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David Hallas

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Zalman ZM-NC3 Ultra Quiet Cooler for Up to 17 inch Laptop
Zalman ZM-NC3 Ultra Quiet Cooler for Up to 17 inch Laptop
Offered by SEDIVA UK
Price: £29.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good - but power users shouldn't expect too much!, 19 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Despite the impressive 75% five star rating given by other reviewers here, I was still dubious about this cooler's ability to deal with the combined heat generated by the processor and motherboard of my Asus K53S laptop - and my doubts proved to be well founded. Having said that, I wouldn't bet on coolers at two or three times the price of this one completely eradicating the need for the internal system fans to kick in from time to time.

The reason for this is that my system has an i5 processor together with a dedicated 1Gb nVidia 520MX graphic chip - and I confess to spending far too much time playing a system hungry online game which takes full advantage of the combined power of these two items.

However, one of the great advantages of this cooler in this respect is that, whereas before the processors would quickly heat up and constantly run at 90 degrees+, they're now enjoying a much easier time and coping with the load far better as a result of having this unit beneath them. The internal laptop fans still fire up occasionally but it's by no means necessary for them to be whirring away the whole time in a futile effort to keep the processor(s) within acceptable temperature limits.

The laptop sits satisfyingly secure on top of the mesh upper of the cooler which has 10 little circular rubber pads standing slightly proud of it in order to provide effective 'grip' to the laptop. I can't compare this cooler with other, more expensive units as I've never owned a cooler pad before. But what I can say is that this one is certainly designed and constructed to a standard that most people will, I'm sure, be quite satisfied with, especially for the price.

As for concerns about fan noise, there are no worries on that score. For a start, I assume most people are, like me, motivated to buy a cooler in order to combat overheating issues which, in itself, causes incessant noise from the internal fans.That being the case, this cooler will at the very least minimise the noise from the internal laptop fan(s) and for less power hungry users, maybe even eradicate internal fan noise altogether. And, really, you'd have to have the hearing sensitivity of a long-eared bat to warrant any justified complaint about the gentle whirr of this cooler fan.

I've been using the pad for several hours each day for only a month so I can't attest to its longevity. But I don't expect the confidence it inspires to be misplaced. Only time will tell, but let's not forget the bargain price.

Just a couple of other things. First, laptops vary in size and if you're wondering how yours will sit on this cooler then it measures 15"x12" and is light enough in weight for it not to be an issue.

And one piece of advice to other first time cooler users - if you move the combined laptop/cooler from your lap whilst it's still turned on, be sure to place it on a hard surface like a table and not on a sofa, cushion, carpeted floor, or other soft surface as the whirring fan won't thank you for it and will no doubt suck up fibres, threads, crumbs, or other debris which definitely won't do it any good over time.

Nutshell - a comfortable, effective, well made unit that will meet the requirements of all but the most nit-picky of purists. If your eyes are glazing over trying to choose from the myriad of coolers available then waste no more time. Take a punt on this one and I'm confident you'll be glad you did.

MOFRED Black Ultra Slim Apple iPad Air (Released November 2013) Leather Case Cover, Full Protection Smart Cover for iPad Air iPad 5 5th With Magnetic Auto Wake & Sleep Function + Screen Protector + Stylus Pen
MOFRED Black Ultra Slim Apple iPad Air (Released November 2013) Leather Case Cover, Full Protection Smart Cover for iPad Air iPad 5 5th With Magnetic Auto Wake & Sleep Function + Screen Protector + Stylus Pen
Price: £34.99

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I doubt you'll get more bang for your iPad case buck than this!, 13 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
At the time of writing this case has just been reduced to £3.79 (£5.77 including postage) and at this price it has to be among the best, if not the best, value iPad case around.

Some of you, like me, will probably be thinking one of two things - (a) This case can't be up to much at such a low price, and/or (b) I don't care how much of a bargain it is, if it's no good then it just means I'm wasting less money.

Well, on the first point, you'd be wrong - if nothing else, this is a serious contender in the iPad case category. And on the second point, even allowing for individual taste and specific requirements, you'd have to be hyper-critical of whatever shortcomings this case might have to regard it as a waste of your dough.

I almost chose another case on my shortlist from the large selection here on Amazon because of the few harsh one star comments. But after acknowledging that every case, even the expensive ones, have their one star detractors I eventually chose this one, safe in the knowledge that I could return it at little cost if I discovered the one star critics were right.

Well, unlike a few reviewers here I can't compare this cover with others I've owned, or examined. But what I can tell you is that I do have fairly high standards in all things and this case certainly didn't fall below them.

For the record, the case I received was identical to the one in the image, complete with dual speaker grill - an absence of which, with a more exposed area in this regard, seems to have rattled one or two other purchasers here.

The precise manufacture of the case and the way the iPad Air snaps perfectly into it is very impressive and every cut-out for all the ports and iPad controls is spot on, with none of that annoying, 'off centre' carelessness in the design which you might expect from many a cheap, sub-standard case. If you're a stickler for this kind of attention to detail then you won't be disappointed in this aspect of this case. It fits the iPad Air perfectly.

