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Brett H "pentangle" RSS Feed (Brighton)
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Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2, 3, & 4
Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2, 3, & 4
DVD ~ Hugh Bonneville
Price: $44.99
16 used & new from $40.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Annual Downton Box Set, November 21, 2014
A new series of Downton is an annual treat, although you may prefer to wait for the Series 1-5 DVD which will doubtless appear early in 2015 since Series 5 has now aired on UK TV. This set includes the 34 episodes to the end of Series 4. There are seven episodes from the first series, eight each from the second, third and fourth, plus the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Christmas specials of which the first was a dramatic masterpiece, but the second did not deliver in the same way in the opinion of most people although it ended dramatically. The third was not as good as the first but was good solid stuff which most will enjoy.

The four series so far have taken us from 1912, just after the sinking of the Titanic, up to 1923. Each of the four series to date has had a slightly different background. Series 1 takes us to a very formal setting within the household with much concern about match making for the Crawley daughters to find them suitable partners which will secure the financial future of the estate. However, those above stairs are generally shown in largely a sympathetic light in their relationship with their servants below stairs and this sets the scene for the whole subsequent series.

The second series takes us through World War 1. Downton Abbey has been converted into a convalescent home for servicemen injured in the conflict. This quite different scenario provided the script writers with some interesting stories and the series runs from the Battle of the Somme in 1916 up to the end of the war in 1918.

The first Christmas special and the third series take place from late 1919 into 1920. The first features a very dramatic trial and this was probably the single best episode so far. In the third series the household is far more back to the life of an aristocratic family as it was in the first series although the estate faces major challenges in the post war period and a need to embrace change if Downton is to survive.

The second Christmas special sees most of the action move to Scotland, and a tragic conclusion which shocked most viewers and rather put a blight on Christmas Day for many. The fourth series takes us a little further into the 1920s and some relaxation of the divisions between those above and below stairs is obvious, although it still all looks like a rigid division to our contemporary eyes. The Christmas Special, set in 1923 involves the 'coming out' of Lady Rose, which is a quaint British upper class custom where young ladies are presented to society.

A major source of story lines for the script writers has been the interaction between those below stairs and those above stairs. Quite a few of the main characters in both groups have been in Downton from the beginning and there are some very strong performances. However, I am not sure things would be the same without Maggie Smith as the matriarch of the family and she continues to dominate any scene she is in.

If you are interested in the additional features, this DVD set includes all the extra features which were on the individual season releases. These amount to several hours of additional viewing.

Personally I have been an avid follower of Downton Abbey from the first series and have seen every episode to date. I have now started to enjoy reruns of the earlier episodes. However, if you have missed out so far, then this DVD set is an excellent introduction to probably the best costume TV drama in recent times.


Remember, Remember
Remember, Remember
Price: $9.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Well Crafted Police Procedural, November 20, 2014
I have not read the previous book featuring DC Nina Foster, during which she presumably received the injury which has kept her off work for many months. With some books this could be an irritation as the author constantly harps back to previous events. However, with Remember Remember, although there are references, presumably to the previous book, this is very much a standalone volume and I had not problem in reading it as such.

On her return to work Nina is assigned to a Cold Case unit. New information has come in about the Wickerstead train crash in 1964, and despite the half a century time lapse, many of the participants are still alive although rather in their dotage. In the meantime other events are occurring. There is an unresolved murder and additionally several young people have died, apparently from drug overdoses. Nina’s natural curiosity means she wants a finger in every pie. She soon starts asking herself whether there could possibly be a linkage between these, on the face of it unrelated events.

Nina is an interesting character, somewhat damaged, which is often the way with the protagonists of police procedural type books. In this case her childhood background and, in particular, a traumatic event during that period, have left lasting issues including a damaged sister. Nina has to tackle various internal conflicts as she struggles to bring normality to her life and make her relationship with her policeman boyfriend, Bill, work in a conventional way.

I enjoyed this book. The tempo is good and the reader’s interest is kept alive throughout. If anything I thought the very end was a little perfunctory, as this author clearly does not feel the need to tie up every little loose end as some do. However, if anything this could be counted as a positive. Roll on the next Nina Foster offering!


The After House
The After House
by Michael Phillip Cash
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.96
18 used & new from $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Story, Well Delivered, November 20, 2014
This review is from: The After House (Paperback)
Michael Phillip Cash has tackled a number of different genres in a relatively short career – horror, sci fi and ghost stories. However, he keeps returning to the ghost theme and, having read them all so far I would judge this to be the best effort to date.

An old house on Long Island is the setting as Remy, a newly single woman and her daughter move in. However, the house has another occupant, well several actually. There is the solitary shade of a nineteenth century whaling captain, and, in a slightly different dimension, a couple of other beings overseeing the whole scenario.

