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Laura T (Bradford-on-Avon, UK)
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XMI X-Mini WE XAM17-B Portable Thumb Size Speaker for iPhone/iPad/iPod/MP3 Player/Laptop - Orange
XMI X-Mini WE XAM17-B Portable Thumb Size Speaker for iPhone/iPad/iPod/MP3 Player/Laptop - Orange
Price: £26.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Good mini-speaker, 10 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a mini-speaker (it looks bigger than it is in the picture, it's only as long as my thumb) that can be used with a range of iDevices or with an mp3 player or laptop. It comes with an all-in-one charger and USB/iDevice connector and can also be used with headphones. I tested this speaker with an mp3 player and Mac, but do not have any iDevices so cannot vouch for how well it works with those.

The plus points of this speaker are:

- its size; it is genuinely tiny and very easy to transport
- ease of use; I had no problems getting it set up, apart from changing the volume (see below)
- sound quality is excellent given how tiny it is
- found it was easy to work out how to plug in it to both the Mac and mp3 player

Its minus points are:

- Appearance. I seem to be in a minority here, but I think it looks hideous! I'm not a fan of orange, but I don't think I would like this design in any colour. The black version would probably be my preference, as then it would look more like a mini-barrel than a cheap toy.
- Lack of instructions. I didn't realise at first you change the volume on the device you're using, rather than the speakers, and had to consult reviews here. Also, it's not clear how you know when it's fully charged. A fuller instruction manual would be appreciated.

In general, however, the plus points outweigh the minuses, and this is a very useful and versatile little speaker.


Emjoi MICRO Pedi MINI Portable Pedicure Device
Emjoi MICRO Pedi MINI Portable Pedicure Device
Price: £27.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Smaller but no less effective, 5 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I tried out the Emjoi regular-size pedicure device last year, and I'm pleased to say that this smaller, travel-sized version delivers equally good, if not better results. Perhaps it's because it only comes with the more heavy-duty blue roller rather than the softer pink roller, but I felt that this product was actually more effective at smoothing my feet than the original device. It seems to rotate faster and work more quickly and effectively. It's extremely easy to use - with both Emjois, I hardly needed to read the instruction manual before getting started. You will need 2 AA batteries, which are not included.

My one issue with Emjoi products is that the rollers do wear out quickly. After a few uses they deliver poorer results than they did originally. As this travel-sized version is no better than the original in this respect, I've deducted one star.


Philips Shaver Series 3000 with CloseCut Blades and Flexing Heads HQ6986/16
Philips Shaver Series 3000 with CloseCut Blades and Flexing Heads HQ6986/16
Price: £40.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Buzz buzz shave, 5 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My fiancé reviewed this shaver; his thoughts are as follows:

I have never used an electric shaver before, so I don't have much basis for comparison. But this one certainly seems to work well. It is very easy to use, comfortable to the skin, and gives a nice close shave. I have two complaints: it is annoying that the plug requires a UK adapter and the instructions are extremely minimal. But the shaver itself was fine.


Kent's Kitchen Thai Green Curry Meal Kit 65 g (Pack of 1, Total 4 Kits)
Kent's Kitchen Thai Green Curry Meal Kit 65 g (Pack of 1, Total 4 Kits)
Price: £6.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tasty, veggie-friendly Thai curry kit, 2 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This curry kit comprises herbs, curry paste and garlic-infused oil in which to cook your curry, while you supply everything else - coconut milk, chicken/veg equivalent, and vegetables. I initially thought this was a bad bargain, especially at £2.50 a kit. However, at the currently reduced price, I think this could be a worthwhile buy. I tried out the kit by using twice the amount of ingredients suggested (quorn pieces and mushrooms were substituted for the chicken), as it claims you can make the recipe stretch to four people. Initially, I thought this might weaken the curry, but I thought the flavour was excellent; definitely superior to shop-bought curry pastes, and with the right amount of spice. The separate herbs also added a good texture to this dish that could not have been achieved by adding curry paste alone. It's not as good as making your own curry paste, but a definite second best. As a vegetarian, the fact that this curry paste does not contain fish - as virtually all of the standard jars of Thai curry paste in supermarkets do - is also a massive bonus. I like the fact that you have the right amount for the meal, as well, rather than buying a jar that languishes in the fridge and then is chucked out.

