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Sam Tyler "samueltyler" (Reading, Berkshire)

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Fisher-Price Rainforest Take Along Swing and Seat
Fisher-Price Rainforest Take Along Swing and Seat
Price: £71.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swings in a Roundabout Way, 30 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Since the 70s ‘Fisher-Price’ have been a sign of quality in my family and this has continued into the next generation as the likes of ‘Fisher-Price Rainforest Take Along Swing and Seat’ remain top quality. Whilst the seat I would have sat on back then was probably on a spring, this swing seat does a lot more and is great entertainment for the very tiniest of babies. The initial setup is incredibly easy and a baby fits into the seat with ease and security. Once in place you can use the simple button system to judge the speed of the swing, add a little vibration or play a tune or three should you desire.

What makes this swing good is that it is a take along one. You can easily pack it up and fit it in the car should you be visiting relatives. The device is also really easy to clean and you can remove the seat element and wash that in the washing machine independently. The only misgiving I have with the set is that is says that it is 2 in 1 – swing and seat. The seat is essentially you just clicking it into a stationary position and does not really add anything. You should look to buy this if you are looking for a great quality swing and not if you are looking for a comfortable seat.


Goodhouse
Goodhouse
by Peyton Marshall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Banged Up in Borstal, 30 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Goodhouse (Hardcover)
There have been times in history that governments have thought they knew who the criminal underclass was. This did not lead to anything good under the Nazis and the same can be said of the Goodhouse regime in Peyton Marshall’s new book. If we knew that certain genetics led to an increased chance of criminality, wouldn’t educating these people when they were young be a good thing? Prevention is better than cure, but I am not sure if fascism is.

This intriguing concept it is at the very centre of ‘Goodhouse’ and is by far the strongest element of the book. The initial pages alone introduce us to this future Earth where for 50 years some young boys have been housed in strict border schools, no longer allowed to know their families. A simple idea, but one that has great potential that could lead in so many different ways. It is a shame then that Marshall manages to lead us down one or two blind alleys before getting to the meat of the story.

We follow James as he leaves his Goodhouse camp to work in the real world. Be it nature or nurture, he manages to get in trouble and things begin to spiral out of control. ‘Goodhouse’ starts off as a hard read and continues so for almost the first two thirds. James is wrongly put-upon for great lengths; he is demeaned, tortured, beaten and humiliated. This does not make for pleasant reading, but does act as a great way of fleshing out the wider world that Marshall has created. James will do whatever it takes to break his programming and get out.

If the book had concentrated solely on James’ struggle, it would have been a harsh read, but one that raised questions in our own treatment of prisoners and the poor. However, Marshall throws in a couple more layers of story that muddy the waters. There is a love story that is a little unbelievable and a fight club that just seems daft. The book darts between the day to day life of internment, to a teeny love tale and then violent fighting. The reader can become a little confused at the time frame as Marshal has to skip days to allow James time to recover when nothing else seems to happen.

Whilst the book does get bogged down in the middle, it is certainly worth persevering for the final act that bring to the fore the society that imprisoned James at the age of 6. A group known as the Zeros believe that if a person is genetically designed to be a criminal, why bother educating them when you can kill them instead? This not only poses another interesting debate about the nature of criminality, but also leads to some great action set pieces as James tries to help himself and his friends.

Like with many genre books that rely heavily on one strong concept, ‘Goodhouse’ has some great ideas, but does not quite utilise them as well as they could be. Marshall has given the book a very solid centre with a likable lead and well-designed world. It is a shame that some of the book drifts more into juvenile fiction and feels too naïve when compared with the heart wrenching world that James exists in. Fans of teenage dystopian fiction will certainly enjoy the book, as will the majority of science fiction fans; it is just that some people will find it all a little twee at times. Original review on bookbag.co.uk


The Clockwork Dragon
The Clockwork Dragon
by Jonathan Emmett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite Like Clockwork, 19 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Clockwork Dragon (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What do you do to scare away a dragon? Get an even bigger dragon! This is the thought process of Max and Lizzie who find themselves out of work and the only job available, that of a dragon slayer. The premise of ‘The Clockwork Dragon’ is a simple enough one; an alternative medieval times that has magic and clockwork technology. I enjoyed Jonathan Emmett’s story, it was fun seeing the children tricking the bad dragon into helping them out. As a modern take on a folktale, it is well told.

