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Sandford "Sandy" (Kent, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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Apexel 3 in 1 Clip-on 180 Degree Full Screen Fisheye +0.67x Wide Angle + 10x Macro Lens for iPhone 6/ 6Plus, iPhone 5/5S/5C/4 Samsung HTC Sony LG (No Dark Circle by the Fisheye Lens)
Apexel 3 in 1 Clip-on 180 Degree Full Screen Fisheye +0.67x Wide Angle + 10x Macro Lens for iPhone 6/ 6Plus, iPhone 5/5S/5C/4 Samsung HTC Sony LG (No Dark Circle by the Fisheye Lens)
Offered by Tech Leader
Price: £10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handy to have!, 17 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I regard this little device as a ‘handy accessory to have’, not something I would have permanently attached to my iPhone 4s or iPad Air2 - both of which it works well with - but something extra for that extra special shot that the normal lens’ aspect ratio is insufficient.

A surprisingly well made unit, consisting of 3 lenses - wide angle, macro and fisheye together with a black plastic fitting all held in a nice compact zip case.

As others have reported, the only down side is that the fitting clip is of a solid plastic and possible liable to snap easily.

Performance wise - its surprisingly good - its not going to compete with my Nikon D5100 images but its not at all bad.

I attach four images to demonstrate the field of view using the Wide Angle, Camera lens, Fish Eye and the Macro attachment.
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All This Has Nothing To Do With Me
All This Has Nothing To Do With Me
by Monica Sabolo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It'all End In Tears, 14 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Blind love is viewed as part of the human condition here, a form of infatuation explored in terms of “how it was, how it is, and how it will be” - a cyclical and eternal dilemma. Monica Sabolo’s characters are intimately linked to this timescale of yesterday, today and tomorrow. I found the circularity of experience structuring the novel especially haunting, highlighting very nicely blind love’s stubbornness to survive and reform.

Monica Sabolo writes in a tangential and diverse format, with its “cut and paste” style of narrative. I initially found this slightly vexing, but the style became distinctly compelling the more I read and pondered on the text. The author tries to pin down those elusive thoughts and feelings that arise from this overwhelming emotional state, achieving her goal in a novel way. She illuminates this confusion well, with the brain of the infatuated melting into a somewhat crazed, overwhelming and almost paranoid state. The outcomes of blind love are keenly explored when we witness the resultant behaviour and attitude of the “other”. A criticism here, as Sabolo has a sexist approach to the issue of blind love, where it is only man who is viewed as the inconsiderate participant, the calculating element in the novel, who whether consciously or unconsciously, uses and abuses women as the norm.

This short novel explores such a melting pot of emotional life, where reality and fantasy co-exist for a while - “The things you imagine are much more beautiful than reality, you understand, don’t you”. Both of course are eventually irritant bed mates. Monica Sabolo’s clever use too of social media/email as her format seems to underline this sense of detachment which fosters an obsessive posture from the enraptured one, detached from reality and almost dissolving into chaos.

I felt the consistent use of photos as inserts initially crass and inconsequential. Who wants to see 4 photos of lighters, or a napkin, or 2 cigarette butts and dozens of other such like photos.. etc, etc? However, my view has slightly changed regarding this, particularly as I have had time to assimilate the content. I suppose this is something to do with the sum of the whole. I felt it was like a literary version of Tracey Emin’s composition, “The Bed” where it takes time to sense and understand what this novel is really about in terms of art. I found the “word-bite” and staccato presentation unsettling at first, but I did get to appreciate it. All in all quite a fascinating read, which just about gets a 4 star from me.


Quicksand
Quicksand
by Steve Toltz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

2.0 out of 5 stars The Odd Couple, 12 April 2015
This review is from: Quicksand (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It is rare for me to give up on a book, but I am afraid this novel failed to sustain my attention. After a slowly fading interest, I finally jettisoned it ¾ way through.

However, it is clear Steve Toltz has talent. His writing has a comic rawness that holds no prisoner to sentimentality, directly illuminating those darker corners of our lives that we often choose to disregard.

