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Lady Fancifull "Tinkerbell"
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Tiger sticky memo notes holder with index tab flags in leather like case
Tiger sticky memo notes holder with index tab flags in leather like case
Offered by Claris
Price: £4.11

5.0 out of 5 stars No more dog-eared books!, 6 May 2015
This is one of those I-didn't-realise-how-much-I-needed-this-till-I-got-it products. All hail to that reviewer who recommended this particular version of sticky index tabs. My deeply annotated books have me frustratedly trying to find my annotations, place marks and the like, but no longer!

Nicely packaged in a tidy faux leather case ( no wee creatures murdered to make this) what you get is a veritable lifetime of sticky arrowed index strips in 8 colours, which should keep the most needy and organised of colour co-ordinated tabbers and students happy, and 4 pastel coloured larger rectangles ( 2 of the shades are underneath the top 2 pads) which are useful for longer notes.

I note some reviewers have said these don't stick - well, they stick perfectly adequately to the pages of a book, or to other normal paper, the purpose they are meant for, and can also be removed without damaging the book. They are not designed to be normal post it notes to stick to other surfaces, is all.


AcuLife Neti Rinse Nasal Irrigator
AcuLife Neti Rinse Nasal Irrigator
Price: £8.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nasal douching a 5 star method for sinusitis and polluted city noses; THIS particular device, okay only - see below, 5 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been sold on nasal douching for many years, originally using the old fashioned and rather awkward, traditional neti pots

However, some years ago a local pharmacist showed me the then revolutionary modern method - the NeilMed SinusRinse Saline Nasal Rinse Kit - 50 Sachets NeilMed soft plastic bottle, and I never looked back, ditching the old neti pot.

I've been offered, over the years, different versions of the more `modern' methods, or have seen them in consultant's offices, and personally, I still think the NeilMed beats all versions, including this one, hands down. (or perhaps I should say, nostrils up!)

Firstly, the Neil Med is very robust. I'm still using my original bottle, some 6 years later.

This syringe, which is hard plastic, is clearly not going to be anywhere near as robust. Getting the plunger in and out is a little bit of a challenge, and I can see that sometime soon, dissembling it for cleaning, with wet hands, it's going to slip out of my grasp...and crack. A soft plastic Neilmed merely bounces

Secondly, not enough THOUGHT has been put into the measurement of this. (or at least the `here are some sachets to be going on with') The sachets contain ½ tsp salt, The dosage, for 120 ml (4 fluid ounces), is ¼ tsp. The Neilmed suggests that 120ml (not 60ml, as here) is used for each nostril, so they make their sachets with sufficient salt for 240 ml (8 fluid ounces) - i.e. the same size as these sachets, so there is no wasted solution to gather dust or store.

When I began doing nasal douching with a neti pot I did a lot of research into what should be being used in the much-cooled-from-boiling-to tepid water (DON'T use water from the hot tap, boil it and let it cool right down to a comfortable lukewarm temperature before dissolving your salt) AND I talked with consultants, who seemed happy to recommend the NeilMed sachets. These did NOT contain `any old table salt' - so I really would be wary of suggesting `any old' is used - for the simple reason that ADDITIVES are often present, to help table salt pour.

Make sure you get powdered 100% sea salt or rock salt, - health shops sell these

The Neil Med sachets also contained 25% bicarbonate of soda - again DON'T use baking powder, as this contains other additives.

The medical samples I was given were 3 parts salt to 1 part bicarb.

I make up a storage pot using 3 tsps pure sea salt, 1 tsp sodium bicarbonate (bicarbonate of soda, grocery shops, with the various bakery products)

And (if you use the syringe) you would then need ¼ tsp of this dissolved in 120 ml/4 fluid ounces of cooled, boiled water (or of course, you could use distilled water) And I use filtered water anyway, to at least get rid of some of the limescale in this hard water area.

It MIGHT seem as if squirting lukewarm salty water up your nose and having it scoot down the other nostril would feel like drowning in the sea - it is temperature, concentration and control of flow which makes all the difference, and it actually does not sting, burn or feel weird at all - if it does, it means either you have your water too hot or too cold, or you have too much (or too little) salt or salt + bicarb - OR that you are using any old salt with possible additives/baking powder, ditto. These precise given measurements give you the isotonic concentration which you want in order to avoid stinging, on the one hand, or insufficient salt for the osmotic pressure to stop water flooding into your tissues, making the nose feel more bunged up after treatment than before. Done properly, this really flushes out gunk and seems to unclog the nose.

