although the video is undoubtedly incredible and the special effects will remain a pleasant surprise because we've not seen them that way before, I don't think the difference will be so big as to justify a blu-ray double dip for those later seasons (although most fans will obviously buy them anyway!).

THE SOUND:

The surround sound is another great success. The hum of the Enterprise engines is ever-present in the ship scenes and beautifully balanced for immersive effect. The other sound effects are equally impressive but the stand out winner is the musical score, which has always been one of Star Trek's strongest elements and really brings the stories to life. A tear came to the eye as old McCoy and Data walked down the Enterprise corridor and the music piped up.

EXTRAS:

There aren't any except a couple of trailers, but it doesn't really matter.

CONCLUSION:

You might be questioning the true value of paying for a few episodes if you're thinking about buying the full sets anyway. The obvious answer is that these full season blu-rays are not going to be cheap, especially given the the money CBS/Paramount has invested in converting the show and re-doing the special effects. Therefore, it's best to be sure it's worth the dosh... and this release proves beyond any doubt that it most definitely is worth it. For a few quid, why not watch these few episodes in all their hi-def glory, and revel in how amazing it's going to be to sit down and watch the rest!


UltraDEX Oral Rinse 500ml Mouthwash
UltraDEX Oral Rinse 500ml Mouthwash
Offered by Dental Mania UK
Price: £8.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, Effective Mouthwash, 23 Jan. 2012
Despite the rather unfortunate name, this mouthwash is probably the best that I've tried. The ability to choose whether or not you add the flavouring is a simple but clever twist. Without the flavouring, you barely notice you have the rinse in your mouth, which I'm sure some people will prefer, although I kept on wanting to swallow the stuff. The mint flavouring makes a subtle but nice difference, so I think it's worth adding.

The problem with most mouthwashes is that they are too strong, violently attacking your mouth while you swish them around, and then leaving a faint burning sensation behind. Retardex is nice and gentle but the cleaning effect is very noticeable afterwards, without the nasty taste or smouldering mouth. An added bonus is the tongue-cleaning effect - as an office worker, I drink my fair share of tea during the day, which can leave a serious layer of staining on the tongue. Retardex goes a long way to helping keep my tongue clean - far more so than any other mouthwash I've tried.


Trollied - Series 1 [DVD]
Trollied - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jane Horrocks
Offered by JCJ Internet Savers
Price: £6.79

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average Simple Comedy, 16 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Trollied - Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that 99% of Sky's original programming sucks... game shows, talent shows, drama and now comedy - they've tried it all and it's all been pretty bad.

As a former employee of Tesco, I was always quite surprised that there hadn't been a comedy about supermarket life since it does tend to involve a wide variety of (sometimes crazy) characters from all walks of life. Now Trollied has come to fill that void but instead of offering a 'The Office' style mockumentary (one of the show's executive producers was Ash Atalla, of The Office fame) the show leans more towards a Little Britain-esque satirical view.

A lot of the comedy is crude and most characters are caricatures - loosely based on real humans but hopefully not actually found interacting with customers in our country's supermarkets. That said, it's these characters that are the funniest and most interesting.

The show picks up as the episodes progress and, all in all, this is a solid first-effort from Sky in comedy. If they keep it up, I'm sure they'll land on a good comedy formula before too long. In the meantime, Trollied is worth a watch, although I would begrudge paying as much as £11.00 for it.


No Title Available

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, 14 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I had to post a review for this product since I'm not sure whether the other reviewers have been drinking the same thing. I've always been very picky about hot chocolate - I either love it or hate it - so it was admittedly a bit risky to buy 80 discs, but the good news is that I absolutely love the Cadbury hot chocolate.

The drink is definitely more creamy and milky than chocolately (I know that's not a real word) but that's fine by me since I find the stronger chocolate drinks can be too overpowering and 'dry'. It's nice and frothy on top and there's a good quantity in the mug for your buck. It has a lovely sweet taste to it and doesn't need any extra sugar.

I've had hot chocolates in a couple of good pubs and restaurants since buying these discs and none have been nearly as good as the Cadbury hot chocolate. If you prefer the creamier, lighter type of hot chocolate, this should suit your tastes!


HoMedics NMS-2TAB Massage Snuggly Bear Neck Massager Massaging Cushion
HoMedics NMS-2TAB Massage Snuggly Bear Neck Massager Massaging Cushion
Offered by Discount Deals Only
Price: £8.06

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent travel cushion, 24 Oct. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When I saw the picture for this product I told myself that it could go either way - either the cushion would be delightfully soft and cosy, or it would be cheap and cheerful. Face to face, it is definitely the latter.

