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Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton)
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Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Seasons 1-5; 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5
Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Seasons 1-5; 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5
Offered by basementking
Price: CDN$ 99.33
3 used & new from CDN$ 99.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Annual Downton Box Set, June 23 2015
Series 5 of Downton Abbey follows the established tradition by being closely followed by the DVD set covering all the episodes to date. This includes the 43 episodes so far. There are seven episodes from the first series, eight each of the others, plus the 2011 - 2014 Christmas specials of which the first was a dramatic masterpiece, but the others have struggled to reach the same heights.

The five series so far have taken us from 1912 to 1924 and an exciting ride it has been. Series 1 started just after the sinking of the Titanic and a major feature was domestic concerns such as finding suitable partners for the Downton daughters, whilst the second series took us into quite different territory as Downton was converted into a convalescent home for injured servicemen. This series took us on to the end of the World War in 1918. We then enjoyed the first Christmas Special Edition which was probably the strongest single episode, and featured a very dramatic trial.

Series 3 went from 1918 to 1920 as the family adjusted after the war and life returned to more as it was in Series 1. However, there were financial pressures on the estate and it was clear that it needed to adapt to survive. Some members of the family embraced change more than others. The following Christmas episode saw the Crawley family in Scotland but finished in an unexpected tragedy which cast something of a pall over Christmas Day for those in the United Kingdom who saw it on the day.

Series 4 takes us further into the 1920s and it is clear that there has been some adjustment to the boundaries between those above and below stairs in terms of the rigid division which was clear in Series 1. The Christmas Special concerns the `coming out' of Lady Rose which is a quaint English customs by which young aristocratic ladies are introduced to society. Finally Series 5 is set in 1924 just after the election of the first socialist government in the UK. Romance is very much in the air, and in rather unexpected places!

To my mind Maggie Smith as the family matriarch has been the outstanding performer throughout with her witty and caustic comments although there have been many strong performances. Hugh Bonneville (Earl Grantham), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) and Jim Carter (Carson) spring to mind, but to single these out is to do injustice to many others. The extra features on the individual DVDs of the individual series are also included here so there are several hours of these in addition to the screened episodes.

If you have been an avid follower of Downton Abbey since the beginning then four years on it is probably an excellent time to revisit the earlier episodes as we are currently doing. However, if you are not acquainted with the series then you really should get hold of this set. You don't know what you are missing!

As a final thought, sadly we now know that Season 6 will be the last so some may prefer to wait for the box set containing that series too.

Tucano Magnum backpack for MacBook Pro 15" and 15" notebooks
Tucano Magnum backpack for MacBook Pro 15" and 15" notebooks
Offered by Business Direct Solutions
Price: CDN$ 176.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Quality And Carries A Huge Amount Of Stuff!, June 23 2015
These days it is increasingly the fashion for commuters and students to carry around their things in a rucksack rather than a bag or brief case. Health wise it makes a lot more sense to distribute the load across the shoulders rather than being weighed down on one side. This is a nicely made item with a certain style about it, so it is no surprise that its origin is Italy. It is large enough that my daughter, who is a junior barrister and who has to carry a lot of stuff backwards and forwards, immediately took a fancy to it and I have not had a look in since!

There is a zipped area in front, which would probably fit an iPad mini, but the opening is not big enough for a standard iPad. Behind that there is large zipped compartment which is large enough to accommodate any tablet, and I would think, all but the largest of laptops too. It is very well thought out with a divider in the compartment and a small, zipped pocket, so that if you want to carry leads or other peripherals they are not going to jangle around together and possibly scratch your computer. Behind that there is another large zipped area where you can carry files, papers etc. Finally there is a small but useful zipped side pocket and a couple of open pockets for cans of drink etc.

The version I had was black with a silky finish green lining which makes for an attractive finish to match the colour of the Tucano logo. However, it does come in alternative colours. This is probably as large a backpack as one would normally require, and the succession of compartments means that it is easy to keep your items in order and to carry your tablet, or even multiple computers safely.

Overall this is a very nicely made backpack which looks and feels a quality item. It has been really well thought out so as to accommodate the maximum amount of ‘stuff’ and there is a lot of attention to detail. For example even the straps are adjustable for comfort. Overall I was very impressed and would recommend this back pack.

