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This is a great electric grill if you're cooking for one or two people, don't have a lot of room in your kitchen and don't want much hassle when it comes to cleaning. The detachable plates were a definite selling point for me. They simply click in and out on the sides, and the protective handles aren't affected in any way by the (incredibly hot) plates, so once you're done cooking you can simply pop the plates out and put them in the sink without having to bring the whole appliance near the sink and wonder if you'll wet the electric lead this time (though obviously be careful as the plates are still very hot). I've mainly used it to cook steak, and whilst you might think that using a grill takes away from the flavour of frying a steak (or as it was also called by my partner, the "proper way") it really doesn't, just massage a spoonful of oil on each side before placing it on the grill. Any excess oil and grease from the meat will then go into the drip-tray. It takes no time to cook meat (we've also used it to cook sausages and chops) and when you look all the grease gathered in the drip-tray you'll start to strongly consider to never frying anything ever again (I know it had this effect on me the first time I used it!) The only downside is the length of time it takes for the plates to reach the correct temperature. It probably says in the instructions how long it takes, but the first time I used it I assumed it would take one or two minutes when in actual fact it takes more like 7 - 10 minutes. Not a huge amount of time admittedly, but it caused all the timings for the other food I was cooking to go completely off. This is just a very small complaint and it was my own fault so don't let that put you off. I think it's a very handy appliance to have, it cooks quickly and is healthy. I love it.
My partner and I originally bought the Bullet when smoothies were becoming extremely popular and we thought we'd try and be a bit healthier and start to make our own. We really didn't want anything that required too much cleaning, was easy to use and was cheap, so we bought the Bullet following a friend's recommendation when it was on sale about two years ago at our local supermarket. For what we use it (i.e. blending some fruit - such as berries - or mixing eggs/making omelettes) it's a great appliance. It's small, straightforward, easy to use and easy to clean. It comes with a number of different containers and lids which are very handy, and the Bullet itself is very small. I must admit the biggest selling point for me, as trivial as it may sound, was that you could put your fruit in the container (in the shape of a tall glass), screw the blades in, stick upside-down on the blender and when you're done drink straight from the container. It only has one speed setting, however you can use a manual "pulse" (as the instructions called it) which is useful to avoid over-mixing your ingredients but also overheating the machine. On the flip side, it's become very noisy and I am very weary of the fact that it can quickly overheat. The box did come with a warning advising you shouldn't have it on for more than a minute at a time, and whist we have always followed this instruction and never had problems, I still find it an annoyance. I do make the occasional home-made curry and sometimes it's a definite struggle for the bullet to blend through some of the mixtures (which aren't that thick at all to be honest). It also claims it can be used for chopping (e.g. onions) however I can't see how it would do anything other than turn it into paste. All in all, if you can get it for twenty-odd quid and you only want it for some light use like we did it then it is a good buy, but if you're looking for something a little bit sturdier and powerful this is probably not something worth investing.
"The Gunslinger" is the first instalment of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. A young King originally wrote it as a stand-alone novel (it was initially published in instalments in a "men's" magazine). Later publications of the book contain a premise written by King, basically saying that when he originally wrote this book he was young and his writing style could have been better, but stick with it: it's a good story. And I agree. Whilst he did make some revisions in later editions, he's kept the same style of writing, which as a reader I found fairly cumbersome and forced. It echoes the writing manner of JRR Tolkien (whom he was trying to emulate when originally writing "The Gunslinger") and whilst that in itself isn't a bad thing, I think it shows that this isn't a style that comes easy to him. The effort put into the writing, whilst admirable, doesn't quite cut it for me. I didn't particularly like the way the book is written, however the story itself is great. We follow Roland Deschain as he hunts down the "man in black" through a hostile desert. His ultimate goal however appears to be trying to reach a mysterious "Dark Tower". His sole purpose is to reach the top of the tower. This world doesn't appear to be unlike our own, though it has some marked differences (such as lacking our technological advances) and has "moved on". There's a definite Wild West feel to it, which is certainly a different take from the usual Fantasy novels (typically set in a Medieval-type world) and opens up a unique territory, which I'd personally never come across before (and admittedly haven't since). Roland makes for a very unlikely protagonist. He is an extremely solitary character, not the kind of guy you'd particularly want to spend any time with in normal circumstances, though he is obviously very sharp, capable to fend for himself and live in the wilderness as he follows the man in black and ultimately attempts to reach the Dark Tower. When I began the novel I started to picture Roland as a Clint Eastwood-esque guy, which is peculiar as I later found out that one of the people King used as inspiration for Roland was indeed Eastwood. I think this is no coincidence and a credit to the author to be able to relay this (though indirectly) through his portrayal of the character. As I mentioned, I found the book hard to read but I kept going purely because the underlying story was something that I'd never come across before. Simply put, it's a brilliant concept, and that was enough for me to carry on reading the whole book, so on the basis of this alone this book deserves four stars.
