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jsm999 (Bedfordshire, UK)

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Mark Steel - Vive La Revolution [2007] [DVD]
Mark Steel - Vive La Revolution [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Steel

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some funny moments, 28 Jan 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've only seen Mark Steel on panel shows before, where his intelligent and very funny contributions work well. This is a recording of a solo show, just Mark on a stage, taking the French revolution as his starting point, but with long digressions into modern issues.

It did make me laugh a few times, and I learnt a little about a part of history we didn't cover at school, but I'm unlikely to watch it again. I found the excessive swearing annoying - I expected some but this seemed like just a way of getting a cheap laugh from a rather unresponsive audience. Several of his digressions, on North Londoners, class issues, etc. didn't work for me, and he seemed to be trying just a bit too hard to establish his working class credentials.

On the whole, a good attempt to make a historical topic entertaining and relevant, with some funny moments.


Grand Designs 3D Bathroom & Kitchen
Grand Designs 3D Bathroom & Kitchen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for amateurs, 25 Jan 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As we're planning to replace our kitchen units, I thought this software would be a great way to experiment with some new ideas, and actually see whether they'd work in practice. However, I'm struggling even to draw the 2D plan of our irregularly shaped kitchen. I thought this program would enable me to fill my kitchen with various combinations of units, furniture and decoration, and see them in 3D, but it actually seems to be much more for designing a building or extension from scratch.

The first thing I wanted to to do is draw a plan of my (empty) kitchen. So I measured the walls and tried to draw a 2D plan on the computer. I could do this on graph paper in a few minutes, given the measurements, but haven't yet succeeded in doing even this accurately on the computer. I found the interface very difficult to use if the kitchen is anything other than a regular rectangle or L-shape. For example, it seems you need to know how thick your walls are - of course if you're building it from scratch, this is pretty vital, but I'm not - I just want to see the inside. I couldn't find a way (that's not to say there isn't one) of inputting internal dimensions - the only measurements I'm interested in. So you have to guess how thick your walls are (like many older houses, ours are all different in reality), and then add enough onto your measurements to make sure it all joins up properly? Well, if there's a better way, I wasn't able to find it.

There is no useful printed documentation but I sat through some of the tutorials and was none the wiser. I can now divide walls into equal sections and put bricks on the outside, draw a wall at an angle, and split a room in two, but still can't get that odd little pillar next to the window to join up correctly with the walls either side of it.

I found the interface clunky and over-complicated, and after an hour of trying to draw our room, with its odd corners, pillars, and walls of varying thicknesses, I'm afraid I've gone back to graph paper and pencil.

As a householder who wants to mess around with some ideas for a new kitchen design, I guess I'm not the target market for this software - without previous experience of CAD, or Grander Designs for an extension, it's just too steep a learning curve to make it worthwhile.


Rachael Hale Daysha Lilac Faux Panel Single Duvet Set (12s)
Rachael Hale Daysha Lilac Faux Panel Single Duvet Set (12s)

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute bedding for a child, 15 Jan 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My 11-year-old daughter was very pleased with this duvet cover and pillowcase featuring a cute Rachael Hale puppy. The fabric isn't as soft as pure cotton, though it's better after washing; I suspect it won't last as well as cotton. The print on the duvet cover is reasonable quality, a bit grainy if you look closely, but good enough for a duvet cover. The colour is quite a pinky shade of lilac, but as it's not a solid colour, it's not too difficult to match with other pink or lilac furnishings. The items are quite well made, seams are straight and button fastening at the bottom is practical; no problems fitting a bulky winter duvet inside. Overall I'd say it's good value for money at under £12.


The Phantom of Rue Royale: The Nicolas Le Floch Investigations 3: A Nicholas Le Floch Investigation (Nicolas Le Floch 3)
The Phantom of Rue Royale: The Nicolas Le Floch Investigations 3: A Nicholas Le Floch Investigation (Nicolas Le Floch 3)
by Jean-François Parot
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars French historical murder mystery, 8 Dec 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A murder mystery set in 18th century France, the third in a series featuring an investigator called Nicholas le Floch. I'm completely unfamiliar with 18th century French history, so no idea how accurate it is, but the setting was brought to life without making it hard work to read. I did suffer a little from not having read the previous 2 books in the series, as there were several references to the back story.

The book is well translated from the original French, easy to read, and entertaining. There are a few convoluted or oddly constructed sentences of the sort which work better in French, and occasionally I found myself having to read a passage twice, but these were the exception. Some detailed descriptions of meals didn't work terribly well for me (veal pie made with lard and cartilage anyone?) but these and many other details added to the setting.

