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Loopylooploo

Loopylooploo
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Member since: 20.05.2009

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      13.02.2010 11:20
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      Is the mystery of the 'Woman in White' to be revealed?

      This was a classic that I read several years ago and is a tale that utterly captivated me.

      Published as a book in 1860, it was originally in serial format, released between 1859-60. It is claimed to be the story that started the 'sensational novel', a concept which is used to describe a novel designed to draw upon certain reader sensations, such as shock, horror and disbelief. As a novel full of twists and turns, the Woman in White is certainly 'sensational'.


      ~~~The story~~~

      On a lonely road, in the dark of night, Walter Hartright stumbles across the mysterious and agitated 'Woman in White', whom he helps escape from her pursuers. It is a strange meeting and one that begins to haunt him as he makes his way to his new employer's home; the home of the selfish and unpleasant Mr. Fairlie.

      Settling into his new position as drawing instructor to Mr. Fairle's niece, Laura, Walter becomes intrigues by the remarkable resemblance between the strange woman and his pupil. Who is the Woman in White? What is the connection between the two?


      ~~~My feelings~~~

      This was a story which utterly gripped me from beginning to end. There is love and passion as well as mystery and suspense, all with a sense of something sinister in the background.

      I would recommend it to others and although it is a thick book, and sometimes the descriptions and scenes are long, I would advise being persistent. It is worth it.

      I recently had someone recommend another of his books, No Name, which he claimed to be even better that the Woman in White. Another to add to my ever-expanding 'To Read' list!

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        13.02.2010 11:01
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        A fantastic classic that should have pride of place on any bookself.

        North and South was a book which I had intended to read for years, but I will admit that seeing Richard Armitage in the role of John Thornton brought the book to the top of my list of reading material when it was aired.


        ~~~The Story~~~

        This is the story of Margaret Hale, a privileged, middle-class southerner who, through the decisions of her increasingly disillusioned father, is forced to move to the northern industrial town of Milton; a town which is undergoing bitter industrial strife. As she seeks to sympathize with and assist the workers, Margaret comes into confrontation with one of the leading cotton mill owners, John Thornton.

        Their story becomes one of misunderstanding and dislike, but ultimately love.


        ~~~A bit about the publication~~~

        North and South was originally published in serial format, published over twenty-two weeks between 1854-55. Gaskell apparently felt restricted by this format and so, when the story was due to be published as a book format, several passages and details were inserted.


        ~~~A bit about the author~~~

        Elizabeth Gaskell was born Elizabeth Stevenson in September 1810 in London. She was actually raised by an aunt in Knutsford, Cheshire. She was to later marry William Gaskell and live in Manchester.

        It was in the aftermath of the loss of her only son that Gaskell put her hand to writing and produced 'Mary Barton'.


        ~~~My feelings~~~

        North and South is a refreshing look at nineteenth-century industry and society, Gaskel has created a brilliant and thoughtful novel, where emotion is handled without over-sentimentality. Oh, it just makes me want to read the book and watch the BBC drama all over again!

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        13.02.2010 10:44
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        Charlie St. Cloud is about to begin his life...

        I read this book several years ago when I was a bookseller and was asked to write a review for it (which is now below). My first impressions were mixed and I was slightly hesitant to read it. Looking back now, I cannot fathom why, because it was a surprisingly wonderful read and it is something I would recommend to a lot of people.


        ~~~The story~~~

        Charlie St. Cloud has spent the last thirteen years living in the past: back to the fateful night in his youth where an accident had left his younger brother dead and had held his very existence on its brink. It also led to a promise that would ultimately shape his adult years.

        This was Charlie's death.

        At twenty-either, Charlie lives and works among the monuments and epitaphs to the dead, and waits for the twilight hour when the spirit of his brother, Sam, visits. Together they resume and savour the games of their childhood. It is a time neither is willing nor wants to give up.

        This is Charlie's life.

        That is, until one day, Charlie meets Tess, a woman who likewise has suffered the pain of loss. Unlike Charlie, however, she is a person of courage and determination, and one that is about to embark upon a solo sail around the world. Grief made her embrace life.


        ~~~My feelings~~~

        This is a tale of love, laughter, sorrow and the ever-lasting bond of brotherhood. Well-crafted characters and scenes brings the story to life, and promised to make Ben Sherwood a rising star. Written with delicacy and creativity, it is a heart-warming and inspirational portrayal of learning to live and finally letting go. I loved it.


        ~~~Book details~~~

        Pages: 200
        Publisher: Picador
        ISBN: 0330488902
        R.R.P. £6.99

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        24.11.2009 13:22
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        A book that promises much, but doesn't quite deliver.

        ~~~Synopsis~~~

        Gabriel Blackstone is a remote viewer, one of few people with the exceptional ability to 'ride' a person's memories and experiences, to enter a person's mind.

        Asked by an old flame to discover the whereabouts of her step-son, Robbie Whittington, Gabriel's remote viewing ability leads him to Monk House and its mysterious inhabitants, two beautiful and enigmatic sisters, Morrighan and Minnaloushe Monk.

        What connects these women to Robbie's disappearance? What secrets lurk behind Monk House? What is the 'House of a Million Doors'?


        ~~~Genre~~~

        I personally think that this book is perhaps best described as a paranormal thriller, but the publisher has also described it as a love story. Mostert's website has described it as a "modern gothic thriller about techgnosis and the Art of Memory".


        ~~~About the Author~~~

        Natasha Mostert is South African and her career has included time as an academic and journalist. She currently lives in London with her husband. Season of the Witch is her fourth novel and won the Talk About: World Book Day 2009 Award.

        Her other novels are The Other Side of Silence, The Midnight Side, and the Keeper of Light and Dust.

        Information obtained from the author's website, www.natashamostert.com


        ~~~Book details~~~

        Format: Paperback
        Pages: 534
        Publisher: Bantam Books
        ISBN: 9780553818503
        RRP: £6.99
        Extras: Includes an excerpt of Mostert's next book (no title provided).


        ~~~My thoughts~~~

        *Characterisation*

        I have to admit that I couldn't connect with any of the characters. This dampened the experience for me as I didn't care about the issues that the characters faced. To me, a good book always have characters that, regardless of whether they are likeable, come alive and connect to the reader. The characters here were a little too two-dimensional.

        Overall, the character development was inconsistent and largely predictable or non-existent. For example, the lead character, Gabriel, is handsome, brooding and cocky. His arrogance and belief in his powers caused him to make a massive mistake in the past and one which continues to haunt him. Although I didn't know exactly how things would pan out, I could predict that his character development would lead to redemption and self-discovery, if you will.

        In addition, the relationships that existed were predictable: Gabriel was assisted by a computer geek, the former flame, Frankie, still believes in him and knows he can redeem himself, so on and so forth.


        *Plot*

        The plot contained the necessary elements, such as introduction, a little suspense, plot twists, climax, and conclusion. There are also numerous strands of plot which do come together at the end: there's a love story, the story of Gabriel's past, and the murder mystery, to name but a few. It did work well together.

