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Ben Saunders (Stirling, Scotland)
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British Politics For Dummies (For Dummies Series)
British Politics For Dummies (For Dummies Series)
by Julian Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.18

5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, despite some minor inaccuracies, 2 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although British politics is not my specialism, I should say that I’m a lecturer in politics at a Russell Group university, so I ordered this to assess its potential use for my teaching, rather than because I know nothing about politics.

This second edition was published in 2015 and seemingly written before the general election, though it is sufficiently up to date to discuss the rise of UKIP and the Scottish Independence referendum.

I was struck by how comprehensive this is. Though the focus is ostensibly British politics, this would actually be a pretty handy introduction to politics in general, albeit UK-centric. There is a whole chapter explaining US politics in order to make better sense of the ‘special relationship’, discussion of major political ideologies, including ones that have had little impact in Britain such as communism and fascism, and a discussion of various electoral systems including the ‘Alternative Vote’. This goes well beyond what might be expected from the title and makes this a potentially handy reference source.

I was, however, surprised that there was not more information on the historical evolution of the British political system and key thinkers who have shaped political ideas (Locke and Smith are mentioned in passing, but I don’t recall even a mention of Thomas Hobbes or J. S. Mill). Perhaps it could be argued that such material is not essential to an understanding of current British politics, but I would say that some of the material included is even less essential.

Material is generally explained in a clear and accessible way. No doubt a lot will be familiar to you, even if you don’t pay close attention to politics (for instance, the discussion of major UK newspapers), but not assuming much, if anything, by way of background knowledge means that this would be a good text for someone ‘new’ to British politics – such as an immigrant or teenager (it could be very useful for A Level General Studies, for instance).

There were at least a couple of occasions on which I thought things were over-simplified to the point of being misleading. For instance, in discussing the role of the Prime Minister, it begins by stating that the PM leads the largest party in the House of Commons, then adds “No majority, no keys to number 10!” (p. 223). Though usually the case, this is not necessarily so. Had Nick Clegg rejected any deal with the Conservatives in 2010 then Gordon Brown might have remained PM despite not leading the largest party or, indeed, a majority (even the Lab-LibDem coalition would not have had a majority).

Or, to pick another example, on p. 100 it is stated that foreign nationals cannot vote in UK general elections (with the exception of Irish and commonwealth citizens). This is not quite accurate, since someone holding dual citizenship (UK and, say, US) can vote even though they are a foreign national. What is really meant, it seems, is that someone cannot vote simply in virtue of residing in the UK: they need some qualifying citizenship. This highlights an important ambiguity in talk of ‘the people’ of Britain – it means, in effect, the citizens, rather than the residents. In light of this, it would be worth adding, to the list of exclusions, that expatriates lose voting rights after 15 years away.

These examples may appear nitpicky, and I suppose they are, but I raise them only to suggest that, on at least these points, the information presented is at best misleading, if not technically wrong. Nonetheless, someone ignorant of British politics could certainly learn a lot from this book. While I would caution that it is difficult for any book to impart genuine understanding, I would recommend this particular title as a starting point to anyone seeking to inform themselves about British politics.


Hallmark Birthday Contemporary Premium 3D Attachment Diamante Card - Small
Hallmark Birthday Contemporary Premium 3D Attachment Diamante Card - Small
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality card, but not convinced it fits Royal Mail's standard letter, 22 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
£3.99 is more than I would normally spend on a card, but since I was offered it free for review purposes it was hard to refuse. It is good quality card, as you’d expect for the price, and appears well made. The ‘très chic’ design will no doubt appeal to anyone who is, or considers themselves, glamorous and sophisticated. As others have said, the envelope looks a little cheap in comparison, though I wouldn’t worry too much about that myself once used.

One worry I did have was whether this really would post as a ‘standard letter’. The product dimensions given say that it’s 1.2cm deep, due to the three dimensional rosette attachment, and 118g. Anything thicker than 0.5cm, or heavier than 100g, is a ‘large letter’ according to Royal Mail, despite it being a small card in its other dimensions. I didn’t weigh it, but my own attempt to measure it in the envelope suggests that it’s certainly less than 1.2cm, but pretty close to 0.5cm. I decided not to post it myself, but this may be something to watch out for if you intend to do so.


AmazonBasics Everyday Double Fitted Sheet, Lilac
AmazonBasics Everyday Double Fitted Sheet, Lilac
Price: £16.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Better than our previous sheet, 22 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this to replace one of our older, non-fitted sheets. It was a good match colour-wise (not really the colour shown on the product page though) and goes with our existing quilt covers, but being fitted (i.e. elasticated all round) makes it easier to put on and means the corners don’t keep coming off the mattress if you move around at night. I hadn’t measured the size of our bed before ordering, but it’s a standard double bed and the sheet fits fine.

