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J. C. Bailey (East Sussex United Kingdom)
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Sealey SD300K Soldering Gun/Iron Kit 8pc 230V
Sealey SD300K Soldering Gun/Iron Kit 8pc 230V
Price: £35.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The most useful part of this kit is the accessories - movable ..., 4 May 2017
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The most useful part of this kit is the accessories - movable crocodile clips on a solid base, desoldering vacuum tool, etc. The two included soldering irons themselves, I found a mixed blessing. The small iron inexplicably stopped working on about the third use (and yes, I did check the fuse). The large, pistol-grip iron works fine, but this type of tool is too cumbersome for small, fine jobs, and this particular one seems to take a long time to heat up when the trigger is pressed.


Delonghi EN520.R Nespresso Lattissima Plus Coffee Maker - Red
Delonghi EN520.R Nespresso Lattissima Plus Coffee Maker - Red
Offered by TCB DIRECT
Price: £229.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It All Comes Down To What You Want To Drink, 4 Dec. 2016
There's no denying that Nespresso machines and those little silver capsules are aesthetically pleasing and fashionable, and I was delighted to obtain this particular model (now superseded by the 'touch control' version) for £100 in the post-Black Friday clearout. At that price it was a steal, but I took it back the next day for a refund. It may be that mine was faulty - the pump did have to chug for an inordinate length of time before drawing water through, so there may have been insufficient brewing pressure. And I did always use the 'long black' button - the 'short' button would have produced a stronger, rounder flavour. Nevertheless, while the Lattissimo milk frother is a thing of genius, and for all the vast range of capsules available, the coffee itself all seemed to taste a bit sharp and watery (and my wife said the same about the latte). If you go for delicate little espresso cups, this is probably a great option, but I'd need about three capsules at a time to produce a sufficiently large, strong cup of coffee. In fact, I actually prefer the considerably cheaper Dolce Gusto system, which doesn't offer a comparable range of blends but can make a respectable, decent-sized Americano, Mocha or Hot Chocolate.

My first choice would always be learning to get the best out of a manual espresso machine. For good coffee and ease of use combined, I would personally look for a discount deal on a bean-to-cup machine. And for big, strong Starbucks-style coffees I'd certainly need a more cost-effective solution than a shiny little Nespresso capsule. But if you want a handsome machine that produces fragrant little espressos and cappuccinos, this could be ideal. All those 4* and 5* reviewers surely can't be wrong.


Ripcord
Ripcord
Price: £11.91

4.0 out of 5 stars A TRUE COUNTRY RELEASE, BUT NOT TO EVERYONE's TASTE, 19 Nov. 2016
This review is from: Ripcord (Audio CD)
I agree with the reviewer who said that there are more than enough country elements (in Keith Urban's latest release) to keep it country. I disagree strongly with the reviewer who said that most of the country had been "expunged". It depends what you call 'Country".

Let me be clear, I don't think the spate of recent mainstream pop crossover recordings from major country artists is good news for anyone in the long-term - at least, not for the music-buying public, the different music-genres, or the artists themselves. It's no more than a symptom of corporate greed triumphing over artistic integrity. And the in the case of some artists (need I name names?) the sellout has been total and permanent. Even if (or rather when), at some point in the future, they come out with a "return to roots" album, that will likely have been a pure business decision.

So, with an underlying feeling of regret over some of the instrumentation and production on this album, I have to say that it's a pretty good country album. The compositions are more-or-less true to the genre, and the guitar and banjo licks are still there - just further back in a mix in which there is more piano and synth than before. The vocal phrasings are still basically country-rock, albeit with some nods to R&B that are mostly confined to individual tracks.

In case you hadn't worked it out, I'm not enamoured of the modern elements, but I accept that there was a point in history when country purists resented the invasion of the electric and amplified instruments that are now so embedded in the genre. And I think I would have preferred the album without "Sun Don't Let Me Down" - but most of the rest is at least palatable and some of it is excellent. To my ears, I have to say that none of it ranks with the best of Urban's pre-Fuse output, or even with the high-points of Fuse itself. On the other hand, the quality here is more even than that album, and the main letdown is there is too little risk-taking, too little thst is truly distinctive.


Night School: (Jack Reacher 21)
Night School: (Jack Reacher 21)
by Lee Child
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SOMETHING OF A TOUR DE FORCE, 15 Nov. 2016
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I'm not surprised to hear complaining voices, because fans of long-establish artists and authors generally want more of the same... and more of the same, this is definitely not.