        For me, though, there were far too many twists and turns and the author had certainly written it with plenty of cliff-hangers at the end of chapters. I could so easily visualise things like in Lost and Flashforward, where a twist (often predictable) happens at the end of an episode and then you begin the next episode awaiting another turn in events. I will confess that this started to get annoying. It read like reading a movie.


        *Pace*

        This book begins slowly and it wasn't until the last one hundred pages that the pace of the storyline really picked up. On the one hand, this did help to build up a sense of atmosphere and expectation. However, it equally made it easy for me to put the book down and leave it for a few days. I am an avid reader and it feels wrong to be without a book on hand. While reading this, although I found it easy enough to read, I didn't feel compelled to pick it up.


        *Setting*

        The setting is Oxford and London. In some ways this is significant to the work, because they are two of the academic and information strongholds of Britain. Parts of the story rely on the fact that the characters have access to the academic and information environments.

        However, if I feel uneasy about anything, is that at no point while I read this could I associate what I was reading with Oxford and London. If you told me it was based in America, with their large houses and open spaces, I wouldn't have had any doubt about believing it. There was nothing that made me feel that this was something happening on British soil, shall we say. Although the author has obviously lived in England, it actually felt American.

        This 'American' style really came through with the idea of Monk House. Now, Monk House is critical to the story and is perfectly described as a house with secrets, but I couldn't stop imaging the Adams Family's house, though obviously without the monsters and cobwebs. The Adams' house is typically American.

        Aside from this, I did find this book to be very visual. I found it incredibly easy to generate a picture of the setting and atmosphere. As mentioned, It read like I was watching it on television and I do think it would be something that could easily be transferred to screen.


        *Would I recommend it?*

        At first, I did think this was a debut novel and under those circumstances, I thought that while not brilliant, it was a decent first attempt. However, having found out it was actually her fourth piece, I was a little surprised. It isn't a bad book and it's not badly written. In fact, if it was screen play, it would be a predictable, but decent drama and this is the main point of my feeling towards it. It is as though Mostert wrote a screenplay, and then decided to extend it into a novel by putting description in. It is something that I am glad to have read, but I don't feel it has added anything to my reading experience. It doesn't make me want to read it again or seek out other works by this author.


        © Loopylooploo, 2009. Also on Ciao.

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        17.11.2009 12:32
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        A collection of stories that are wonderful and humourous.

        I recently did a review on Gervase Phinn's "A Wayne in a Manger" and thought that I would leave some comments on this book as well. For those of you that haven't read the other review, well I came across Phinn after having strong recommendations from a number of colleagues, who thought his work was brilliant.

        Please note that I think it worth mentioning that due to the similarity between the two books, there is some similarity in the content of the book reviews.


        *** About the Author ***

        It was while working as a school inspector in Yorkshire that Gervase Phinn accumulated much of his material for his books. He has been claimed, by the Sunday Express, to be the "James Herriot of schools". He is a well-known author of the Dales Series, which include:

        The Other Side of the Dale
        Over Hill and Dale
        Head Over Heels in the Dales
        Up and Down in the Dales
        The Heart of the Dales

        Twinkle, twinkle Little Stars is a collection of extracts from this particular series and was originally brought out as one of those novelty gifts you can buy from most book stores at Christmas.


        *** Synopsis ***

        To reiterate, this book contains a collection of anecdotes that are mainly derived from Gervase Phinn's 'Dales' series. They are based on Phinn's experiences as a school inspector and the children, teachers and parents that he has come across during that period. He has also included some of his poems from his Puffin poetry books.

        I won't actually tell you any of the stories or extracts here as that would give too much away!


        *** Audience ***
        I think this book has mass appeal, but would certainly attract people from 12 years onwards.


        *** Genre ***
        Humour


        *** Cover ***
        Like his other collections, Phinn's book has a childlike design that helps reflect the content of the book, but I do sometimes wonder if these could be misleading for people: if you hadn't heard of Gervase Phinn, you may not be attracted to the book or obtain it for young children who will not likely understand the humour of the situations.


        *** Format, price and Value for Money? ***
        It was published in hardback by Michael Joseph in 2008 and retails at £10.00. It is 112 pages long, with a mixture of both text and illustrations.

        Is it value for money? It is an ideal little gift or stocking filler. It is also a joy to behold. I was laughing so hard at times and in the most inconvenient of places! They are lovely extracts and heartwarming, reminding us of the innocence of childhood. As with "Wayne in a Manger", it is this that makes it value for money.

        However, as with "Wayne", I do feel that it is a lot of money for what you actually get - 112 pages, with text and illustrations for £10.00. It does have smaller fonts than "Wayne", which is an advantage, so of the two, it is physically better to get this one (and it is funnier!). I do refrain from recommending people buying a copy largely because of cost and what you get. I would personally recommend getting the individual books in the series, which retail at £7.99 each. I think the full series is a better investment, personally, but one which I have yet to make.


        *** Summary ***
        This collection of stories is absolutely wonderful. I laughed so hard at times and found them the perfect antidote to a stressful day or commute. I would refrain from buying this item, solely on cost. I borrowed mine from the library.

        © Looplooploo, 2009

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        • Next / Highstreet Shopping / 42 Readings / 40 Ratings
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          11.10.2009 14:06
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          Another branch of this successful High Street name

          I have used Next for several years now and personally find it one of the best clothes shops on the High Street. I have previously written a review which covers the online experience, but I have recently moved to an area that has both a normal Next store and a Next Clearance.

          This review is based on my experiences of using the Next Clearance branches.


          *** What is Next Clearance? ***

          From what I can tell, Next Clearance is basically the shop which contains many items from the older catalogues; things that would typically be seen in the sale in normal Next stores. There are also ranges provided solely for these Clearance lines and they are clothes that I find appealing to my taste.

          Next clearance also contains the 'Home' items.

          However, please don't get the impression that it is basically a jumble sale. It isn't. The same standards upheld with the normal Next stores are carried across into the Clearance shops. I have always found the clothes area of the shop to be tidy and well-presented. The clothes are also categorised as the normal stores, e.g. men's clothes, formal wear, shoes, casual wear etc.


          *** Quality of items ***

          Clothes-wise, I have always felt that Next could not be faulted on quality. I have also felt assured that sizes very rarely differ. By that I mean I know that if I go into a Next store and pick up my size in numerous items (and even multiples of the same items), they will fit. I have never had this in other stores.

          However, I will admit that I think that the Home items in these stores really let the place down. When you look at the Next catalogue, obviously they have illustrated items to the best of their ability and the same goes for the normal stores. In Next Clearance, they looked like they are just dumped and the overall effect for some of the items is negative - some things look cheap and easily breakable. They do not present the image of quality items.


          *** Customer service ***

          Again, I have never felt let down by customer service. The staff are pleasant and helpful. I also think it says a lot when you don't have experience of dealing with other areas of customer service, such as complaints and returns, simply because I have never had the need.


          *** Return policies ***

          Clearance stores do not, and certainly not the one I visit, have changing rooms; you have to take the risk in purchasing the items. However, the good side is that returns policies do exist for these items. I originally feared that once you bought something from these stores, you couldn't return/exchange them because they were in 'sales', but you can take them to any store, so long at it's within 28 days.