This is Isabel Allende's first published novel, and I originally read this when I was about 15 as part of a school assignment. I therefore picked it up with very little enthusiasm, and started reading it with all the preconceived ideas that are attached to books you "have" to read. I simply knew was going to be rubbish and boring and overall unpleasant. Well, by the end of the book I realised I couldn't have been more wrong and pretty much all of my other 20 classmates agreed. This is the story of the Trueba family, headed by Esteban Trueba (a very severe and at times violent character) and Clara, a very spiritual if not peculiar woman, who appears to have paranormal powers. It begins with Clara as a young girl who, when a tragic event strikes her and her upper class family, refuses to speak and simply communicates with others through writing. Years later, she meets Esteban, a man from a much humbler family, and to her family's surprise she begins to speak again. They then marry, and that's when their very tumultuous saga begins. It follows the lives of Clara and Esteban, their children and (eventually) their grandchild through their own personal struggles as real individuals with their own thoughts, values and experiences, a natural cataclysm which will have disastrous consequences, and the political events which will eventually cause their country to descend into chaos. Most of the characters are extremely relatable and Esteban Trueba, though he develops into an unpleasant person, is particularly real and believable. Clara's story is so well written that, despite the somewhat sci-fi and paranormal atmosphere that surrounds her she is still a credible character. The best part of the book for me was Esteban's relationship which Alba (his granddaughter), as it's possibly the only time in the saga where he appears true serene, and offers a stark contrast to his otherwise violent outbursts and string of questionable morals. Throughout the narrative Allende is able to maintain a good pace and whist the amount of characters is vast and varied, she does not overwhelm the reader with too much information or disappoint with poorly portrayed characters, in fact far from it. I would recommend this book to anyone, it's a book everyone should be proud of owning.
Cell presents the very interesting concept that viruses spread through technological equipment (in this case, mobile phones) can infect humans, with disastrous results. The book was written at a time when mobile phones were becoming more and more popular (if not essential) and it makes for some very compelling reading to start off with. A pulse, spread via mobile phones, affects anyone who happens to be on their mobile or answer a call as the pulse is spread, and instantly changes their behaviour by turning them into savage zombies, completely void of any humanity. We follow a group of survivors with their struggle in a world that no longer makes sense, and as the zombie's behaviour mysteriously seems to change as days pass, the fast-paced action makes this a real page-turner. The book is well written (and I wouldn't have expected any less from a well established writer such as Steven King) however its largest downfall is the ending, which is left horrendously open-ended. Sometimes open-ended endings are genius, however in this instance I found it extremely unsatisfying, and the overwhelming impression I got was that King came up with this brilliant concept, started to write the book without really planning the ending, and then when it came to writing the conclusion to the book he just... simply stopped writing, and left it at that. As a reader, I felt somewhat cheated. I would still recommend the book on the basis that the plot unravels very well and is a good read, however don't expect a great ending.
First off, I am huge Terry Pratchett fan. His writing continues to remain at its very best in this instalment of the Discworld world, so, you'll not be disappointed whether you're also a fan or a first-time reader of Pratchett's world. This book is both witty and clever, though I must admit I felt some of the "magic" in his writing wasn't quite up to par with some of his earlier work. This said, it continues to remain a very good read and if anything it is a testament to how good his writing (overall) is. The plot surrounds the grotesque world of the wizards in the Unseen Academy, and their "quest" (so to speak) into becoming winning football players. Without magic. Don't let the football theme put you off if you're not a fan (I am anything but!) and remember, the Librarian (an orang-utan) makes some delightful appearances! The book plays on some stereotypes, though it is very convincing in doing so. Overall, it is both easy to read and very enjoyable.
This documentary offers in-depth interviews with some of the astronomers who took part in the late 1960s and the early 1972s missions to the moon (some of which were privileged to actually step on the satellite's surface). The insight into the moon-landings is quite inspiring, and the documentary does offer a good explanation of some of the political and social events surrounding the "race to the moon", which I found interesting and tied the various interviews well together. The footage is simply incredible, and this documentary will not disappoint in terms of visual data (some of the footage from the moon and from the space ships is simply stunning) and the interviews with the pilots comes across as very frank. You wouldn't want to get into an argument about whether the moon-landings really did happen with some of these are people! Their passion for their job really comes through, and I can honestly say this documentary would sway some of the sceptics out there. This DVD can be found at a very reasonable price on Amazon and I couldn't fault it.
If you're looking for something reliable, look no further. I have had this laptop for about a year and a half and it's been used most days, usually for several hours per session, without any problems, breakdowns or an otherwise disappointing service. It's quick and responsive, and fairly light for travel. The only major downside with this piece of kit is the battery life, which sadly doesn't last as long as you'd expect it to. The best way to keep the battery from draining too quickly is to have it in "power save" mode, and it can last for about an hour and a half (sometimes more depending on what you're doing) but this has obvious drawbacks as it will affect the performance of some applications. If you can have it plugged in, definitely have it set to "high performance", as everything will be so much quicker. After months of having it set to "power save", I could hardly believe the difference when I chanced it to "high performance"!
This is a must-have for all fantasy readers out there, but be warned. The reader is thrown in at the deep end you do need to stick with it for a while until some of the (many) plot lines and characters develop. Erikson makes no excuse of this as he openly admits in his premise (all of the more recently printed copies should have this) that you'll either stick with it (and love it) or give up after a few pages. This action-packed book narrates the tale of the Brigdeburners, a fearless army of the Empire, led my Whiskeyjack, and their struggle in maintaining the Empire's dominion on their conquered land. Erikson's world has a rich and complex mythology. The reader isn't spoon-fed any information, which makes the story really compelling, though at times it may prove frustrating as more often than not more and more questions are raised with very little answered. Moreover, the back-story of each character is usually merely hinted at best, however this by all means it's a defect of the book, rather a truly great beginning to the amazing story of the Malazan Empire.