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Ben Saunders (Stirling, Scotland)
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Nina is Not OK
Nina is Not OK
by Shappi Khorsandi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Better than OK actually, 19 July 2016
This review is from: Nina is Not OK (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this for my partner because the Amazon description mentioned Caitlin Moran, which made me think it might be something that she’d like. This review is based on my girlfriend’s report, since I didn’t read the book myself.

It’s not a book for the faint-hearted, being disturbing in many places, dealing with issues such as rape and alcoholism. Nonetheless, these topics are presented in a darkly humorous way. It’s impressive that the author manages to inject a bit of comedy into proceedings, given the subject matter, though it’s not exactly a laugh out loud book. (It may be either uncomfortable or cathartic for those with first-hand experience of similar problems, but that depends on how you might react to it, rather than on the book itself.)

This novel is rather different from Khorsandi’s A Beginner's Guide To Acting English, but the comparison with Caitlin Moran, especially How to Build a Girl, seems a fair one, since this is broadly similar in style. The themes also reminded my girlfriend of Martha O’Connor’s By Martha O'Connor The Bitch Goddess Notebook (New Ed) [Paperback] so, if you liked that, then you might also enjoy this.


Silentnight Supersoft Pillow, Microfibre, White, Pack of 4
Silentnight Supersoft Pillow, Microfibre, White, Pack of 4
Price: £22.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Plump and soft, 19 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While we had plenty of pillows, most were old and/or cheap and getting rather tired these days; the two we use on our bed were pretty flat and the ones saved for guests even worse. These pillows are much better, though it’s not a very high standard to beat I guess.

At a rough estimate, I’d say they’re getting on for twice as thick as some of our flatter ones, though they’re so soft that they squash down quite a bit when you rest your head on them. I wasn’t sure what softness I’d prefer, but I find the thickness of these means they still give adequate support, whether I lie on my back or side. I should qualify that by saying I’ve only ever been a one pillow person though. (Since this is a pack of four, you could always double up – though you’ll almost certainly need one case per pillow, unlike our old ones, where two would fit in a single case.)

Why only 4* then? Well, despite being impressed so far, I have to admit that I’d hesitate to pay the recommended retail price. While a good pillow is important – a bad one can literally give you a pain in the neck – I suspect that cheaper alternatives will still do an adequate job. It remains to be seen, of course, whether these ones last better or longer.
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FUTURO 46163EN Small Stabilising Knee Support
FUTURO 46163EN Small Stabilising Knee Support
Price: £22.97

4.0 out of 5 stars More power to your elbow, 18 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this for my partner, because she does various exercise classes and already has a couple of similar elbow supports, so thought that a knee support might be useful too. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the size measurements, which (at time of writing) are hidden away in a product comparison box. I assumed that small would be the right fit (though she’s not small for a woman, she is smaller than most men and this is a unisex product) but, though she can just about get it on her leg, it’s too tight (see picture 2).

Thankfully, while this wasn’t suitable for the intended purpose, she’s been able to wear it on her arm instead (see picture 1). It’s larger and seems better quality than the cheaper ones that she had before. It is larger and stiffer than her other ones though, so she finds it more suitable to wear after exercise rather than during, which is something to take into account depending on your intended use.

It’s a good quality product but, learning from my mistake, I’d suggest measuring your knee circumference (and checking the sizes carefully) to make sure that you choose the right size. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be any overlap so, if you are borderline between two sizes, you might be better off going for an adjustable version instead, rather than one that’s too small to fit or too large to do any good.
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Post-it R3301RPT 76mm x 76mm Recycled Z-Notes Pad Tower Pack - Pastel Rainbow (Box of 16, 100 Sheets Per Pad)
Post-it R3301RPT 76mm x 76mm Recycled Z-Notes Pad Tower Pack - Pastel Rainbow (Box of 16, 100 Sheets Per Pad)
Price: £25.26

4.0 out of 5 stars Designed for a dispenser - not so handy if you don't have one., 17 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We all know what Post-It notes are. Like Kleenex or Hoover (formerly), the brand name is so successful as to have become virtually synonymous with the product. We seem to get through quite a few post-its at home, using them for memos, shopping lists, book marks, and all sorts of other purposes – my partner even uses them for in-class exercises with her university students.

These ones are 76mm (about 3”) square, which is a good size for lots of purposes. You can fit quite a bit of text on here, as we found using them for notes during a board game (see photo). The paper quality is good – not too rough or shiny – and the fairly muted colours generally show the text clearly, although the dark red could be a problem.

One thing that’s a bit of a pain, however, is that rather than having a pad where the sticky tab is always on one side (the top), here each note joins to the note below on opposite sides (top to bottom to top). This might not sound like a big deal, but it does have drawbacks if you don’t have a dispenser. (Reading the detailed product description, it does say they’re designed to be used with one, though I didn't realise this before ordering since it isn’t clear from the title or key points.)