However, the visuals are not as much to my taste. Elys Dolan does fill each of the pages with plenty of colour and there is loads going on all over the place; you will spend a lot of the time finding new things. However, the choice to slightly misprint the colours was very off putting. All the colours do not quite fit into the lines, like there was a misalignment at the printing press. This was a choice by the authors, but it was genuinely off-putting to me and kept throwing me out of the magical world as my brain tried to figure out what was wrong.

A 32 page children’s book like ‘The Clockwork Dragon’ relies on both story and images; one without the other is just not enough. Therefore, although it is a decent enough story, the illustrations do hamper the overall appeal.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2015 1:59 PM GMT


ByteStor Pro 16GB 45Mbps Class 10 High Speed SDHC Card
ByteStor Pro 16GB 45Mbps Class 10 High Speed SDHC Card
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for the SDHC Memory, 17 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am not one for brand loyalty and would much rather save some money buying something from a little known company. However, for this to work, the product has to be of a decent quality and work well. Getting what you pay for can be great, but also worrisome if you are only handing over a few quid. Thankfully, the ‘ByteStor Pro 16GB SDHC Card’ does what is needed. Back in the day a SDHC card would set you back a fair amount of money, but now you can get 16GB for under a tenner. For most cameras this is enough to store hundreds of photos, unless you like your resolution extremely high.

The ‘ByteStor’ essentially looks like any other SDHC card and works the same. I plugged it into two different cameras and two different laptops and it was cleanly registered by all and worked to move photos and files around. The memory comes in a nice little paper case so that it remain in transit and arrives safely. What the product comes down to mostly is price, the ‘ByteStor’ is reportedly slightly faster at transferring data, but I am not worried over a few seconds. It does come in at a couple of pounds more expensive than some SDHC cards, but is still cheap. For those looking for a slightly faster memory release then it is probably worth it.


Nine Inches (Dan Starkey Book 8)
Nine Inches (Dan Starkey Book 8)
Price: £3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Has a Leg to Stand On, 12 Mar. 2015
The very best writers don’t rely on just one character throughout their entire career, simply because it means that if the character goes a little stale, you have nowhere to go. Better to be an Agatha Christie and have two or three avenues to follow should you grow bored of writing about an inquisitive pensioner or a European PI. Colin Bateman is a brilliant writer who produces standalone novels and character books. For a few years he concentrated on his new Mystery Man character, but by book three things were getting a little stale. Enter Dan Starkey once more to cleanse the palette and remind fans why this author is one of the best.

It’s been several years since we last saw Starkey and in his normal fashion he has managed to destroy all the goodwill he gained when editing ‘Belfast Confidential’. Now he is a somewhat PI with no clients and no money. So, when a rich former friend turns up with a case, Dan is the Man without a plan (but a desperate need for cash). This being Starkey, a simple case turns into one of murder, mayhem and a missing legs.

‘Nine Inches’ is a great reminder to fans of Bateman of why the author is so good and he should not be underestimated. The book is effortlessly funny, but is also scary at times as there is real violence on show. You never know in Bateman’s books who will live or die; he is not adverse to a shock or two. ‘Nine’ is set in the modern Northern Ireland, but many of the old problems still exist. It is wonderful to see Starkey butting heads with gangsters and politicians alike to get to a truth that no one really cares about anymore.

Creating an anti-hero like Starkey is no easy task – I have read so many and few succeed. Dan is unlikable, a cheat, a stirrer and pretty charmless at times. However, he is also very funny and says some of the things most people wish they had the stones to say. With laugh out loud moments, real heart and some genuine thrills; ‘Nine Inches’ is a welcome return for Dan Starkey and one of Bateman’s best (and this is an author who has been writing great crime fiction for 20 years)

Sammy Recommendation


Nine Inches
Nine Inches
by Bateman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Get Off My Land, 12 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Nine Inches (Paperback)
The very best writers don’t rely on just one character throughout their entire career, simply because it means that if the character goes a little stale, you have nowhere to go. Better to be an Agatha Christie and have two or three avenues to follow should you grow bored of writing about an inquisitive pensioner or a European PI. Colin Bateman is a brilliant writer who produces standalone novels and character books. For a few years he concentrated on his new Mystery Man character, but by book three things were getting a little stale. Enter Dan Starkey once more to cleanse the palette and remind fans why this author is one of the best.