Quicksand is a tight narrative. It feels distilled, concentrated, and is brutally honest - a whirlwind reading experience. Each turn of a page reveals yet another surprise in the saga of Aldo’s chaotic life, until the point however, when the reader becomes savvy to this inveterate Chancer’s predictable behaviour. Once subjected to overkill with his continuous, tedious manic ravings on his homespun philosophies of life, this man becomes intensely annoying, boring and irritating. Initially amusing and titillating for a short space of time, these free associative, one-sided conversations only serve to demonstrate how superficial and desperately hollow Aldo really is.

The relationship between Aldo and his “almost-side kick” Liam seems a love/hate one, but how has it been sustained over all these years, and what makes this volatile friendship tick? Liam has a puzzling, inordinate amount of tolerance towards Aldo, constantly rescuing him from sticky/dangerous situations, and Aldo the full-time destitute entrepreneur, takes Liam desperately for granted. After 20 odd years something intangible keeps them bound together.

Why are some people so maddeningly demanding, yet we dance to their tunes, drawn like moths to a flame? Is this because others help meet our own needs and desires, whether consciously or unconsciously, so for ultimately selfish ends? This novel goes some way to exploring such a scenario with this odd couple.

Aldo is afraid of life, yet also of dying. Consequently he is so consumed with the idea of suicide, but continually evading it, that I prayed he would just give us all a break and get on with it. He is a consummate manipulator of people, can charm the monkeys out of a tree, lives a debauched lifestyle and altogether doesn’t have many redeeming qualities. He is continually out of synch with the rest of the world, yet I couldn’t but help admire his tenacity and capacity to bounce back ready for his next onslaught.

Although there are moments of sadness and poignancy throughout the novel, I began to feel I was suffering a surfeit of wit and dark humour. It became a tedious chore at times with the proliferation of irritating, over- extended and repetitive verbal rambles. I lost my reading patience and tolerance for Aldo’s tirades and verbal diarrhoea, yet of course I will never know what happened to him as I didn’t reach the end. I appreciate that others will relate to this novel far better, but I am afraid it is not for me.


The Offering
The Offering
by Grace McCleen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.39

5.0 out of 5 stars "We Know What's Best For You...", 7 April 2015
This review is from: The Offering (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A sinister air hangs over this narrative, both haunting and disturbing. On each turn of the page I was expecting some unspeakable horror to overtake me. As the character of Madeline unfolds, Grace McCleen intimately explores the psyche of this tormented young girl, a soul hi-jacked and virtually imprisoned by her mentally disturbed parents. A dysfunctional, fractured family with a sense of doom and pending catastrophe from the start, the parents’ failings have dire consequences for their only child.

Uses and abuses of religion and psychiatry form the strong basis for the themes of this novel. The flow of the story is very much influenced by the exertion of power and control from these highly influential sections of society, psychiatry diagnosing and dictating Madeline’s fate . For the parents we have the undaunted power of their faith, unyielding zealous and intolerant; representing psychiatry we have Dr Lucas, who in the latter part of the novel Madeline intuits that unless she gives a “consummate performance” in her therapy and behave as a “decent lunatic”, recognition and kudos will avoid him.

Although the description of psychiatry here is drawn clearly from the professional culture inherent in the 1950’s through to the 1970’s, the fact that this novel is based in 2010 presents a parody that works extremely well -(I have worked in psychiatry from the 70’s to recent years and for 2010 the presentation of treatment methods here is very outdated and not really factually correct). However, the parody works in the novel’s favour, making the experience of Madeline that much more effective, and has a strong authenticity from my own professional experience.

The author’s ability to communicate Madeline’s psychotic episodes feels uncanny and unsettling, seeming to conflate both religious and hallucinatory experiences in a startlingly heightened and vivid way. Grace McCleen’s supreme writing skill in fact inveigled itself into my own dream world where some of Madeline’s perceptions, particularly of the colours and textures, were somehow replicated. Grace McCleen has an exquisite ability to paint a moment in words. Recommended.


The Art of Waiting
The Art of Waiting
by Christopher Jory
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and Riveting, 7 April 2015
This review is from: The Art of Waiting (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It is evident from the first page of this novel that something special and extraordinary lies within the pages. It had such a visceral effect on me, I felt as if I was impaled on the story, like a forced invitation into a brutal and unforgiving world.