The author has a good feel for this sort of tale. There is a steady tempo and a gradual increase in tension. One can really feel the emotions of the captain as he swings between confusion and anger, and his actions vary between passivity and violence. I do not think the latter part of the book was its strongest, but that is not to take anything away from an interesting tale delivered well.


simplehuman Mini Sensor Mirror - Sensor-Activated Lighted Vanity Mirror, 10x Magnification, 5 inches
simplehuman Mini Sensor Mirror - Sensor-Activated Lighted Vanity Mirror, 10x Magnification, 5 inches
Offered by giraldoje
Price: $99.00
13 used & new from $99.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Well Designed Luxury Mirror, November 14, 2014
This price level seems quite high for a dressing table mirror, so I was intrigued to find out just what it had to offer and if it justified the price tag. This is a very nicely presented, well designed quality product. It comes in a good, rigid carrying case with a zip fastener which is intended to fully protect the mirror whilst you are travelling.

The mirror itself is about a foot or 30cm in height and the actual mirror part including the illuminated ring has a diameter of about six inches. In other words it is large enough to do the job without being unnecessarily bulky for travelling. It is charged via a micro USB cable (supplied), which you can charge using either a USB plug or through a computer. It arrived charged and, according to the instructions, a charge lasts five weeks - I wish my iPhone did the same! The finish is a very smart brushed steel look which will not look out of place in even the most contemporary of homes.

In operation the light around the mirror illuminates using a sensor as you approach and, similarly, turns itself off when not in use. The ten time magnification shows up every minute detail, and, dare I say it flaw in your complexion. I have to say that my 25 year old daughter found it a much more satisfying experience than I did! However, this makes it superb as an aid in applying makeup evenly and checking everything is in order.

This is unashamedly a luxury item and not everyone is going to want to pay out this sort of amount for what they may consider a basic item. However, it is well thought out with no obvious flaws, and if it is within your budget you will not be disappointed. Also a nice gift if you are struggling to find something a little different.


iPhone 6 Case - Omaker [Slim Protection] iPhone 6 4.7'' Slim Bumper Case With [Air Cushion Technology] and Soft Flexible TPU material for Scratch Resistant- ECO-Friendly Material and Packaging (Grey)
iPhone 6 Case - Omaker [Slim Protection] iPhone 6 4.7'' Slim Bumper Case With [Air Cushion Technology] and Soft Flexible TPU material for Scratch Resistant- ECO-Friendly Material and Packaging (Grey)
Offered by Omaker Official
Price: $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the Job, November 12, 2014
Some sort of protective cover for your mobile is an essential, particularly if you are going to carry it around in your pocket. This was rather graphically illustrated to me when I carried a Blackberry around for a year without protection and at the end it really did look well worn around the edges even though it had not been dropped.

My perfect cover is one which provides protection without increasing the bulk of the phone. This is ideal for the job. It is made of very flexible plastic material so is quite easy to fit your iPhone 6 into. However once in, it seems quite rigid and really does not noticeably add to the size of the phone at all. Being transparent it does not detract from the appearance of the cell phone at all. It very slightly lips over the screen which will provide some measure of protection if dropped, as well as providing some cushioning to absorb the shock. The cover fits over the controls of the phone perfectly so as not to impede their operation.

This case comes at quite a modest price and to my mind is all you need if you are going for a minimalistic approach in terms of size as I was. I think it is worth adding a transparent screen cover to protect against scratching. However, that apart this is perfect for the job.

I was kindly sent this item so that I could test it in order to write an objective review.


Death of a Spy (A Mark Sava Spy Novel) (Volume 4)
Death of a Spy (A Mark Sava Spy Novel) (Volume 4)
by Dan Mayland
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.72
14 used & new from $12.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably The Best Yet, November 11, 2014
Death of a Spy is the fourth Mark Sava novel and possibly the best to date. This time round we find Sava in an unaccustomed domestic situation, married to on-off girlfriend, the former Daria Buckingham and with a baby. However, he is soon embroiled in a new challenge as one of his employees is found dead under suspicious services and he is persuaded to take on an assignment for the CIA.

This time the action starts in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where the recently wed Savas are living but quickly moves on to Tbilisi, Georgia and then to Mark’s old stamping ground of Baku, Azerbaijan, a country he was expelled from in a previous story. As usual the author writes with authority about this part of the world with which he is quite clearly very familiar and really breathes life into his settings so that the reader can almost feel that they are there.

This is a fast moving and interesting story of international intrigue and double dealing, which keeps the attention without being unnecessarily overly complicated so that it is hard to follow. It is bang up to date in that it refers to recent world events including the annexation of the Crimea by Russia. I have commented before that it does help to have read the previous Sava books, but this I think, is very much a standalone volume. Both Daria and Sava’s colleague, John Decker, who are significant players in the previous books, have almost walk on parts here. This is all about Sava himself.

I read through this story very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended!


White Crocodile
White Crocodile

5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Debut Novel, November 5, 2014
This review is from: White Crocodile (Kindle Edition)
Debut novels are inevitably a hit and miss affair. Even potentially bestselling authors need to find their feet, to experiment a bit and to find out what works and what does not work in the final product. This is how they refine their skills. However, White Crocodile does not have the feel of a first time novel at all. It has no obvious failings, the tempo is good, the characters are interesting and well developed and K T Medina does not make the first time author's mistake of overcomplicating things and spinning the story out to bulk it up.