One or two reviewers here complain about the weight. Well, let's face it, any case is going to add both weight and bulk to the naked unit, yet most of us feel happier knowing the iPad is well protected. Having said that, I certainly don't find this case unacceptably heavy or bulky, yet the protection it gives is exemplary. If there are those who can vouch for, say, the genuine iPad case being lighter, less bulky, and yet just as protective then, fair enough - if that's a biggy for you then go ahead and shovel the big bucks into Apple's coffers if you think it's worth the extra.

The automatic shut down/wake up cover has so far been working a treat and the overall feel of the case suits me fine. It feels snug, compact, comfortable and is great to carry around. So well, in fact, that the idea of it being just a stop gap purchase until I find something better has been ditched in favour of this being a permanent fixture. Just to be ultra cautious I'll reserve judgement on its longevity and post an update if things take a downturn. But, I'm optimistic about it being OK in the long term. The case comes with a stylus and a screen protector which are an irrelevance to me and I suggest they should be seen for the take them, or leave them, freebies they are.

On a purely personal note there's just one fly in the ointment. It's a tongue in cheek thing and reflects the price I paid for it! I bought the case just after Christmas when it was priced at £11.77 including postage. A week later it was reduced to £7.79. And now, mid-January, it has a 'sale' price of just £3.79. Methinks the higher price was maybe in anticipation of all the new Christmas iPad Air owners, like me, looking for a case for their shiny new purchase. Then, after the rush came a reduction. And now, a further discount.

The way the price of this case is falling maybe it would be wise to wait a little longer to see if the seller will pay YOU to take one!

Just kidding. To be fair, this case was competitive even at the higher price.

Nutshell? Unless you have specific requirements that this case doesn't meet (probably with regard to stand configuration which are many and varied) and especially if all you want is a good quality, well fitting case that gives excellent protection and both looks and feels good, then I'd definitely recommend this one. It was a bargain at the price I paid for it - for £5.77 delivered, it has to be worth a punt. And I doubt you'll look further when you get it.

Ginger Baker - Hellraiser: The Autobiography of The World's Greatest Drummer
Ginger Baker - Hellraiser: The Autobiography of The World's Greatest Drummer
Price: £3.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Contender for worst ever autobiograpy, 15 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Anyone who has even a passing knowledge of the legendary band that was 'Cream' will no doubt come to this book, as I did, not expecting it to lay claim to any kind of literary award. Of the members of that great band, I think it's fair to say that apart from being the most unhinged of the three, Ginger Baker was never one to impress with his articulate disposition. I've seen and read many interviews with all three band members over the years - and whilst bass player Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton were never less than engaging in their responses, Ginger always left me with a sense of being none the wiser after his interviews than I was before. He may be a great drummer, but he's no raconteur.

Nevertheless, I thought that, at least, given the medium of the written word where thought and planning would give him the chance to order his recollections and catalogue his experiences at leisure, we'd end up with an account that would give us a worthwhile insight into his memories and his perspective on the formation and lifespan of a band that I'd idolised to such an extent in those heady days of the late sixties that I was seriously in danger of wearing out my vinyl copy of the live/studio double album, 'Wheels of Fire'. At that time, you could have your Led Zeppelin and your Jimi Hendrix - I was a 'Cream' fan through and through and not even the instinctive brilliance of Hendrix - and certainly not Jimmy Page - could touch me like the clinical superiority of Clapton on tracks like 'Sitting on top of the World' and the timeless, classic, live recording of 'Crossroads'.

But even with the slack I was willing to cut Ginger Baker in terms of his lack of expression away from a set of drums, the further into this book I went, the more despondent I became by this slapdash concoction of tedious anecdote, cobbled together in a kind of careless, stream of consciousness way and which very quickly becomes tiresome with its relentless emphasis on his drug taking, his fighting, and the endless, irrelevant disputes with all manner of anonymous thugs, heavies, and other instantly forgettable nonentities. In short, the book rapidly nosedives into a boring chronology of Baker's drug use and the mood changes, disputes and arguments this inevitably created.

Anyone wanting, as I was hoping for, a book rich in reminiscence about his days with 'Cream' will be sorely disappointed. Yes, 'Cream' were together for only a couple of years - but what a great couple of years they were. And during that time there must have been many memories created which were worth recording. But all we get about Baker's time with 'Cream' are three short chapters in the middle of the book sandwiched between his obsessive preoccupation with drugs (he's either coming off them, or he's back on them), his 'getting down to business' with Germaine Greer (not sure which one of them should be the more embarrassed by this revelation but at least it goes to prove that not all of them were 'fit birds') and his competition with Clapton to see who could lay every waitress at the Speakeasy. Yes, there's confirmation of his fractious relationship with Jack Bruce and the dispute over writing credits apportioned to Bruce and Brown. But, to use a lyric from one of those Brown/Bruce songs - 'The Clearout' from Bruce's solo album, 'Songs for a Tailor' - that's just 'old meals now'. We've heard it all before. And even the paltry section given over to his time with 'Cream' isn't instilled with anything which could remotely be deemed affection.