A Well-tempered Heart: Written by Jan-Philipp Sendker, 2014 Edition, Publisher: Other Press [Paperback]
A Well-tempered Heart: Written by Jan-Philipp Sendker, 2014 Edition, Publisher: Other Press [Paperback]
by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Edition: Paperback
8 used & new from CDN$ 24.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Sharing Julia's Journey, June 23 2015
Julia is.a successful patent attorney in New York when she starts hearing voices, well to be more exact, one voice, that of a woman who is constantly questioning her. Initially she does exactly what most Americans would do under similar circumstances which is book an appointment with a psychiatrist. He, naturally, prescribes pills. However, encouraged by her close and non materialistic friend Amy, she then travels to Burma to see her half brother, U Ba in her search for answers.

What follows is Julia's quest to discover her true self as she and U Ba travel around this beautiful country gradually unravelling the mystery of her inner voice. This is a sequel to a previous successful book, set ten years previously. However, I was not aware of this when I started reading and this is very much a standalone story.

This is quite hard book to categorise and I was not at all sure how I really felt about it for quite a while. However, towards the end, as Julia begins to see things clearly, the reader also appreciates how it all fits together. This is not a spiritual book, although there is a fair measure of the Buddhist outlook on life within its pages. This is all about Julia looking at her own life and coming to realise what is really important to her. It is a journey which I appreciated taking with her and which I would recommend to others.

As a postscript my nomination for the funniest moment was when Julia tried to explain to a Burmese monk what exactly a patent lawyer did!

A Well-tempered Heart (Art of Hearing Heartbeats)
A Well-tempered Heart (Art of Hearing Heartbeats)
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sharing Julia's Journey, June 23 2015
Julia is.a successful patent attorney in New York when she starts hearing voices, well to be more exact, one voice, that of a woman who is constantly questioning her. Initially she does exactly what most Americans would do under similar circumstances which is book an appointment with a psychiatrist. He, naturally, prescribes pills. However, encouraged by her close and non materialistic friend Amy, she then travels to Burma to see her half brother, U Ba in her search for answers.

What follows is Julia's quest to discover her true self as she and U Ba travel around this beautiful country gradually unravelling the mystery of her inner voice. This is a sequel to a previous successful book, set ten years previously. However, I was not aware of this when I started reading and this is very much a standalone story.

This is quite hard book to categorise and I was not at all sure how I really felt about it for quite a while. However, towards the end, as Julia begins to see things clearly, the reader also appreciates how it all fits together. This is not a spiritual book, although there is a fair measure of the Buddhist outlook on life within its pages. This is all about Julia looking at her own life and coming to realise what is really important to her. It is a journey which I appreciated taking with her and which I would recommend to others.

As a postscript my nomination for the funniest moment was when Julia tried to explain to a Burmese monk what exactly a patent lawyer did!

Merrell Women's Decora Chant Waterproof Winter Boot Mocha 7 M US
Merrell Women's Decora Chant Waterproof Winter Boot Mocha 7 M US
Offered by SoftMoc com Canada
Price: CDN$ 239.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish And Very Comfortable, June 23 2015
These are attractive, well made boots from a well known manufacturer, suitable for just about anything the British weather can throw at you. Although billed as snow boots, and doubtless with their grippy soles they are very suitable for that purpose, these are actually very comfortable footwear for just about any weather conditions.

My daughter's immediate reaction on trying the boots was just how good to wear they were and I do not think she has worn any other footwear since she tried them! The fur lining, cushioned base and sensible but not too substantial weight combine to make for a very satisfactory boot. The leather appears to be of very good quality and the stitching is very careful and in perfect alignment. Size wise, my daughter normally takes a size 3, but found that the 4 size in these boots was an excellent fit whereas clearly 3 would have been too small.

These do look quite stylish which is not something I would particularly have expected of snow boots and the stitching at the front is in white to accent it, whilst on the buckles it's in black so the style aspect has been well thought through. The fur tops of the boots look very seasonal without making them unwearable at other times of the year. Obviously it's early days yet, but I would be surprised if these do not provide many years of good service since they have no obvious weak points in their manufacture.

Postscript - my daughter just got back from a ski trip and reported these had great grip in the snow. She said some of her friends had really grippy footwear, others were stylish, but no one else had managed both!

