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Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton)
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   

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Downton Abbey: The London Season [Blu-ray]
Downton Abbey: The London Season [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Hugh Bonneville
Offered by Deal Beat
Price: CDN$ 27.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Solid Downton Xmas Fare, March 18 2015
The first thing to mention is that this episode is included in the North American Season 4 DVD and also the Seasons 1-4 set.

A large part of the British nation sat down on Christmas night in a state of concerned anticipation. The previous two Downton Christmas Specials have been, well, a bit mixed. The first was probably the best ever episode of Downton, featuring Bates' problems. However, last year the Special spent most of the time without anything very much happening but then managed to cast a pall over the festivities for many with its tragic ending.

This year, however, in my opinion Downton did not disappoint. As the title suggests, it is largely based in London and centres around the `coming out' of Lady Rose in 1923. For those of you who have not come across the expression, this involves the rather quaint upper class custom of introducing eligible young ladies to society, including being introduced to royalty. There is a good measure of romance, jealousy and intrigue - in other words exactly what we would expect from Downton! The pace of the plot is reasonable although arguably there was a little too much in the way of social gathering dominating the action, particularly earlier on. However, for me the highlight was the anticipated rematch between the incomparable Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine, fully charged with caustic wit and the clash of two strong personalities. Well worth seeing just for that little gem!

Certainly it was not as good as the first ever Downton Christmas Special, but that is hardly a fair comparison as that was such a good episode, with a strong central story. This was more a continuation of various existing plot lines, but was a good, solid Downton offering which most viewers will have enjoyed.

FYY« Magnetically Removable Hidden Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard Leather Case Smart Cover with Velcro Hand Strap and Card Slots for AIR/AIR 2 (Ipad 5/6) Red (With Auto Wake/Sleep Feature)
FYY« Magnetically Removable Hidden Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard Leather Case Smart Cover with Velcro Hand Strap and Card Slots for AIR/AIR 2 (Ipad 5/6) Red (With Auto Wake/Sleep Feature)
Offered by fyyshop
Price: CDN$ 36.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Looks Good And Light To Carry, March 18 2015
I was really excited about this product as, although I have a cover for my iPad Air 2 and a Bluetooth keyboard, the latter does not fit inside the former, so I have to carry them separately. I wasn’t disappointed; the keyboard is ultra thin and fits inside the magnetic flip cover, meaning that I will no longer think twice about carrying my keyboard with me. Overall, the design is very stylish, with a black elastic that keeps the whole thing together, and it even incorporates space for a pen, credit cards and A5 notes. You really could use this as the one thing you pick up and take to business meetings. I also really liked that the design had allowed for the iPad’s front and back cameras.

A few minor things I thought could have been slightly better: without detailed instructions, I found the whole thing quite confusing at first –I couldn’t even find the keyboard! My other iPad cover also has a stiffer support for the screen. This isn’t really a problem when you’re using the keyboard, as, because the base on which the keyboard rests has a powerful magnet, nothing moves around. If, however, you’re not using the keyboard, it’s a little difficult to get the iPad to stay at the same angle and it does bounce around a bit under your fingers.

Overall, however, a great product and good value for money. In particular, I’m very pleased that it doesn’t add much weight and that in future I will only have to pack one item when going out!

The Racketeer
The Racketeer
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, But Not Grisham's Best, Feb. 7 2015
This review is from: The Racketeer (Kindle Edition)
It's good to see Grisham sticking to the knitting. Books like Playing for Pizza and the Theodore Boone books are really not in the same league. However, The Racketeer is a quasi legal tale and is in typical Grisham style and is very readable.

If I had a criticism it is that the story itself could do with a few more layers. Malcolm Bannister is an interesting character and is very clever and calculating as he runs rings around the authorities in his quest to get the result he wants. However, he seems to have it all in hand throughout and I think this tale would have been better if he had had just a little more to challenge his undoubted intellect.

However, it's a good solid tale which most readers will enjoy without, perhaps, being up there with the very best of this author's work.

