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Beansmummy (Oxfordshire, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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GoldieBlox and the Parade Float
GoldieBlox and the Parade Float
Price: £18.38

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing sequel, 17 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I agree with much of what other reviewers have said about this. It comes in a poor second to the first GoldiBlox set which we rather enjoyed. My six year old daughter found the story babyish ("I think I'm a bit grown up for this, Mummy"), but did quite like it, but she was unable to fit the pieces together at all and needed my help (and I struggled a bit). It remains a good concept, but very poorly executed this time around, and nothing like as good as Lego in terms of imagination, flexibility, and age range suitability. My daughter does like the cutesy characters, though.

In conclusion, this is a worthwhile activity for a smallish child (4-5?) WITH parental involvement throughout. I have given it 3 stars because I approve of the idea, but I am unimpressed by the toy itself this time.


GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine
GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine
Price: £23.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, unusual toy, 16 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My six year old daughter has been rather taken with this and had no difficulty reading the book and following the story and instructions. It is rather expensive for one afternoon's entertainment (I doubt she will do the whole thing again) but is certainly a first for her. She is quite girly; likes pink, princessy stuff, but also enjoys imaginative Lego construction (generic Lego, rather than the very prescribed and limited sets, although she likes these too), so I thought this would be right up her street, and it was.

From a parent's perspective it is a little depressing that girls want their engineering toys to be pink and girly too. But if it gets them thinking in new ways then it can't be bad.

All in all a fantastic gift for any little girl who has everything else; probably suitable to age 7 as a max (I think the 8-9 year olds we know would be underwhelmed).


Marvel Avengers Titan Hero Series Hulk Figure
Marvel Avengers Titan Hero Series Hulk Figure
Offered by Burman
Price: £13.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, 16 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My brother had a hulk of the same size in the early 1980s. It was superior to this in almost every way; it had removable fabric clothes, jointed limbs and a pleasing weight. This is fine, but not an especially high quality toy. My 11 year old sort of likes it; he says "it's great for looking cool on your shelf, and for shooting Nerf guns at, but it doesn't really DO anything." He rather expected there to be a button to make hulk talk, or raise his arms, or something.

This hulk has a moveable head (up and down only), and jointed shoulders and hips. Knees and elbows are immobile, and the trousers and hair are moulded plastic. It is therefore only partially poseable. It is very lightweight. It stands independently. That's it. The packaging is appealing. A good cheapish gift for a hulk fan who wants to display it but minimal play value.


Graco Sweetpeace Swing (Dreams)
Graco Sweetpeace Swing (Dreams)
Price: £129.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Rolls Royce of baby swings, with price tag to match, 11 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been looking for a mains-powered swing for ages; they are few and far between. The main problem with battery operated swings is their power consumption; they all eat batteries in a remarkably short amount of time and end up costing a lot to run. So I was delighted to be offered this one to review. For me, the power cord is its main selling point. It is huge; don't buy this for a small home as it will be constantly in your way. But if you have plenty of space, this swing is absolutely brilliant. My 6 month old daughter loves it, and will settle here even in the cranky tired hours between supper and bedtime. Visiting babies from newborn up have also nestled down happily in this swing, and seem to enjoy the unique rocking action.

Clearly this is not a portable swing; it takes up more space than my daughter's crib and is not designed to fold away. But the difference between this and portable swings is the difference between an armchair and a deckchair; comfort over convenience. It takes a while to set up, but only requires one competent adult to do so.

In terms of power consumption we have had this a month now and I have been monitoring our energy use online. Granted it is probably only used for 20 minutes or so each day, but it has not made any discernible difference to our electricity use, does not require me to open it up to replace the batteries every other day, and does not start to struggle as the batteries fail.

Brilliant; the Rolls Royce of baby swings. Very pricey, but very lovely.


Rapesco 2200 Punch Heavy-duty 2-Hole Capacity 150x 80gsm Black Ref PF220AP1
Rapesco 2200 Punch Heavy-duty 2-Hole Capacity 150x 80gsm Black Ref PF220AP1
Price: £71.76

5.0 out of 5 stars Very efficient monster, 10 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is definitely aimed at small businesses/ office use rather than home use. That said, it has certainly made my current life-reorganisation drive much easier, enabling me to stack up months of paperwork and have it filed in lever-arch files in minutes. But having done all that, I'm not sure this machine will see much day to day use for a while.