It’s been several years since we last saw Starkey and in his normal fashion he has managed to destroy all the goodwill he gained when editing ‘Belfast Confidential’. Now he is a somewhat PI with no clients and no money. So, when a rich former friend turns up with a case, Dan is the Man without a plan (but a desperate need for cash). This being Starkey, a simple case turns into one of murder, mayhem and a missing legs.

‘Nine Inches’ is a great reminder to fans of Bateman of why the author is so good and he should not be underestimated. The book is effortlessly funny, but is also scary at times as there is real violence on show. You never know in Bateman’s books who will live or die; he is not adverse to a shock or two. ‘Nine’ is set in the modern Northern Ireland, but many of the old problems still exist. It is wonderful to see Starkey butting heads with gangsters and politicians alike to get to a truth that no one really cares about anymore.

Creating an anti-hero like Starkey is no easy task – I have read so many and few succeed. Dan is unlikable, a cheat, a stirrer and pretty charmless at times. However, he is also very funny and says some of the things most people wish they had the stones to say. With laugh out loud moments, real heart and some genuine thrills; ‘Nine Inches’ is a welcome return for Dan Starkey and one of Bateman’s best (and this is an author who has been writing great crime fiction for 20 years)

Sammy Recommendation


Belkin 3.4 amp Micro Car Charger with Coiled Wired Lightning Charge and Sync Cable and USB Passthrough for iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, iPad 4th Gen, iPad Air and Mini iPad - Black (MFI Approved)
Belkin 3.4 amp Micro Car Charger with Coiled Wired Lightning Charge and Sync Cable and USB Passthrough for iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, iPad 4th Gen, iPad Air and Mini iPad - Black (MFI Approved)
Offered by BESTBUYIT
Price: £23.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Charge All The Devices, 12 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
By the way people drive around nowadays I would assume that we are all very busy. Far too busy in fact, to charge a phone at home; we need to charge them on the go. One ready to use power source for drivers is the erstwhile lighter in their car – now a simple power point. A point in which you can insert the new ‘Belkin 3.4 amp Micro Car Charger’, with its later generation Apple extension. As someone who has attempted to use none Apple chargers before, I am glad to tell you that the ‘Belkin’ works fine for now on at least the iPhone 5 and should therefore be perfectly usable elsewhere in the range (although this may later be undone by a firmware update which I do not always update that quickly to).

Having a simple charger for the car is not in itself that great, I have been known to plug my phone in directly via USB to the car, but for those with older models of cars, the ‘Belkin’ does help. It also has the added benefit of being able to charge up two things at once with no detriment to the quality of the power; use the USB extension in the plug to attach another device. This device is meant to be a little faster at charging, due to its power – I did not notice this overly myself, but it certainly charged up enough of my phone in a 30 minute car ride.

As a product itself the ‘Belkin’ also works well. It is compact and made of a high quality wire that should last for at least as long as Apple have the current power port in their products. There is a slight issue with the cables length, the strong coil means that is remains quite short. Also the fact remains that in many modern cars you can plug your iPad devices straight into the vehicle without this. If you do need an in car charger that uses the lighter then the ‘Belkin’ is a great choice, just have a quick investigation to what you actually need before buying it.


This Little Piggy Went Dancing
This Little Piggy Went Dancing
by Margaret Wild
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Stick to the Roast Beef?, 11 Mar. 2015
There are classics of the nursery rhyme oeuvre and This Little Piggy is certainly one of them. Who doesn’t remember someone ticking of each of their fingers or toes as they explained the whereabouts of our porcine pals, only to be tickled at the end? However, this is 2014 and there must be a way to improve the rhyme; perhaps the pigs are eating something different or like a different activity? Or perhaps we should just leave well alone?

‘This Little Piggy Went Dancing’ recreates the classic rhyme, not just once, but several times. Each double page spread follows the same rules; one pig goes somewhere, another decides not to, one pig eats a delicious meal, another does not, and finally one pig gets up to something natty. For the very young who prefer their stories to have repetitive patterns, this is certainly a book that does that. It takes a theme and repeats it several times. Unlike the very straight forward books such as ‘That’s not My…’ this is a book that tries to move one step further. Therefore, it takes a little more to engage the reader.