Ginger Baker has lived a surprisingly long and eventful life considering his prolonged drug abuse and it's only right that he should produce a book which does justice both to the full span of his life and those two short but remarkable years he spent with Cream. But unfortunately, this isn't it.

As much as it pains me to say it, I turned the last page of this book with my affection for Ginger Baker greatly diminished. Not just because he failed miserably to set down a worthwhile record of the most illustrious two years of his career - but because, far from this book enhancing and adding to the folklore of 'Cream', with this ragbag of trivial twaddle and inane babble, one of its key members has managed to tarnish the memory, not to say the image, of one of the greatest and most influential bands of all time.

A deeply disappointing book of which Ginger Baker ought to be thoroughly ashamed. The only reason I give it one star is because I'm unable to give it none at all.

To any true 'Cream' fan - you've been warned.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2013 5:15 PM BST

Ice Master
Ice Master
by Jennifer Niven
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True life adventure doesn't come better than this, 14 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Ice Master (Paperback)
If you only ever read one, true life adventure story, then make it this one. I can give this book no higher accolade than that and it's one it richly deserves.

So many accounts of this kind get bogged down in tedious detail which detracts from the central story, leaving the reader with a sense of having gone through an ordeal not too dissimilar to the characters being read about. But this certainly isn't one of them. On the very last page, in the 'acknowledgements' section, author Jennifer Niven gives thanks to someone called Joe Kaiser for teaching her 'pure economy of words'. And after reading it, I'd like to thank Joe, too - because the narrative of this extremely engaging account rattles along with a sense of not a single extraneous word being used. One doesn't immediately associate this kind of book with the term 'page turner' but, believe me, once you start reading it, you'll be in a continual state of wanting to know what happens next - and the further you follow this story, the more pressing that feeling will become.

No spoilers here, since the ultimate source of enjoyment of this book understandably comes from wanting to know the fate of a group of disparate characters that make up the scientists and crew of the 'Karluk', a ship bound for a disastrous expedition to the Arctic.

What makes this story all the more compelling is that so much of the text incorporates diary entries kept by those who were experiencing it and the character of all the main participants shines through to such an extent that it allows us to form a very clear picture of the individuals involved. This also allows us to understand how their personality clashes often compounded the horrendous circumstances they had to endure for such a long period of time. And having come to know the main players so well and followed their harrowing ordeal every gruelling step of the way I found the concluding chapters of the book deeply moving.

There's clearly no attempt here to embellish a story which certainly needs no embellishment - there's no sense whatever of the writer getting in the way of the action, as so many writers tend to do. There is just a hugely impressive collating of information, of pulling it all together and compiling it in an impressively chronological and highly readable and entertaining way. And in doing so there's also a clear sense of a writer doing her utmost to produce a true and honest account of a voyage which aims to put the record straight with regard to at least a couple of the main protagonists in the aftermath of an expedition that captured the world's attention at the time.

We all know that the blurb on the cover of a book is often mere hyperbole which has little, if anything, to do with what's inside. But here's what Ranulph Fiennes - no stranger to the North West Passage himself - has to say about this book:

"For more than 30 years I've been reading polar survival stories, but none so gripping and meticulously based on the written accounts of the participants as 'The Ice Master'. Jennifer Niven has done polar history and anyone who reads this remarkable book a great favour."

Be prepared for a story that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy Book 2)
Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy Book 2)
Price: £4.74

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but clunky plot progression and abysmal prose, 3 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having read the first part of this trilogy, 'Fall of Giants', which dealt with the fortunes of five families experiencing events surrounding the First World War and the Russian Revolution from English, Welsh, American, German, and Russian perspectives, I came to this second instalment knowing what to expect - and, at least, in that respect I wasn't disappointed.

'Winter of the World' continues the story of the original cast, with their offspring now taking centre stage, as the fallacy of that grand proclamation 'the war to end all wars' is exposed after just a couple of decades for the fatuous hot air it proved to be - with everyone, once again, thrown into the utterly appalling madness that was the Second World War.

The positive thing about this book, as with its predecessor, is that you feel confident about the historical accuracy of the backdrop in which the story is being played out. In the acknowledgment section at the back of the book, Follett gives due credit to the many advisors for their help in this regard. And so, although praise is ultimately due to the author for the impressive amount of detail and terminology about specific cities, buildings, military hardware - and the rest - that this novel contains, one can only guess at just how much of this detailed knowledge comes first hand from Follett and how much is drawn from his team of specialist advisors. Nevertheless, the story undoubtedly benefits from the tremendous amount of authentic and erudite detail and the reader is the better informed because of it.

I'd also give a nod, at least, to the creation of the various characters and the interlinking of their experiences as the story progresses. And how I'd love to continue with the plaudits but, alas, that's as far as my generosity will allow me to go before I hit the buffers. Because, unfortunately, and to the book's great detriment, it suffers from the same shortcomings as its predecessor - and, for me, they are bad ones.