My issue with this product was the garlic oil, which I don't think is necessary and adds little to the flavour. I would prefer the kit to come with only the herbs and the paste and to be slightly cheaper, which would make this a more affordable option. Overall, though, this product exceeded my expectations, and I'd like to try others in the range.


Busy B Christmas Tags and Ribbon - Multicolour
Busy B Christmas Tags and Ribbon - Multicolour
Price: £4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever pack of Christmas gift tags, 1 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For me, the two best things about this product are its clever design and the value for money. Buying a pack of 40 gift tags might not usually be a very thrifty decision, as (especially if you are me) it's likely that you'll lose them, but Busy B have thought of an answer to this. The tags come in a little book-like packet and you can pull off individual tags like Post-Its, so the rest of the tags stay put. The same goes for the individual ribbons, which are placed in a holder.

I was less impressed with the design of the tags. They are quite plain and - for Christmas - I would prefer foil or sparkly tags. They are matte, fairly pastel, and they also have blank banks, so they won't look good if they flip over. The upside of this is that they are fairly unisex (except for the pink tag) and could probably be used for other occasions apart from Christmas without anyone noticing. The ribbon is a nice red colour and good quality.

For me, the convenient packaging trumps the unexciting tags, but if you are keen on bright/glossy tags, I would look elsewhere.


Philips SC2004/11 Lumea IPL Hair Removal System for Body with Slide and Flash Mode
Philips SC2004/11 Lumea IPL Hair Removal System for Body with Slide and Flash Mode
Price: £249.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Zap zap zap basic, 1 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'm pleased with the ease of use and performance of this Lumea Hair Removal System. It's substantially cheaper than the similar product that comes with a facial attachment, and so much better value for me, as I haven't used the face attachment at all. Although the guide suggests you can use the face attachment on your bikini line as well, I don't think this is necessary. I found this product extremely easy to get started with. The introductions are clear and the product is largely self-explanatory. I like the cordless function, and it charges relatively quickly. In my experience, when fully charged, there is enough power to do both lower legs, bikini line, and underarms before charging again. Despite using the maximum setting, I haven't had any pain or skin irritation, and the flashes of light are harmless to the eyes.

So far, I have used this appliance four times on my bikini line, lower legs and underarms. Unfortunately, I think I will need to use it for longer on my underarms and legs to see substantial results. The hair on my legs does appear thinner, but it's not thin enough to avoid shaving. On my underarms, the appliance hasn't yet made any difference at all - I'm not sure why as I have made a particular effort to ensure even coverage of this area. However, I'm really pleased with the result on my bikini line. The appliance has removed all the unwanted hair here with no irritation - much better than waxing or shaving! For this alone, I think the Lumea is worth it, as waxing is such a hassle. Obviously I can't vouch yet for how long this will last, but plan to keep using the Lumea at six-week intervals as instructed. I will update this review once I've had a chance to see how well it works on other areas of the body.

NB. The face attachment sold with the pricier Lumea fits onto this one - so could be borrowed and swapped between appliances if a friend or relative has the face attachment version. My mum tried the face attachment from my previous Lumea with this one and was pleased at how easy it was to use.


