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Rough Guide to the Music of Eastern Europe - Various Artists 13/07/2009

Good Intro to the Traditional Sounds of South-Eastern Europe

Rough Guide to the Music of Eastern Europe - Various Artists Rough Guide, best known for their budget travel guides, has been steadily expanding in other areas, and has been responsible for quite a few musical "guides" over the years. This 1998 album, marketed as "Rough Guide to the Music of Eastern Europe", does pretty much exactly what is says on the package: provides quite a wide ranging overview of folk and (occasionally) folk-inspired music of Eastern Europe. This is an album that pretty much started my liking for "world music" coming from my part of the world, and despite its age it remains a good compilation which really does showcase the variety of what's on offer quite well. One thing that this "Rough Guide" album needs is perhaps a better definition of what is considered Eastern Europe: this is a surprisingly woolly category (I always remember somebody commenting than Poland used to be in Middle Europe before WW2, while after that, despite having its borders move several hundred miles to the west, it become part of Eastern Europe), but usually refers to the countries of the former Soviet block (and sometimes includes Greece). On this album, "Eastern Europe" is actually more of an alternative label for the Balkans. Most tracks come from artists from Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and countries of former Yugoslavia, although there is one track from a Russian band, and one from Polish mountains. I can understand this, as the Balkans are probably musically the most interesting and there is only very limited number of ...

Ironside - Holly Black 03/07/2009

Feral Fairies

Ironside - Holly Black A whole sub-genre of urban (feral) fairy stories seems to have evolved in the blink of an eye, and Holly Black is one of its more vigorous exponents. The Modern Faerie Tales series includes the excellent Tithe, Valiant and the newest volume titled Ironside, which ties together the plot lines of the previous two books while being of a more direct sequel to Tithe. Kaye Fierch is a sixteen year old girl, high-school drop-out with a rock'n'roller mother. Or so she thought until recently. In fact, she is a changeling, a green pixie who has grown up as a human child and only recently discovered her true nature. Ironside picks up two months after the momentous events of Tithe, the winter solstice (and Christmas) is approaching and in Faerie, Roiben is being crowned as a King of the dark Unseelie Court. Kaye, insecure in her new pixie identity, full of love for Roiben and drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to him and ends up sent on a seemingly impossible quest. She can't see or speak with Roiben unless she can find a faerie who can lie. Her life, insecure at best, seems to completely fall to pieces. She confesses to her mother and sets off to the Seelie Court to recover the original changeling. But in the world of faerie courts, war is brewing and Kaye and her gay friend Corny find themselves involved in the intrigues between Silarial, queen of the Seelie Court and Roiben. The quest takes Kaye and Corny to New York, where they have a go at exploring the urban part of ...

Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier 29/06/2009

Turkish Delights (Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier)

Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier "Cybele's Secret" is a sequel to "Wildwood Dancing", an earlier teen fantasy adventure set in Romanian forests. It can be easily read as a stand-alone-novel. It's narrated by Paula, the scholarly of the sisters that were introduced in the previous novel, and it follows her on a trading trip to Istanbul with her father. It's not a normal trip, though, as they are looking to purchase a mysterious and ancient artifact known as Cybele's Gift. It links to mysterious old cult, possibly undergoing revival and has supposedly magical powers, able to bring amazing rewards, but in the wrong hands capable of inflicting great misery. There is a strong adventure element in"Cybele's Secret": it reminded me of the travel-and-exploration novels I read as a child in which a character, usually a young one, visits exotic locations and learns about different places and cultures, often while performing feats of bravery and/or chivalry. The evocation of Ottoman Istanbul is excellent in "Cybele's Secret", and the "edutainment" parts link fairly seamlessly to the main narrative. I enjoyed that a lot, and I also liked the narrator and the main character: strong willed, confident, intelligent and mostly sensible, but not without weaknesses to overcome (after all, an adventure without moral and character trial is an empty one). The love angle is subtle, but exciting enough, what with a dashing, cultured, nobleman-pirate (!!) and a dependable and astute but illiterate Bulgar bodyguard. Those ...