Whenever the media look for an author to ridicule for their terrible novels, they invariably single out Jeffrey Archer - and, let's face it, he's the kind of pompous oaf who's just crying out to be poked fun at. But I'll tell you this - Archer is a John Fowles in comparison to Follett. In truth, I can't recall the last time I read prose which is so appallingly bad as in this book, notwithstanding it's forbear. The story progression is perpetually clumsy and clunky, showing no adeptness at scene transition - the ability to move from one scenario to the next using literary guile or dexterity is simply not there. It's like - here's the story, this happens, now this happens, now this - and so it goes on, like some amateur director cobbling together a lot of disparate scenes with crude splice edits and continuity.

But as if that's not bad enough, when you throw in a whole raft of characters who are hamstrung by such appalling dialogue, with connective prose which is almost relentlessly laughable in its naïveté, one is left with a sense that, from a purely artistic point of view (as opposed to professional, since his sales cannot be argued with) Follett would be put to much better use as a factual, historical writer rather than a novellist. Because nothing will alter my unshakeable conviction that, on the strength of these two novels, Ken Follett is no storyteller - you either have it, or you don't, and he most certainly hasn't.

If the stilted, unnatural dialogue (which simply kills off any sense of realism in his characters) were not enough, the text suffers from glaring bloopers which destroy authenticity - in much the same way as the Downton Abbey scripts of Julian Fellowes have been justly criticised for the same thing. For example, at one point, a character is so pleased that he feels 'as if he's won the lottery' - not a sentiment I feel would have been uppermost in the mind of someone in 1940's America. In another scene, during an argument with Greg Peshkov, her fiancé, Nelly Fordham, says to him, 'You don't get it, do you?' This is another of those irritating expressions which has only become prevalent in the last decade or so, and is not a figure of speech that would have been used at that time. During the same argument, Nelly accuses Greg of being 'a rotter' - a quintessentially English term which is also attributed to Daisy, wife of 'Boy' Fiztherbert and, later, Lloyd Williams. However, both Nelly Fordham and Daisy Fitzherbert are American - now, when was the last time you heard an American from any period of history use the term 'rotter'? And these are just three examples, the dialogue is littered with such faulty prose - carelessness, or just symptomatic of a writer who just doesn't have that essential ability to 'see' and 'hear' his characters as he writes? Methinks it's most definitely the latter.

I'm aware that I'm leaving myself wide open to the criticism that, if I disliked the first part of this trilogy so much, why did I bother reading the second? Well, my only feeble excuse is that anyone who took the time to read my first 3 Star review of Fall of Giants might recall that it was the purchase of this second, Kindle, instalment for the princely sum of 20 pennies that led me to seek out the first book before reading them both.

Will I read the last part due out in 2014 and provisionally titled 'Edge of Eternity'? The answer to that is - if it shows up on Amazon for 20p then I might just be tempted to finish the set - and that will definitely be my last Ken Follett novel. If it costs any more, then I've read my last Ken Follet already.

Harry H Corbett: The Front Legs Of The Cow
Harry H Corbett: The Front Legs Of The Cow
by Susannah Corbett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a biography, more a homage to a much loved father, 15 Feb. 2013
An important point to bear in mind when taking on this book is that it is written by Harry H Corbett's daughter. And, as such, it suffers from the inevitable perspective that a loving daughter can't help but bring to the story of a father she understandably adored. Indeed, in the 'Epilogue' of the book Susannah concedes 'It is a curious thing to tell the story of a person while walking the tightrope between sentiment and impartiality. Knowing that for some you will always be too sentimental, for others not enough.'

Well, whilst I'm dubious about the likelihood of someone being accused of not being sentimental enough, there can be little doubt that this book, far from being written with a neutrality which allows for neither emotional attachment or spiteful bias, is the product of someone for whom no bad word about its subject could ever be entertained. If evidence of this is required then I defy anyone to find within the entire 450 pages of this tome, a negative criticism of either Harry H, the man, or Harry H, the actor. Yes, there's mention of bad reviews of productions he's appeared in. But even in these, invariably the root cause of the failure (at least by the no doubt carefully selected critics quoted) cannot be attributed to Harry. In most instances, the production was dire despite Harry's excellent contribution, or else he was the exception in an otherwise dud of a play - or, at the very worst, Harry was 'miscast'.

This relentless glorification is also to be found in the plethora of tributes paid by countless actors, directors, producers, writers, and Uncle Tom Cobley, all of whom have nothing but good things to say about this undoubtedly fine actor who was also, by all accounts, a very decent and genuine man.

At the other end of the bio spectrum there is the 'unauthorised' biography, the essence of which is essentially to 'dig the dirt', weeding out salacious and nasty little titbits and highly dubious anecdotes to supply the 'juicy bit of goss' without which many readers feel cheated (which is ironic, given that such books full of lies and tat represent the biggest cheat of all). But, with this work, we get the other extreme, courtesy of that familial sentimentality which Susannah, despite self consciously referring to it at the end of the book, can't help but be subservient to. Anyone, especially someone who led such an eventful life as Harry H Corbett, must have stepped out of line and ruffled a few feathers both privately and professionally somewhere along the line. And a dispassionate, unbiased biographer, writing with fairness, balance, and candour would have given us a much clearer and realistic picture of the man, rather than one self consciously written with a pen guided by the heartstrings. Put simply, Susannah cannot bring herself to write anything about her beloved father which grinds even slightly against the love and affection she naturally feels for him. And therein lies this book's major flaw.