Whether you choose this syringe or that soft plastic Neil med bottle, both work equally well and efficiently, with the user effectively able to control speed and pressure of 'squirt' Which is a much better method than any of the older or newer methods which involve tipping something to flow. No danger of cricked necks or soaked necks with the squeezy ones!


Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5, Piano Concerto No. 2
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5, Piano Concerto No. 2
Price: £7.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Truth trapped in a pressure cooker, 4 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This extraordinary piece of music (the 5th Symphony) is here given a wondrous interpretation - though I do have one cavil (more of which later)

Shostakovich was for a while a Soviet darling. His music indelibly Russian, strong, heroic - though of course music without words is a particularly subtle medium of expression. Because it is wordless, and because in the end its reception, in the listener's ears, sinews, guts, heart, is so subjective, it can be far more covertly subversive than artform using words, which can be coldly scrutinised and analysed by those looking to outlaw heterodoxy. And the complexity of classical music is a particularly good hiding place, especially as performance itself, of the same notation, can uncover different meanings.

Shostakovich fell from grace when his music was combined with narrative and words - the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk. Stalin walked out of a performance, and that was enough. The composer was then living on the edge; a dangerous time and place to stand accused of being `unprogressive' Men and women were incarcerated in mental hospitals and labour camps for revisionism or being `anti-Soviet' and of course the labels were often cut by apparatchiks to fit all manner of breaches of a constantly shifting Party Line.

The controversial 5th symphony was composed in 1937, and represented Shostkovich's (ostensible) desire to make amends; he described it as `a Soviet artist's reply to just criticism' So its controversy resides in part in interpretation and re-interpretation. Did Shostakovich sell-out? Is he therefore pariah as far as other, braver dissenters of the time are concerned? Or (given the possibility of music without words to embrace subtle nuances of meaning) was the piece itself more subversive, still, than the party line `approvers' believed?

A document published in 1979, after the composer's death, `The Testimony' reported something Shostakovich said :

`I think that is it clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth - it's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying `Your business is rejoicing, Your business is rejoicing' and you rise shakily and go off muttering, `Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing'

And here interpretation in performance plays its part, and where my cavil arises over this otherwise glorious performance.

In 1960 when this recording was made, Bernstein to some extent I think - particularly as he performed this IN Russia with the New York Philharmonic as part of a cultural exchange, friendship programme - plays the finale `triumphally' This was of course `pre-Testimony'. He takes the final movement at a fairly ferocious lick. And this has the effect of reducing a particular quality of blaring, shocking dissonance which, when taken a tithe slower, because it is more held, is physically more edgy, uncomfortable, harsh, rather than triumphant. Certainly, a couple of live concerts I've attended, in the last couple of years, where this work has been performed, a slight slowing of the pace makes any idea of `triumph' seem full of mockery. In fact, the most recent concert of it, the final notes feel like the end of the world, the ferocious mechanical energy, representing the heavy, productive blows of Soviet industry, which occur in the final movement, speak not of the glory of rising output and economic growth, but of the cost, oh the cost of human life and spirit - it is individual man and woman being beaten under those hammers Or, as the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich rather more succinctly said "Anybody who thinks the finale is glorification is an idiot"

However, whatever interpretation the composer intended, whether he bowed to pressure or whether the symphony represents a resistant call to those who wish to hear it, one thing IS clear, this is a stunning, profound piece of music. The fact that it has so many possibilities inherent for discovery within it, the fact that performance itself yields such diversity, is testament to its richness

And I do, despite missing the end of the world bleakness of the finale which is uncovered at slightly slower tempo - it is, after all, marked as allegro non troppo, rather than allegro - think this is a wonderfully rich and satisfying interpretation

This version is completed by Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No 2 in F major with Bernstein conducting from the piano.

Though I must admit, such is the power of the Symphony, that I am musicked out, reeling with wrung out emotion and can't contemplate listening to anything else.