The Emperor Waltz
The Emperor Waltz
by Philip Hensher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'A familiar piece of music', 26 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Emperor Waltz (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Whatever else it is, Philip Hensher's latest novel is an immensely enjoyable read; and that's no little achievement for one of these patchwork creations, like David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas or Nicole Krauss's Great House, that flit between characters, settings and times, leaving the reader to do a lot of puzzling as he or she tries to fit the pieces together. I'm not very good at these sort of puzzles, and I'm sure I've missed many of the subtle connections that Hensher weaves between his three major stories: Christian persecution in a third-century settlement at the edge of the Roman empire, avant-garde artists at the Bauhaus in Weimar in the 1920s, and the network of customers at London's first gay bookshop in the 1980s. However, even defining these three as the key plot threads is a bit of a misrepresentation. The Christians, especially, don't get any more page-time than a manipulative hospital patient who analyses the subculture of the ward he's on, or a group of pre-teens and teenagers getting high on 'poppers' and booze at some unspecified time in the twenty-first century (the mention of Facebook gives it away, although Hensher confusingly titles this section 'Next Year').

Despite the disconnection of the chapters, The Emperor Waltz is certainly more than a collection of short stories. Firstly, the effect of fragmenting each narrative into sections and interweaving it with other stories forces the reader, at the most basic level, to think more closely about the themes of each story, and how they are reflected in other disparate times and places. Secondly, the narratives are thematically similar in a number of different ways. The blurb on the back of the book wants to tell us that 'In each story, the larger world regards the small coterie and its passionately-held beliefs with suspicion and hostility' and that the novel is 'a magnificent story of eccentricity'. While you could fit all of Hensher's stories into this mould, I'm not sure this is what the novel is trying to tell us. It seems a bit of a stretch to treat a ward of patients and a group of disaffected youth in the same way as gay men in the 1980s or Jews in inter-war Germany.

More interestingly, I think, Hensher is exploring the way that groups work, and how they define who is 'in' and 'out'. Rather than focusing solely on radical subcultures, he seems to be suggesting that every group has its own arcane rules and customs, and while some groups are figured as 'normal' and others as 'eccentric', that depends on where you are standing. He also depicts how the definition of a certain group as 'not like us' affects our perceptions of them; in Weimar in the 1920s, an young woman, Adele, sees Julius, a Jew, struggling to pick up a small amount of money after being the victim of anti-semitic abuse. Although Adele has not previously been depicted as bigoted, she can only interpret the scene in one way: '[she] looked for a moment at the sight of a Jew scrabbling around in the snow for money... The Jew had had his pockets stuffed full... she had seen the Jew's money scattered all about, and him wanting to do nothing but count it up'.

However, for me, the most original elements of Hensher's mediation on group behaviour were not these morally charged observations, but his consideration of how groups form in certain situations where there is no overarching conflict. Because of this, the section of the book set in a hospital, which seems unrelated to the rest of the text, was one of the most interesting for me. Our unnamed narrator (I suspect a careful re-read would enable me to work out who he is, as he clearly has interconnections to the London group) is a sharp observer, and uses that skill to win himself a private room. The entreaties of the other long-stay patients are catalogued as 'how not to do it'. He reflects that the nurses 'existed between an onstage and an offstage set of indicators' and that the patients fell into these modes as well, referring to them as 'Nurse' when onstage and assuming 'a facial expression of terrible sweetness' when staff were nearby. The key to getting what one wants, he realises, is to find a way to connect to the nurse in 'offstage' mood, which is difficult, because trying to adopt an informal 'offstage' persona to encourage this 'only created a responding chilly formality'. He eventually connects with the Nigerian ward sister, Desdemona, by pretending he is interested in religious conversion.