I would also add a criticism that another reviewer here has drawn attention to, which is the easy way in which Susannah uses unnecessarily coarse language throughout the text, in some cases surprisingly shocking and insensitive in the context of what is being said. And I can't help but feel that the majority of those of a certain age who I'd think would make up the main readership of this bio, will be as disheartened as I was by this. No doubt, the cry will go up that we live in the 21st Century and we should all get with the programme. Well, I'm sorry, but I hold that there is still a substantial quota of society which believes the old programme, dictated by recognised boundaries of linguistic restraint, was better and would prefer to keep it that way, especially in a book of this 'genre'. As a northerner myself I'm sure Harry was not averse to using the odd crude expletive - not least during his killing machine days in the Far East. But that's not what I'm talking about here. Where gutter language is in context and necessary to make a point, that's fine - otherwise, far from impressing, it saddens and disappoints.

All that being said, credit must be given for the amount of research (no doubt another labour of love) which has clearly been done on this book. Yes, there's a heck of a lot about Theatre Workshop, an emphasis on which has been criticised by others. Personally, I enjoyed reading about the origin, development, and arduous hard graft of those pioneers of radical 'people's theatre'. An admirable collective that struggled on so valiantly, literally cap in hand, in the face of so much hardship, knock backs, and a lack of any kind of fiscal help from an artistic establishment which neither wanted, nor had the vision to see the validity of it. This section is also interesting because of its inclusion of so many actors too numerous to mention who are still around today (Murray Melvin - I remember spotting him strolling along The Headrow in Leeds during his 'Taste of Honey' days, many moons ago) and others who, sadly, are not.

Also, the humour of the man shines through, which is another commendable aspect of the book. A couple of laugh out loud moments for me were, firstly, on page 215 where, after a distinctly poor production of 'Macbeth' (one of those dreadful plays I referred to earlier in which, for the 'extremely talented actor', Harry H Corbett, 'Macbeth' was simply 'not his part'). However, as he's leaving the stage after a less than successful performance, he puts his arm around fellow thespian Milton Johns and says, 'Milt, I was very nice to people on the way up!'

And another funny moment comes whilst Harry is working with Victor Spinetti and Terry Scott. Apparently, Harry and Victor loved to wind Terry up and at one point in the dressing room Harry says to Victor, 'Ah, young Spinetti, how much did you get for that commercial you did for Jaffa Cakes?' 'Oh, £20,000,' Spinetti replies. At which, Terry jumps up, outraged, to splutter, '£20,000, £20,000! I only got £3000 pounds for Curly Wurlys and you're a nobody.'

No doubt, there will be those whose interest in this book is naturally attributable to their affection for 'Steptoe and Son' and who will be hoping it focuses largely on this aspect of Harry's life. Well, the good news is that there's plenty to satisfy that interest, both in terms of in front of the camera and behind the scenes. There are also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, plot outlines for every single Steptoe episode and film Harry and Wlifrid Brambell ever made. However, the bad news is that, if 'Steptoe' is all you're interested in then you'd better be prepared to skip the first half of the book and head straight to Chapter 11 on page 217, because it's not until then that the 'Steptoe' story begins.

I suspect Susannah's satisfaction from the publication of this book is twofold. It enabled her to document the wrongs done after her father's death in terms of the way stories, documentaries and dramatisations of his life and working relationship with Wilfrid Brambell were disgracefully manipulated purely for the sake of sensationalism - and how, mainly with Harry's father-in-law's admirable persistence, what reparations could be made, were eventually made.

But mostly, I suspect Susannah's greatest satisfaction, which is also its downfall, is in producing what essentially amounts to a deeply affectionate homage to a loved, and loving, father and family man who just happened to become a well known actor.

Overall, despite the language and the inescapably rose-tinted approach I enjoyed reading this book. It's just a shame that it's a curate's egg which leaves us with a sense that what we've been given is not a full, warts and all, portrait of Harry H Corbett, but an image too filtered by a daughter's love to get us any closer to knowing the real Harry H Corbett than we were before.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2015 1:49 PM GMT

Amazon Kindle Case / Cover With Integrated READING LIGHT for Amazon Kindle / 6 inch / 2012 generation / Book Style - TECHGEAR SOLUTIONS
Amazon Kindle Case / Cover With Integrated READING LIGHT for Amazon Kindle / 6 inch / 2012 generation / Book Style - TECHGEAR SOLUTIONS

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Turns your beautiful, slim, sleek, Kindle into a house brick!, 10 Jan. 2013
One of the great things about the 6" Kindle is how small, light and portable it is - significantly more so, even, than the original version. That being so, I'm looking for a case that's substantial enough to protect the unit from the odd knock or drop, without adding much to its overall size and weight. Unfortunately, this case doesn't fit the bill. I'm surprised that a lady reviewer here has even taken the trouble to upload a video to demonstrate her concern about the 'page refresh' issue of the Kindle which disappoints her so much, but yet raves about a case which doubles both the bulk and weight of the Kindle - which I would have thought would be of far more serious concern to most Kindle owners. If you're one of the many who carry your Kindle around then you're going to find this hulking great case turns your reader into a much greater burden requiring significantly more space in your handbag (and as for inside your coat pocket - forget it!).