Instead of being fully padded, the cushion is filled with beans, making it a little uneven and less comfortable than it could have been. The outer material is nice but, again, is a little thinner and tougher than it could have been for a truly relaxing experience. Still, we all know how important a decent neck and head rest can be for long journeys - plane, train, car or coach - and this cushion would certainly make a great travel companion.

The baffling part of the product is the inclusion of the 'massager'. Needless to say that, if you're not on a coach journey when you turn the massager on, you will quickly feel as though you are. It is violent and not at all relaxing - far better to save the AA batteries for something else and use this just as a cushion!


Sure Maximum Protection Cream for Men 45 ml (Pack of 3)
Sure Maximum Protection Cream for Men 45 ml (Pack of 3)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, 25 July 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have never been a huge fan of roll-on antiperspirants. They generally seem a little unhygienic and, for men (most of whom have hairy armpits), can be a little sticky and uncomfortable.

Sure Maximum Protection is different than cheaper roll-ons as it's a cream that you push up through little holes and apply to the armpits. It doesn't really stick, or make the hair go `clumpy'. The fragrance is simple but pleasant - it smells "clean" but not too chemical and soapy.

To be honest, I didn't follow the instructions and apply the night before since I have my showers at night rather than in the morning (not much choice in a house of 3 women) and don't really feel a pressing need to have nice creamy clean armpits whilst I'm sleeping.

The selling point of the cream is it's 48 hour maximum protection. I concur with another reviewer in saying that you really shouldn't have to be putting it to the test, but the good news is that it does keep you feeling dry and fresh throughout the day.

I'm not a profuse sweater, which is lucky since I wear a shirt and tie all day. However, I do tend to notice when my Lynx deodorant is starting to lose the battle against the heat. That hasn't been the case at all with Sure Maximum Protection - it has continued to work tirelessly throughout the day and in hot conditions - and sometimes you can even catch a whiff of the fragrance, just as clean and clear as it was first thing in the morning.

The conclusion then, is that Sure Maximum Protection certainly does what it says on the box. Whether that is enough to make you part with the convenience, relative cheapness and `manliness' of the traditional spray, will depend on individual preference. Personally, I still haven't made up my mind.


Harry Potter - The Deathly Hallows Part II
Harry Potter - The Deathly Hallows Part II
Price: £7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Magical Music, 23 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This soundtrack is not bad - it is generally very good. BUT, like the last few by Nicholas Hooper, it just isn't quite powerful or substantial enough. The track lengths are fairly good - including a few which don't seem to have been in the movie - but it's a mixed bag and doesn't always satisfy on its own as it does on screen.

The best compliment that I can give to Alexandre Desplat is that his music in this soundtrack is better than that in Part 1. He manages to hit a few striking notes - particularly with Lily and Snape's themes and the Battle theme - but these beautiful musical moments are too few and far between.

A telling sign that Alexandre Desplat's work really isn't meaty or powerful enough for the most epic or emotional moments is the very heavy use of John Williams' compositions throughout the film - Harry's unveiling to his friends; Snape's banishment from Hogwarts; and the final shot of the trio, amongst numerous others. Of course, this is never a cause of complaint. Hedwig's Theme is used to amazing, rousing effect. Every single time it played in the film, I got goosebumps and shivers down my spine.

Nicholas Hooper's Lily theme also makes a welcome appearance in the film during Snape's memories. Oddly, this moment is missing from the 'Snape & Lily' track, as are a few of the Hedwig's Theme moments. The biggest injustice is that the entire track from the Epilogue is missing - I know it was John Williams' music from the first film but this is meant to be a soundtrack of the MOVIE and it is a glaring omission.

This soundtrack is certainly good, hence the 4 stars, but I still lament the fact that John Williams was not available to score the movie. I can only dream of what moments such as the battle, the revelation of certain deaths, Harry's reunion with his parents (which was particularly lacking any musical punch), and the finale of the movie, would have been like if he had been on board.

Even so, this soundtrack is essentially a testament to Harry Potter's story and to the contribution of every composer involved throughout the series. Alexandre Desplat can count himself among those privileged few and certainly makes a healthy contribution but it is John Williams - as with many other great movies - that we will always remember most.


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