Rarely has the edgy yet bleak despair after the devastation of war, the horror and emptiness of militaristic blare, the utter exhaustion of a kind of inevitable surrender to the posturings of spin, and the end of the world been so beautifully done. The little threads of quiet hope which arise throughout the piece, the small moments of peace and harmony, have nothing to do with the state. Though crushed, again and again, `and still they rise'

(Quotes from `Testament' and from Mstislav Rostropovich are from the CD liner notes)

What a piece, what a stunning piece


The Likeness
The Likeness
by Tana French
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars "Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat. I'd give it all gladly if our lives could be like that" Lyrics, `Bob Dylan's Dream', 1 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Likeness (Paperback)
I've been working my way pretty compulsively through Tana French, Irish literary crime fiction writer's books, since coming to her fourth book Broken Harbour, on the strength of two book reviewers blogs.

Having just finished The Likeness, her second book, I'm reeling, punch drunk, from the emotional journey of this, which for sure must take part of its inspiration from Donna Tartt's first explosive novel, The Secret History, but is nonetheless in no way derivative, and is all imbued with French's own intelligence, style, and intricate character and plotting.

Cassie Maddox, the central detective of her gripping first novel, In The Woods, is still feeling the after-shocks of the crime she investigated. No longer in the Murder Squad, she has relocated to the quieter shores of the Domestic Violence Unit, and has begun a relationship with one of the detectives from the murder squad.

The Likeness does read as a stand-alone, for anyone who has not read In The Woods, and anything which the reader needs to know as background does get dripped into the story of this, as Cassie herself continues to come to terms with the events of In The Woods.

We learn something about her professional back-story, too - unfortunately, this is a major spoiler which I think the publishers chose to reveal, and it represents my major criticism of this book (not French's fault) Cassie worked for a time a few years ago in Undercover Ops, infiltrating a drug ring. Her invented identity was that of a woman called Alexandra (Lexie) Madison. And then a body is found, in a derelict cottage, clearly a very recent murder victim. The wallet on the body shows the victim is called Lexie Madison. Running the identity through the police computer brings in the big gun of Undercover ops, Frank Mackey, who ran Cassie as Lexie. The shock is that this Lexie Madison is a double for the very much alive Cassie Maddox.

The dead Lexie was part of an elite group of 5 post-graduate students, close friends, living in a beautiful, decaying mansion, Whitethorn House, on the outskirts of Glenskehy, a small backwater in the Wicklow Mountains. Inevitably police interest centres initially on the others in the group, but their stories all stack up, and the group are united in their grief that one of theirs is dead. And there are other suspects, which link in to Ireland's deep history going back through generations, and the tensions arising out of class and nationality - the working class and the peasantry of old Ireland, and the wealthy Anglo Irish landowners.

Irish history is firmly woven into all French's novels.

So, an audacious plan is set in place (and I'm afraid it is the spoiler of the blurb itself) Cassie could go undercover again as Lexie. The pathology report shows that the woman in the derelict cottage died from a single stab wound which did not happen in the cottage itself, the woman had run from someone to the cottage, and bled to death there. Had she been discovered earlier, she might have survived.

The group (including the dead Lexie) were very much the golden, charismatic, bound together elite (and odd, skeletons in their backgrounds) of The Secret History. French adds something else into this however - there is very much a sense of the yearning, soulmate romance of deep friendship, above and beyond sexuality, the kind of friendship that arises in youth, and at the time seems as if it could last a lifetime. Even whilst within that place there is a kind of looking back to it, a `Lost Domaine/Grand Meaulnes' quality. Cassie herself and Cassie taking on this second `Lexie Madison' identity, and the 4 others is someone who longs for the powerful sense of belonging, of friendships as a more powerful bond than bloodkin, and a more powerful bond than the one-to-one of sexual partnership.

