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Philip R. Heath "Gadgets, Music, & Books" RSS Feed (DFW)
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Seventh Generation Hand Wash, Mandarin Orange & Grapefruit , 12 ounce, (Pack of 8)
Seventh Generation Hand Wash, Mandarin Orange & Grapefruit , 12 ounce, (Pack of 8)

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Soap Without The Chemicals, October 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I like the Seventh Generation hand soap. I tried the Mandarin Orange and Grapefruit variety. As I become more conscious of the chemicals that I come in contact with, I turn to Seventh Generation to provide natural alternatives. I have used their kitchen sprays in the past, and I have been pleased with their results their too. I can say that their hand soap is just as reliable of a product. The scent is not overly strong, but I it is present enough to be pleasant. It lathers just like you would expect soap to, and there really isn’t a lot that suggests this is a different kind of product from run-of-the-mill soap. I see this as a neutral factor, but this soap is not quite as thick as something like Softsoap. However, I don’t think it really matters. It is not so thin that it will run between your fingers. I give it two thumbs up.


Dark Spies: A Spycatcher Novel
Dark Spies: A Spycatcher Novel
by Matthew Dunn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps The Best Spy Novel I've Read, October 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Dark Spies is the second novel that I’ve read in Matthew Dunn’s series featuring Will Cochrane - the elite CIA/MI6 joint operative. I am also a fan of the Cotton Malone series and the Sigma Force novels as well. Let me say that this is quite possible the best novel I’ve read from any of these three spy novel series. I won’t bore you with a rehashing of the basic plot points because you can get that from the product page. For me, it is the combination of storytelling and pacing that is almost otherworldly. The story was compelling and intense. I thought I had it figured out, but the resolution chapter near the end threw me a curveball that I didn’t see coming. Cochrane is now my favorite covert operative in fiction. He takes it in the shorts in a major way in this novel, but Dunn did something that really made him over the top sympathetic to me. As Will is off fighter for his very existence, his neighbors who have flats in the complex with his band together to replace his fairly expensive collectables after his place is completely trashed. You will have to read the book to fully appreciate this, but Dark Spies is written in a way that I really connected with me. It is more that just a wanting the “good guys” to win sort of thing. Spy thrillers don’t usually make such a deep connection no matter how compelling the story is - and this story is also compelling. I can’t recommend Dark Spies enough. It is in a league of its own.

Overall: A+


The Swimmer: A Novel
The Swimmer: A Novel
by Joakim Zander
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.51

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Debut With Room For Improvement, September 28, 2014
This review is from: The Swimmer: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Joakim Zander’s debut novel The Swimmer is an interesting read. Its central character is Klara Walldeen, and she becomes entwined with Mahmoud Shamosh who is wrongly suspected of being a terrorist. For much of the novel, the story of her US Intelligence agent runs in parallel traveling through time from her birth to present day. I found it to be a lot like the backstory scenes in TV shows like The Americans. The pacing takes hold after about 20-30 pages, and it moves along at a good clip without rushing. However, I didn’t find all plot points resolved to my satisfaction. I realize that it is common for ancillary items to be left unanswered, but what I’m thinking of is fairly central to the main story. However, this is a fine effort for a debut novel, and Zander has room to grow into a great novelist.

Overall: B-


Different Shades of Blue
Different Shades of Blue
Price: $11.49

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different Shades Of Bonamassa, September 23, 2014
I have listened to and reviewed Joe Bonamassa’s entire catalog starting with A New Day Yesterday. However, he and noted producer Kevin Shirley are not out of new ideas. Different Shades of Blue is fresh and expertly delivered. Bonamassa’s band for this album is filled with familiar faces: Anton Fig (drums), Reese Wynans (keys), Carmine Rojas and Michael Rhodes (bass), Lenny Castro (percussion), Lee Thornburg (trumpet), and Doug Henthorn and Melanie Williams (background vocals). This is also Bonamassa’s first set of original songs since his sophomore album So It’s Like That, but that is about all that those two albums have in common.

For me Different Shades of Blue as an album divides into two parts with roughly half of the songs making heavy use of a horn section led by Thornburg. The songs with horns (“Love Ain’t A Love Song”, “Living On The Moon”, “Heartache Follows Wherever I Go”, “I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept The Blues”, and “Trouble Town”) have a swinging, Memphis/Chicago feel to them. The remainder are more rock oriented ranging from the driven “Oh Beautiful” to the ballad “So, What Would I Do”. The contrast in styles brings balance to the album, and it keeps the album from falling into a rut.

Here are some things to listen for as you enjoy Bonamassa’s new masterpiece. The structure of “Oh Beautiful!” is unusual. The vocals are often without instrumental backing followed by all-out jams. Bonamassa let’s loose on his solo in a new way that feels liberating. I thought that “Love Ain’t A Love Song” almost had a Dave Matthews Band feel with the sax and organ play. The standout performer (aside from Bonamassa) is Reese Wynans. His form on “I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept The Blues” calls to mind his performance on the Stevie Ray Vaughn classic “The House Is Rockin’”. He shows his versatility on “Get Back My Tomorrow” with his organ play. At times, I found myself thinking of Ray Manzarek’s play on “Rider’s On The Storm” - yeah, the Doors classic. It is subtle, but it’s there.