A lot is also made of the great value of this case, which it is compared to the top whack price of the Kindle case and a few others. But when you take into account the repeated outlay for the expensive batteries for that 'impressive' light source - and the fact that you can pick up cases and independent clip-on light units in supermarkets and even pound shops which fit the bill sufficiently well, then this case becomes less the outstanding deal that it might first appear to be.

For all its benefits in terms of quality and functionality, there's no way I'd consider a case that turns a slim 170 gram unit that's no bigger than your hand into something that's twice the weight and five times the thickness and bulk. If these considerations are of no concern to you, then go for it. But if, like me, you want something which compliments rather than eradicates the Kindle's super lightness and portability, then there are far better (and cheaper) alternatives around.

Backing into the Limelight: The Biography of Alan Bennett
Backing into the Limelight: The Biography of Alan Bennett
by Alexander Games
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A creditable attempt, considering Bennett's refusal to contribute, 10 Dec. 2012
I assume most of those attracted to this book will already be familiar with Bennett and, like me, will have probably read both 'Writing Home' and 'Untold Stories'. Does this add anything to those two hefty tomes which, after all, provide an immense amount of fodder for even the most voracious of Bennett admirers? Well, having read it I'd say that, although there's not a great deal of new material here, it's value lies in pulling together various bits and bobs of fact and anecdote from numerous sources and adding enough titbits, some of which will be new to all but the most ardent Bennett fan, to provide a satisfying and worthwhile overview of both his private and professional life.

For example, there are revelations such as Bennett taking exception to the actor, Kenneth More, changing his script of the play 'Getting On' to make it (as More saw it) more palatable for the audience - and Bennett's sardonic speech at an award ceremony for its success during which, with typically dry humour, he virtually dismissed any personal plaudit due to the significant changes More had made to the production. Nor did I know that Bennett and Dudley Moore went through a long period of not speaking after Moore angered Bennett by changing their stage routine during a US tour. And the text is littered with many such insights.

There are quotes and references from many magazine and newspaper interviews Bennett has given over the years, both in the UK and America, which you won't find in either of the two previous mentioned works - one of which refers to Bennett's unguarded revelation of his relationship with Anne Davies and the ensuing publicity which followed.

Author Alexander Games makes a great show of how hard he tried to gain Bennett's approval and cooperation with this book but all to no avail. And, ironically, I found Games' account in the 'PostScript' chapter, quite a fitting and interesting end to the book. It deals with how, in desperation to get some kind of personal, one to one response from Bennett, Games made the journey to Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales, where he knew of the (in)famous Cafe run by Anne Davies which was close by Bennett's rural retreat in that small village. He meets Davies and, eventually, it leads to a denouement which is typical Bennett and, perhaps inevitably, a suitable end to what can be reasonably called an unofficial biography.

I'd say Bennett fans will find this book well worth the effort, if only for the value of bringing together already known facts and stories about him, many of which may have become dimmed by time and are worth being reminded of. And when you throw in a healthy amount of material and articulately expressed subjective opinion and comment, it amounts to a work which I think Bennett himself would, perhaps, grudgingly acknowledge as being at least well researched. As for it being an enjoyable and informative read - I'd say yes, for everyone except perhaps Bennett himself, whose reticence and fierce protection of his privacy would no doubt result in some typically pithy riposte.

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy)
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy)
by Ken Follett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg - historically adept, but the dialogue is dire, 21 Nov. 2012
I'll start with an embarrassing admission. I was recently seduced by the irresistibly low price of just 20p into purchasing the Kindle edition of the second instalment of 'The Fall of Giants' series entitled 'Winter of the World', which naturally led me to seek out this first book in the trilogy. Although I've been aware of Ken Follett for many years, 'Fall of Giants' is the first Follett book I've read.

At 850 pages it's a door-stopper of a tome - but fear not, anyone who tends to be intimidated by such epics, for you'll find yourself rattling through the bite-sized chapters in real, page turner fashion to reach the end much more quickly than you, perhaps, anticipated.

I came to this book with an open mind. I'm not familiar with Follett, I don't know anyone who is and was therefore given neither positive or negative feedback as to what to expect. And although there's a mild sense of satisfaction from having read it, there's a deeper, unavoidable disappointment in a few vital aspects of the book which left me feeling frustrated that it could have been so much better had the author been as adept at dealing with characterisation and dialogue as he is with providing an erudite and well researched backdrop to the narrative. In short, it's a bit of curate's egg - good in parts but seriously let down by blatantly substandard aspects which are just too serious to be overlooked.