          *** Why use Next Clearance over the standard store? ***

          Next is never going to be a place to shop if you are seeking a bargain; that's for places like Primark. The advantage that Clearance stores have over normal shops is that they are slightly cheaper and as mentioned previously, there are ranges provided solely for these Clearance lines.

          Besides the matter of cost, I actually find the Next Clearance store in my area a more pleasant environment to visit. The reason for this I cannot explain. All I know is that I can happily spend an hour or so in the Clearance store, but am eager to leave the normal store within ten minutes. It is unfathomable as to why, but that's how it is.


          *** Recommendable ***

          I have only experienced the one Clearance store and I don't know how many such stores exist, but I would happily recommend them.



          Please note that I have kept this review relatively short and there are areas that I could expand upon, but I don't want to repeat myself by stating things I have mentioned in a previous review.

          © Loopylooploo, 2009

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            11.10.2009 12:26
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            Comic tales of children in the Dales

            I have only just begun to read Gervase Phinn after having strong recommendations from colleagues and I thought I would share my response to his work with you. This is only one book of a set that I have read or intend to read. Reviews on the others will follow in due course.

            This review is not extensive (simply because the book itself can be read within an hour), but I hope you can get a general idea of the item.


            *** About the Author ***

            Gervase Phinn has had a diverse career in the education sector, but it was during his time as a school inspector in Yorkshire that he accumulated much of his material for his books. Indeed, the Sunday Express called him the "James Herriot of schools". He is perhaps most well known for his series of Dales books:

            The Other Side of the Dale
            Over Hill and Dale
            Head Over Heels in the Dales
            Up and Down in the Dales
            The Heart of the Dales

            He has since released many titles, a few of which are collections of extracts from this particular series. The Wayne in a Manger is one of them.


            *** Synopsis ***

            To reiterate, this book contains a collection of anecdotes that are mainly derived from Gervase Phinn's 'Dales' series. They are based on Phinn's experiences as a school inspector and the children, teachers and parents that he has come across during that period. As can be surmised from the title, they focus upon Christmas time, particularly covering Nativity plays and Father Christmas.


            *** Audience ***
            This book can appeal to all ages and readers. Certainly people from 12 years and onwards would appreciate the subtle humour of many of the situations.


            *** Genre ***
            Largely humour, but to a small degree can also be classed as biography


            *** Cover ***
            It is an appealing cover, with a childlike design that helps reflect the content of the book.


            *** Format, price and Value for Money? ***
            The copy I have before me is published in paperback by Penguin. Its retails at £6.99, contains 144 pages and is a mixture of both text and illustrations.

            Is it value for money? Due to its size, it is definitely an item that is ideal as stocking filler and although I do think his other collections contains funnier stories, these short tales are lighthearted and endearing. They are tales that can distract from the stress and worry of the day by reminding you of the innocence of childhood. This alone would typically make me say 'yes, it's worth buying'.

            However, I do refrain from recommending people buying a copy largely because of cost and what you get. The print in the book is at least size 14 font, with a line spacing of 1.5. Every few pages there is an illustration that either takes up the entire page or half of it. The publisher has really tried to physically stretch the material in this collection to justify the charge of £6.99. This book could have been half the size and half the price. Also, when you consider that the full series is available for £7.99 each, it makes me think that in the long run it is better money to invest in the full series than in a book that really should be a pamphlet.


            *** Summary ***
            Personally, I would recommend getting the series. However delightful the tales are, the collection here do not warrant a book.


            © Looplooploo, 2009

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            27.09.2009 15:25
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            A runny soup that I could easily live without.

            I am actually multi-tasking at this very instant: eating (or should that be drinking?) this soup while typing this review. Now, I do feel that I should point out that I am not a great fan of soups, so perhaps I am not the best judge. I do have to be in the mood for them and I do prefer them to be more like a stew than liquid.

            Why, I hear you ask, am I actually having Heinz's Cream of Chicken Soup? Funnily enough, you have caught me on one of those rare days when I actually feel interested in soup.


            ~~~~ So what is the soup? ~~~~
            Heinz states that it is a "long standing favourite made using our time honoured recipe". In my language, to put it simply, the soup is chicken-ish flavoured white sauce with pieces of chicken in it. Thus, 'Cream of...'.


            ~~~~ Ingredients ~~~~
            There is no indication as to where the ingredients for this soup are sourced (i.e. is it from Britain?). Only three per cent of this is actual chicken, but whether that is in terms of chicken stock or chicken pieces, it is not clarified. As stated on the tin, it also contains "modified Cornflour, Vegetable Oil, cream, dried skimmed milk, wheat flour, flavouring..." to name but a few. It actually doesn't sound that appetising, does it?


            ~~~~ Allergy information ~~~~
            This is not an ideal soup for people who suffer with food allergies. This contains gluten, wheat and milk.


            ~~~~ Nutritional information ~~~~
            According to the tin, the nutritional information is as follows:

            Per 100g Per ½ can
            Protein 1.5g 3.0g
            Carbs 4.7g 9.3g
            Fat 2.9g 5.9g
            Fibre 0.1g 0.1g
            Sodium 0.3g 0.5g
            Salt 0.6g 1.3g

            In comparison with recommended daily amounts, these quantities are minimal, but I still feel that they look surprisingly high.


            ~~~~ How to cook? ~~~~
            This soup can be heated either in a saucepan on the hob or in a microwaveable bowl in the microwave. Times indicate that it should be ready to serve within three minutes.


            ~~~~ How to serve? ~~~~
            Heinz recommends "garnish with parsley and serve with a fresh warm brown roll". I had bread and butter available. I would say that people can have it as either a shared snack or a single meal.


            ~~~~ Packaging ~~~~
            Environmentally speaking, it is made of recyclable steel, which is excellent. The actual paper covering is in the traditional format which is recognisably Heinz: a predominantly red background with an image at the front. This one is of a bowl of the chicken soup, which looks freshly cooked (steam is rising from the bowl) and there is brown roll next to it, which just makes you want to dunk some bread into the soup. It has also advertised that it contains only 102 calories per serving and that it contains low salt.

            What I particularly like is that these cans have now got the ring pulls on them, which saves worrying about where you have put the can opener.


            ~~~~ How does it taste? ~~~~
            The title, Cream of Chicken, makes it sound a lot more luxurious than it actually tastes. If you have had ever tried Chicken in White Sauce that you can buy in a tin from local supermarkets, well, the recipe seems very similar. The only difference being is that in the soup it is mainly the white sauce and a few - perhaps 5 - small pieces of chicken. Furthermore, the way in which I would describe the chicken, even though it is in liquid, is hard and 'dry'; they are not succulent pieces.

            It may be the way I have heated it or simply the way in which I prefer soup, but I feel that the viscosity of this soup is like water. Hence, do you eat or drink this?