Different Shades of Blue shows continued growth and progression from Joe Bonamassa. The songs on this album show new aspects of his style, and the top-notch performance from Reese Wynans make this a must have for Bonamassa fans and blues-rock fans in general.
Overall: A


Tour De Force: Live In London - Royal Albert Hall
Tour De Force: Live In London - Royal Albert Hall
Price: $14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Tour de Force Ends On A High Note, September 21, 2014
Joe Bonamassa’s Tour de Force four-night extravaganza concludes at Royal Albert Hall. This is a significant venue for Bonamassa as his show there in 2009 gained him a lot of notice for the excellent music he had been making. The show format of half-acoustic, half-electric is one that Bonamassa has adopted for his live shows in 2014. For this performance he and Kevin Shirley brought back the band from the Vienna Opera House performance (Arlan Schierbaum ‘keys’, Lenny Castro ‘percussion’, Gerry O’Connor ‘banjo, fiddle, and mandolin’, and Mats Wester ‘nyckelharpa’) and adds Tal Bergman (drums), Carmine Rojas (bass), and cameo appearances from Anton Fig (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), and Doug Henthorn (background vocals).

While I love the blues show with the horns the best, I am still a big fan of this format. The acoustic set as minimal overlap with that from the previous show (Hammersmith Apollo), and it adds “Around The Bend” and live show staple “Jockey Full Of Bourbon”. I like the acoustic version of the latter better as it features piano like the original studio recording. The other song that is a natural fit for this format is Black Rock’s “Black Lung Heartache”. The Vienna Opera House performance was a significant moment in Bonamassa’s career, and it was necessary to include it in the four-night event billed as “career spanning”.

However, that only tells half the story. The electric set opens with a stellar rendition of “Slow Train”. This high-energy song is a great choice to amp up the audience after the acoustic numbers. The other highlights for the electric set were “Happier Times” and “The Ballad Of John Henry”. The latter features a jamming solo that borders on indulgent, but isn’t that appropriate for a four nights, four venues, four bands, and four setlists show?

The Royal Albert Hall show closes the musical Joe Bonamassa buffet that was Tour de Force. It is only surpassed by the Shepherd’s Bush Empire Show.

Overall: A


Tour De Force: Live In London - Hammersmith Apollo
Tour De Force: Live In London - Hammersmith Apollo
Price: $14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars "Rock" Show A Notch Below The Others, September 21, 2014
Joe Bonamassa was at the Hammersmith Apollo for night three of four night Tour de Force concert series. This show is billed as the “Rock” show, and it features his third band with Tal Bergman (drums), Arlan Schierbaum (keys), Carmine Rojas (bass), Lenny Castro (percussion), and Doug Henthorn (guest vocals).

Interestingly, the set opens with a few acoustic songs mostly from the Sloe Gin album (“Seagull”, “Jelly Roll”, and “Richmond”), and the latter features Schierbaum on accordion. Before Bonamassa and Co. plugs in the amps, they added “Athens To Athens” and “Woke Up Dreaming”.

This show also has the only setlist to feature three songs in a row from Bonamassa’s latest (at the time) album Driving Towards the Daylight in “Dislocated Boy”, “Driving Towards The Daylight”, and “Who’s Been Talkin’”. Henthorn joins Bonamassa for background vocals then he takes the lead on “Tea For One”. This is one of the highpoints of the show as it features Bonamassa’s guitar playing in a way that rarely comes through when he balances lead vocal duties as well. The other highlights for me were live show staples “Jockey Full Of Bourbon” and “The Ballad Of John Henry” with the latter closing the show prior to the two song encore.

While the Hammersmith Apollo show is a very good performance from Bonamassa and Co., it is my least favorite of the four nights. While they perform the acoustic songs well, they seem misplaced on what I would have expected to be a start to finish “all dials to the right” show. There’s plenty to like, but it doesn’t live up to the previous night’s show at The Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

Overall: B


Life n Soul MT103 Bluetooth Earphones with Adapter, Black
Life n Soul MT103 Bluetooth Earphones with Adapter, Black
Price: $58.03
8 used & new from $46.21

3.0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly Average, September 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Life n Soul MT103 is a Bluetooth adaptor for standard headphones, and it includes a set of headphones as well. It is a similar concept to the Jabra Clipper and Street devices that function on a similar premise. Here’s how they performed.

The Bluetooth adaptor is not designed very well. It is made of cheap plastic, and the control layout is unintuitive and poorly labeled. Even the pairing process was not entirely straightforward. It took a few attempts to properly enter into pairing mode, and the instruction booklet is awkwardly worded.