Hensher's attention to 'in-group' and 'out-group' language is also displayed in a very different setting; the twenty-first century teenagers hanging out, each with their own particular and 'trendy' diction - except Basil, who is hopelessly posh. Their language styles continually clash; Nick has no idea what Basil's 'pie-crust promise' is, Basil can't understand why white Nick has adopted Jamaican slang, and Nathan makes fun of Anita for inserting 'like' into all her sentences. It's a brilliantly observed and surprisingly convincing scene. This is the first of Hensher's novels I've read, and I got the sense that he is really playing to his strengths; he is obviously an excellent observer of social detail, and has the ability to depict any coterie as if he were an insider. The novel is also very funny. As a prose writer, he's less impressive - his descriptions are workable, rather than memorable - but that's less important when the characterisation and situations are as interesting as these are. I'm looking forward to reading more from his back catalogue.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2014 11:00 AM BST


Brabantia 30 Litre Pedal Bin Silent Plastic Inner Bucket, Metallic Mint
Brabantia 30 Litre Pedal Bin Silent Plastic Inner Bucket, Metallic Mint
Price: £68.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and durable bin, 22 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have never had a Brabantia bin before, and was impressed by the attractive and functional design of this product. My previous bin was a cheap plastic affair that was easily stained, so this is a massive improvement. I like the mint colour, which will go with a wide range of kitchen furniture, and it seems unlikely to be easily damaged. One of the best features of the bin is the inside bucket, which allows you to remove full bin bags without them leaking over the rest of the house. Another useful feature is the lid, which will lower silently if you use the pedal to open the bin, but if you pull it open manually, will stay open, so you can keep the bin open easily if necessary. The only issue for me is price - although it has a ten-year guarantee, I'm not sure I would spend this much on a bin. However, I'm looking forward to using this bin in my new flat.


1Byone 8.6" Circular Diso Light Super LED Dome Light, Digital Magic Ball Effect Lighting DMX512 LED Hemisphere Light LED Laser Reflection Projector Light, Apply Lighting For DJ Disco House Party Hotel Stage Office Camping Field Music Concert Etc, Lighting For Halloween And Christmas
1Byone 8.6" Circular Diso Light Super LED Dome Light, Digital Magic Ball Effect Lighting DMX512 LED Hemisphere Light LED Laser Reflection Projector Light, Apply Lighting For DJ Disco House Party Hotel Stage Office Camping Field Music Concert Etc, Lighting For Halloween And Christmas
Offered by 1Byone Products Inc
Price: £36.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Party in the house, 21 Aug 2014
Length:: 1:19 Mins

I hoped this disco ball would be a good way to make the dance floor in the marquee look a bit more like a disco for my wedding in September. I'm extremely pleased with how well it works and how easy it is to use. It comes with a clear instruction booklet, but I found the settings largely intuitive and easy to adjust. You can change the colour and speed of the lights, and also put it into a flash mode. The ball is extremely portable, and plugs into a normal socket. Despite its small size, it projects across a large area, and I'm sure it will work very well on the dance floor in the marquee. The product can also be attached to the wall or ceiling, but I have not attempted this. This product is good value for money, and I would recommend it to those holding a special event or anyone who has a lot of parties at home!

NB. I received a free sample of this product from 1Byone in exchange for this honest review.


Oral-B Pro 600 CrossAction Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush Powered by Braun
Oral-B Pro 600 CrossAction Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush Powered by Braun
Price: £24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Buzzzzz, 17 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an excellent electric toothbrush that is good value for money. I do not normally use an electric toothbrush, so it took me a while to get used to how strongly it vibrates, but you can't argue with the results - my teeth felt much cleaner than usual, and it is quicker and less effort than cleaning with a normal toothbrush. I like the 'four quadrants' system that is built in - the toothbrush gives a little buzz when you are meant to move on to cleaning the next bit of your mouth. This compares favourably with the system I remember from older electric toothbrushes, that only buzzed when you finished cleaning. It holds its charge well and is easy to use. My only complaint is one that is universal to all electric toothbrushes, so does not affect this model in particular - why do they have to come with two-pin plugs? Of all the flats I have lived in over the years, I have never had a shaver plug in the bathroom, and so I have to use a European adapter to charge toothbrushes and other devices, such as epilators, that follow this system. This complaint, however, is no reflection on this particular product, which I would recommend.


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