Saturn's Children - Charles Stross 26/06/2009

Sexy Robots

Saturn's Children - Charles Stross My first encounter with Charles Stross was through Halting State, a William Gibson-meets-Christopher Brookmyre near-future post-cyberpunk crime caper. "Saturn's Children" is a different species within broadly the same habitat, a not-so-near-future space-opera thriller, more of a Asimov-meets-Philip K Dick-with-a-sprinkling-of-Douglas Adams. My s-f reading is a bit haphazard, but this was the first vision of the post-human world in which not only humans but all biological life is extinct and special police patrol the borders in search of self-replicating pink goo (although Lem's Cyberiad is set in a robotic world, but a much more grotesque and surreal, an explicitly satirical one). Freya Nakamachi-47 is a robot in a Solar System full of robots. It's a post-human world, still running on approximately human-designed principles, especially socially, despite the extinction of the Creator race several hundreds of years ago. Freya's raison d'etre, though, is somehow complicated, not to say, questionable, by the fact that she (and hundreds of her siblings) were designed and trained specifically for the purpose of providing sexual gratification: conditioned to become hopelessly aroused at the mere whiff of a scent of skin of a human male. She's passing time on Venus, doing menial or almost-menial work, just about maintaining her independent (i.e. not enslaved/indentured) status when an unpleasant incident with an aristocrat Domina and a hasty but thoughtless despatching of one ...

The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks 25/06/2009

Magic Killers (The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks)

The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks Somebody once said that there are only two plot lines in classic fantasy: an unexpected simpleton (child, beggar, heathen, girl, commoner) saving the world (e.g. Frodo) and a king threatened by the usurper (e.g. Arthur). This is, of course, a major simplification, but still, many, many fantasy novels follow one of those plotlines. The Way of Shadows seems to be an example of the first one. Azoth is a guild rat, grown up in the slums, poverty and fear, beatings and abuse his daily reality. When, in a sudden flash of justified anger he crosses the Fist of his guild, he has to make some hard decisions, quickly. His life is at stake, and the only way out he sees is apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint: the best assassin in the city. Azoth changes his identity to Kylar Stern and has to leave his old life in the slums of the Warrens to face new challenges, from the effort of relentless training to learning to read, and not least the moral ones of learning to kill with a clear head and steady hand. The world of dangerous politics and magic opens up for him as he grows up in a corrupt city, where the shadowy crime organisation of Sa'Kage is behind most businesses and their ruling Nine are more powerful then the king himself. The world building is convincing and confident, with almost no unnecessary exposition, although there are some unnecessary explanatory sections dotted throughout which contribute to the untaxing nature of The Way of Shadows and the page count, but whose ...

In a Dark Wood - Marcel Moring 23/06/2009

The Dark Forest of the Soul (In a Dark Wood - Marcel Moring)

In a Dark Wood - Marcel Moring Jacob Noah spent three years "hiding in a hole in a bog" from the Nazis. When he emerged from his hiding place after the war, his father, mother and brother were dead and their shoe shop had been turned into an Aryan Bookshop. Over the next thirty five years he turns what remained of the shoe shop into a lingerie empire, then a department store and property portfolio known throughout the country, he also marries, fathers three daughters, gets lovers, gets separated. Still, Jacob's mercantile rampage does nothing to alleviate the aching void, nothing to cure the pain and desolation of the loss he suffered. Apart from the initial expository seventy or so pages, most of the Moring's novel takes place in the town of Assen over a single night on the 27th of June 1980, on the eve of the TT motorbike races, when the town fills to the brim with drunken bikers and spectators, although flashbacks (and flashbacks within flashbacks too) abound. Throughout that night, throughout a town that became a peep-show and a nightmarish dream, from bar to bar, from the funfair to the electric bull, and into the woods that weave through the town and surround it, wanders Marcus Kolpa who has returned to find his lost first love, Jacob's daughter, Chaja. And so does wander Jacob, possibly dead or possibly alive, led by a mysterious figure, mystical and profane both; a pedlar calling himself the Jew of Assen. "In a Dark Wood" is a rich novel, overflowing with phantasmagoric imagery, ...