Philips Sonicare Airfloss Pro Rechargeable Electric Interdental Flosser HX8331/01
Philips Sonicare Airfloss Pro Rechargeable Electric Interdental Flosser HX8331/01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceeded My Expectations, Feb. 7 2015
This struck me as something of a novel item so I was very keen to try it out. I am not a great fan of flossing and therefore use an assortment of dental probes to remove foreign bodies from between my teeth. The idea of a device, in appearance very like an electric toothbrush, which does the job is very appealing.

I initially tried this out using mouthwash in the reservoir. The result was a very fresh mouth, much like one had gargled with mouthwash. However, I did not feel it was a fair test of whether it will substitute for flossing and I left that test for the occasion on which I feasted on a meaty dinner. This always drives me mad as I hate having bits stuck between my teeth. This evening we tried goulash which is a dish which could have been designed for such a test.

The Flosser was very effective in removing the debris and running my tongue around my mouth afterwards I was unable to detect any remaining meat. The other advantage is that it is effective in clearing small gaps between teeth where it is difficult to get a probe. Overall I was impressed with the Power Flosser which I will be using on a twice daily basis in future. The only thing to note is that you really do need to keep your mouth closed whilst using it (unlike one of the illustrations) as it does tend to potentially spray a long way!

The Racketeer: A Novel by Grisham. John Published by Dell (2013) Mass Market Paperback
The Racketeer: A Novel by Grisham. John Published by Dell (2013) Mass Market Paperback
9 used & new from CDN$ 14.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, But Not The Best, Feb. 7 2015
It's good to see Grisham sticking to the knitting. Books like Playing for Pizza and the Theodore Boone books are really not in the same league. However, The Racketeer is a quasi legal tale and is in typical Grisham style and is very readable.

If I had a criticism it is that the story itself could do with a few more layers. Malcolm Bannister is an interesting character and is very clever and calculating as he runs rings around the authorities in his quest to get the result he wants. However, he seems to have it all in hand throughout and I think this tale would have been better if he had had just a little more to challenge his undoubted intellect.

However, it's a good solid tale which most readers will enjoy without, perhaps, being up there with the very best of this author's work.

Revival: A Novel
Revival: A Novel
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Not King's Best But Very Readable, Feb. 7 2015
This review is from: Revival: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Stephen King is one of my favourite authors and anything he pens is going to be an entertaining read, but some are not so good as others. This I would say falls into that category. This could be described as the life story of Jamie Morton, initially as a young lad, then as an addicted itinerant musician and finally in a more settled existence. However, occasionally crossing his path is Charles Jacobs - King describes him as Morton's fifth business, a change agent. Jacobs is a complex character who starts off as a minister of religion, but also goes through various incarnations during his life.

This rather struck me as a novella which had been stretched into a book. Morton makes the occasional, often bizarre appearance, but a lot of this is New England folksy stuff about Morton's life. However, Stephen King is a superb writer and all of this is very readable, but does not really contribute a lot towards the progression of the story.

So overall, I enjoyed Revival but I would not put it up there with the best of this Stephen King's writing.

Daughter: Written by Jane Shemilt, 2014 Edition, Publisher: Penguin [Paperback]
Daughter: Written by Jane Shemilt, 2014 Edition, Publisher: Penguin [Paperback]
by Jane Shemilt
Edition: Paperback
8 used & new from CDN$ 15.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Debut Novel, Jan. 31 2015
This is a very powerful debut novel. As a mother of five, Jane Shemilt proves she is very aware that children often have other lives of which their parents can be blissfully unaware and in this book she paints a very vivid picture of the disintegration of a family when the youngest child disappears.

Soon other secrets emerge about other family members, lies are exposed but Naomi remains missing. The novel rises to its awful conclusion but Shemilt has a twist in the tail for her readers.

The characterisation is superb. the writer draws each person as a real individual and - at least to start with - sympathetically, so the reader becomes absorbed in them and feels warmly towards them. This only adds to the surprise and dismay when their lies and foibles are exposed.

This is also a novel about guilt, particularly the guilt of a mother who has a fulfilling and successful career but which also leaves her tired and with too little time for her children let alone herself. When things go wrong she blames herself. Also a father, who is a good provider, but prioritises patients and colleagues over his wife and family and so is hardly at home.