First, it can be harder than you’d expect to pick up the pad; if you only grab the top half then the bottom half doesn’t come with it, you simply get a concertina effect of paper notes (see photo). Perhaps this is why they're called Z-notes. Second, if you want to write a bunch of notes in succession, and have the sticky tab on the top of each one, then you have to rotate the pad between each note. I think the latter would still bother me with a dispenser and, to be honest, I don’t really see why anyone would need a post-it dispenser anyway – I prefer the traditional pad design myself, hence 4* for over-complicating a very simple product.
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Sevenhills Wholefoods Organic Gelatinised Maca Powder 250g, Soil Association certified organic
Sevenhills Wholefoods Organic Gelatinised Maca Powder 250g, Soil Association certified organic
Offered by Sevenhills Wholefoods
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not so pleasant and no obvious effects, 15 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I’d never heard of maca powder before being offered this to try and all I know about its origins comes from reading the product description on this page. It sounded like a useful nutritional supplement though, so I ordered some to try (after checking that it is suitable for vegetarians).

It has a rather bitter taste. It actually reminds me slightly of chocolate, but not the sweet kind. I wouldn’t say that it’s that unpleasant personally, though I wouldn’t eat it for the taste. I usually have a little sprinkled over my morning cereal, though I’ve also tried in blended in a smoothie (which is probably my favourite way to take it) and once mixed in a yoghurt (which I didn’t think worked so well).

Having been taking it daily for just over 3 weeks, I can’t really say that I’ve noticed any significant effects, positive or negative. I haven’t felt more alert or energetic, but nor have I experienced any clear side effects. I should say, however, that I normally take multivitamins with iron most days, and I’ve not been taking many of those while trying this – so perhaps the fact that I’ve not noticed much difference suggests that this could be a suitable replacement for my usual vitamins. Even if that were established, I think I’d prefer to take vitamin pills to this powder.

I’ll get through the rest of the packet, but I doubt I’ll be buying any more.


Salter 517 SSCR Stainless Steel Fridge and Freezer Thermometer, Silver
Salter 517 SSCR Stainless Steel Fridge and Freezer Thermometer, Silver
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Cool - but not too cool., 14 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Though our fridge has a dial that allows us to adjust the temperature, it doesn’t have a thermometer, so we’ve never been sure of the optimum setting. In fact, we’d had a problem of ice build-up at the top of the fridge, which led me to assume it was too cold – though turning the setting down hasn’t solved the problem. I ordered this thermometer to help us regulate the temperature.

This thermometer is a fairly simple device. No assembly or batteries or anything like that – simply stick it in your fridge (or freezer). It has a stand and hook on the back, which allows it to be positioned in a variety of ways. The instructions say to move it around, because different parts of the fridge are likely to differ in temperature.

The dial is marked only in Celsius (no Fahrenheit), but the recommended fridge and freezer temperatures are clearly indicated, so it’s easy to see whether things are too hot or too cold. The display may look a little hard to read in the attached picture, but that's largely down to the camera and flash - it's fine in person.

The fridge should be between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius, and I found the top shelf of our fridge was actually warmer than this, so I adjusted the controls appropriately. Since I don’t have another thermometer, I can’t verify whether the readings that this one gives are accurate or not – though if I had only two I wouldn’t know which was wrong if they differed anyway. I simply have to assume that it’s a reliable temperature indicator. I can, however, say that it seems well-made and I’m pleased to have it.
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Rapesco Business Card Album, 80 Cards Capacity - Black
Rapesco Business Card Album, 80 Cards Capacity - Black
Offered by Blitz Online
Price: £3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Holding all the cards, 6 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I don’t have a business card myself, but I do occasionally get given them by others (more than just the one in the picture, which was merely the first to hand). If you need something to keep business cards, or similar, together then this is a pretty good solution. While not pocket-sized, it is reasonably compact and smart looking.

There are ten ‘pages’ each of which has four pockets on. Though these pockets are only on one side of the page, you can put two cards back to back in the pocket to get the 80 card capacity (assuming you don’t need to see anything on the back of the cards). If you’re so inclined, this could also be used for various credit card-type things (loyalty cards, membership cards, etc) though it’s not a convenient size/shape for carrying around (certainly not pocket-sized). In fact, I think I might re-purpose it myself for some non-business reference cards.

One possible issue is that it won’t be so easy to keep the cards in any particular order. You can, of course, arrange them alphabetically (or however you like), but a new card from Mr Adams would require you to take each subsequent card out and move it down/back a pocket, like reorganising a collection of CDs/books/DVDs. I could see a case for having each page labelled for a particular category but, since any given set of categories won’t work for all uses and users, perhaps it’s just as well that this is left to the owner. You can put your own sticker tabs on if desired.
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Rapesco Paper Holder/Staple Remover - Powder Blue
Rapesco Paper Holder/Staple Remover - Powder Blue
Price: £9.54

3.0 out of 5 stars Between two stools, 6 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These handy little devices have two functions, though I wouldn’t say that they do either that well.