The reworked rhymes are produced by Margaret Wild and she works well within the restraints of theme. However, there is only so many times that you want to repeat what is essentially the same thing. To successfully deconstruct a simple rhyme you have to assume that the audience knows it well and then build on it. There could have been some great fun Wild had gone a little leftfield with some of the rhymes. Instead she tells principally in the same story, but with very little twist. The written elements of the book all feel a little safe.

Therefore, it is up to illustrator Deborah Niland to breathe a little more life into the book. The pigs themselves are super cute and I liked the fact that the same five pigs keep coming back, but wear different clothing depending on what they are doing. However, is this adding life? The illustrations keep the simple nature of the story structure, so the majority of the pages have large white spaces as there is not that much to draw. As you flip page after page of similar things both you and any child older than a very young toddler will become a little weary with it all.

To the right audience ‘Piggy Went Dancing’ should appeal; its repetitive nature is a useful tool for learning at toddler age. If the book had been formatted slightly differently I could have seen the appeal myself, but it is the size of a full children’s paperback, meaning that the story and the illustrations are not large enough to fill the pages. On a smaller format, as seen in the ‘That’s Not My’ series, ‘Piggy Went Dancing’ would be a vibrant and full adventure. As it stands, the book feels a little sterile, but will still appeal to some. Original review on bookbag.co.uk


Oral B Vitality Plus Trizone Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Oral B Vitality Plus Trizone Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Price: £39.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eee By Gums, 11 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Electric Toothbrushes once felt like they were the plaything of the rich and the famous. How could a mere mortal like myself possible afford over £100 for one electric toothbrush when I can get 100 analogue brushes for that (or use my finger for free). Oral B have been knocking down the price of electric toothbrushes for some years and now have a range that is far more affordable for most purses, but is the ‘Oral B Vitality Plus Trizone’ as good as some of the more expensive models?

‘Trizone’ is perhaps best seen as the more smart-price range of Oral B products, but that is not to say that it does not work. As an electric toothbrush it is excellent. Charge the unit up initially for 16 hours and you have hours of cleaning time. This pack comes with two conventional looking heads, but with a top element that waggles a little. I found the brush a little softer than I am used to, but still made my teeth feel very clean. What is good is that the heads are compatible with several models so you can give one to your partner should they have an older Oral B brush. Plus, you can always buy another head from the range that suits your tastes better.

It is only minor elements that betray the ‘Trizone’s slightly cheaper roots. The button that is used to press the device on and off is a little soft and feels like you are jabbing some horrible feeling rubber. Plus, there is no light that indicates when it has fully charged – every other brush I have had has one of these. In the grand scheme of things these are minor issues, but enough to show that you are getting slightly what you would expect from your money. However, for anyone looking for an affordable electronic toothbrush the ‘Oral B Vitality Plus Trizone’ is a fantastic option.


Flying Dutch
Flying Dutch
Price: £3.95

3.0 out of 5 stars It's All Dutch to Me, 10 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Flying Dutch (Kindle Edition)
I’ve been reading Tom Holt for a long time, since I was a teenager, but it has been a while since I have read his work. It turns out that I had missed one of his earlier outings in ‘Flying Dutch’ and it underlined what is both good and bad about the writer, but also what on Earth was I thinking of when reading these at 13?

As with many of Holt’s books, ‘Flying Dutch’ centres on how the fantastical reacts when it meets the mundane. In this case Vanderdecken is the fabled Flying Dutchman who is cursed to roam the planet forever with a group of stinky crewmates. The book was written in the late 80s/early 90s and has that big shoulder pads and enormous mobile phone feel of the time. It has a touch of Tom Sharpe mixed with a soupçon of Terry Pratchett, whilst still remaining its own thing. There is genuine mirth to be had as an exasperated Vanderdecken has to deal with people who have lived less than a century. And the idea that a bunch of sailors don’t really do much even though they have lived for over 400 years sounds depressingly real.

When taking a snarky look at 90s Britain, Holt is at his best; using the fish out of water crewmates to highlight the hypocrisy of bankers. However, not everything in the book works as well. There is a storyline about trying to lift the curse and this becomes a little confused and convoluted towards the end – a gentle story just about the crew would have worked better. Also, Holt has a tendency to read a little smugly at time as if he knows what is best. It is hard to read about sticking one up to the Hooray Henrys, when sometimes the book reads like it may have been written by one.

Overall though, a good story with some well written and witty lines.


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