Starfishing - Nicola Monaghan 23/06/2009

CITY-TRIPPING (Starfishing - Nicola Monaghan)

Starfishing - Nicola Monaghan Frankie Cavanagh lands her dream job of a trader on the open-outcry exchange of LIFFE, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange. The year is 1997, LIFFE is under danger from an electronic trading system, but as for now the mayhem of the trading pit is still the ever-exciting reality for Frankie and her (overwhelmingly male) co-workers and friends. Frankie works hard and plays hard and the continuous juxtaposition of the adrenaline-fuelled dance of the trading floor and the drug-fuelled dance on the real dance-floors of the clubs; the come-down at the end of trading and the come-down from the pill high; all punctuated by the FTSE100 values, generates the main pulsating rhythm of Monaghan's novel. With the new job, Frankie falls in lust with her married American boss Tom, and soon embarks on an affair with him, an affair that is more about the thrill and risk taking than the hedonistic pleasures. An archetypal sensation-seeker, addicted to the adrenaline rush of risk, she pushes the limits further and further in the pursuit of thrills. An escapee from the council estate in Ilford, where her working-class, widower father is still hoping she might one day provide him with a son-in-law who drives a white van and produce a couple of grandchildren, Frankie is viciously ambitious and doesn't do love - the references to the 'hidden shallows' abound in Starfishing. Frankie's delivery takes a while to get used to: but eventually her voice becomes ...

Can't You Sleep Little Bear - Martin Waddell, Barbara Firth 22/06/2009

Good Night (oh, you are back here again?)

Can't You Sleep Little Bear - Martin Waddell, Barbara Firth Little Bear is afraid of the dark: the dark is sooo big, and not even the biggest lantern can dispel it. What can the Big Bear do? This is a sweet, enchanting book, perfect for bedtime reading, suitable for older toddlers and younger pre-schoolers alike. Most little children have gone through a period of repeatedly getting out of bed and demanding something from the parents (even if it wasn't an increasingly bigger lantern), so they (and their parnets too) will be able to relate to this one. I don't think this tale is a particularly great solution for children terribly afraid of the dark, although they (as will those with only mild worries) will be able to relate to Little Bear's fears. The reassurance is there, but it's not the main point, the main point being a STORY being told to the reader in words and pictures. The illustrations are typically cute, but just about this side of nauseating, and the text is nicely repetitive which all little children (but not always their parents, sadly) like. I loved the final, out of the cave in the starry night tableau, though the solution to sleeping My little boy likes it, but not madly so, thus a 4 star rating, and a moderately enthusiastic recommendation for buying as a good bedtime story for 2 to 4 year olds.

Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy Is Wrong - Martin Lindstrom 22/06/2009

Do You Know What You Are Doing?

Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy Is Wrong - Martin Lindstrom Considering the amount of money spent on advertising and the staggering sizes of corporate marketing budgets, it's astonishing to what extent it's unclear what exactly those huge amounts of money buy. Lord Lever famously said that half of the money spent on advertising is wasted - but he had no way of knowing which half. The efficiency of selling is, of course, in direct relationship to what we know about how and why people buy things. Theories from various branches of social science, mostly psychology, have been applied with varying success to buying behaviour, and there exists a body of knowledge, composed of a mixture of common sense, practitioners' experience and, increasingly, some respectable research results from both the field and the laboratory. Martin Lindstrom is as big a brand guru as they get, sitting on the boards of several companies, CEO of a couple of successful brand agencies as well as a publisher of a branding blog with an audience of millions. His consultancy work and his observation of various products and brands 'flopping' led him to believe that the traditional tools of market research - analysis of sales data and various forms of research consisting essentially of asking people questions - were not enough. "Buyology" is a result of a foray into neuro-marketing, or a research project that combines cutting edge tools of neurophysiology and medicine (essentially, precise brain scanning) with the objectives of the salesmen. Evil ...