The detective story worked reasonably well, with some interesting twists. One of the characters is possessed and needs to be exorcised - I found this bit annoying and unnecessary. Otherwise, a satisfying detective story with an atmospheric setting.


The Unofficial Guide to California with Kids (Unofficial Guides)
The Unofficial Guide to California with Kids (Unofficial Guides)
by Colleen Dunn Bates
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly light on information, 5 Dec 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've bought 3 editions of the Unofficial Guide to Disneyworld Florida, which is an incredibly informative, comprehensive and useful guide. However, I was disappointed in the Unofficial Guide to California with Kids, which lacks the (sometimes excessive) detail, the humour, and the mix of enthusiasm and criticism that makes the DW Florida guide such a gem.

For a start, California with Kids doesn't cover Disneyland California properly - you have to pay out for a separate book about that. There's a map of the main park and a list of attractions but not important information like height restrictions. There's very little about the second park (CA Adventure). Much of the little it does include is given over to general chat - if they were restricted for space, I would have preferred some practical information. It did feel like they'd done this on purpose to make you buy the separate park guide. But then, there was similarly scant information about other parks like Knott's Berry Farm - not even enough to decide whether it would be worth a visit for my family.

Secondly, California is so big and varies so much within the state, it's very hard to cover in a single book - I'd hoped that by focussing on things to do with children, we might be able to single out some good places to visit and some useful tips. However, the coverage of each location and attraction is very superficial, and felt very uncritical. There is a lot of useful information, but I found it needed to be supplemented with more detail from other guides to the area.

My other criticism is with the page headings. The book is divided into geographical Parts, each subdivided into areas, but the page headings only show you which Part you're in, not which area. I found I was constantly flicking back and forth trying to work out where I was. There are maps, but they're all over the place, and it's hard to work out how they relate to each other if you're travelling.

The guide is chatty and readable, with bits of personal experience to keep it interesting, but it's so light on information, I felt this space could have been better used for some more detail about places and attractions.

This book needs to be a lot more detailed to be really useful, or to focus in on a smaller area and do it properly. The Lonely Planet Guide to LA & Southern CA (NOT the one for the whole of CA) is the most useful one I've found so far.


Modding Little Tiger Graphic Skin (Nintendo DS Lite)
Modding Little Tiger Graphic Skin (Nintendo DS Lite)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Customise your DS!, 2 Dec 2008
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
I bought this skin for my daughter's DS nearly a year ago, and it's only now starting to show signs of wear. What you get is 3 plastic stickers, which doesn't seem much for the price, so be warned. One fits on the front of the DS, and the others go inside, fitting neatly around the controls, without interfering with the buttons etc. The stickers were a bit fiddlly but reasonably easy to apply - they fit very accurately, and it's worth spending some time getting them just right - a job for an adult or careful older child.

The skins are purely decorative, not designed to protect the DS, and will not stand up well to wear and tear - they will scratch, tear or peel if not handled carefully. They're definitely not a substitute for a good protective case, and be careful how you put the decorated DS into the case. My daughter has a case with a net pocket inside for storing games etc.; once she put the DS into the case so that the sticker was in contact with the net full of games, and the net dug into the sticker and left a print. Apart from this, with careful handling, the skins have stayed in place surprisingly well. There's no glue or gum, and I can believe they will come off cleanly as advertised.

The pictures are attractive - the decorated DS looks really good, and it's a nice way to personalise your DS, especially if you have more than one in the family! I would not recommend if you (or your child) can't resist picking at the corners of the stickers, as it won't last 5 minutes.


National Geographic The Human Skull
National Geographic The Human Skull

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea but too small and fiddly, 20 Oct 2008
= Durability:1.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This toy consists of 39 plastic pieces which fit together to make a three-dimensional model. The top of the skull can be lifted off to remove the brain. The lower jawbone is hinged so you can move it. The whole thing fits on a little stand for display.

Firstly, the skull is tiny. Once assembled, it measures about 4.5cm across ('ear to ear' except it doesn't have ears...), and 9.5cm high including the neck and stand. Some of the pieces are very small, and the plastic tweezers supplied with the kit don't help one bit. Each piece is labelled with a very small embossed number, almost impossible to read in some cases - however, this is not a huge problem as the instructions start by identifying all the pieces. It helped a lot to arrange the bits in numerical order before starting.

The instructions for putting it together worked OK; I'd say it's comparable with a typical Lego model. Some of the bones were identified but not all - it would have been nice to have a complete list.