"In the sitting room the piano is open, wood glowing chestnut and almost too bright to look at in the bars of sun, the breeze stirring the yellowed sheet music like a finger. The table is laid ready for us, five settings - the bone-china plates and the long-stemmed wineglasses, fresh-cut honeysuckles trailing from a crystal bowl - but the silverware has gone dim with tarnish and the heavy damask napkins are frilled with dust......Somewhere in the house, faint as a fingernail-flick at the edge of my hearing, there are sounds: a scuffle, whispers. It almost stops my heart. The others aren't gone, I got it all wrong, somehow. They're only hiding; they're still here, for ever and ever"

And that quote is as powerful a paean to memory, and the sense of our pasts almost within reach, as any I've read

This is indeed a long book (she shares that too, with Tartt!) - at nearly 700 pages, but the unravelling of the story, the careful and believable psychology of all the major characters, the tangles and twists of all the relationships, and, for Cassie herself, the weirdness of being herself-and-not-herself, the whole question of identity, arising when anyone is leading any kind of double life, is superlative. And there is also the fascination of the police procedural itself, and how individual police can marry their work functions, with who each of them is, individually.

Most of all - it is the wonderful, seductive quality of French's writing, and a first person narrator who grabs the reader and makes them as desperate to want the golden lads and lasses to be real, and unsullied as Cassie would like, because of her own yearning for lifelong soulmates, whilst at the same time, making us as needy of her fierce professional desire to solve that crime as she is. She (and we) know that there are two drives going on here, which may not be compatible


The Accidental
The Accidental
Price: £4.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not playing it safe; tumbles to be expected when such a high wire act is happening., 27 April 2015
This review is from: The Accidental (Kindle Edition)
Ali Smith's The Accidental is bold, playful, exuberant, and with its opening chapter about the very accident of conception itself - one egg, the possibility offered by a myriad spermatozoa, bursting vibrantly and provocatively into introducing the protagonist from - where, heaven?, hell? the here and now? - it reminded me not a little of Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind The Scenes At The Museum.

The title of Smith's book is of course mocking and, `Yeah, Right!' because the whole tenor of the book decries `the accident'. The mysterious agent-provocateur, Amber/Alhambra, whose conception, in the café of an Alhambra cinema is detailed at the start, will enter the lives of a fairly ordinary family, in the guise of a saviour to some, and as some kind of devastating Kali figure to others, whose trail of destruction forces changes and awakening on them. Everything they are, everything that happens, came from their natures and their choices, not from `accident'

But enough of this elusive waffle, what is the outline of this book

A family of 4, Michael, University lecturer in the English Department, serial philanderer. His wife, Eve, a successful genre writer in a kind of `invented biography' field, taking the lives of real people who died early and inventing longer lives for them. Eve's children: Magnus, 17, highly intelligent, falling dangerously apart, after his unwitting but still culpable involvement in a piece of Facebook flamery causes a classmate to kill herself. And finally, lastly, but absolutely not leastly,12 year old Astrid. The 4 - the Smart family (here, as so often Smith is making all sorts of pointed comments, as the family, and certainly the adults, are anything but) are on a summer vac holiday in Norfolk, and pretty disastrous it is turning out to be.

Smith writes events from the point of view of each family member - not as first person narration but as seen from the point of view of the omniscient narrator - it is only Amber, the instigator of changes, who gets first person narration.

Amber appears unexpectedly at the holiday cottage, and both Eve and Michael are convinced she has been invited by the other (their marriage is not altogether going swimmingly as shown by the fact that Eve thinks Amber must be one of Michael's current student seductions, and Michael she is some kind of `eighties feministy still-political women' for whom Eve is some kind of icon.

On her first night with the family she rescues Magnus from a suicide attempt, blazes Astrid out of the sulking disaffected `whatever' she is heading towards, is violently fallen in love with by Michael, and becomes some kind of confessional for Eve. Her role, for each of the four, is ultimately healing, though for the adults, her healing involves a ruthless stripping away of their masks, and is both immediately, and ultimately painful.

But what makes Smith's book challenging, entrancing, and, also it must be said, at times extremely irritating, are the games she plays, with form, structure, style, reference. For example, one of the Michael sections consists of a series of sonnets as Amber releases the writer from the cynical and rather tired analyser of literature. Amber's own sections, true to her movie inspired conception, runs through a dizzying movie iconic moments, cliché moments from movies, explanation of our times.