First, they’re sold as staple removers. The staple removers I’ve previously used have been little claw-type things, but these ones simply have a little plastic spike. This may work better on flat staples, but it does require you to get under each half of the staple in turn, which takes more time and effort. So, it does the job, but probably isn’t the best at doing it.

Second, they can also be used as a stand. This could be quite handy if, for example, you’re trying to type something up from a document, you can have it stood beside your monitor, rather than flat on your desk. However, if your document is only paper, then it’s unlikely to be rigid enough for this to really work. In the pictures, I use an A5 envelope, which seems stiff enough, though it’s not something I often have need to hold/stand up. I could see how these could be used for things like greeting cards or photos, but they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing stand and, in any case, using them for these purposes will also get in the way of using them as staple removers. Again, it kind of does the job, but not as well as other items.

In short, these are handy because they do two jobs, but they don’t do either particularly well and, as such, I wouldn’t really recommend them. I’ll call it 3* since it does do the jobs in question, but consider that rounded up from 2.5*.
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The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence
The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence
by Dacher Keltner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Power-full stuff, 3 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I’m no psychologist but, as a lecturer in politics, power is something that interests me. Keltner makes clear that this book is not about politics or leadership (p. 12), but if politics is about power then, at the very least, it seems to promise lessons for the study of political behaviour.

I found the book interesting and an easy read, which is no doubt welcome in a work pitched at the ordinary reader rather than the academic. However, with my academic hat on, I did find a lot of the discussion unsatisfactory.

First of all, Keltner defines power as “the capacity to make a difference in the world by influencing the states of other people” (p. 11). This may sound suitably general, but it seems too general to capture our ordinary meaning. Suppose a same-sex couple engage in a public act of affection, which angers a watching homophobe. According to Keltner’s definition, by altering the homophobe’s state, they exercise power – yet this may be entirely unintentional. Perhaps it’s useful to have a notion that encompasses unintended effects on others, but ordinarily I think we’re chiefly concerned with intentional exercises of power.

Keltner’s main contention is that we receive power from others in return for promoting the social good. This sounds plausible, but in fact it’s not clear whether this is what’s shown or not. The discussion that purports to show this goes back and forth between whether individuals do promote the social good and whether they *intend* to promote it (p. 45).

Further, whichever it is, the mechanism by which this leads to power (reputation) seems to depend not on the reality but on group perceptions. Presumably, a group will bestow power on those it believes are benefiting them, whether or not they actually are. Perhaps the most reliable way to be perceived to be working for the social good is actually to work for the social good, but it seems unlikely that this is the only way. Thus, an alternative explanation of the ‘power paradox’ is that people may come to power by fooling others, but lose it when they can no longer do so.

Without a clearer message, it’s hard to tell how far the evidence summarised supports the lessons that Keltner draws from it. The various psychological studies aren’t presented in much detail, and I’m not sure that I’d have the competence to assess them if they were, but it does seem that some focus on immediate priming whereas others focus on childhood experiences, hence it’s not clear how far these different studies contribute to a single message about the effects of power.

While this is certainly an interesting read, I guess if one really wants to evaluate the author’s message one would have to consult the various pieces of academic work in the endnotes.


Oral-B Stages Kids Star Wars Replacement Toothbrush Heads - Pack of 4
Oral-B Stages Kids Star Wars Replacement Toothbrush Heads - Pack of 4
Price: £15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars O(ral-)Bi Wan Kenobi, 2 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It’s usually recommended that you change your toothbrush head every 3 months or so – although I’ve gone much longer than this in the past. With that in mind, this pack of four should last an individual for at least a year, although of course a family of four could split the pack one head each. Given this, I was pleased to find that each head was individually wrapped. While it might seem wasteful, I’d rather not have a new head sitting around in an open packet for 9 months before I use it, which has been the case with other brands.

This particular set features Star Wars characters. My set looks to be one Yoda, one Darth Vader, and two Stormtroopers. From reading other reviews, it seems these are the only three designs, but packs are assembled at random (with no guarantee of getting all three designs). For some reviewers, this is a downside, but I think that depends on your preferences. For example, with two children both liking Yoda, it may be better to have either two Yodas or none, rather than have them arguing over the only one. Some have said the pictures aren’t the best quality, being noticeably pixelated, but this may be a deliberate design choice – the style reminds me of old comics.

As for the brushes themselves, the heads are smaller than regular adult brushes. This is handy for those with smaller mouths, but does mean you don’t get some of the extra bristles designed to get between your teeth. There’s a slightly raised strip of bristles down the middle, but otherwise they’re fairly simple. I tried one head myself, since I was well overdue a change, and must say I was surprised how hard it felt. I could imagine some children disliking brushing their teeth this way, though I assume it needs to be reasonably hard to do its job (which my old head probably wasn’t doing).


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