It is large and heavy, and takes up a considerable amount of desk space. It is very easy to use, and makes light work of huge wads of paper. We, of course, experimented with telephone directories just to see what it is capable of, and it is certainly impressive. You do not need much physical strength yourself to operate it; I can hole punch 100 sheets or so at once, as can my 11 year old.


Rapesco Stapler - Full Strip, Power-assisted X5-50f
Rapesco Stapler - Full Strip, Power-assisted X5-50f
Price: £15.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent office STAPLE (tee hee), 4 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is absolutely the best stapler I have ever owned. It really isn't as huge as another reviewer implied, nor particularly ugly. It is a well designed functional bit of kit, and does an excellent job. It easily manages 20 sheets, and does so without requiring great pressure to be exerted. It is pleasingly simple to load with staples (front-loading drawer) and so far has not jammed etc. The "power-assisted" bit does not mean it is battery powered; rather the mechanism is such that you don't have to push hard. This means that there is not the usual clunk as the staple is fired through the paper; it is remarkably smooth and quiet.
Not much else to say about a stapler; its brilliant.


Thirteen
Thirteen
by Tom Hoyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars The book to buy for any 12+ reluctant reader, 29 Sep 2014
This review is from: Thirteen (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Gripping Teen fiction, on which I now plan to get the opinion of my nephew (also called Adam and aged 13). This is written in a way that keeps your attention and makes you not want to put it down; the author is a Headteacher and clearly understands how to write a compelling book; I'm sure it will appeal to the target audience.

Adam is the only remaining survivor of a very special group; boys born just after midnight on 1st January 2000, although, because of a complicated adoption, he is unaware of his own true birthdate. The other 12 have already been killed by cultists who believe this necessary in order to ensure the rise of their leader to rule the world. The story recounts Adam's cat-and-mouse dealings with the cult (many of whom are children and teens) who have managed to track him down. With adults unable to help him, or actively dangerous to him, Adam's closest friend proves to be his only ally, but this also puts her in enormous danger.

The ending, while very satisfying, nonetheless leaves an opening for a sequel. I am sure this author has much more to write, and I look forward to reading it.


Xeno Pacific Blue
Xeno Pacific Blue
Price: £63.99

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diary of an alien visit, 29 Sep 2014
This review is from: Xeno Ultra (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When my children saw this revolting little monster arrive, they were both delighted; my 6 year old has been brainwashed by all the TV advertising and, unbeknownst to me, already had Xeno on her Christmas list (in September). She and her 11 year old brother have negotiated a turn-taking arrangement where they have Xeno on alternate days. So we are writing a review diary (because I suspect the novelty will have worn off within a week). They both had Furbies at Christmas in 2012, and played with them for several weeks on and off. They were a hazard as they kept 'waking' at irritating times (like when tripped over in the middle of the night by an unsuspecting parent and then waking one or other child), but the batteries died after 6 months or so, and they were forgotten (until now, of course).

Day 1 (28.09.14): Xeno landed in a pinky purple box that managed to look cheap and unappealing in a Del-boy market-stall kind of way (to me, not to the children, of course). There followed the typical battle to release him from his excessive packaging - a feat which required a small Phillips screwdriver. Batteries ARE included (but clearly primarily intended for the 'try-me' function (with a hole in the packaging so you can push his foot on display in-store), so may not last long). While I glanced at the brief instruction sheet, the children were playing within seconds, and finding the charming burping and farting noises hilarious. They think his dripping snot is cute and funny (I think it is disgusting). His blue skin is covered in soft rubbery hair, which is a novel and attractive variant on the furry Furbies and Fur-real pets, and feels nice to touch. [Actually, if it weren't for the snot, he'd be really quite cute.] 11 year old won the coin toss, so gets him first; both are very keen. At the end of the day Xeno had been carried around and played with for about 3 hours in total, between both children, and despite their agreement, is 'asleep' in 6 year olds room, tucked up in a dolls cot. One parental annoyance is when the little monster 'cries'; it sounds like a real young child, and fooled me more than once today. One major advantage over a Furby is the 'OFF' switch. Playtime 3 hours.