Inflicted: Sometimes the only difference between despair and resurrection is kindness
Inflicted: Sometimes the only difference between despair and resurrection is kindness
Price: CDN$ 4.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Anna Was Convincing, Theo Less So, June 23 2015
This is a book which has had quite a lot of rave reviews and I was looking forward to reading it. My feelings were, however, a bit mixed. I would say it is very much a book of two parts, one a rather compelling read and the other, well, perhaps not quite in the same league. Unfortunately the two parts do not knit together very convincingly.

Theo, a conflicted young man meets up with Anna, in her eighties and a concentration camp survivor. She tells him her story from the time she was captured by the SS in Lidice in what is now the Czech Republic and put in Theresienstadt, a notorious, but lesser known concentration camp. Anna’s story is harrowing and not an easy read. However, it is also fascinating as she finds friendship and even love during her difficult early life.

Anna’s story is meticulously researched and is incredible in that it is based on true events. A large number died at Theresienstadt from starvation or disease, whilst many thousands were transported from there to extermination camps such as Auschwitz near Krakow in Poland. As an example of man’s inhumanity to man and an illustration of the crimes of the Nazi regime it would be hard to beat and I thought it was well told.

The problem is that Theo’s story is really rather superfluous to all this. Not by any means lightweight, but for most of the book, Anna’s story is occasionally interrupted by a small amount of present day narrative constructed around Theo which disrupts the flow without adding much. To be sure, Theo has some serious issues, but apart from causing him personal anguish there is no real parallel here between these and Anna’s wartime plight except perhaps to illustrate that far worse things have happened to others.

The last fifty odd pages focus on Theo, who feels he is responsible for his infant sister’s death. I thought this part was rather too much of a contrast to Anna’s story and I found all the revelations right at the end rather stretched credibility. It’s always a shame when a book which has many good aspects finishes weakly, but I did feel this was the case here. Had the author just stuck to Anna I think this would have rated Five Stars.

NETGEAR ReadyNAS 102 2TB (2 x 1TB) 2-Bay Network Attached Storage (RN10221D-100NAS)
NETGEAR ReadyNAS 102 2TB (2 x 1TB) 2-Bay Network Attached Storage (RN10221D-100NAS)
Offered by Urban Inspirations
Price: CDN$ 554.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated And Easy To Use, June 23 2015
Firstly I think I should mention my degree of expertise at installing IT related items. Frankly not a lot, although I am prepared to research and persevere - I have had failures particularly with routers before where, despite technical help I never succeeded. I have used a similar sort of device to this in the past, and it did take quite an effort to get going although perseverance paid off. However, the NAS102 was an absolute dream to set up. Plugged it into the router and turned it on, then went to the Readycloud website, which discovered it straight away, and set up an account.

From there on it was just plain sailing as the NAS102 was recognised as a network resource and I was able to drag files into the storage system. The device I was testing came complete with 2TB of storage, but can be upgraded to 8TB should one ever need it. It is quite clear that this is a very sophisticated and versatile box with a lot of inbuilt protection. Five different types of file protection are included such as snapshotting on demand, files written over multiple drives and antivirus software in real time and clearly a lot of thought has gone into making it an adequate resource for small business use as well as for the home.

Once I had downloaded the ReadyCloud app I was prompted to back up computer files such as documents, pictures etc. These were each created as new files on the DSS. First backup took a while, but these continue to back up in real time on an ongoing basis. Of course, once they were backed up I was able to access and view documents on other devices such as my iPad anywhere using the Cloud.

Naturally this device with its large storage capacity is very suitable for other purposes such as streaming video to a TV. However, for me personally it is invaluable as a way of securing my important documents, photos etc and in using it as a file sharing device so that I can access them from any computer. This is a layman's assessment of what is a very sophisticated piece of equipment but it is fair to say that I have found this easy and mainly intuitive to use (just as well as the supplied instructions are pretty inadequate) and that it has far more uses than I was expecting.