The main problem we had is that many of the pieces don't fit together tightly enough. We needed four hands to hold it together at one point, and it was incredibly frustrating when it all collapsed when the next piece was added. However, once complete, it all stays together quite well - I don't think it would survive being dropped, but certainly you can pick it up and wiggle the jaw up and down to make it 'talk', take the top off and remove the brain etc. without it disintegrating.

At the end of the instruction booklet is a section describing the skull and the main lobes of the brain. This section seems to be aimed at slightly older children than the 8+ recommendation on the box - younger children might need an adult to explain phrases like 'rigid connective tissue' and 'voluntary movement'.

My daughter certainly learnt something about the structure of the skull and brain from building this, though it would have been a lot more interesting and clearer if it was bigger. We were more focussed on trying to get the cheekbone in place without dislodging the upper jaw to pay much attention to what the bones actually were! We're unlikely to take it apart again and rebuild it, given how fiddly it was to put it together. I think most 8-year-olds would struggle to build this without help, though it might be that our skull was unusually poorly cast - if the pieces had fitted together firmly, then it might be possible.

If it had been a lot bigger and slightly better made, this would be a great educational toy, appealing to boys and girls; unfortunately it's let down by the small size and poor fit of the pieces.


National Geographic The Human Heart
National Geographic The Human Heart
Price: £16.29

4.0 out of 5 stars 3-D puzzle with an educational twist, 19 Oct 2008
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This model of the human heart comes as 31 pieces which fit together to build an approximately life-sized heart. Once assembled, the model fits onto a stand, and hinged flaps open to let you see inside the heart.

The pieces are made of slightly flexible plastic, which seem strong and generally fit together well - some are fiddly to slot together, and sometimes needed to be held in place while another piece was fitted, but mostly it was a nicely made 3-D jigsaw. Plastic tweezers are provided, but we didn't use them as the pieces are not particularly small.

The instructions begin by identifying the numbered parts, followed by diagrams showing how they fit together. The pictures don't exactly match the pieces, sometimes quite different colours, which sometimes made it hard to work out what went where, but generally it was possible for my 10-year-old to assemble by herself. The kit is recommended for ages 8+, but I think it is more appropriate for slightly older children.

The instruction booklet concludes with a description of how the heart works. This isn't written particularly for children, and could have been much better done by adding some diagrams and making the text less technical and more chatty. It wasn't always easy to relate the description to the relevant part of the model, or to see how blood would flow through the structure as it's not obvious how the valves work and the blood vessels are solid.

The assembled heart fits onto a stand for display, and it's colourful and looks quite interesting. The blood vessels in and out are bright red or blue with some strange white bits, and are cut short, so it's not very obvious which is which and how the whole thing fits together with lungs and the rest of the body unless you read the technical description.

As a 3-D puzzle, this is a nice well-made toy; I'm not sure a child would learn a lot without help and explanation from an adult, but if you're able to do this, it's also a good educational model.


We're British, Innit: An Irreverent A to Z of All Things British
We're British, Innit: An Irreverent A to Z of All Things British
by Iain Aitch
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly amusing Christmas stocking filler, 31 Aug 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This A-Z of Britishness includes almost all the things you'd expect, like Marmite, knotted handkerchiefs and Morris dancing, and quite a few that I wouldn't have thought of - like fried chicken and Y-fronts - with comments on what they tell us about the British people and culture.

I'd enjoyed Iain Aitch's 'A Fete worse than Death', but 'We're British Innit' came across rather as just more of the same, and I thought worked less well than the narrative travelogue of 'Fete'. One of the problems of an A-Z is that you have to write something about every obvious item, even when you don't have anything original to say, and it's inevitably bitty, jumping from one topic to another without a link. I suppose it's a good sign that I found myself thinking of topics which I thought he'd omitted, and hunting through to check whether they'd been covered (most of them had, but not always where I expected).

Intermittently amusing but mostly not laugh-out-loud funny, it's not a book to read cover-to-cover, but an excellent Christmas present for dipping into after lunch.


Sequence Board Game
Sequence Board Game
Price: £18.04

4.0 out of 5 stars Good family game, 14 July 2008
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Sequence Board Game (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We played this game with family aged from 10 to 'over 60', and it was good fun for all.

The rules are fairly simple and straightforward, and I think a younger child would have no problems with the basic concept. Play requires a mixture of strategy and luck, and you can make it as strategic as you want to, depending on who is playing. Games can last quite a long time, or be over very quickly, depending on which cards turn up; it can drag on a bit and younger children could get bored with the longer games. I'm not sure we'll play it much in future, as there are other games which are more exciting, but I think it will come out when family are round as it works well for all ages.

The board, cards etc. and box are nice quality, and it's attractively packaged, a good gift for a family.


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