The Smart family's individual voices are not drawn equally successfully. Eve, for me, is the character who engages the least, and young Astrid is the absolute stand-out,

"Astrid is taping dawns. There is nothing else to do here. The village is a dump. Post Office, vandalised Indian restaurant, chip shop little shop place that's never open, place for ducks to cross the road. Ducks actually have their own roadsign! There is a sofa warehouse called Sofa So Good. It is dismal. There is a church. The church has its own roadsign too. Nothing happens here except a church and some ducks, and this house is an ultimate dump. It is substandard. Nothing is going to happen here all substandard summer."

I have some reservations about the book once the summer was over, and the unravelling, the remaking, the inventiveness moved beyond the family's return to London and beyond, possibly because the final character journey which Smith explores, is that of Eve, who, for me, was the character who had worked less well, and who I found the least credible.

But I am certainly minded to explore more of Smith's writing. She is an unusual voice, one with energy, verve, and fierce intelligence. Her crackling intellect and her ability to connect together all sorts of disparate threads, to explore the form of the novel, but not in a dry and dusty manner, reminds me not a little of Scarlett Thomas.


Big Brother
Big Brother
by Lionel Shriver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Body Politics, Family Dynamics and Food For Thought, 26 April 2015
This review is from: Big Brother (Paperback)
Lionel Shriver is always an author worth reading, not least because although she may not be challenging anything about the form of the novel - she writes clear, taut narrative, strongly drawn character, coherent and accessible prose - she does challenge with her subject matter, and goes into areas which might be uncomfortable for the reader to consider, making us consider the things we gloss over, and avoid, preferring not to go there. And she does have some perfectly well-utilised suspenseful authorly surprises up her sleeve to jiggle the reader still further

Her own personal challenge is of course in one book We Need To Talk About Kevin, the story of a family whose son turns out to be one of those lone teenagers who go into their school one day and turn a gun on their classmates, she tackled a searingly difficult subject matter - maternal love, and its absence, the unlovable child, the unloving mother, and examines the fault lines. Her challenge is the discomfort evoked for the reader, the push-pull the reader is put through, and a book which is thought, heart and gut challenging, pushing us cerebrally and at an instinctive level. And how well she managed it

Other writers of course have tackled similar subject matter - I think of Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child, equally uncomfortable, but Shriver is a writer of more popular appeal and accessibility, so she rather brought this into wider consciousness - and it was later made into a film.

In Big Brother, she is as challenging, though I must admit to not being as wholly engaged as I was by `Kevin', perhaps because in some ways her central family is less ordinary. Pandora Halfdanarson is the adult, less gifted, middle child of a family. Father Travis, now a faded television star of a successful comedy series, Joint Custody, had three children, and the series, to some extent, used his own life as fodder, examining the family dynamics. The first born child, Edison, became a successful, charismatic jazz musician. The last born, Solstice, was highly intelligent, precocious and pretty. Pandora was the more phlegmatic, ordinary, shunning the limelight child. However, though she lacked the charisma of her other siblings, later in life she has achieved a fame she never sought, as an entrepreneur, and has a highly successful, on the button business which has brought her wealth and status. And the flashier stars of her family are all in some kind of decline.

Pandora is happily married, kind of, to controlling Fletcher, who designs and makes artisan furniture. Fletcher's first wife was a crystal meth addict, and he has a difficult relationship with his two children, Tanner, a seventeen year old caught in a wannabe dream of fame as a writer (he is actually mediocre) and sweet-natured young Cody, who may, or may not, have some skill as a pianist (like her step-uncle Edison), but is pretty ferociously shy. Pandora is a pretty good step-mum, and has a better, more forgiving and spacious relationship with Tanner and Cody than up-tight fitness obsessed Fletcher.

So, yes we do have a central family who are not quite functional, and the central character and narrator, Pandora, had a family which was not quite functional either, and she is a bit too self-effacing and self-deprecating, but ferociously loyal to both her new family and her old

The drama unfolds when Edison, dramatically washed up in some way, comes to visit, the two having not seen each other for some year. And funky, snake hipped, sexy young dude Edison is now a grossly - and the word is properly and disgustedly employed, grossly overweight by some 223 pounds - blimp. And his addiction to the sweet, the sticky, and the dripping with fat is threatening to continue to raise the poundage.

The subject matter then of this book, is food, fatness, thinness, obsession, the curious and often highly peculiar relationship humankind in the developed world has with the seemingly simple matter of eating, and the weight of everything food, cooking, eating holds, beyond the basic role sustenance plays in the rest of the animal - and for that matter, plant kingdom.