            I have the soup in a bowl and consequently, have been using a spoon. I did have some buttered bread and I will admit I enjoyed the taste when combined with it. Unfortunately, I ran out of bread. I feel like I am now just ploughing my way through it to get rid of it. There is also a lingering feeling in my stomach - you know, the kind that says 'you really shouldn't have eaten that'.

            In fairness, it is not horrendous but it is not something that I would become excited about or look forward to having again.


            ~~~~ Overall opinion? ~~~~
            The Heinz website says that it is "Serving up quality, taste, convenience and innovation like no other food company on Earth".

            Is it good quality and taste? My reaction is that it isn't bad, but it is not great either. It is convenient in that it can be heated very quickly. Innovative? As they said, it is a time honoured recipe!

            I can easily live my life without ever having this soup again.

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            03.08.2009 16:09
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            Learn all about smuggling and Du Maurier at Jamaica Inn - a decent day out in Cornwall

            On a cold, grey, wet, blustery morning, the dark building loomed on the peak of Bodmin Moor. It stood isolated and bleak; a true haven for smugglers past.

            Streams of water fell down our faces despite the hoods and hats. Rain soaked our clothes and the occasionally groaning could be heard as someone stepped into deep puddles or was splashed by passing cars.

            Thus began our exploration of Jamaica Inn...


            ~~~Jamaica Inn~~~

            Jamaica Inn was originally built in 1750 as a coaching inn and acted as a staging post for people to change horses for the long journey across the moor. A coach house, stables and a tack room were added to the Inn towards the end of the eighteenth century.

            It was built at a time of heavy smuggling and, indeed, it has been estimated that around half of the brandy and a quarter of all tea being smuggled into the UK was landed on the nearby coasts. Jamaica Inn was ideally situated to serve smugglers and their contraband.

            In the early twentieth century, the novelist, Daphne Du Maurier, was often inspired by Cornwall as settings for her novels and indeed, she went on the write one that was appropriately named "Jamaica Inn".

            Nowadays, the Inn comprises a hotel (with pub), a gift shop and a museum, dedicated to both Smugglers and Daphne Du Maurier.


            ~~~The Gift Shop~~~

            The Gift Shop contains a wide variety of items for purchase, from fridge magnets, mugs and tea towels to t-shirts, teddy bears and model campervans. There is obviously an emphasis on smugglers, pirates and Daphne Du Maurier.

            The cost of items in the shop is typical of many gift shops, e.g. bookmarks were around £1.50 and magnets, approximately £1.99. No offers were available, so if you wanted one of Du Maurier's novels it would cost the full price.

            I thought the shop was pleasant and could satisfy a range of tastes within the context of souvenirs. The shop was staffed by one lady, who was very pleasant and welcoming, so there were no complaints on the customer service level.

            My only gripe was the PDQ machine (which is not really the shop's fault, I hasten to add). I don't know whether it is because it is in the middle of nowhere, but it took a long time for the machine to properly authorise payments - my payment took almost ten minutes, which caused a long queue! I'd recommend having cash to spare just in case.


            ~~~The Hotel and pub~~~

            I did not stay at the hotel so cannot comment on the facilities here, although you are probably looking at £65-80 per night (at least) and there are quite a number of local places to visit.

            Even so, we did enter the pub for refreshments. In our case, it was cream teas. I found the food delicious and the surroundings lovely and comfortable (the Inn has kept much of its character in the dark wood, beamed ceilings and, outside, the cobbled courtyards).

            Prices in the pub vary, and I personally feel items are slightly on the expensive side. Our cream teas cost £3.95, which included two scones, jam, clotted cream, and a cup of tea. This wasn't too bad, but a penguin biscuit bar cost 85p!


            ~~~The Museum~~~

            The museum is worth a visit, particularly if you are a fan of Du Maurier, as the emphasis is largely on her, although part of it is focused upon smuggling.

            The first half of the museum is a 'story' where scenes are set and people press the buttons for narrations regarding the scenes. I thought this was good, although children under 5 may get bored easily. The narratives were slightly too long.

            The second part is what you typically envisage when thinking 'museum': exhibit cases and photographs. These were full of interesting artefacts and information. For example, smugglers used to cut out the centre of potatoes, place their contraband inside, pin the potato together and then roll it in soil to cover the crease. The Daphne Du Maurier element explores her life and influences, and even includes scarves and jumpers she wore.

            I found it all fascinating.

            Unfortunately, the museum isn't free and an adult ticket costs £3.95. Children under 5 go free, but if there are a few of you, it soon mounts up. We did debate going in and while we were discussing it, we became aware that another family were doing the same thing. The museum is not very large and having spent money in the pub and gift shop, paying for the museum seemed a little too much, particularly in these trying times.

            However, having been into the museum, I am glad that I did go round. I do think I would have regretted not having seen all of Jamaica Inn while I had the chance.


            ~~~Recommend?~~~

            Definitely. Jamaica Inn is worth a visit and you can discover plenty of information about smuggling and Du Maurier. Moreover, it is really only a half-day visit, so you can combine it with something else to make the most of the days.

            As I mentioned, my only feeling is that some of the prices seemed unnecessarily high at times.

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              17.07.2009 13:05
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              A worthy member of the Booker Prize long list.

              In 1879, as Catherine Dickens - the wife of Charles Dickens - lay on her deathbed, she turned to her daughter, Kate, and gave her all the letters she had received from Dickens during her lifetime. She murmured, "Give these to the British Museum, that the world may know he loved me once".

              That one simple, yet moving, sentence inspired Gaynor Arnold's fictional 're-telling' of Charles and Catherine Dickens' marriage and life, in the novel the Girl in the Blue Dress.

              =====The Dickens Family=====

              I am including a brief biography of Dickens and his family here so that you can put the book in context and, in effect, is the plot of the novel. I also think it's worth highlighting that I am not an expert on Dickens and so I apologise beforehand should any of the following be incorrect - although I have carried out some background reading before compiling this review.

              The son of a clerk, Charles Dickens was born in 1812, the second of eight children. From all accounts, his early years were relatively happy and carefree, but by the time he was twelve, his father had run up enormous debts trying to maintain a lifestyle he could ill-afford. Dickens' father was finally imprisoned and Dickens himself was put to work in a blacking warehouse. His father was eventually released, but the cycle of debt continued. This period of Dickens' life was to heavily influence his novels.

              At the age of fifteen, Dickens became a solicitor's clerk, which he didn't enjoy, but by 1828, he had obtained the position of a journalist with the newspaper, Mirror of Parliament. It was during this time that Dickens fell head over heels in love with Maria Beadnell and it is known that Dickens became emotionally tormented by this passion, as Maria's parents strongly disapproved of the match and Maria herself was ambiguous in her attentions. Dickens could never be sure of her love, so (partly) to win her affection, Dickens devoted his time to developing his learning and writing abilities. As an aside, this required an equal devotion to a social life (of course!). However, by 1833, all hopes of being with Maria were lost. It is believed that this left Dickens emotionally scarred.

              Nevertheless, Dickens continued to write successful newspaper reports and other pieces, including sketches on the daily life of London. He eventually became acquainted with the editor of the Evening Chronicle, George Hogarth, who later introduced Dickens to his family. Dickens was immediately attracted to George's eldest daughter, Catherine, and by the end of the summer of 1835, they were engaged. On 02 April, 1836, they were married.