For someone looking for a narrative in fictional form which will give them a palatable insight into the background and progression of the First World War right up until the Treaty of Versailles at its conclusion, conveying an essence of the sheer madness and horrendous loss of life, and the ultimate futility of a conflict, the genesis of which demonstrated the frightening ease with which such catastrophic destruction could spread throughout the globe, this novel will be both informative and rewarding.

But what a shame it is that against such an assured historical background choc full of so much assured, cultural, architectural, and artistic detail which speaks of an author who has not only done his research but who writes with confidence about his subject, the book falls down badly in three vital, storytelling areas.

Firstly, though the myriad of characters are competently enough described as to provide us with a realistically vivid image of their physical countenance, dress, and demeanour, they often interact with one another in such a clumsy, contrived, unnatural fashion that the reader continually struggles to imagine the progression of the scene in anything approaching a realistic way. So much so that the characters invariably come across as cardboard cut-outs who never quite manage - sometimes not even coming close - to convince us that they're living, breathing, people. For me, this was a relentlessly dissatisfying aspect of the book and one which ultimately failed to give it that essential vibrancy and authenticity that a novel which is essentially character driven, should have.

Secondly, the narrative is often clunky, with issues often resolved with such remarkable haste that they border on the farcical. A couple of examples which spring to mind (without providing spoilers) is the reconciliation between Ethel Williams and her 'Da' after his total and seemingly irresolvable disowning of her which leads to her leaving the village in disgrace. It's not so much that 'Da' Williams forgives his daughter but the carelessly handled way in which their coming together happens in such a brief and crudely handled fashion. Another example is when Lev Peshkov returns home within a day after absconding north from his Buffalo home into Canada following a particularly nasty crime against a member of his wife's family, for which she would surely struggle ever to forgive him. But within moments of his return she (Olga) softens towards Lev after the briefest of conversations has passed between them and agrees to accompany him to the police station in order to change her incriminating statement concerning his violent act. I was also disappointed by the complete absence of a much anticipated seismic fall out involving Earl Fitzherbert who would surely have been apoplectic with rage to discover the full scale of his sister, Lady Maud's relationship with the German military attaché, Walter von Ulrich. But, alas, we merely learn of the Earl having cut Maud off without a penny (or should that be Deutschmark?) almost as an afterthought later in the story. An author comfortable with dialogue would have relished the dramatic potential such a revelation provided and taken full advantage of it.

But these are just three examples of many instances in a story which simply lack authenticity and/or impact. When dealing with descriptive narrative, no doubt faithfully describing with unerring accuracy the finer detail, adornments and artistic decorations of the interior of state buildings throughout Europe, filling in undeniably interesting historical fact about motive and counter-motive of the main players during the build up to, and progression of, the war, the reader feels in safe hands and enjoys the ride. But once we enter characterisation and dialogue - and this is so important because there is so much of it - Mr Follett doesn't come close to instilling the same degree of confidence in his ability and finesse.

And it's this third aspect of the novel - dialogue - which is the most damning of the book and leaves the reader (or, at least, this one) with a sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction. Examples are just too numerous to specify but I'm confident that most readers who have read enough to be familiar with authors who handle dialogue even passably well will gradually realise the deep flaw in this area of the narrative. Conversations which simply don't 'flow', which are stilted, unauthentic, and fail to create anything approaching a natural and believable scenario in the mind of the reader.

If I wasn't already in possession of the latest, second instalment of the trilogy, this would be my first and only foray into the fictional world of Ken Follett. On this evidence I'm certainly not moved to seek out 'Eye of the Needle', or any other of his past works and there's no way I'd consider shelling out the full price for anything else he may write. As it is, I'll take a deep breath at some point and tackle the second book in this series, but with a much reduced sense of expectation and an increased scepticism than that with which I approached this novel.

And I just can't help feeling that, far from 'Winter of the World' being a bargain, I might just have wasted my 20p!


My review of the second book in the series is in the 3 Star section of Winter of the World

Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them
Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them
Price: £7.49

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very entertaining and worthwile read, 18 Oct. 2012
I was drawn to this book as much for the 'low down', subjective as it is, on the famous people contained within its pages, than any particular admiration of its author. Despite never reaching the dizzy heights of A-list movie star status (inasmuch as that carries any weight these days) it must at least be acknowledged that Frank Langella has lived a full and eventful life spent doing what he loves and doing it well. And given the wealth of experience he has both in theatre and film, his musings on the many friends and acquaintances he made during his impressive career certainly justifies the publication of this book.

I note with interest how other readers here comment on the inferior presentation of the book - its poor quality paper and the bemusing rough-cut and staggered edging to its pages. When I came across a brand new copy at the library I assumed it was just a one-off edition which had somehow been carelessly chewed up during the production process. But to realise this was intentional is strange, indeed. Unless that intention was to frustrate the readership by having them struggle to turn the pages then I'm afraid I fail to see the point, as it does nothing to help the book stand out in any cosmetically advantageous way.