Tess Hardy is, like her late husband, a mine clearer. Following an abusive marriage Tess has left him and he has gone to Cambodia in a mine clearing capacity and has died in a tragic accident. Tess follows him six months on to find more about his death. Meanwhile women, young unmarried women with young children, are disappearing from local villages. The locals think that that the White Crocodile, a local mythical creature, is to blame for the disappearances. The more Tess gets sucked in, the more the mystery deepens, both with the disappearance of the women and with the events at the mine clearing charity she is working for. Are the two connected?

The story gets tense as Tess gets nearer the truth and I thought the latter part of the book and the climax were very well handled. Lots of short chapters help to keep the tension building and the outcome is credible, unexpected and with an elegant twist. This is an impressive first novel and I look forward to the next product of this author's talent.


Twist
Twist

5.0 out of 5 stars A Replay on a Classic Which Works Well, October 31, 2014
This review is from: Twist (Kindle Edition)
It seems fashionable to take the Classics and update them. Generally I am not a fan of this particular phenomenon but if you share my prejudice this could be the one to change your mind.

Grass's Twist, like the original, never knew his Mother and has been through a variety of homes and institutions. Unlike the original he is, by the age of eighteen, no stranger to the Law. Pursued by the Police he is saved by Dodge who works for a Romanian Gangster called Cornelius Fagin. Fagin has his own crime syndicate which includes Sykes, plus bulldog, and Red, alias Nancy, whom our latter day Oliver falls for in a more romantic way than Dickens'. She,however, owes her freedom to Sykes who views her as his property. When Oliver is invited to join the gang little does he know he has been deliberately recruited for a specific job. A clash between him and Sykes seems inevitable.

When Fagin takes a commission from part of the Russian Mafia, the stakes are raised and Oliver finds himself pivotal to the heist's success. Failure may mean not just losing the girl but his freedom or even his life. Oliver comes to a realisation that it does not have to be family for blood to be thicker than water. Friendship and love count for something too.

The conclusion spins out the suspense and the reader finds himself rooting for the good guys all the way. The ending is itself a bit of a twist on the original story thus lending further entendre to the title


The Vanishing Witch
The Vanishing Witch

5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Betrayal, Treachery and Greed, October 27, 2014
This is a tale of betrayal, treachery and greed set in Medieval England during the reign of King Richard II. As is usual with a Karen Maitland novel, the story weaves its way around real historical events of the time. In this case the well documented Peasants' Revolt when the poor of England rose up against the counsellors surrounding the young King whom they blamed for the imposition of the unreasonable poll tax to pay for the costly wars with France.

Two of the main characters in the story become embroiled in this revolt, though in different ways and with very different consequences. However the Revolt entwined them and their connections foils a further plot in the novel and changes the fate of its' main protagonists forever.

The sack of John of Gaunt's palace, one of the major destructions of the Revolt, appears in the novel. The rivalry between the English and Florentine Merchants and particularly the wool merchants of Lincoln are historically known. Many of the buildings referred to in the novel,such as the old Guildhall where two of the main characters meet are well documented as having existed, although they are now no more.

There are other charming historical touches: each new section and each sub paragraph within them begin with spells, weather lore or anti witchcraft spells taken from recorded folklore ,medieval spell books or ecclesiastical writings.

Karen Maitland is a master at using real history to authenticate her stories and on that score this one does not disappoint.

The tale itself is told from several perspectives and sometimes I found this a little incongruous, especially as one was a ghost! However the characters are all well individually crafted which does help make this more palatable and the number of chapters with different lives and issues help the main plot come alive.

My only other slight criticism would be that it's overly long. At 661 pages it is not for the faint hearted. It could have been shortened without the story suffering. Having said that it's a good read and if you enjoy this genre you'll find yourself engrossed in its pages.


Midnight in Havana
Midnight in Havana

4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Police Procedural in an Unusual Setting, October 27, 2014
Set in Cuba, Inspector Ramirez has all the usual challenges of an investigating policeman to contend with as well as additional issues including political interference as well as a dire shortage of resources ranging from shortage of fuel for police vehicles to a lack of pencils! However he has some unusual assistance in the form of apparitions which only he can see, an ability he appears to have inherited from his dead grandmother. However they largely seem superfluous to his ability to solve cases as he struggles to understand what they are trying to tell him.

This time around Ramirez has a case involving a dead youth who has apparently been sexually assaulted. A Canadian tourist, Mike Ellis, comes under suspicion and the evidence appears damning. On conviction, a death penalty is highly likely. In Ellis' corner is Celia Jones, a Canadian lawyer who carries out her own investigation rather more thoroughly than the Cuban police manage and, although this is billed as an Inspector Ramirez Mystery it could equally well be a Celia Jones Mystery since her part of this story is at least as significant as Ramirez's.

It is fair to say I enjoyed the first part of the book when Jones is in a race to save Ellis from the firing squad or, equally potentially fatal, a Cuban prison than the latter part. Later things become more complicated, for my taste there are unlikely coincidences and the result does not hang together so well. However for all that this is a competent and interesting police procedural in an unusual setting. I would certainly not be averse to reading more of Ramirez' exploits.


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