But comparisons with this autumn's other big crime blockbuster, Michael Connelly's "The Wrong Side of Goodbye", are quite illuminating. At his best, Connelly can write rings round Child. In plotting, prose, atmosphere, building characters, and everything else, you can feel and appreciate the skill and the research and the sheer sweat that goes into producing a new Bosch novel. The ticking time bomb in the series, however, was always the author's commitment to making his characters live their lives in real time. Bosch was a year older in every novel, and for many volumes his shifting fortunes and relationships provided substance and depth that Child's approach ruled out. But now, Connelly seems to a long-term reader to have reached a point where it's a bit of a struggle to keep a coherent life-story unfolding while continuing to generate fresh story-lines that both new and older fans can relate to. The novels are still top-notch, but as Harry Bosch has aged the passion and fire seems to have gone out of the writing. The prose is more functional, the atmosphere and the complex interaction between parallel storylines has faded. In "The Wrong Side of Goodbye", the backstory of the lead character's life and the vibrant buzz of L.A. nightlife that gave a pulse to earlier volumes in the series seems to have been given little attention. Indeed, the author keeps Harry Boach episodes coming, but seems to lavish more creative love other lead characters inhabiting the same world - principally the irritating Mickey Haller, who now can't even stay out of Harry Bosch novels.

There is a reason for that sidelong glance at one of Lee Child's main literary rivals. Because it highlights how different Lee Child's approach has been. Jack Reacher has also aged, but in a way that has not been so central or inhibiting to the successive storylines. Indeed, Reacher has not been burdened with the complication of long-term relationships - the intimate ones have always terminated at the end of each episode, and the few characters who have returned in different novels are kept (through various plot devices) almost literally at arm's length. And as a whole, Child's plots are usually focused and linear. Indeed, whereas technique and effort show visibly in every page of Connelly's writing, Lee Child's great gift is making look easy - so easy that he can seem simplistic. Until, that is, you sit down and try to copy his formula, at which point the scale of his talent becomes apparent.

And so we come to "Night School" - one of a small number of Reacher novels set entirely in the character's earlier career in the miiatary. It's a actually a smart way of keeping him in his prime, and avoiding the mid-life crisis element that has complicated things for Connelly, Nesbø, Deaver and others. And in the complicated, morally confused times in which we live, these flashback novels allow stories set in the shades-of-grey modern world to alternate with ones set inlace-and-white world where the good guys and the bad guys were easier to tell apart. And while (in contrast to Connelly, Nesbø, Deaver, etc.), Child has been steadily faithful to his one lead character, he has constantly experimented with different aspects of Reacher's character, while all the while exploring different plot devices, narrative techniques and prose styles.

And the good news is that "Night School", far from exhibiting any sign of tiredness on Reacher's 20-somethingth outing, is not just Child's most radical experiment yet, but something of a tour-de-force within the genre as a whole. The plotting is richer and tighter, the changes in viewpoint better choreographed ,and the writing style more creative than pretty well anything that has gone before. I don't think, like some reviewers on here, that the writing has been farmed out. But for once, you can actually see the skill and the research and the sweat that has gone into producing it.

No, not everyone will like it. If you just want a rehash of old novels where Reacher walks into a small, corrupt town in the middle of nowhere and smashes everybody's kneecaps, you probably won't like it. However, if you can put your baggage down and enjoy a fresh, tense, well-written thriller, then you probably will.


The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch Series)
The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch Series)
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars STILL GOOD, BUT PERHAPS A BIT TIRED, 13 Nov. 2016
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I've loved the whole Bosch franchise, but this latest episode felt unfinished. It feels like a mash-up of two novellas with little interaction between them, and little of the character building or L.A. noir atmosphere of earlier books in the series. It's hard to avoid the feeling that coaxing Bosch through all the rights of passage of a fictional life lived out in real time has brought the author to a point where it's hard to know where to take his career or his family life next, and with this latest volume, in my humble opinion, both of them have copped out a bit.


The Steel Kiss: Lincoln Rhyme Book 12 (Lincoln Rhyme Thrillers)
The Steel Kiss: Lincoln Rhyme Book 12 (Lincoln Rhyme Thrillers)
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Something of a Return to Form, 4 July 2016
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After some of Deaver's recent offerings, this seems like a return to form. As long as one can suspend belief in some of the plot elements, and cope with the author's inclination towards factual nerdery, it is an engaging and were paced story.


Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs
Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs
Price: £12.03

4.0 out of 5 stars INTERESTING, BUT... (see below), 27 April 2016
On stage, back in the ‘70’s, the Groundhogs were a psych-prog-blues-rock powerhouse. Tony McPhee was the closest thing to a British Jimi Hendrix, and the raw power of the rhythm section was breathtaking.

The studio albums had a different dynamic, however. While they showcased the untiring inventiveness of McPhee’s guitar work, they exposed limitations in his compositional and vocal skills as well as the lack of a corresponding virtuosity in the rhythm section.

“Who Will Save The World?” was the band’s Difficult Third Album, combining the most sophisticated guitar work to date with a generally rather particularly tuneless set of songs, and too many overdubs by McPhee leaving a lack of space for the drummer and bassist to open out.

It’s worth hearing for the rich guitar textures and psychedelic flourishes, and well played and produced throughout. However, few of the numbers are hooky enough to stay in your head, and my verdict is “Interesting, but…”

In short it's good, but if you don’t already have the ‘Hogs’ preceding album, “Split”, it's a much better buy.


The Innocent (Will Robie Book 1)
The Innocent (Will Robie Book 1)
Price: £0.49

1.0 out of 5 stars No Thanks, 29 Mar. 2016
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I deleted this from my account after a few dozen pages. I couldn't cope with what seemed to me a bunch of clichés and stilted prose.


Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, Book 18)
Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, Book 18)
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Low Point in the Reacher Series - Was it written as the basis for the JR movie sequel?, 24 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Pedestrian novel, with controversial plot elements (including a strangely violence-averse Reacher and a unusually self-assured female collaborator). Since this has now been revealed as the basis for the next big screen outing, one cannot help wondering if it was written for the on-screen characterisation.


De'Longhi Fully Automatic Bean to Cup Coffee Machine ECAM22.320.SB
De'Longhi Fully Automatic Bean to Cup Coffee Machine ECAM22.320.SB

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Get the Best Out of this Awesome Coffee Maker, 19 Mar. 2016
A superb coffee maker, with great design and convenience improvements over the earlier model we had. It's worth taking a little time learning to get the best out of it. Here are the results of a great deal of experimentation, using the same beans as an outstanding local coffee bar and attempting to get the closest match to what comes of their professional machines.

(N.B. A single shot from a professional espresso machine typically contains about 10g of ground coffee, and a double shot 18-20g - anything up to double the amount that a home machine will take. The water temperature, pressure and circulation are also much more even, so no home machine will ever quite match what you get in a good coffee house.)

1. This machine has a lot of scope for adjusting the settings, but offers 4 basic progammes:
1 short coffee (a small espresso shot, approx. 6-7g of ground coffee)
1 long coffee (as above, but with more water: 'Café Allongé')
2 simultaneous short coffees as above (total approx. 12-14g), or one 'Doppio'.
2 long coffees as above: a smallish 'Americano'.

2. There is a 5th programme: a separate 'Long Coffee' function, which cycles automatically through two double shots to produce a reasonable sized Americano. Purists will tend to avoid this, however, as it passes a lot of water very slowly through the grounds to extract the maximum from them, and in the process it brings out the coarser flavour notes that a skilled barista tries to leave behind. Fine if you're using great beans, but if you are the sort of person who buys great coffee beans this mode will probably be anathema to you. Also, you need to physically check the water level in the reservoir before using this programme, as if it drops below the minimum level during the first cycle, the second cycle will be abandoned.

3. Trying to get as close as possible to the taste of my favourite coffee bar, using the same beans, I have my machine set as follows based on a lot of experimentation:
(a) Grinder on the default setting (approx. 5)
(b) Taste Adjustment on 'Strong' (not 'Very Strong')
(c) Water Temperature setting on 3
(d) Finally, adjust coffee strength to one's personal taste, using the water quantity preset function on each of the above programmes as described in the user manual.

Additional comments:
(a) Using pre-filtered water in the reservoir minimises scale build-up while avoiding dependence on over-priced D'L filter cartridges.
(b) I always use decent branded or 'supermarket finest' whole beans (The machine's pre-ground coffee option is best avoided).
(c) Always check there are enough beans in the hopper before running the machine - there is no warning sensor.
(d) Most users will use the 'capuccino' setting on the milk-steaming wand which adds air to the steam and virtually guarantees goof froth, but if you know what you're doing, you will get a slightly denser and more authentic head by leaving the ring in the 'hot milk' position. N.B. twist off the outer sleeve and clean it out after each use.

Overall, I cannot recommend this machine highly enough, and with the level of discounts now being offered it is even more impressive.


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