              During the next couple of decades, I think it goes without saying that it was one of the most prolific times of Dickens' writing career. It was also prolific on another front. Catherine and Charles had ten children in total, and they travelled extensively throughout Europe and America.

              However, there were one or two major incidents that occurred during their time together, which had heavy consequences. Firstly, in the early years of their marriage, in 1837 in fact, Catherine's younger sister, Mary, moved into their household. Dickens is known to have become very attached to his sister-in-law and was inconsolable on her death. Mary even died in his arms!

              The second matter came in 1842 when Catherine's other sister, Georgina, moved into the household and effectively became the 'woman of the house'. This became particularly relevant as over the years Charles came to see Catherine as an incompetent mother and an even worse wife. He even blamed her for the birth of their children, largely because so many children were an enormous financial worry. I also believe that Catherine's state of mind was effected by medication, which she had to take having had so many children in a short space of time and which was compounded by the grief of having some of them die.

              During all this, Dickens is believed to have continually become attracted to young women, and one of them, a young actress, Ellen Ternan, became central to the end of the Dickens' marriage. In May 1858, Catherine opened a package and inside it was a bracelet. This bracelet was intended for Ternan. Thus, by June 1858, Catherine and Charles had separated. Catherine was forced to leave her home and children. Shortly thereafter Dickens published an article, 'justifying' his actions. It was followed by wild speculation regarding the nature of his relationship to Ternan, which he constantly denied as having been more than platonic. Whether this is the case is debatable, but there is speculation that Charles and Ellen had a son, who died in infancy.

              All this features as the basis for the novel, Girl in a Blue Dress.


              ====The Girl in the Blue Dress====

              The story opens with Dorothea ('Dodo') Gibson (i.e. Catherine), in her parlour on the day of her husband's funeral. Her husband, Alfred (i.e. Charles) - by this time the greatest novelist of the age - is being interred in Westminster Abbey.

              His death is mourned by thousands as they line up to watch the procession. There is one noticeable absence. His wife of twenty years, Dodo, does not attend. As his estranged wife, she has not been invited. To make matters worse, Alfred's will favours his children, his sister-in-law, Sissy, and his mistress, Miss Wilhelmina Ricketts. Dodo is left with barely a mention.

              Thus begins a re-telling of Dickens and his personal life through the eyes of his wife, as she examines her memories and in turn, her own life. She recounts their romance and early marriage, the years of constant childbirth, and the ultimate betrayal of the separation. As this occurs, she comes face-to-face with the children she has been unable to see, her sister Sissy and later, the other woman in Alfred's life. There is also a moment when she addresses Queen Victoria herself!


              ====The Key Characters===

              * Dorothea 'Dodo' Gibson - is a kind and good woman, but readers may initially become frustrated with her as she remains devoted and loyal to Alfred, regardless of what has occurred. However, over time, it becomes clear that Dodo was incredibly naïve in her view of love and marriage. I found that, by the end, Dodo was endearing, having emerged a free and independent woman in her own right.

              * Alfred Gibson - I will admit that, given Dickens' life, I was expecting to greatly dislike this character. There is no doubt that Gibson is a selfish, self-centred, controlling character. He is often cruel and hypocritical; much of what he holds accountable in others, he has committed himself. Moreover, he is very much into justifying his actions, never finding fault in his own behaviour and generally at the expense of someone else.

              The thing is, and I think this is a credit to the author, the character is just too charismatic and charming that I couldn't hate him. As a result of his charisma, as the reader you can begin to understand why Dodo remains so loyal to him and continues to love him despite all he does.

              * Kitty (Gibsons' eldest daughter)
              This character features predominantly in this book as a means of provoking Dodo into reminiscing. She is similar to Alfred in character, but does acknowledge the wrongs he has done.

              * Sissy Millar (Dodo's sister)
              Throughout the majority of this book, Sissy is only a background feature; she is only mentioned in conversation or memory. Consequently, for the vast majority of the novel, she comes across as the dark, evil sister that plays a central role in the break-up of the Gibsons' family and marriage.

              However, again a credit to Arnold, she has managed to include a segment in the story where Sissy is able to express her side and you begin to understand why she acted as she did.

              * Miss Wilhelmina Ricketts
              Like Sissy, Wilhelmina sits in the background for most of the book and again, you tend to think she is some sort of dreadful woman. Yet, again, Arnold allows Ricketts a voice at the end. Interestingly, the reader is left with sympathy for this young woman, as she too has been controlled by the whim of Gibson.

              * Michael O'Rourke (Alfred Gibson's closest friend)
              He is one of Gibson's closest friends and Dodo's main ally. The stark contrast is character to Gibson is very noticeable. He comes across as a good man, with sound principles.


              ====About the Author====

              Born in Cardiff, she studied English at Oxford University and is currently working in Birmingham's Adoption and Fostering service.


              ====Recommendable?====
              Most definitely. This novel was one of the best that I have read in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the way in which Arnold gave voice to all characters and allowed their perspectives to come through in order for the readers to understand and occasionally empathise with them.

              I will confess that at first I was unsure of the ending. I won't give anything away, but to me, it initially came across as the weakest part of the book. However, as I pondered (as you do), I realised that there really wasn't another way in which Arnold could have ended it. The reader needed to see Dodo come into her own, and I think the reader also needed to know that despite all that had happened there was some sort of final reconciliation between Alfred and Dodo.

              Overall, it is a well-written and well-researched novel. It is a worthy member for Booker prize long list.


              ====Details====
              Paperback: 512 pages
              Publisher: Tindal Street Press (14 Aug 2008)
              ISBN-10: 0955647614; ISBN-13: 978-0955647611
              R.R.P. £9.99

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                15.07.2009 12:47
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                The Dog Whisperer.

                I was introduced to the Dog Whisperer by a friend of mine, who had recently decided to volunteer at a dog rescue centre - and yes, came away with a dog!

                So the Dog Whisperer...


                ~~~~Cesar Millan~~~~

                Cesar was born and raised in Mexico, and had decided at the age of thirteen that he wanted to be a dog trainer. Much of his early experience with dogs came from the dogs on his grandfather's farm, where the dogs worked herding cows, for example. Apparently, this situation gave Cesar the opportunity to watch pack behaviour, which, if you have seen the show, is central to dogs' behavioural issues.

                At twenty-one, Cesar left his family in Mexico and illegally crossed the border into the United States, where he was to have numerous jobs. He moved to Hollywood with the intention of becoming a Hollywood dog trainer, but as time passed, he noticed that there was a lot of troubled dogs in the U.S. and decided to focus upon dog rehabilitation instead. With this in mind, Cesar set up the Pacific Point Canine Academy, and in 1994, his work came to the attention of the actor, Will Smith! His work with Smith, his family and his dog
                was the beginning of what has become a global success.


                ~~~~The concept~~~~
                So, Cesar is a dog behaviour specialist and has set up the Dog Psychology Center for Dogs in Los Angeles.