Apart from anything else, one thing this book did clear up was something about Frank Langella I found most memorable, ever since seeing the 1979 film 'Dracula' in which Frank plays the eponymous Count. In one close up scene in that film Frank's eyes can clearly be seen 'vibrating' (as he calls it) with amazing speed - a trait I thought he'd impressively affected for the part and which I certainly couldn't emulate. But in the chapter about director John Frankenheimer, Langella reveals (page 210) how he was born with a condition called 'nystagmus', which causes his eyes to flutter rapidly whilst trying to focus. This particular chapter also provided one of the few (for me) laugh out loud moments when Frankenheimer explains to Langella the two positions an actor is in when seeking a role, the crude detail of which I won't relate here. But, ultimately, Langella infuriates Frankenheimer by going back on a decision to play a part he'd been offered, rejecting it in preference to another role. From that day forward until the day he died, Frankenheimer never offered Langella another part.

One unfavourable reviewer here has taken exception to Langella's cruelty. I didn't find it unduly so. And the above inclusion, and others like it, demonstrate that it's not one way traffic as Langella is just as ready to show himself and his past indiscretions in a poor light and is not averse to self deprecation or documenting his own imperfections. I didn't find the book, as with so many of this kind, an exercise in mud-slinging and/or egotistical self aggrandisement. At no time did I get a sense of him wanting to settle professional scores or dish the dirt just for the sake of it. He's just recording experience and opinion and, in the main, he qualifies his personal take on the luminaries he's had the privilege, or at least the chance, to work with and get to know, either on a superficial level or intimately, during his long and varied career.

Yes, there are those he clearly didn't like - Anthony Quinn and Lee Strasberg are two who spring to mind. I don't think Langella was Richard Burton's greatest fan, either - but then Langella is certainly not alone in granting Burton's irrefutable talent, whilst expressing a barely disguised irritation at the overbearing, egotistical persona that came with it. For instance, as Burton stood on the stage of the empty Martin Beck Theatre after one of Langella's performances, he asked, 'How many seats in this house?' 'About eleven hundred,' Langella replied. 'Hmmm,' Burton mused, 'can't gross enough for me.'

But there are many here who Langella greatly admired, like James Mason and Noel Coward - those he adored such as Alan Bates and Raul Julia - and there are many more of whom Langella's opinion comes across as ambivalent, leaving you with a sense of him having faithfully documented some worthwhile detail of his relationship with them, either professional or personal, but having no great love of, or aversion to, them one way or the other.

I was impressed with Langella's writing style. Sometimes a little over florid and melodramatic in his descriptions, belying his life long thespian disposition. But there's an erudition at work, both in terms of literary merit and undeniable professional authority, which left me with a sense of him giving a forthright and honest opinion of his subjects as he experienced them first hand.

But I'll finish on the two overriding impressions this book left me with. The first is the effect it had on my sense of the 'greatness' we attribute to those icons we've all grown up to believe have some kind of unique, god/goddess-like status. Names like Olivier, Gielgud, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth. When you read here about their frailty, their doubts, fears, insecurities, and downright naivete, albeit often at the tail end of their lives and flickering careers, you realise how so many of them are no less vulnerable and predisposed to life's fickleness and occasional bouts of irrationality and paranoia, than anyone else. Indeed, at the beginning of the chapter on Anne Bancroft, Frank accedes to the popular cliche used to describe members of his profession which is that 'Actors are babies'. And in this regard, the book strips away the veneer and makes the pedestal on which many of us put them seem so much shorter than it did before.

I suppose the second impression is a kind adjunct to the first - a clue to which is to be found in the subtitle: 'Men and women as I knew them'. At the age of 74, it's inevitable that Frank Langella's reminiscences of the many famous people he's known and worked alongside are going to include many who are no longer alive. But when I tell you that, of the 60+ people featured in this book, the only subject among the living is the final entry, a centenarian named Bunny Mellon (unless you count the bit part players, such as Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas who appear only as cameos in an amusing anecdote during the chapter on Alan Bates) it will drive home the point that this is essentially a book about dead people. And as I read the inevitable finale to many pieces, be it Yul Bryner's death from lung cancer, Anthony Perkins' demise from an Aids related illness, or Alan Bates' stoical forbearance before finally succumbing to pancreatic cancer, to name but three, the more I read, the more I experienced a withering sense of my own mortality. As Paul Newman's 'Hud' Bannon famously said, 'It happens to everybody, nobody gets out of life alive.' But it's just a little unsettling to have it so relentlessly rammed home with such fatalistic inevitability.

Yet, I heartily recommend this book. Those who are interested in a plethora of private anecdotes which deal with intimate moments of the famous away from the public glare, not cobbled together by some hack at third hand but written by a worthy, articulate, raconteur who lived and was part of the world he writes of, will find much to enjoy here. I'm very glad I took the time to read it. So much so that it left me hopeful that Frank Langella will take the time to produce a second volume of 'Dropped Names'. Because on the strength of this commendable effort I'd certainly be keen to read more.
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