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Reviews Written by
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

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The Explorer
The Explorer
by James Smythe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars sci-fi thriller, 15 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Explorer (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Other reviewers have described the storyline, so I will jump straight to my impressions of the book.

I enjoyed reading this book. It has enough technical underpinning to be credible but doesn't bore the reader with loads of irrelevant (to me) details. There is enough exploration of the relationships between the characters and what triggers their behaviours to make it quite a thoughtful read.

However, I also found it confusing in places and a bit slow. And at the end of the day, there is nothing particularly remarkable about it (it isn't a book that has stuck in my memory) - hence only 3 *s.


The Girl With All The Gifts
The Girl With All The Gifts
by M. R. Carey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.08

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exciting and unusual dystopian fiction, 15 Jan 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The opening sections of this book are brilliant. We know from the blurb that this child, Melanie, is being treated like a dangerous animal - kept locked up, never seeing the sun or the outside world, chained and immobilised for large chunks of time - yet her thoughts and words are those of a normal child. What's going on?

As the story unfolds, we share Melanie's growing awareness of what she really is, and empathise with the horror of her situation. The feeling of being in a surreal world just goes on and on.

It is hard to find fault with this book. The story telling is masterful, we see a lot of things from Melanie's point of view, but the (third person) narration is shared by other, adult, characters which gives us a wider perspective and allows the narrative to move on at a good pace. However, it is the central role of Melanie and the complexity of her situation that makes this so much more than just another "zombie book"

In the crowded genre of young adult dystopian fantasy this book really stands out as being intelligent, exciting and unusual. And my teenage daughter agrees - she has just sat up half the night reading it!


Happy Graffiti: Street Art with Heart
Happy Graffiti: Street Art with Heart
by Jenny Foulds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.66

4.0 out of 5 stars fun and light hearted, 5 Jan 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The collection of photos in this book is pretty widely ranged and very entertaining, I loved some of the friendly or joking pieces of graffiti in it, but it is not serious. If you want a book with a serious in depth look into graffiti as an art form then don't buy this book, it mentions only a few artists by name, giving them barely a paragraph each. More of a coffee table book really.


Misfit Shine Personal Physical Activity Monitor
Misfit Shine Personal Physical Activity Monitor
Price: 79.95

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful device but could do more, 31 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
REVIEW UPDATE, 6TH FEB 2014

Well, give Misfit Corporation their due, they very kindly sent me a replacement Shine. This one I have been able to use (so the first one WAS faulty), and a nice little gadget it is. It's attractive to look at (I have received compliments about my unusual "watch"), it seems pretty robust and completely waterproof (it has been swimming with me several times), and it is easy to use. Just download the app and link the device to it, set your target, and then up-load your activity data as often as you want.

However, I still only feel I want to give it 3*s. I stick by my original assessment - the concept, design and engineering are all brilliant, but where it falls down is on usability. I am linking it to a Samsung Galaxy, and the Android app is incredibly basic - it just tells you "points", steps, km, and calories used each day, allows you to set the "points" target, and tells you total sleep and deep sleep each night (if you tap it three times on going to bed). But there's none of the analysis and graphs that are available on the iphone app. To make this monitor really useful, it needs to link to an app like My Fitness Pal to support all round activity and diet monitoring.

ORIGINAL REVIEW, 31ST DEC 2013

I was really excited about getting this little device. And really disappointed that I haven't been able to get it to work. I have been exchanging emails with Misfit Wearables Support Team, but they haven't been able to resolve my difficulties.

Initially I had hoped to use this with my ipod touch - but this didn't happen because my ipod is 3 years old and doesn't support the necessary operating system. While this information IS in the product description on Amazon, it's not exactly prominent and I hadn't noticed it at first.

Not to panic, however, as I also have a Samsung Galaxy S4, which IS compatible with the device - at least in theory - but I couldn't find the android app! NB: I Have managed to download the Shine for android app now (late December), but it certainly wasn't available when I looked for it earlier. Also, you can (in theory) use the Shine straight out of the box; it is pre-loaded with a target of 10,000 steps.

Like other reviewers, I am impressed with the beauty and innovative design of the packaging - pity about the lack of instructions! After a bit of googling, I found the "getting started" parts of Misfit's Internet site, worked out what all the bits were and got it assembled. And that's where I stopped. The lights flashed once, when I first put the battery in, and that was it. I've tapped it, I've downloaded the app and tried to link it, but no matter what I do it just sits there being a pretty stone.

It's hard for me to tell whether I have one that's faulty, or I am just doing something stupid to stop it working. But either way, I'm left with a device I can't use (as a Vine reviewer, I can't send it back for a replacement). My 1* rating is therefore based on my personal experience, but shouldn't necessarily put you off from purchasing one of these activity monitors.

I summary, I would say that this device is brilliant in concept, beautifully designed and engineered, but falls down on simple usability. Misfit Corporation need to include much clearer instructions on use both in the packaging and on their website.