                With this situation, the show sees Cesar tackle (usually) three troubled dogs per episode. The episode will begin with the dog's owners talking about what is wrong and this is supported by video footage of the dog misbehaving. This can range from dogs who have bitten people to dogs who attack bushes (yes, it happens). There is a whole gamut of circumstances and Cesar will assess any dog regardless of breed, and as another reviewer noted, regardless of the owner's wealth. What I think is good is that you are told that Cesar knows nothing about the situation until he arrives at the home of the owner.

                Cesar offers and shows owners solutions to the misbehaviour, or as he claims, he will show them how to have a "balanced" dog. Unsurprisingly, in most cases, it is a matter of the owner becoming the boss. As Cesar states quite regularly, there are dog lovers and there are pack leaders. If you want a "balanced" dog, the owner must become the pack leader and the dog "calm submissive". What's more, is that it is all about the owner's energy. Dogs react to energy and if the owner's tense, anxious, or angry, for example, dogs will respond and misbehave. Much of it appears commonsense, but to have someone show you exactly how to handle situations is useful. Obviously, it goes without saying that owners are advised not to carry out some of these techniques without a professional being present.

                There is so much to learn from this show, which cannot be done justice here. I think what is incredible about the show is that Cesar seems to be able to correct problems - some of which have become so bad that the owners have ceased to have affection for the dog or even considering putting the dog down - within minutes. Being a professional, this could be expected, but it truly is remarkable.


                ~~~~The series~~~~
                There have now been four seasons of the show, with the first now out on DVD.

                Number of discs: 4
                Studio: Dnc Entertainment
                DVD Release Date: 27 April 2009
                Run Time: 624 minutes

                The RRP is £29.99, but many retailers are offering a lower rate.


                ~~~~Other products~~~~
                Cesar Millan has released many other DVDs and books, but I also recommend his website, www.cesarmillaninc.com, for more information and products.


                ~~~~Recommendable?~~~~
                I strongly recommend the show to all dog owners out there, but it is equally captivating for non-owners. Watching the rehabilitations of these dogs
                is truly heartwarming and to see just how owners influence behaviour is quite terrifying! I'm so addicted.

                A final word from Cesar. He "rehabilitates dogs, trains people"

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                  07.07.2009 15:06
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                  A place for all the family in one of Britain's more engaging and magnificent houses

                  Blenheim Palace, Formal Gardens and Park


                  ~~~~~A very brief snippet into its history~~~~~

                  In the early eighteenth century, Europe was engaged in bitter fighting as the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) raged. In 1704, the French King, Louis XIV, sought to knock the Holy Roman Empire out of this conflict by capturing its capital, Vienna. The Grand Alliance (England, Habsburg Empire, Dutch Republic, Portugal, Spain, & the Duchy of Savoy) was determined to retain the Empire and thus, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill (1650-1722) made plans to intercept Louis before his forces and allies could reach Vienna.

                  In one of the most significant battles in European history, the Battle of Blenheim (1704) was a decisive victory for the Grand Alliance. In gratitude, Queen Anne gave John Churchill the manor of Woodstock and, until 1712 - after the Marlboroughs had lost the royal favour - the Crown paid for the palatial home.

                  The foundation stone was laid in June 1705, and the palace was designed and built by Sir John Vanbrugh, who later resigned after one too many arguments with the Duchess, Sarah. Nicholas Hawksmoor is also known to have designed and overseen various areas of the construction, particularly after Vanbrugh left.

                  Over the years, numerous changes occurred, particularly in the gardens. 'Capability' Brown was brought in to landscape the palace park and gardens by the 4th Duke of Marlborough.

                  In more recent times, Blenheim was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, who arrived on the 30th November 1874, a few weeks early. It was never intended that he would be born at the palace!


                  ~~~~~What to see and do~~~~

                  Blenheim Palace, park and gardens is a truly impressive holding and there is plenty to see and do. A whole day is insufficient to really take advantage of everything.

                  1. The State rooms

                  You are able to walk freely around this area or with a guided tour, and it is through these State rooms that you really get a sense of time and place. The palace holds numerous collections of portraits, tapestries, Meissen and Sevres porcelain, and even Boulle furniture. You will also be able to view the ceilings of Nicholas Hawksmoor and the stone work of Grinling Gibbons. There is also a copy of the famous Marlborough dispatch, which he sent from the battlefield of Blenheim to his Duchess to inform of the victory, on display.


                  2. The Churchill Exhibition

                  As his birthplace, there is a Churchill Exhibition dedicated to the statesman, which includes access to the room where he was born. Although it was never his home, Churchill was apparently always fond of Blenheim and for five years in the 1890s Churchill was heir presumptive to the dukedom.

                  In the Churchill Exhibition, there is Sir Winston's painting of the Great Hall at Blenheim and several of his letters and photographs.


                  3. 'Blenheim Palace: the Untold Story' 300 years of enticing tales.

                  An interactive experience and one definitely worth doing; I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is in the upstairs of the Palace (and unfortunately has not wheelchair access). It is hard to describe what it is as it is the life of the palace and some of its inhabitants through the eyes of one of its main servants, now a 'ghost'. (It employs modern digital technology to create this.) The experience is self guided and takes about 35 minutes.


                  4. Miniature train ride

                  Near to the main pedestrian and vehicle entrance is the miniature train ride, which takes visitors to the Pleasure Gardens. These Gardens include the Marlborough Maze and Butterfly House. I was unable to do this as time ran out, but it's on my 'to do' list for next time.


                  5. The Grand Bridge and the Column of Victory

                  Near to the main front of the palace is the beginning of the Great Avenue, along which the Grand Bridge leads up to the Column of Victory. It is certainly worth taking a saunter up this Avenue, but do bear in mind that it is some distance!


                  And so much more!


                  ~~~~~Shop and facilities~~~~~

                  For those of you who like to take away a souvenir, there are a few sources on site. One of the smaller gift shops is in the actual palace and contains the more 'delicate' items of porcelain and fragrances, for instance. There is also a bookshop near to the Chapel, but the main gift shop, the Flagstaff Gift Shop, holds the largest number of gifts. In addition, there is a small Ice Cream Parlour with a small courtyard for seating, as well as online shop facilities at http://shop.blenheimpalace.com. The ice cream is delicious by the way!

                  What I found pleasantly surprising was the cost of items. Okay, so they we not on the cheap, cheap side. However, I was expecting extortionate. This wasn't the case. I think everyone could find something for themselves at a reasonable price.


                  ~~~~~Accessibility~~~~~~
                  Like with all properties of certain ages, they were not designed to cater for wheelchair access. However, the Palace has endeavoured to improve access as far as possible. They do recommend advance booking for large groups with disabled members or people with special needs. I think this is so that they can ensure that necessary changes to routes etc. can be made at the Palace. I recommend looking at the website for more information.


                  ~~~~~Entrance fees~~~~~
                  Entrance fees are not cheap, but you can buy tickets based on what you plan to see.