Once I paired the MT103 with my Samsung Galaxy S5, I used my normal playlist at the end to evaluate the sound. Across the board in genres and range of tone, the MT103 was extremely adequate. They were neither awful nor impressive, and they really need to perform better based on their price. For comparison, I tried the included headphones directly plugged-in to my S5 for comparison. The sound was definitely more toward impressive, but even this comes with a disclaimer. The headphones are designed to be plugged-in to the adaptor, and their cord is too short to use standalone.

In the end, I cannot recommend the Life n Soul MT103. It comes up short in almost every aspect, and there are better options from the likes of Jabra.


The Sixth Extinction (Sigma Force)
The Sixth Extinction (Sigma Force)
by James Rollins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.48
144 used & new from $9.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Sigma Force Winner!, September 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The 6th Extinction by James Rollins is the fourth novel in this series that I’ve had the pleasure to read, and existing fans will find plenty to like in this latest installment. Readers of The Eye of God may be disappointed to find that newcomer Tucker Wayne and his dog Kane do are not a part of the story - see the standalone Tucker Wayne novel The Kill Switch for your fix instead.

However, the remainder of the team is present and accounted for. This adventure is a race against the clock (aren’t they all?) to stop a biological experiment in California that has broken containment threatening life as we know it. Painter, Lisa, Kat, Gray, and Kowalski will span the U.S., Brazil, and Antarctica to find the key to stopping impending doom.

As is the case with Sigma Force novels, Rollins mixes in plenty of science and history in his narrative. Brazil and Antarctica were locations that were new to me as far as setting for fiction goes, and I liked the variety that both provided. It is hard not to think of Hoth during some of the scenes in Antarctica.

The action is taught, and well paced for the most part. The resolution does come fairly quickly over about the last 30 or 40 pages. Fans of the Sigma Force series will not be disappointed. If you are unfamiliar with Rollins and this series, I think it compares favorably with the work of both Steve Berry (Cotton Malone series) and William Dunn (Spycatcher novels). I thoroughly enjoyed The 6th Extinction.


Tour De Force: Live In London - Shepherd's Bush Empire
Tour De Force: Live In London - Shepherd's Bush Empire
Price: $14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Best Bonamassa Live Or Studio To Date!, September 14, 2014
Night two of Joe Bonamassa’s Tour de Force finds him at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for the “Blues Night”. His band changes out wholesale from the opener at The Borderline, as he is joined by Tal Bergman (drums), Arlan Schierbaum (keys), Carmine Rojas (bass), Lee Thornburg (trumpet), Mike Feltham (trombone), and Sean Freeman (saxophone). It is the only show of the four with a horn section, and Kevin Shirley developed the set list accordingly.

Bonamassa and Co. deliver swinging versions of “So It’s Like That”, “You Better Watch Yourself”, and “Lonesome Road Blues”. The horns add depth and character to these songs. They has add even more soul to the ballads “Midnight Blues”, “So Many Roads”, and “Stop!”. When you combine Bonamassa’s spot on vocal delivery and expressive solos, these are once in a lifetime versions of these songs. On the two-song encore, Bonamassa gives a truly amazing rendition of “Asking Around For You”. This show is Bonamassa’s blues side at its very best, and it is my favorite performance of the four nights. It is the benchmark for all Bonamassa work going forward.

Overall: A+


Tour De Force: Live In London - The Borderline
Tour De Force: Live In London - The Borderline
Price: $14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Going Back To The Beginning, September 14, 2014
My journey through Joe Bonamassa’s catalog from his first studio album on now lands on the Tour de Force albums the first of which is The Borderline show. This show is significant as its format has its roots in Bonamassa’s first studio and live albums. It is as stripped down a band as a rock set will allow Bonamassa is joined by just two others - Michael Rhodes (bass) and Anton Fig (drums).

While the set list spans much of Bonamassa’s career, it includes two of his originals from A New Day Yesterday in “I Know Where I Belong” and “Miss You, Hate You”. Kevin Shirley chose well from the one gem in Bonamassa’s catalog with producer Tom Dowd. The former stands up just as well in 2013 as it did in 2000 while it is easier to prefer the modern take on the latter. I also thought it was a treat that Shirley and Bonamassa mixed in “Don’t Burn Down That Bridge” - the Albert King cover also from that first album. This song hasn’t appeared on any of Bonamassa’s live albums since A New Day Yesterday (Live) in 2001, and I welcomed its inclusion.

However, this show was not entirely “oldies”. Some of the more contemporary Bonamassa tracks include “Spanish Boots”, “Steal Your Heart Away”, and “Happier Times” with the latter taken on an interesting variation in the three-piece band format. It has no keys or acoustic guitar as the original did on The Ballad of John Henry. Bonamassa does a does a good job recreating the feel of the original by dialing back the distortion on the opening. That is the genius of a Bonamassa live show when you get down to it. It is not a mere rehashing of the studio recordings.

The Borderline show was an excellent opening to the four bands, four set lists, and four venues on four different nights. It was a trip back to the beginning in format, but it gave an interesting treatment to modern material as well. Bravo!

Overall: A


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