Taboos around extreme fatness, ideas and debates around body size and disability, those who deserve healthcare, and those who have brought all this upon themselves by their - what is it - addiction? Is it choice, is it illness?

And the playing field in which this all takes place looks at the sometimes opposing bonds of family-by-blood and family-by-choice-of sexual-partnership.

I understand why it's there, but the extra tease out challenge of fame, its pursuit, and the awkwardness of what happens when the famous construct a persona which begins to create blurs between what is the mirror being held up, and what is the reality which that mirror is reflecting. Where is mask, where is truth? This rendered what might have been a story of more ordinary lives a little less relatable to for me; possibly an extra challenge too far.

Nonetheless, a good read, with lots to ponder on.


The Gracekeepers
The Gracekeepers
by Kirsty Logan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing idea, execution doesn't quite work, 26 April 2015
This review is from: The Gracekeepers (Hardcover)
I can see that Kirsty Logan's novel, which I was delighted to receive as an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley should have strongly ticked all manner of boxes for me, in terms of its subject matter - dystopia, post-apocalypse, dealing with myth, Scottish writing, and the books it was being compared with, on publicity blurb :

"A bewitching debut for fans of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, Jeanette Winterson's The Passion, Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and Yann Martel's Life of Pi.for fans of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, Jeanette Winterson's The Passion, Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and Yann Martel'sLife of Pi."

I have read all of the above, except the Winterson (which I am minded to investigate, by the company it keeps) and moreover, was enamoured of all. And one of my most admired reads last year was another book which this has some connections with - Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven.

Logan posits a world past the however it happened (but clearly there was some connection with the banking crisis) apocalypse, Most of the land is underwater now, and pockets only remain. Somewhere (which is probably Scotland given Logan's own nationality, and also the fact that the selkie myth strongly features) within the watery world, inhabited by those who live on great ships, damplings, are these pockets of land, where the landlockers reside, and the two regard each other with suspicion. Some kind of fundamentalist Christian revivalist groups exist, trying to stamp out pagan beliefs, whilst having absorbed much pagan thinking themselves. There is also some kind of military rule, and the military, like the Church, must be venerated. And there are other kinds of outcasts. A group of circus performers, damplings, roaming between the pockets of islands. A strange, exotic, feared and alluring community, with their own internally fraught and fracturing community. Central is a young girl, North, who performs with her bear, and is strangely and strongly connected to that bear. There are the messengers, fierce lone men who carry all sorts of exchanges between the islands. And, even stranger, the Gracekeepers, with their arcane and complex rituals for carrying out the funeral rites, the buryings, all at sea, now land is so scarce. And particularly the other young girl, the Gracekeeper of the title, Callanish, whose story meshes with North's.

All this should have utterly grabbed me, and, at times, it did, only to let me go. Logan writes at times, beautifully, but then gets caught up in far too much repetition. I think this is deliberate, rather like the writing of a lay or a folk ballad where the constant repetition sets up some kind of hypnotic rhythm. But unfortunately the hypnosis didn't arrive, and the initially clever or charming new words and phrases - damplings, landlockers, graces et al, little fish, little fish, just became wearing.

Here is an example of the kind of repetition:

"Callanish fed her mother, bathed her mother, put her mother to bed. She tweezed splinters from her mother's feet and stroked her mother's hair until she fell asleep."

And later....

"Every night she sat and watched over her mother, every morning she made breakfast for her mother, every afternoon she weeded and planted the back garden with her mother, every evening she fell asleep upright in her wooden chair and had to run into the woods to the World Tree and bring back her mother"

Too much of this heavy kind of making a point ends up actually diminishing the point which I think the author is making.

In the end, there was too much which was unexplained about this mysterious watery world, and the narrative drive and destination of the story, which had meandered around, sometimes engagingly, sometimes annoyingly, suddenly galloped to a conclusion, almost as if the author awoke from the trance of her dreaming.