                  Palace, park and gardens:
                  Adult £17.50
                  Child £10.00
                  Concessions £14.00
                  Family (1adult and 3 children) £46.00
                  Family (2 adults and 2 children) £46.00

                  Park and gardens:
                  Adult £10.00
                  Child £5.00
                  Concessions £7.50
                  Family (1adult and 3 children) £25.00
                  Family (2 adults and 2 children) £25.00

                  The Palace is running a special offer whereby you buy one day's tickets and you'll be able to convert it into an Annual Pass (you get twelve months' free!).


                  ~~~~~Where is it? ~~~~~

                  Blenheim Palace is in Oxfordshire, just northwest of Oxford, near the historic town of Woodstock. It is easily accessible by road (the A44 Evesham Road) and is serviced regularly by buses and coaches. From Oxford Rail Station, you would need to look for the S3 service (run by stagecoach). The bus stop is just outside the gates on Hensington Road.


                  ~~~~~Recommended? ~~~~~

                  I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Blenheim and think it is a place that can capture the imagination of anybody. Worth a visit and I certainly know that I shall be going back some time.


                  (The Blenheim Palace website was used to confirm details.)

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                  • More +
                    07.07.2009 12:51
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                    A book that can help put you back on track and give you confidence in your work.

                    Please note: I wrote a similar review for this book on Amazon.co.uk. It has been fairly well received so I thought I could include on this site as well.


                    ~~~~~~Why did I need this book?~~~~~~
                    I started my Masters dissertation last summer and had to have it completed by the end of September. My department was not particularly helpful with regard a lot of things on my course (too long a story). Suffice to say, several of us students received conflicting and confusing information about our dissertation work. Ultimately, no one felt confident with what they were doing.

                    By the time I discovered this book (shelving at work, no less), I had already done much of my research and was actually beginning to write the chapters. I essentially knew what I wanted to achieve - had some vague idea of structure and content - and was progressing with it. However, I lacked confidence in my approach and worried over certain areas of my work; this was certainly reflected in my writing at times. There were, for me, major gaps. What was I meant to write in the ethics section? What was I meant to put in my methodology? How do I link the chapters together? Do I need loads of bar charts and pie charts? Oops, that's right. I don't have any statistical information. Argh! With this situation - and if you've been through this process, you'll understand - you find yourself going round in circles, drinking more and more coffee as a distraction, and sitting at your computer, staring at the screen, willing words to magically appear.

                    So, the book...

                    ~~~~~The book in brief~~~~~~
                    Well, this book is a step-by-step approach to the dissertation. It is structured from stage one of the dissertation proposal and takes you through each of the chapters as should be seen in your work: introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, conclusion etc. Each of these chapters is then broken down into sub-sections, which should actually appear as sub-sections in your dissertation. Thus, for example, Biggam says that your introduction must include 'Background', 'Research Focus', 'Aims and Objectives', and 'Value of the Research'. The introduction chapter is therefore split up into these sub-sections and explained: Biggam indicates what kind of information is needed in these sub-sections and what the marker will expect to find.

                    In addition, throughout the book, the author has given little 'tip' bubbles, which indicate common mistakes by students. He also recommends students should use certain phrases. For example, in your objectives, begin with 'To identify...' and then, to indicate a sense of in-depth research, the next objectives could be 'To assess...; To examine...' etc. The appendices are also very useful.

                    Now, some may think that this makes the book appear very basic and maybe even 'spoon feed' the student; after all, the dissertation is about your own research and learning. My response is that this book doesn't do that. Yes, at times, it is common sense, but the excellent thing about the book is that it is not patronising at all. It simply tells you what you should be looking to achieve. Essentially, it paves the way for you to go smoothly through the stages of the investigation from beginning to end. As it informs you about what your dissertation should include, it ensures you remain focused on research aims/objectives.

                    Moreover, as I mentioned, I was more than half way through writing up my study when I came across this book, and it bolstered my confidence no end. It highlighted areas where I had done what's expected, but equally showed me areas where I would likely fall down on marks. For example, one of my concerns was linking the sections of the dissertation together and although I had tried to maintain a connection throughout my study, I was very concerned because it was a weak connection. This book helped me identify how I can make the links stronger from chapter to chapter. Importantly, having learnt those one or two elements, I was able to do more effective links in my work automatically, without further reference to the book.

                    ~~~~~Cost~~~~~
                    It retails at £17.99, but I would imagine most academic, even public, libraries would have a copy.

                    ~~~~~Conclusion~~~~~
                    When I found this gem of a text, I could have kissed the author. It was an immense delight and relief to have come across something that was comprehensive and informative. It answered all my doubts and questions. For me, Biggam became a second supervisor. I feel this is a must-have handbook for anyone undergoing a Masters dissertation - I recommended it to a friend and it now sits in prime position on her desk.

                    Oh, and I passed!

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                    • More +
                      09.06.2009 12:46
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                      A means to catalogue your personal library and customise it however you wish!

                      As a librarian, (you will not be surprised to discover) I am obsessed with everything about books - and that includes cataloguing them. There are many resources out there now that allow you to catalogue your personal collections. Indeed, a couple of weeks ago I did another review on an internet site called Librarything.com, which is web-based so you can access your book collection anywhere, anytime.

                      Book Collector is a very similar idea, but this time it is based on your desktop/laptop. It is provided by Collectorz, which also sells other cataloguing software for games, photographs, DVDs, music, comics and MP3 music files.

                      (This review was written using my own experiences and the Collectorz website for verification)


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      What is Book Collector?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Well, I've already mentioned this briefly, but to reiterate, it is a piece of software that automatically catalogues your books by instantly downloading details and cover images from the web. It is ideal for keeping an eye on your books (if you lend them to people), prevent duplicate purchases, and is loads of fun! The details and other information are downloaded prominently from sources like online bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's, but also include the National Libraries of various countries, such as the British Library and the Library of Congress.

                      If you don't fancy downloading, or the information isn't complete, or you simply don't have access to the internet, there is the option to enter all the details manually, so you can make your library as personal to yourself as you like. For example, book covers change over time. You may end up downloading a book cover that isn't identical to the one you have. Personally, I like my database to look like my physical collection. So, basically, you can scan your book's image on to your computer - if you have this facility - and then load it from your files into the software. Even if you don't have a scanner, you can download images, say from Google Images, and save it to your files and then drop into the software.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      What details and information can you include?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      You can include as much or as little as you like. I actually don't think I can do it justice here, but the following are some of the areas that can be provided:

                      * Main book information: author, title, ISBN, publisher, publication date, format (e.g. paperback, hardback, or e-book), genre, subjects, series, edition, dimensions, original title, original languages, and so on.

                      * Personal information: owner of the book; purchase information such as RRP and actual purchase price; reading details such as whether it's been read, how many times you've read it, your rating of the book, etc.

                      * Other bits: characters; translators; editors; plot summaries; chapter lists (if edited collections)

                      * Collection Status: to indicate whether you have the book, or it's on your Wanted list, On Order or For Sale.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      How can you get Book Collector?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      * You can sign up for a free trial (limited to 100 books) and it is downloaded via an e-mail link. This also includes a set-up guide. I did it through this way originally and it was so simple to use and by the time I hit 100 books (within less than an afternoon) I was ready to buy the actual product!