I enjoyed this novel very much and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys drama and the careful unfolding of characters. I personally look forward to Jane Shemilt's next offering.

Adonit ADJMR Jot Mini Stylus for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Other Touch Screens
Adonit ADJMR Jot Mini Stylus for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Other Touch Screens
Offered by style from JAPAN
Price: CDN$ 33.31
13 used & new from CDN$ 29.76

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Novel and Effective Stylus, Jan. 31 2015
I am used to using a stylus which is about the same size as a pen and which has a soft mesh tip. Personally I find a stylus a lot more precise than my fat fingers in operating a touch screen so it has become more or less an essential accessory.

This stylus is, however, rather different. Instead of the soft tip it has a small circular disc which presumably distributes the load over that area rather that at the point to avoid damage. In use it feels rather more positive than the more normal stylus although it does take a little getting used to. However, after a little while using it, it quickly became my preferred stylus. It feels a bit like jabbing the screen with a ball point pen which is somewhat easier than jabbing with a soft pad.

Size wise it is a lot smaller than a pen and has a slot to fix it to the top of your jacket pocket. There is a protective cap which screws over the business end of the stylus. I was not sure I was going to get on with this stylus on first viewing but I ended up liking it a lot.

As a postscript, something I have subsequently learned is that the precision tips deteriorate with time, and you can get spares. They also can detach and go missing so its always a good idea to put the protective cap back on when not in use.

Philips Sonicare HX8111/02 Airfloss
Philips Sonicare HX8111/02 Airfloss
Offered by games-surplus
Price: CDN$ 109.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 109.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceeded My Expectations, Jan. 31 2015
This struck me as something of a novel item so I was very keen to try it out. I am not a great fan of flossing and therefore use an assortment of dental probes to remove foreign bodies from between my teeth. The idea of a device, in appearance very like an electric toothbrush, which does the job is very appealing.

I initially tried this out using mouthwash in the reservoir. The result was a very fresh mouth, much like one had gargled with mouthwash. However, I did not feel it was a fair test of whether it will substitute for flossing and I left that test for the occasion on which I feasted on a meaty dinner. This always drives me mad as I hate having bits stuck between my teeth. This evening we tried goulash which is a dish which could have been designed for such a test.

The Flosser was very effective in removing the debris and running my tongue around my mouth afterwards I was unable to detect any remaining meat. The other advantage is that it is effective in clearing small gaps between teeth where it is difficult to get a probe. Overall I was impressed with the Power Flosser which I will be using on a twice daily basis in future. The only thing to note is that you really do need to keep your mouth closed whilst using it (unlike one of the illustrations) as it does tend to potentially spray a long way!

The Shaping of Water
The Shaping of Water
by Ruth Hartley
Edition: Paperback
6 used & new from CDN$ 12.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and Well Written, Jan. 31 2015
This review is from: The Shaping of Water (Paperback)
This is a novel set in Africa, written by someone who knows the continent well with all its troubles and evocative beauty. It spans a period of some fifty years, years which saw the shape of Africa change and change again and the lives of the various people who lived and worked there change also.

The "Water" of the title is the damming of the Zambezi River to create hydro-electric power for ,what was then Northern and Southern Rhodesia. It looks at the terrible effects the damming had on the lives of the native people who lived there. They were largely forcibly relocated to an area which made it much harder for them to live in the way their people always had. They did not benefit from the electricity generated either.

The novel deals with the effects of the ending of colonial rule, the rise of apartheid and the eventual declaration of Zimbabwe through the eyes of an Irish missionary, several white and some mixed race couples, and Natombi and her son, Milimo. This is not a political novel,though, rather one about change and its effects not only on place and time but on people and relationships.

One constant in the novel is the cottage, set above the lake created by the dam. It is purchased by Margaret and Charles while the lake is very new and is used by their relatives and friends until almost the end of the novel. Despite(or perhaps because of) its primitive state, it is universally loved by all and is seen by many as a place of rest and refuge. The other constant is a message of hope that comes to fruition through the creation of gardens and of finding one's own way through turmoil.

This is a very poignant and well written novel which I just had to keep reading. The characterisation is excellent and the backdrop of the evolving African continent is well painted for the reader.

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