Tesco Finest Channel Island Milk 20/06/2009

Milk as Milk Should Be (Tesco Finest Channel Island Milk)

Tesco Finest Channel Island Milk I have gone back to buying this milk recently, not as the main milk, as it's too expensive for that, but as a nicer extra. It's a full fat milk and it comes from Guersney and Jersey cows, what is sometimes referred to in ck books as gold-top milk. It's either non-homogenised or less homogenised which allows the cream to come up to the top. It's creamy rather than completely white in colour and it comes in 1l transparent bottles with a gold coloured screw top. This is milk as milk should be: it looks very enticing (so much that I checked the bottle for a hint of colourant added but have not found any), it smells of milky, slightly grassy smell (or is it just me imagining things) and it tastes lovely: creamy, sweet and rich. The biggest disadvanatge is the price, as it costs 95p for a 1 litre bottle as opposed to for example £1.50 for 4l (2x 2l) bottles of Tesco Pure (own-brand Cravendale equivalent) filtered milk which I normally buy. The biggest advantage is the taste. I find that gold top milk is too creamy to put in in my tea or coffee but great on cereals, and for pudding making purposes. What about the health though? One of the dooyoo reviews is titled "die happy". Is Channel Island Milk as bad for you as it sometimes is declared? Gold top milk has more fat than a standard full milk - 5.2g per 100ml instead of 3.6g (semi-skimmed has 1.6g, and I won't even mention skimmed, because it's such a dishwater than it's not even worth talking about). It's ...

Avon Personal Match Smooth Mineral Make-Up 19/06/2009

Mineral Fad

Avon Personal Match Smooth Mineral Make-Up I tried several Avon products during the time one of my neighbours was working as a rep and the overall impression I developed was that their products were mid-range, mid-brow - kind of Marks and Spencer of make up, maybe a little bit below Boots own brand in quality. This product was on a special offer in one of the brochures for £5 and I decided to try it, as I am in the process of renewing my make up stuff (not so much in the sense of getting fresh supplies, but looking for brands/models that suit me now in the middle age after a few years of wearing virtually none). I was really looking for a face powder but thought that the concept of a powder foundation looked interesting. I expected something half way between powder and foundation in effect. Overall, I was extremely disappointed. Part of the reason is probably due to the colour I bought (almond) which is too dark for me and nothing like the picture sample. But I often use darker shades of cosmetics for bronzing, or instead of blusher. So I thought I could still utilise the product. I expected to be able to brush away a powder product at least for a while after application, but it seems to set immediately and sticks. It's virtually impossible to apply in any other way but for full, heavy coverage that gives you this smooth but extremely artificial look. Most foundations will give you a darker or lighter colour depending on the amount, and allow you to blend the edges smoothly to avoid a "mask" effect. ...

Lancome L'Extreme Mascara 19/06/2009


Lancome L'Extreme Mascara In my current quest to find the best make up products I can stick to for the next few years, I have discovered the perfect mascara in this Lancome product. It's a lash-lengthening mascara and many of those - even premium brands - tend to make a mess of the lashes. The little bits of fibre that are responsible for the lengthening stick at various angles, make the colouring part of mascara go blobby and curdle... and so on. Now, L'extreme is nothing of the sort: it's essentially a great mascara, which doesn't make lashes stick together, doesn't go clumpy/blobby, and whose lenghtening fibres go where they should be (i.e. at the end of my lashes) to make them look longer and slightly curlier. The lenghtening is not actually, despite the name, an extreme evening/clubbing/stage effect: it's perfectly suitable for normal wear (though I wear glasses which means my eye make up is less prominent). In my expereince many lenghtening mascaras were often more irritating to the eyes, but this one doesn't irritate. The bits stay where they should be and although it's not waterproof, it ceratinly doesn't go all over my face with a slightest touch. The brush is good sized and works very well at keeping the lashes separate and allowing light touching up of the top surface of top lashes and the whole of the bottom ones. L'extreme costs around £15-£20. Very highly recommended. 18/06/2009