However.........there is enough in Logan's writing which intrigues, and this IS a first novel, with no doubt some of the faults of a first novel. I will certainly be interested to see how she develop. For the moment, my sense is that there is a lot of potential, and maybe if she can free herself out from under all these voices she is being compared with, her own voice will be more powerful and more interesting


Talisker Skye Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Talisker Skye Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Offered by Drink Finder
Price: £39.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Speed, bonny boat........., 19 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although this doesn't quite match my own personal favourite whisky, another peaty one - Laphroaig, this is a lovely thing! Properly fierce, if taken neat, what really strikes home is its dark honey sweetness, right at the start, and definite orange notes. Then it kind of reared up and punched me playfully behind the eyes with a melodious roar............and the room went a little swimmy. And I swear my tongue rolled over like a puppy demanding its tummy to be tickled.

It might be heretical, and I may lose any invitations to Burns Night Suppers, but I suspect I'll be taking this with a splash of water rather than completely undiluted, as funnily enough, because it damps down the fire from a fierce blaze to a luscious glow, the taste lingers a lot longer in my mouth, and is lovely, tarry smoky. Not the (to my mind) horrid smokiness of cigarettes, something much more sensuous and earthy..even a hint of tyre!........I think it's time to take the High Road...........

I had not had any Talisker before, so can't compare it to the other distillery versions, but, by heck, I'm minded to try those others
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2015 9:55 AM BST


In the Woods
In the Woods
by Tana French
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Pointers to what she will become.........., 17 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: In the Woods (Paperback)
I encountered Irish writer Tana French only recently, when her fourth book, Broken Harbour, got a rave review from a blogger who is firmly wedded to good writing, rather than genre fiction. As this is my position too, I was swayed, and blown away by French's version of crime fiction, police procedural and psychological thriller, all carefully showing she is a literary fiction writer, who chooses to write in this kind of subject matter area.

Another blogger then pushed me over to her fifth, currently latest book, The Secret Place, which grabbed me even more.

And so it is that I've gone back to explore French's progression as a writer, via her first book, and will, for sure, progress to books 2 + 3

For those unfamiliar with her work, Book 1, In The Woods, is of course the perfect place to start.

French's territory is murder, and the police investigations undertaken by Dublin's Murder Squad. She has chosen not to follow one particular detective and partner through all the subsequent investigations; rather, she focuses on the squad itself and a different pair of detectives will come to the foreground in each book, and others in the pool may stay as a background note across several investigations, be bit players, or come to take stage centre.

This is a fascinating and excellent approach, as it does mean that the reader can start reading her books in any order, without thinking they have missed vital back history, often a problem when one particular main character is followed in a series.

There are a couple of central cores to the three books I have read so far - the story of each individual main detective, including their back history which will slowly be revealed and will explain who they are, and why. There will also be the crucial relationship between the two detectives themselves, and their relationship within the murder squad as a whole. By this, French wonderfully covers the interior workings of a central character, how they are in a significant one-to-one relationship with a working colleague, and how they, and indeed the two of them, are within a wider community of others. And then, of course, in parallel is the investigation, the crime, where the victim and their story will be teased out, the thread to connect them with the perpetrator worked clear from all the potential many threads which will need to be explored and investigated

French's own background is as an actor, and, to me, there is a correlation here between 3 kinds of theatrical focus a performer may have - there is first of all the interior, which may be expressed as soliloquy, a performer alone upon a stage. Then there is the immediate focus of `small other' where there is a relationship between two individuals on a stage, and, however tangled, the lines of that relationship may be clearly seen. Finally, there is the relationship of the group of characters themselves, cross currents, tangles and all - and then this may be taken out even wider, in plays where the fourth wall is broken down, and the characters acknowledge the wider world which incorporates the audience as another collective. French does not just set her crime investigation as an isolated event, as so far, wider concerns which may be present in society are examined

In this particular story the victim is a young girl, and a particularly horrible crime. As all investigations must, initial focus is on the family itself, and that family is quite strange.

What is also going on, as part of the whole Celtic Tiger economic phenomenon, and the collapse which happened, is a story around community expansion, business interests, corruption and politics.

And, central stage in this novel, two detectives, a man and a woman, who from the off have been firm and platonic friends. Cassie Maddox has, like another female detective in the squad in French's fifth book, challenges because she is a woman in an environment which is aggressively old fashioned and macho, still. Rob Ryan her work partner, has the history of a terrible and unresolved crime which happened back in his childhood, to two of his friends. He has, in theory at least, found ways to deal with something which devastated him, his family and the families of his two dead friends. However, because the crime was never resolved, and became a cold case, with neither the bodies discovered, nor a perpetrator found, there has been no closure, for anyone from that community. And it also means that any murder involving a child is one which could completely shatter all Ryan's coping strategies.