Mortality is presented in a particularly bleak and stark manner. Life is so crudely transient, with Aldo and his Italian compatriots living one ghastly minute to the next in their desperate fight against the Russian army during World War 2. The utter futility of war, the relentless sense of helplessness and hopelessness is pervasive and depressing. Isabella, (Aldo’s first love) asserts to Aldo early on in the novel, “nothing makes sense Aldo…remember that”. As the reader shares the life of Aldo and the people he meets en route, by the end of the novel this is a strident comment that really hit home.

Yes, this novel is raw and harrowing to read, but there is also a refreshing balance with its innate vitality. There is a constancy of tenderness, with an uplifting urge for Aldo in particular to fight and survive regardless. The writing facilitates some restoration of hope. The main female protagonist, Katerina, is a most intriguing and fascinating character who we experience from childhood to adulthood. She has a determined, resolute approach to life, and like a tsunami, affects all those who meet her.

All the colourful vignettes are intense, and all capable of surviving on their own, but with their close linking together, the small parts make perfect sense to the whole. Christopher Jory has great respect for his characters, wherein faith in life is sustained despite multiple privations and is experienced without sentimentality. The way he develops the various strands of this story to forge a cohesive whole demonstrates a clear talent.


The Lives of Women
The Lives of Women
by Christine Dwyer Hickey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Community Fraught and Broken, 5 April 2015
This review is from: The Lives of Women (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I felt witness to something influential and significant reading this novel. Although fiction, it has much to say in terms of social comment and social change, a factual mirror on important aspects of a time in recent history, and also an invitation to reminisce on the illusory nature of nostalgia.

What facets of society keep it functioning in harmony, or in this captivating exposé of a small community, what features begin to create dissonance and the potential for fracture? In “The Lives of Women” Christine Dwyer Hickey introduces us to a fascinating group of families, all with interesting and intriguing lives. Here we have an amalgam of families in a couple of streets living their lives with a veneer of things being relatively tickety-boo, with just a dash of something not quite right. Gradually cracks appear, and we have a fairly quick disintegration into a kind of chaos.

We are given enough information to guide us through, but the reader is tantalisingly required to fill in the gaps, with the denouement up to the reader to come to their own conclusion. The pessimist I am, I arrived at the most horrific option I could, which if proven true, places all the events in the novel onto another plane completely……. This makes the whole experience of reading that much more fulfilling, and what makes a great novel. This is one novel I didn’t really want to end.


The Lovers of Amherst
The Lovers of Amherst
by William Nicholson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

5.0 out of 5 stars The Allure of Forbidden Fruit, 5 April 2015
This review is from: The Lovers of Amherst (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I felt immediately drawn into this novel with its fascinating interweaving of past, present, fact and fiction. The extra marital affair of Mabel and Austin in the late 19th Century interplayed simultaneously with the lives of Alice and Tom of today’s world works extremely well - all inextricably linked with the powerful influence of Emily Dickinson, a constant presence throughout.

This novel clasped rather than grabbed, me with its delicate and beautiful prose. There is a gentle excitement that inhabits this novel which has a freshness and vitality that never wavers. Hints of passion are never far away. There seems to be a low voltage sexual charge, which for me gave it quite an erotic edge in the most gentlest and charming of ways - quite unbrazenly sensual; William Nicholson invites the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps.

Anyone who ponders on the notion of romantic love, the nature of passion and its ramifications on our own lives will have much to reflect upon here, particularly when we are presented with the delightfully permissive atmosphere of the life of Mabel, who with her husband’s whole hearted permission embarks on a double love life with the brother of Emily Dickinson.

The idea of embracing passion when one finds it is very much linked up with an acceptance of mortality, a strand so evidently a part of this narrative. “Death is near, now is the time for love” posits the obvious, in that we have little time to experience the most essential and beautiful of this emotion, something that essentially defines us all.

All in all a pleasurable and intriguing novel to read in itself, but also left me feeling rather embarrassed about my lack of acquaintance with Emily Dickinson’s work. Recommended.


Single, Carefree, Mellow
Single, Carefree, Mellow
by Katherine Heiny
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Seeking A Life Less Ordinary, 5 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Remaining single may lead to a “carefree and mellow” life, but there is irony in the title to this novel. Despite the numerous trials and tribulations of this fascinating group of characters, all in their unique long term relationships, it is eventually to the relative comfort of this status quo that they all return, mostly all of them jaded and chastened after their extra-marital flings.