The material, despite being 100% cotton, felt a little odd at first, particularly after washing it, when it seemed almost plasticy. I was wondering whether it had been given some kind of coating, though there’s no indication of this (the packaging was very sparse and tells you less about the product than the Amazon page). Once dry and on the bed, however, it was comfortable enough. I suspect that it will feel a little softer after a few more wash cycles, but it’s already softer and less stiff than many new sheets that I’ve had in the past.

Since the Vine programme requires reviews within a month, I can’t really comment yet on how well this will last, but other items that I’ve had from the AmazonBasics range have proved well-made and durable. If this proves the exception and falls apart in a couple of months then I’ll be back to update my review, but my first impressions are definitely favourable.


Rexel Advance Stay Put Folder and File - Red (Pack of 5)
Rexel Advance Stay Put Folder and File - Red (Pack of 5)
Price: £10.32

4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, 11 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had ordered a pack of black Rexel folders which, while not perfect for long-term filing/storage, had proved fairly useful for keeping a few papers together when I was out and about. I thought that I could use some more and that a change of colour would be useful, to help me tell them apart.

It turns out that I hadn’t read the description closely enough. It turns out that an Advance Stay Put Folder and File is surprisingly different from an Advance Stay Put Pocket and Prong Folder. When opened out, these have a pocket at the bottom of each side, but they don’t have the various useful flaps and dividers that the others had. The one advantage they do have, unless you’re a big fan of red, is a clearview cover – not large enough to store much on the front, but handy if you did want to put something distinctive there, or even a list of contents.

Otherwise, my overall impressions are fairly similar. These are a bit pricey for what they are, but they’re handy for keeping a few papers together when travelling to meetings, conferences, and the like.
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SanDisk SDDDC-032G-G46 Ultra Dual USB Flash Drive USB 3.0 Type C Connector - 32 GB
SanDisk SDDDC-032G-G46 Ultra Dual USB Flash Drive USB 3.0 Type C Connector - 32 GB
Price: £35.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'd prefer only the USB connector, 8 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Being something of a technological dinosaur, I still rely heavily on a USB stick to move my files around, principally between work and home. While Dropbox or some other Cloud-based storage might offer more convenience, it would require internet access, which my USB stick doesn’t. I’d been using an 8GB stick for some years but it was perilously close to getting full and, while I probably could have pruned the contents, I thought I’d upgrade to larger storage instead.

Though marketed as a 32GB capacity, you never quite get the full amount usable. According to my computer, this has 29.7GB of usable storage capacity, which is easily more than enough for my present needs. This is quite impressive given that the whole device is smaller than my previous one (see picture for size - the one under review is the black one on the left). Data transfer was quick, though I can’t really vouch for it being faster than my previous stick.

As well as the traditional USB connector on one end, the other end has a smaller Type C connector designed to plug into mobile phones or tablets. I don’t actually have anything compatible with this, so I didn’t order it for this reason, but I assumed it wouldn’t be an obstacle to using this device as a replacement for my old regular USB stick.

In fact, it is a bit of a pain. First, although there’s a protective bit it only goes over one end at a time so, when being carried about, one of the two connectors is unprotected. Second, since I put the protector over the end I use, I then end up almost instinctively wanting to plug the wrong end in to my computer because it’s the one that’s exposed. In hindsight, I’d have preferred a smaller stick that didn’t have the second connector, since I have no real use for it anyway, but I see why this would appeal to those with the appropriate devices.
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Rexel Advance A4 Stay Put Pocket and Prong Folder - Black (Pack of 5)
Rexel Advance A4 Stay Put Pocket and Prong Folder - Black (Pack of 5)
Price: £11.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful for those on the go, 8 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Being an academic, I always have piles of paper everywhere, at home and in the office. When I get round to it, most get filed in document wallets that in turn are placed in lever-arch ring binders, but I thought I’d explore these as another option.

The plastic folder is larger than A4 in size, so it can accommodate A4 papers. It was four holes near the spine, so that you can put it in a ring binder if you so desire. Opened out, there is a pocket on the bottom of each side and a flap in the top corner of each side, which is useful for keeping your papers in place. On the left side there are a couple of dividers, so you can keep your papers separate, while on the right side there’s a smaller pocket that could hold a floppy disk (if anyone still uses these?) or perhaps some business cards or the like.

This folder won’t hold very much, so I don’t think this really suits my needs, which primarily involve organising and storing a large number of papers in one place. I assume the intended purpose is for those ‘on the go’ – for instance if you have to take papers to a meeting – and it seems well-suited for that purpose. Since I’ve been house-hunting lately, I’ve been using them to keep the various estate agent brochures that I’ve been accumulating and they serve this purpose well enough.