Mobile Library: A Novel
Mobile Library: A Novel
by David Whitehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.65
36 used & new from CDN$ 1.45

4.0 out of 5 stars A Reasonable If Unusual Read, June 23 2015
Bobby is a twelve year old who has drawn the short straw in life. His, unsupportive at best, and rather unkind home life with his father and girlfriend, plus being the brunt of bullies at school means that Bobby lives his life by drawing into his shell, largely friendless. However, a chance meeting with Val and her daughter Rosa lead to a tumultuous adventure in a stolen mobile library as they career around the country one step ahead of the authorities. Along the way they pick up Joe, who is living rough, and they become a sort of family.

This is not particularly a book I took to initially as I did not find the characters overly appealing or very credible. I thought it was unlikely to say the least that Val, the `responsible adult' would head off in the mobile home with the two vulnerable youngsters. The episodes with Bobby's only friend, Sunny, I found especially unlikely and one could only conclude that Sunny had rather extreme personal issues for reasons which were not apparent or that the pair shared vivid imaginations.

However, from being not a particularly compelling read initially I did find myself getting caught up with the story as the characters bond and their adventure takes them up to Scotland and then to the South Coast. I did wonder how the author was going to manage to tie this lot up, but actually the conclusion is reasonably tidy and satisfactory under difficult circumstances. I am not sure that I was the target audience for this book, or indeed whom it is aimed at, but ultimately I did find it a reasonable if unusual read.

Aukey 3000mAh Ultra-Compact Portable Charger Lipstick-Sized External Battery Power Bank with AIpower Technology for iPhone 6 5s 5c 5 4S, Galaxy S5 S4 S3 Note 3, 4, Nexus 4, HTC One M8, Nokia Lumia 520, 1020 and Other Smartphones -(Black)
Aukey 3000mAh Ultra-Compact Portable Charger Lipstick-Sized External Battery Power Bank with AIpower Technology for iPhone 6 5s 5c 5 4S, Galaxy S5 S4 S3 Note 3, 4, Nexus 4, HTC One M8, Nokia Lumia 520, 1020 and Other Smartphones -(Black)
Offered by A-TEK
Price: CDN$ 29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Handbag Size!, June 23 2015
My wife rather fancied this charger as a handbag sized accessory and much more convenient for her to carry around than most chargers which are somewhat bulkier. Advertised as lipstick size, it is actually a bit bigger than that but still a convenient size for travel at about three and a half inches long by three quarters of an inch in diameter.

It comes with a USB to three different connections - an older style Apple type connector, a lightning connector and a micro USB connector. This serves a dual purpose. By plugging the micro USB into the charger and the USB into either a computer or USB plug you charge up the device. It has a red glow whilst charging or needing to be charged which turns to blue when fully charged. To charge another device you plug the USB into the charger and the other end into whatever you are trying to charge.

This is very well constructed and feels very solid, even though it only weighs an amazing 70g or about 2.5 ounces in old money. However, despite its miniscule mass, this is sufficient to charge up a smart phone or to put enough charge into a tablet to get you out of trouble. Most people use this sort of charger when they get caught short, and need a quick power boost and it is a perfect accessory for that purpose.

Overall this is a very conveniently sized charger that does the job. My wife is delighted with it and has added it to the various necessities she carries around in her handbag.

The Leopards of Normandy: Devil
The Leopards of Normandy: Devil
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Murders And Intrigues, June 23 2015
This is the first novel of a trilogy about the Norman Duke who captured the English throne in 1066 and managed to hang on to it .

This opening novel deals with William's family, his birth and early years. William was known as William the Bastard as he was born from a dalliance between his father, Duke Robert and Herleva, a low born girl. It traces through to the age of nine, when he inherits the Duchy of Normandy from his father, despite his illegitimacy.

Churchill has undertaken extensive research in writing this novel and this pays dividends in these pages. He makes the life and politics on both sides of the Channel come alive and its links to the Viking world very explicit. His portraits of the main characters are also carefully crafted. William's father comes over as a brilliant mixture of ambition, impetuosity and big-heartedness. His great Uncle is the epitome of a clergyman born of a great House. Edward, the Confessor, by contrast, is painted as cold and ineffectual as a son and as a man. The excellent characterisation makes the reader wanting to know more - especially given the murders and intrigues that abundantly fill the pages.

It's a long book - 508 pages if you are counting. But it's such a good and gripping yarn that if you enjoy historical novels you'll certainly enjoy this. I eagerly await the second instalment

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