Trekking in the Himalaya
Trekking in the Himalaya
by Kev Reynolds
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.60

4.0 out of 5 stars beautiful photography, 31 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a beautiful book and the photographs are absolutely superb. Browsing through both photographs and narrative I could feel a little of what it would be like to be there and I defy any armchair adventurer not to stirred whatever their age or level of fitness.

If this book has a flaw I feel it is that it rather falls between stools. The amount of technical information on mountaineering and routes rather interrupts the narrative of a travel book for the armchair adventurer. From the point of view of a person wishing to use it as a guide book there is not enough technical information and no-one is going to carry a heavy book detailing 20 routes.

I still feel this book will stir nostalgia and pleasure among retired trekkers such as myself. I would recommend acquiring it for the photography alone.


The Invention of Wings
The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.19

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Southern Colour, 31 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Invention of Wings (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set in Charleston, in the first half of the 19th Century, this book recounts the lives of two women over a 30 year period - Sarah Grimke (white daughter of a wealthy Southern landowner) and Handful (black slave in the Grimke household) - with alternate chapters told by each.

While Sarah is horrified with the cruelties towards slaves that she witnesses almost daily and struggles with her conscience, Handful is experiencing those cruelties first hand and simply struggles with her life! Somehow, bonds of friendship grow between the two women and persevere over the years.

I liked this book. It has a lot to say, not just about the iniquities of slavery (which are well covered elsewhere), but about the difficulty of following your conscience (is it better to own a slave and treat that slave kindly, or to refuse to own a slave knowing that other family members will treat them more cruelly?). It also looks at religion and the narrow-mindedness dressed up as "correctness" that seems to plague every small religious community, and at the relative powerlessness of women in the male dominated society of the time.

It does get a bit rambly in places, and yes, it could have been shorter (like other Vine reviewers, my copy was defective with about 50 pages missing - and I have to admit it didn't seem to make that much difference to my reading of the story!), but I was never bored reading it as the story flowed well and the two voices were both convincing.


Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock HF3505/01 with Sunrise Simulation - 2 Natural Sounds and Radio
Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock HF3505/01 with Sunrise Simulation - 2 Natural Sounds and Radio
Price: 93.29

2.0 out of 5 stars Worked well at first, but many flaws, 6 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For the first month or so the light worked very well and I was waking up 5 to 15 minutes before the alarm went off, but more recently I've adapted to this and it's been working less and less effectively. That said, I am a very deep sleeper who's been known to sleep through a fire alarm, so that probably isn't such an issue for other people.

There were other flaws as well. The bird sounds were very annoying and tinny, with a very short sound loop length, which combined with the fact that the snooze usually took 5 or 6 hard hits meant that I usually just turned it off. I also found the sound unable to motivate me to get up, so I've continued using my old beeping alarm clock to force me to get up.

I would have liked it to have had batteries or at least a longer cord, as the cord that it comes with is far too short, and I needed to use an extension cord. On top of this I have always used an alarm that doesn't glow unless you pressed a certain button, and I found the glowing digits very annoying even at their lowest level.


Philips GC240/05 Easy 8 Ironing Board
Philips GC240/05 Easy 8 Ironing Board
Price: 100.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Huge!, 3 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Good points:
- It is very large, which means less repositioning of clothing and (I think) makes the ironing quicker to do
- It is robust and stable
- I like the cord holder (though it did take me a while to get used to it)
- And I LOVE the hanging rail!

Drawbacks:
- It's large and cumbersome - heavy to erect and collapse or move around (this isn't a big problem for me as I have enough room to leave it up, but it might become a problem if you don't have much room to spare
- The shoulder wings are a mixed blessing. Yes they do make it easier to iron the shirt, but there is a gap between the open wing and the edge of the board which can easily cause you to iron in a crease. And for me, opening both wings makes the board too wide for my blouses (might be OK for a man's shirt with wider shoulders I suppose). What's more, when they are not in use, the folded back wings do tend to catch on things.
- And last, but not least - it's incredibly expensive!

In summary, a board for the dedicated ironer. Definitely not for the faint hearted!


Leifheit 15 m Varioline M Indoor Clothes Dryer
Leifheit 15 m Varioline M Indoor Clothes Dryer
Price: 41.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nicely designed, 3 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is certainly a large and nicely designed airer. I like the way the rails slide along, making loading easier, and it easily took a whole load from the washing machine. It seems robust enough and stable enough not to give any problems in use, although I do share the concerns of other reviewers that the plastic rails may not be very long lived - only time will tell.

On the down side, it takes up a lot of room (certainly compared with my old airer which expands upwards more), and I would prefer it if the side racks folded down so that I could use just one of them to save space.


Baroque Keyboard Masterpieces Kbd
Baroque Keyboard Masterpieces Kbd
by Various
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.64

4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful collection, 15 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this book because I wanted one particular piece of music (Couperin's Les Barricades Mysterieuses) which I couldn't find elsewhere. However, I love playing music from this era anyway and I am really pleased with the mix of mainstream and more obscure works that are included.

Yes, some of the pieces are printed in a smaller size than I am used to, but by no means do these make up the majority of the pages nor are they so small as to be unusable.

At 150 pages this book represents great value for money and I am very pleased with it.


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