That it’s plastic is an added bonus, since it will withstand a bit of water, but be aware that the holes near the spine may let the papers inside get wet. I also doubt that it’s tough enough to withstand much rough handling (I often carry a cardboard folder/wallet of papers in my backpack and they never last long).

Overall, I think this will suit those who need to take a relatively small number of papers to meetings and who want to keep them in order. I do think it’s rather expensive for what it is, but this won’t be a problem if you can charge it to a company account anyway.
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Singleton Spey Cascade Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Singleton Spey Cascade Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Price: £26.40

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3* only because I'm not a big whisky fan generally, 2 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Despite living in Scotland for four years, I’ve never been much of a whisky drinker. I can stomach the odd tipple, but it’s not my drink of choice, so I can’t make detailed comparisons of this against other brands. Coming at it as not really a whisky drinker, I’d say it doesn’t have quite the throat-burning effect that some others do – still a bit, but relatively palatable sipped neat. My girlfriend said even a wee dram was enough to make her a little tipsy. It’s summer now, but I guess it would help keep the chill away on a cold evening.
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Philips HR2162/91 Viva Collection Blender, 600 Watt, 2 Litre
Philips HR2162/91 Viva Collection Blender, 600 Watt, 2 Litre
Price: £49.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Vive la Blender, 25 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We already had a smoothie maker, but this is the first time that we’ve owned a proper blender. It has a larger jug than the smoothie maker, which is good if you want to blend a lot of stuff, but obviously it takes up more worktop space.

The size also means that we only wash it by hand, since it would only fit in the bottom of the dishwasher and my girlfriend is cautious about putting it there because of the higher temperature, even though it should be dishwasher safe. This is a bit of a pain since there’s only one jug and set of blades, meaning that it’s then out of action until we get round to washing it (whereas our smoothie maker has two jugs). On the plus side, it cleans reasonably easily and the jug is large enough to get your hand into.

We have actually used it mainly for smoothies, though we’ve also tried it on avocado (to make guacamole) and chickpeas (to make hummus). It was powerful enough to blend the chickpeas, which our old smoothie maker wasn’t able to handle. We haven’t tried it on anything harder yet, like nuts, but based on what we’ve seen so far I expect it will handle them fine.


Life in the UK Test - Study and Practice
Life in the UK Test - Study and Practice
by CGP Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

3.0 out of 5 stars It's the test itself that's faulty really, 16 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I should probably begin by saying that I’m a native British citizen and indeed have lived my whole life in the UK, so I didn’t use this book for the test myself. Rather, I’m a university lecturer in politics and ordered this because I thought it would be helpful when teaching migration and membership as part of my module on citizenship and democracy.

This book is NOT the official Home Office guide, but it includes the original text, laid out in a handy textbook/revision guide format, with key points highlighted. It looks as if it would be relatively easy to absorb information from. My main problem with it is not so much with this book itself as the whole implementation of the test itself. The UK citizenship test has had various critics, perhaps most notably Thom Brooks, who have pointed out that it tests a lot of relatively unimportant ‘trivia’. With this guide to hand, I can see their point. Is it really necessary for would-be citizens to know so much about, for instance, British Olympians?

Even worse, some questions are out of date, e.g. practice test 15, question 8, and test 20, question 4, both claim that you must have a road tax disc for your car. Others are simply wrong. Practice test 17, question 9 asks which of the following is NOT one of the freedoms shared by everyone living in the UK, the options being A freedom of belief, B freedom of speech, C a right to elect a government, and D a right to avoid paying tax. The correct answer, according to p. 219, is D. However, not everyone living in the UK is eligible to vote, whereas everyone can avoid (as opposed to evade) tax – the answer should really be C. Practice test 3, question 10, suggests that MPs not belonging to one of the main political parties are known as independents but, if this were so, Caroline Lucas and Douglas Carswell would presumably be independents.

I’m glad that I never had to sit this test and feel sorry for those who have had to.


MICRO Pedi Man Gift Set
MICRO Pedi Man Gift Set
Price: £36.21

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Little to see so far, 11 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I’m not really that vain about my feet and never wear sandals, but my girlfriend has been known to complain about the rough, dry skin on my feet so I thought that I’d give this a go. The device spins a sandpaper-like tube which gently removes dry skin from your foot. It feels a little funny, but doesn’t hurt. It makes a fair amount of mess (little shavings of skin, kind of like sawdust – I do this over the shower, but you can’t get the device wet and the instructions also say not to use it outdoors). Nonetheless, after a month of using it a couple of times a week or so, I’ve yet to see a really noticeable improvement in my feet. I’ll keep using it and see what results develop, but can’t recommend it based on the results so far.


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