Bird Box – Josh Malerman

The lovely people over at @HarperVoyagerUK on Twitter were kind enough to send me an advance copy of Josh Malerman’s upcoming novel Bird Box.

Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest. In a world where something is out there, and if you see that something bad, bad things will happen, the one thing you mustn’t do is open your eyes. But Malorie will have to do just that to survive.

Absolutely loved this book. Devoured it over the course of a few hours – not something I often do, but this was a story which demanded that you read just one more chapter, just five more minutes. Beautifully tense and atmospheric, and at times it made for hard reading, but one which was the very literal definition of a page-turner.

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RHA MA750 in-ear headphones – review

I’ve owned a fair number of in-ear headphones over the years from various different companies. Sennheiser, Shure, Klipsch, I’ve tried them all.

RHA MA750 in-ear headphones

None of them come even close to the sound that the MA750 from British headphone company RHA produce. The difference is quite simply astonishing – it’s as if I’d been listening to music through a doorway, with a curtain pulled across.

Put these earbuds in and the curtain comes back and suddenly you’re in the room with the musicians. The sound stage expands. Instruments and voices take on a new level of clarity and you realise you’ve been listening to music through a fog all these years.

I’ve found myself digging through my music collection looking for favourite tracks to give another listen. There’s a new edge to the sound where previously things were lost on other headphones. Bass notes in particular are picked up well (and the frequency response goes down to 16Hz, something unusual for in-ear headphones in my experience), but these headphones perform brilliantly across the range, with a lovely clean, clear response from the lows to the highs. I’ve been hearing new things in my music collection, things I didn’t even realise I was missing.

The build quality is superb too – the headphones are made from stainless steel and feel lovely and solid in your hand, yet not heavy in your ears. As the review on HuffPost Tech said, they

…feel like something you’ve pulled off the side of a space shuttle when no one was looking.

The cord goes up and over your ear, which I’ve always preferred – this cuts out the cable noise you get when in-ear headphones trail the wire straight down. The curved wires on the MA750s have a reinforced plastic to keep the curve in place and protect the cable, a feature which I really liked.

RHA MA750 in-ear headphones  3.5mm audio jack

They just smack of quality, from the industrial metal joins where the left/right cables meet, to the spring at the headphone jack end to protect the cable. And the cable itself feels heavy-duty and robust too – steel reinforced and oxygen-free, according to the RHA website. These are no lightweights.

Sound isolation is also great – plug them in and it’s just you and the music. Fellow commuters annoying you with the tinny beat of their iDevice earbuds? No longer a problem. Just be careful crossing roads!
They come with a load of extra ear tips – single and double-flanged as well as memory foam ones loaded into a nice stainless steel holder and a carry case.

I was fortunate enough to receive a pair to review. But, should the worst happen and I lose these headphones? I’d buy another pair without a second’s hesitation.

And they’re backed up with a three year warranty.

A seriously nice bit of audio kit and worth every penny. They look and feel like they should cost twice the price.

Don’t put up with crappy earphones you got with your mp3 player or phone. Do your ears a favour and buy a pair of these.

Films people said I should watch…

You know how it is. You get talking with some friends, and someone mentions a movie that you’ve heard of and sort of intended to go to see it at the cinema, then Stuff happened and you figured you’d wait for the DVD, then more Stuff happened and it fell out of your head and you’d forgotten about it.

OK, maybe it’s just me.

But there are a *ton* of movies that i’ve always meant to watch. And these days with the prevalence of online sources such as LoveFilm Instant, NetFlix, Blinkbox and others, the opportunity is there.

So, I set up a list. Cunningly entitled ‘Films people said I should watch’. I set it up using Trello, a fabulous project/list/to-do sorting tool which allows me to sort the list, tag who recommended the film and so on.

I made the mistake of giving a couple of my work colleagues access to the list, on the basis that it was usually them who recommended stuff.

My ‘top five films I should watch next’ list now contains… ten films. The list of recommended films contains 14. That’s a lot of films. Hopefully I’ll be slightly better at posting up reviews than I am about books…

So, dear reader. Over to you. Which films are your all-time favourites? Which films do you find yourself recommending to others? Which have you been most excited about?

Review: My Criminal World

My Criminal World
My Criminal World by Henry Sutton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this – interesting idea too, a struggling crime writer getting caught up in his work a little too much. I liked the way you got snippets of the fictional author’s book throughout the main story, and got to experience some of the frustrations of being a writer, seeing how it all pans out. Great fun.

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chilli jam

Chilli Jam Man Original Garlic & Ginger Chilli Jam

Recently I was given the chance to try some of the Chilli Jam Man’s jams, courtesy of the lovely folks at Millies in Leeds. There was a wide range of jams on offer, but I went for the Original – garlic & ginger chilli jam.

As the Chilli Jam Man’s website puts it:

The original Jam that started it all. Chilli, garlic and ginger, a mainstay of most South-East Asian cuisine. A must for every kitchen. just the right heat level if you just like a bit of chilli to use as everything from a sauce/pickle through to a marinade and base for your curries and stir fries.

Sounds heavenly, right? They’ve given it a 6.5/10 heat rating, which sounds like it should have a suitable kick, but not to blow your tonsils out. I’d tried the Bhut Jokolia jam at the Leeds Loves Food festival last year. Hooyah, that one is blisteringly hot!

I thought I’d start off by giving it a go on some toasted pitta bread as a dip.

Oh. My. Word.

It’s wonderful, wonderful stuff. Spicy (obviously), fruity and with a real depth of flavour going on there, with a bit of a fiery edge. Now, I like things with a bit of heat to them, and this was just about perfect. It’s not for the faint-hearted though!

I’ve also since tried it in sandwiches, with some nice thick ham slices, or as part of cheese on toast – slap some on the bread, cheese on top, whack it under the grill. Robert’s your mother’s brother[1] and away you go.

In short, if you have a fondness for chilli, you’ve got to try some of this.

Millies stock a good range too, along with a whole host of other delicious things.

Disclaimer: Millies were kind enough to offer a jar of jam for review, but the opinions above are entirely my own. If I didn’t like it, I’d say so! In fact, I think I’ve got a tiny bit left in the jar, just enough for a midnight snack with some cheese & crackers…

[1] Bob’s your uncle. Do keep up. 🙂

book review: World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pretty good, though the style of the story, told as interviews of survivors of the zombie war meant that there wasn’t a lot of tension. You knew that the war was over, and that these people had survived to tell the tale. That said, it was really interesting to see so many distinct character voices come out, and the stories they told were often fairly gruesome. Not usually a fan of horror stories, or zombie stuff, but quite enjoyed this.

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