"These three children own the summer...This is their territory, and they rule it wild and lordly as young animals; they scramble through its trees and hide-and-seek in its hollows all the endless day long, and all night in their dreams.

They are running into legend, into sleepover stories and nightmares parents never hear. Down the faint lost paths you would never find alone, skidding round the tumbled stone walls, they stream calls and shoelaces behind them like comet-trails. And who is it waiting on the riverbank with his hands in the willow branches, whose laughter tumbles swaying from a branch high above, whose is the face in the undergrowth in the corner of your eye, built of light and leaf-shadow, there and gone in a blink?"

I suspect, had I read this book without having read French's latest two, I would have five starred it. Because I know where she now is as a writer, my bar for her is set very high. In this one, I think she is a little closer to the more formulaic writing in genre, than she now is, a little more obvious in her choices. It is however a wonderful first novel, and, as ever, her understanding of psychology, relationship, narrative drive are excellent.

She is a writer who seems to focus more on how the ordinary man or woman crosses the line into violence and there is less focus on graphic gore and deranged psychopathology than often litters the genre. And that external restraint, and more meticulous examination of the process of crossing the line which is certainly a hallmark of book 4 and 5, is what I think of as a kind of sophistication in her as a writer, not completely in place in book 1.

However, still recommended, still highly recommended


Coconut Syrup, 250ml
Coconut Syrup, 250ml

5.0 out of 5 stars Like the product, like the ethos, would like factual sources...., 15 April 2015
This review is from: Coconut Syrup, 250ml (Misc.)
I was offered Balinutra coconut syrup to review, and firstly would like to say that no pressure was put on me to make my review positive.

My review IS positive because I like what I have been able to find out about this syrup. Not to mention the ethics of the company/production. To produce the syrup does not negatively impact on the environment, the tree does not need treatment with pesticides and a share of profits from the product will be used to fund local projects.

The syrup, which is unrefined, does not taste in any way coconutty in flavour, but has a lovely, rich, treacle/caramel note. It's still sugar of course, but as it is not refined, it contains various nutrients - vitamins, minerals (refined sugar contains none). I would though, have wished that the BaliNutra website , or the product itself, came with a leaflet which gave links showing sources for the mineral and vitamin content, and also the GI information. I did find one individual who had done some digging around which did seem to verify the all important information about this being suitable (obviously, not in whackingly huge amounts!) for diabetics. The bottle needs to be kept in the fridge and has by all accounts a 30 day shelf life from opening - but I do wonder if this is being over cautious - maple syrup also in theory has a fairly short shelf life, but nothing untoward grows on it, kept in the fridge, nor does the taste go off. I suspect it will also be the case here

I would also have liked some information about comparison use in baking, whether for this or the coconut sugar (produced when the syrup is left to dry out and crystallise. It's easy enough to find out how much to use of something `to taste' - for example, in porridge, but good results in baking often depend of texture and consistency, which comes down to quantities of this ingredient relative to that

Coconuts are amazing, both eaten fresh and dried, as water or milk, and as an alternative spread used like butter, and to cook with. Plus coconut oil (heat treated and refined liquid) and solid, can be used as a skin softener. These products (with the exception of the heat treated refined oil, smell...coconutty!

But what we have here, with the coconut syrup, is not from the fruit, but tapped from the sap of the flower. I've tried to find out what I could about the process, and it seems to be one which doesn't damage the tree, and carefully balances the economics of tap flower, coconut will not be produced from that flower, so the producers need to take decisions how much to extract for syrup, how much to let it dry to produce sugar, and how much to harvest the various products of the fruit - meat, milk, water, oil and fat.

Truly a wondrous plant! And, personally I find it satisfying to have something which tastes good, and has by all accounts some health benefits, rather than just being `empty lethal calories - refined sugar - or, positively full of all sorts of negative and unwanted health risks (artificial sweeteners) BaliNutra, as a company, like their product, contain no artificial sweeteners!


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