Day 2: the blue rubber hair collects dust, and is already covered with carpet fluff and hair. Not too difficult to remove with a damp cloth. 6 year old complains she cannot understand what Xeno says, but has tried some of his games. He doesn't really do much IMO. She played with him for 20 minutes after school today. 11yo has not mentioned him. The baby (6 months) is mesmerised, and tries repeatedly to chew Xeno's ears (there is a reason he is for age 5+, but actually I think 3+ is probably more reasonable). Fortunately she cannot yet crawl, so has resigned herself to 'chatting' to him from a distance. Playtime 20 mins.

Day 3: daughter played with Xeno for 10 minutes. Son ignored him. He spent the night alone in a corner on the stairs (Monster not son). Playtime 10 mins

Day 4: Ignored by children except the baby who desperately wants him. Xeno survived a fall down 7 steps when I tripped over him on the stairs and in doing so, clumsily kicked him all the way down. No broken bits, and everything still works. Playtime 0

Day 5: 30 minutes play with 6 year old who has incorporated him into her "school" for her cuddly toys, in which he is the naughty boy who keeps interrupting the "teacher" (daughter) and gets into trouble a lot. Playtime 30 mins

Day 6: Ignored by all. But everyone has just had a week at school; perhaps he'll get more attention at the weekend. Playtime 0.

Day 7: Enthusiastically demonstrated to Grandma. Then ignored. Playtime 20 mins.

Day 8: Ignored

Day 9: slept the night in my daughters room until midnight when she awoke and was terrified by Xeno's scarey face in the almost-dark. I agree. In low light he looks like a demon, with a sinister smirk. Now banished from her bedroom. Playtime 0.

Day 10-19: Ignored. Sitting forlornly abandoned on a toybox in the playroom. Playtime 0. We'll give him the full 3 weeks before finishing off this review, I think.


LeapFrog LeapPad 3 Learning Tablet (Green)
LeapFrog LeapPad 3 Learning Tablet (Green)
Price: £58.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Much improved compared to older models, 29 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We have an earlier LeapPad, and this is a great improvement, mainly because of the included mains cable, and built-in battery. The apps are ridiculously expensive, especially when you consider that most iPad educational apps are around the £1 mark; these are frequently £10 or £20. But my 6 year old daughter is absolutely delighted with this, and started using it within minutes of unpacking. It takes about 20 minutes to set up your account and the parental controls etc, so the child can't just start buying up the entire 'app store' without your passcode. Works brilliantly with our wifi, but with some delay that we do not experience with other tablets. The screen is small, but clear enough, and responsive to touch and the included stylus. It is chunky and looks sturdy, but is easy for little hands to manage. The packaging is very simple, (you don't need to cut the thing out as with so many toys these days) and the instructions minimal (you hardly need any instructions; it is very intuitive).

It comes with several apps, and you get to choose another to download free from the store. Inevitably we were immediately sucked in by the 'one time only' offer of up to 30% off app prices and bought some more straight away. The camera has been a great hit with my daughter, and she was playing the games with confidence straight away. You can get videos, educational and otherwise, and books for a developing reader (although the 'Frozen' book, supposedly targeted at her age, was ridiculously simple).

At the price this is a great gadget for a younger child, but if yours is a careful child, who is not likely to destroy it, and if budget allows, then I'd seriously consider an iPad or other tablet instead for anyone 6+.


Ultrasport Women's Micro Fleece Shirt with Quick-Dry-Function - Black, Large
Ultrasport Women's Micro Fleece Shirt with Quick-Dry-Function - Black, Large
Price: £39.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Light but warm extra layer, 29 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Nice quality black fleece. The Large fits me well with a bit of room to spare; I'm currently a UK size 12, and about 5'3". It is comfortable, seems well made, and has washed well (so far no bobbling, but only 2 washes to date). It emerges from the washing machine practically dry, so is a very low-maintenance garment. It sits at hip level on me, so does not give much bottom coverage. The fabric is fairly thin, but very warm, so it makes a great extra layer under other clothes, without much bulk, and is enough on its own on these chilly early-autumn mornings. A good basic wardrobe staple, and will be useful as we get into winter.


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