Real Money, Good Fees, Few Surveys, High Payment Threshold It's your view is one of the better paying survey sites. They claim to pay £1 for every 5 minutes of your time, and although it's probably more like a £1 for every 10 to 15 minutes, it's still a very reasonable rate for survey filling. A payment for each survey is between £1 and £4 and they also offer (very occasionally - I was offered one) online focus group participation which pays significantly more - I got £25 for one group that lasted less than two hours. They pay in real money, not gift vouchers and they pay quickly after you achieve the payment threshold. They surveys are not as mind-drainingly boring and repetitive as some companies have, but they are not exactly exciting either: pretty middling stuff, by the online survey company standards. They use survey software which is quite slow and not terribly user friendly but at least it works in all browsers, so I can just use my email links that go straight to Opera instead of fiddling with copying links and passwords to complete the survey in another browser. Each survey has measures of quality control: the same, demographic question, is repeated in different formats and if you don't answer consistently, your survey will not be accepted. I lost £3 like that! So be careful on how you answer the date of birth/age questions, the numbers of children and similar. I am not sure how much pre-selection they conduct, as the registration data only includes address, date of birth and sex. The survey ...

Deep Sea World, Edinburgh 17/06/2009

Face to Face With a Shark (at a price)

Deep Sea World, Edinburgh There are already several reviews here on dooyoo that provide a good description of the attraction, so I will spare you this part. But I am writing to make another point: I am rather amazed at the number of five star reviews of the Deepsea World. While I agree that it's an interesting place to visit, I think it's vastly overpriced, less so for what it has to offer, and more so for how much of a day out you can make of it. Yes, it has some pretty good sharks in a tunnel, and the seals are good too (in fact, a saving grace), but overall you'd be hard pushed to spend more than two hours inside and it's likely to cost you 40 quid for a family of four (assuming you will resist the gift shop and the cafe). I think what you make of the Deepsea World depends hugely on how old your children are, and whether you are looking for a pleasant day out, or a more intense "exhibition" type of attraction. For older kids or teens who are looking for the exotic, weird and wonderful, it's a definitely a better choice than some of the tame country-park-with-a-few-goats-and-an-ostrich-round-a-playpark that seem to dot the part of Scotland I am living in. However, for the younger children, the Deepsea world offers only limited interest (although my three year old was quite impressed by the sharks). They will be bored within the first few minutes of the divers' display, and there is no space for them to run or play. They can easily get lost inside, and the outside seals' area ...

J.D.Williams Mail Order Catalogue 16/06/2009


J.D.Williams Mail Order Catalogue JD Williams is a mail order and Internet company that operates under several different brands targeting slightly different demographics: Simply Be, Via La Diva, Shoe Tailor, JD Williams itself and probably about twenty more others. I have no idea why it's in the "offline" shopping category here on dooyoo as its Mail Order and Internet parts are completely integrated and I can't see why anybody would NOT use the the online ordering. All the websites have similar designs - a very busy and a rather shouty one that feels like some American shopping sites I occasionally look at - and you can log into all of them with the same customer number, although there doesn't seem to be a seamless transfer of the basket content from one to another. The selection of items varies to some extent, and thus some are available on more than one website, and some are only available on one of them. This all can get a little bit confusing, to be honest, especially if you want to buy a pile of stuff to try on and keep one or two items after sending the rest back. Wares They stock a variety of items, mostly clothes, underwear and shoes; but also other stuff from domestic appliances to sex toys - and a variety of brands. Some are "real" brands, available in other retailers, and some are "pseudo" brands, just labels for what is essentially their own stuff. They have a very good selection of clothes and underwear in plus sizes (some up to size 32) and even better selection of wide fit ...
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