                      * Sign up through TrialPay and get Book Collector Standard Version free. Please note that I have not come across TrialPay before and therefore cannot really comment/recommend this route. I think that it may link in to a third party.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      What versions can you buy?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Should you decide to buy this product, there are a couple of versions, which differ slightly.

                      Adapted from Collectorz.com:

                      1. Book Collector Standard Edition

                      The main features of this edition:
                      * Add books by typing ISBNs or by typing the author and title.
                      * Add links to e-Book and audio book files, as well as links to relevant websites, such as author blogs
                      * Browse your database as a list or in Cover Images View
                      * Download details and images automatically
                      * Print simple lists
                      * Sort and search your database

                      2. Book Collector Pro Edition

                      Pro Edition provides the above abilities, plus many more, including:

                      * Ability to keep track of your books by the 'lending' feature, a.k.a. the Integrated Loan Manager.
                      * Ability to print customized lists
                      * Export to HTML, iPod Notes, Text (CSV) and XML formats
                      * Graphical statistics for information in your databases, such as total spent on books, total RRP price etc.

                      Both editions can be delivered to you either through e-mail or CD-ROM. You will receive a Personal Licence Key, which will be needed to activate your edition. Only the Pro Edition comes with a backup CD.

                      Depending on the version of the edition, you will get free updates until the next version, where you will have to pay - but the choice is yours and such version updates are not regular. So, the current Version is Windows 6.2.1 or Mac 3.0.1. Thus, I will get a free upgrades for improvements to levels 6.2.2, 6.2.3 etc. I will only need to pay again if I choose to go to version 7.0.0, if and when that comes out. Collectorz do not cut you off for having an earlier version!


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Are there any extras that you can buy?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      If you buy the Pro Edition, you can also combine it - for an extra cost - with a barcode scanner. This will save you loads of time if you have plenty of books and with the Opticon scanner you do not actually have to move the books from the shelves!

                      You can purchase the Pro edition with a CueCat Scanner, which means all you need to do is swipe the barcode, instead of typing. This is the cheaper option of the two scanners. The other one, the Opticon scanner, uses laser-scanning and is cordless. It's worth noting that the current difference between the two offers is £100.00.

                      I will emphasise that while useful, scanners are not essential parts of the software, so no one needs to feel obliged to obtain one, certainly not at that cost.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Is it easy to use?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Like with any new thing, it takes time to get familiar with it. However, I will say that I found it very self-explanatory and have rarely turned to the manual. I don't think it is beyond anyone's capability to get their books into their own database and be personalising it within a short space of time. The interface, I think, is very user friendly and accessible.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Newest developments?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      I only use my software on my desktop. However, Collectorz has now devised so that you can put it onto you iPhone or iPod Touch, and have it with you wherever and whenever you like.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      What about customer support?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Both bought versions do come with customer support to an extent. For both, you can use online FAQs, join the Collectorz.com Forum, and download the manual. Only the Pro Edition comes with personal e-mail responses within 24 hours (for 1 Year).

                      However, I really feel the need to emphasise this point. I have now had this software (and other ones provided by Collectorz) going on two and a half years and have never had any problems with it. What I do like about Collectorz is that you get regular e-mail newsletters and they will inform you if any problems are occurring / being fixed.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      What about cost?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      I have always found it to be reasonable, on the hold - mind you, I did purchase mine a couple of years ago and costs were slightly lower. I do think you need to consider your options carefully, but I have never regretted obtaining my software. If you are unsure, I strongly recommend testing it out with the free trial.

                      Currently, you are looking at the following prices:

                      Standard Edition: £24.95 by e-mail; £44.95 by CD.
                      Pro Edition: £39.95 by e-mail; £59.95 by CD.
                      Updates to newer versions are typically £19.95.

                      Collectorz allows you to pay by PayPal, credit/debit card, bank transfer, and cheque. They also provide a 90-day money back guarantee.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Are there any online communities?
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      As mentioned, there is a discussion forum, but there is also a blog. I have not really used either of these, so do not feel I can really comment.


                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      Is it recommendable?
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                      My answer? Yes, definitely! If anyone ever mentions wanting to put their books into a database, Book Collector is the first thing I recommend. I absolutely love this software and find it ideal for my 'library'.

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                      • Kenco 3 in 1 coffee / Coffee / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                        08.06.2009 09:56
                        Very helpful
                        (Rating)
                        2 Comments

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                        A sachet of coffee that contains all the necessary ingredients

                        I actually picked up Kenco 3-in-1 by accident, having thought it was the 2-in-1. I didn't realise this until I had my first sip; I must have been half asleep in the store! This product is essentially "smooth white coffee with sugar", as advertised on the box. Each box contains 10 sachets


                        ~~~Why buy coffee sachets?~~~

                        In my workplace, as may be the case for many people, we basically have to provide our own tea/coffee supplies. I have always found coffee sachets to be convenient, easy-to-use and tidy. You can take them wherever you like - something which Kenco has prominently displayed on its packaging, so these latest offerings from Kenco continue to fulfil these requirements. Furthermore, aside from one of these small sachets, all you need is a mug and hot water. Hey presto, a mug of coffee!


                        ~~~Guideline Daily Amounts~~~

                        According to Kenco, each serving of this product contains the following allowances of an adult's guideline daily amount:

                        Calories: 81 (4%)
                        Sugar: 11.0g (12%)
                        Fat: 2.1g (3%)
                        Saturates: 2.1g (10%)
                        Salt: 0.1g (1%)

                        Obviously, because it contains sugar, I would expect that certain numbers would be high, but I will admit that these quantities seem rather large considering it is just one mug's worth of coffee. I don't think I'll be having them that often!


                        ~~~Taste~~~

                        As I mentioned, I bought these thinking they were something else. I actually don't drink sugar in my coffee or tea, so obviously my feelings are influenced by this. I find the drink too sweet and the fact that I have had this product now verging on three weeks (testament perhaps to how long these items keep?), I think illustrates my point. However, I think it worth highlighting that I did give one of these to someone I knew had sugar in their coffee and they didn't finish it because they found it too sweet for their taste. So, obviously, it's such a subjective thing.

                        As for the coffee, having had the 2-in-1, I did like the actual coffee element. I just found that for this product, the sugar was overpowering in the taste department.


                        ~~~Cost~~~

                        Like many of these types of products, you're looking at a price of over £2.00. I do think it is a little high, but equally, this cost doesn't actually put me off. However, it is limiting the frequency with which I would purchase them. It does seem more cost effective to buy a jar of coffee and a bottle of milk. Saying that, though, the latter negates the original requirements of convenience and ease.


                        ~~~Recommendable?~~~

                        For this particular product, I personally would not be buying them again due to the sugar content. However, having known what the coffee is like in the 2-in-1 (which I will be buying again), I do think this would suit plenty of sugar-in-coffee drinkers. For what they are, I do think Kenco sachets are one of the best on the market.

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