Seeking passion, titillation and general sexual excitement in an affair is a dangerous and largely unsatisfying deal. Infatuation and the belief that there is a more fulfilled life around the corner from these women’s perceived mundane and monotonous norm, proves to be a mere fantasy. When passion fades what are you left with? Who do we turn to for comfort when we seek solace? The stark reality of these liaisons dangereuses is that such fantasy worlds don’t last, and that the idea of uncomplicated love is indeed a mere reverie. Infatuation leads to an emboldened selfishness, and self-preoccupation leads to betrayal and heartache. This, dear friends, is the basis of this highly enjoyable and reflective novel.

Katherine Heiny’s writing is alluring with a lightness of touch. It has a deceptive simplicity but abounds with compassion. She communicates a pervasive sense of sadness and melancholy in these women’s quest for happiness. Emotionally intelligent, astutely observed, and on the button with a gentle, often ironic, wit. I have to recommend it.


The Mountain Can Wait
The Mountain Can Wait
by Sarah Leipciger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Aspects Of Love, 5 April 2015
This review is from: The Mountain Can Wait (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When young Curtis is the cause of a fatal car accident, it is to the reaction and behaviour of his father, tree planter and hunter Tom, that provides the main focus for this novel. Sarah Leipciger gives an impressive and engaging account of this man and his elusive psyche. Here we have an intriguing insight into how someone with apparently simple needs and wants must now reassess his life and so to his priorities. Tom slowly realises that he has to change gear mentally. He needs to up his game in order to grapple and deal with a gamut of emotions that he has largely ignored throughout his life. After his son eventually confesses his crime, Tom is forced to confront his own personal demons, to make some sense of his internal dilemmas, and strive to communicate more meaningfully with his son and daughter.

Tom is the archetypal hard man - a loner, poor talker and testosterone driven. He is also “practical, emotionless, maybe even a little ruthless”, to whom his children regard as a “jackass”. He may frustrate the reader at times, but interest and concern for him is sustained due to the balance of his other more positive personal qualities. Tom has an almost symbiotic relationship with nature, and the author conveys extremely well this communication that is so lacking in his personal relationships. It is amongst the elements of earth and water that Tom retreats in an attempt to make sense of his life, the only place where he feels properly secure and stable within himself.

So for Tom, the title of this novel turns into a question - Can the mountain wait…? Tom is inexorably drawn to the solitude and isolation that nature provides, a power that feels larger than himself, satisfying and nurturing him. Here Sarah Leipciger presents the conundrum of life choices that we all have. Do we let selfishness hold sway over those responsibilities demanded and wanted by those close to us? Tom does indulge himself at times putting his needs before others, but this is mainly for his sanity, to feel rooted, grounded, and a time to think and reflect. To breathe Tom must connect with earth, water and sky, and from there he gradually discovers the path that he must take to keep his family intact.

Tom’s actions in assisting his son confront and face up to his own responsibilities after the accident is a tortuous and painful path, but the seeds are there for a more meaningful relationship to develop. There is no proper resolution at the denouement, but a tangible sense in the final pages that there is a future for them all as a family, albeit a very hard and difficult path forward from the somewhat depressing point where we leave the story.

The adage of only writing from personal experience to achieve credibility is certainly reflected in this author’s writing. Her personal background and history is very evident and she communicates well the love for her native country, Canada. She writes with a profound intimacy and is very much in tune with understanding how people connect, (or remain disconnected). An enjoyable and recommended read.


SanDisk Ultra 32 GB SDHC UHS-I Memory Card
SanDisk Ultra 32 GB SDHC UHS-I Memory Card
Price: £10.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Using as backup MAC OS drive - excellent and affordable., 27 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been using these ScanDisk cards in varying capacities in my Nikon D5100 SLR and Canon HF100 camcorder. They have proved to be extremely reliable and although I confess I do not do time checks the read / write speed is excellent. Such that I have formatted this 32gb variant to MAC OS and loaded OSX 10.10.3 Yoesemite to use as a backup operating system in my various MACs. Whilst SD cards are still somewhat slower than an internal or external SSD this model is proving to be an excellent compromise compared to boot-up times when compared with an internal SATA hard drive.

Highly versatile, fast, reliable and recommended.


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