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emma who reads a lot (London)
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A. Wong - The Cookbook: Extraordinary dim sum, exceptional street food & unexpected Chinese dishes from Sichuan to Yunnan
A. Wong - The Cookbook: Extraordinary dim sum, exceptional street food & unexpected Chinese dishes from Sichuan to Yunnan
by Andrew Wong
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, but frustrating!!, 27 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
this is a lovely cookbook. It's physically a beautiful thing, with lovely, rather refined and minimalist photography, often on plain white plates. I love the way the recipes are laid out, too: helpful intros, then step by step on the main cooking, and clearly expressed ingredients. Those readers who buy a lot of cookbooks will know that this is NOT NECESSARILY to be taken for granted these days...

It's clear that Andrew Wong is absolutely serious as a chef - Nick Lander highly rates him, which is always a good sign. But though a proportion of the dishes in the book I think can work in a domestic setting, early on we are treated to a technical explanation of why our home-made chow mein will never taste as good as one from a restaurant kitchen, shucks. Further, there are also those telltale signs of a restaurant cookbook - recipes that begin "simmer the pork skin for 3 1/2 hours, then put in a dehydrator for six hours." Sorry, chef, but... no. That may also be your reaction to what he declares is the first ever published recipe for chicken feet.

As I went on, I felt increasingly fascinated and dispirited about how hard it was going to be for me to cook ANY of the stuff in the book! And I live about 20 mins from a huge Chinese supermarket...Century egg, lotus root, dried flounder powder, brined jellyfish slivers?

For precision dishes like Dim Sum, there are step by step photographs, which are very helpful. And every so often, there is a dish like egg fried rice or "Macanese Prawns", so simple, so light, so delightful, that you would keep the book just to be able to make that one dish. Or even his spectacular Cha Siu, which is relatively simple also.

I have hummed and ha-ed about a 'star rating' for this book as clearly it's an incredible piece of work, but I think that any general reader will be sorely disappointed about how little they can cook, whilst utterly enjoying the reading and the philosophy of cooking behind it all. Wonderful, but frustrating!!


The Enlightenment: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
The Enlightenment: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by John Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Knowledgable and carefully-presented intellectual history; I'm not quite sure of its 'introduction' credentials though..., 27 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This exemplary series from Oxford comprises titles that are incredibly readable, and those which are rather more challenging: I think Robertson's 'introduction' to the Enlightenment is definitely up the 'challenging' end. He is an intellectual historian, and in consequence this book does focus on introducing the main intellectual makers of the Enlightenment, from Vico to Voltaire. (If you really have no idea who these figures are before reading, I think you might struggle a little, though of course these days a reader can retreat to Wikipedia when really stumped :-)...)

Yet whilst fairly heavy-going to read, it is crammed with useful information and intriguing insights. I particularly loved the writing about whether the supposedly anti-religious Enlightenment was actually very interested in religion: both in terms of bringing a more scholarly and historical approach to the reading of the Bible, but also in terms of providing stern philosophical justifications for Toleration as a virtue...

I think for me, though, the most compelling part of the book is Chapter 4, "Enlightening the Public", about how the philosophical ideas made it down into public consumption. The social and cultural history of ideas for me is the most revealing and, ha ha, enlightening. Taverns, coffeehouses, Masonic lodges - for me, at that moment, it suddenly comes to life. So I have to say, that despite finding the rest of the book very intriguing, I did find it relatively hard work, and not quite the 'Very Short Introduction'....and so for that reason only, four stars rather than five.


Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves
Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves
by Emily Henderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.85

5.0 out of 5 stars halfway between interiors and 'how to tidy' your house, with wonderful effect, 22 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book has a massive twist on any other decorating book I've ever read: it's by a highly experienced stylist on interiors photoshoots, and it's about how to ARRANGE your house to look better.... Forget knocking down walls and doing a loft extension, it's the simple art of arranging stylishly the things you already own.

First in the book, Henderson will have you thinking about what your core style is, via an extensive quiz, so that you know whether you're aiming for minimalist or something more busy and vintage. Secondly, transform your space: ten steps for getting on with it, including making a moodboard and using a camera to help you 'see' where it's not working.

Then there are specific chapters on each area of the house with specific tricks and hints, from creating a gallery wall to arranging things in rows. It's bizarre, fussy, and yet it totally sorts a room out. I just love this book and I'm already learning so much from it, having only just bought it. BRILLIANT.


Garnier Pure Matte Control
Garnier Pure Matte Control
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great product for shine control for gym users etc especially, 11 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really interesting cream. Actually, it has more of the perfume and consistency of a spot control product, as it's that kind of toothpastey blue when you squeeze it out. However, what's amazing is that - say you have been to the gym, and you then want (just for example) to do some shopping before you get home for a shower. You can wash the sweat off your face, put this on, and it mattifies your face. Like, shininess just goes. Again, if you are the kind of person who even after a shower has a bit of shininess post-exercise, that also is completely calmed by this product.

It couldn't become your main moisturiser unless you had the oiliest skin, but it's a really useful product for me in these situations, which crop up a lot. It's a brilliant useful thing to have in the bag, and I've found myself turning to it a lot.

It also has that very distinctive 'sciencey' Garnier smell - which I really like - almost like hair gel! :-) Some people won't want that kind of thing on their face, but to me it feels like it's 'doing good'. And let's face it, what you 'feel' like it's doing is quite important :-)


KS1 Discover & Learn: Science - Study & Activity Book, Year 1
KS1 Discover & Learn: Science - Study & Activity Book, Year 1
by CGP Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars excellent information, with fun tests and quizzes, and nicely presented, 11 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really ideal book for Year one science. My son is in Year 1 and he really enjoyed it. It has four sections, Our World; Plants; Animals; and Materials. It covers for example: why we have day and night, the life cycle of a bee, the parts of a plant and a tree, the human body, the differences between mammals birds and fish, and various materials.

Its real secret, though, is that it's pitched exactly right. Big, enticing images, on every page; interesting knowledge appropriate to their learning level clear writing with important words in red; and fun testing mechanisms, such as true or false quizzes, crosswords and odd one out tests, to check a child's knowledge. Your child will learn definitions of basic concepts like herbivore / carnivore, transparent / opaque, day / night, but in a gentle way that feels 'just right' for their age, and is really, really nicely presented. AND a good price!


Crooked Heart
Crooked Heart
by Lissa Evans
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A sharp, witty, mischievous, moving look at London at War, 6 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Crooked Heart (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Crooked Heart is a story set in wartime, but with a twist: almost every character you meet is up to something, often a little bit on the fiddle, turning the book away from a conventional war story to something much more fun, sharper, and more intriguing.

Noel lives with his former suffragette godmother, Mattie, but as her dementia worsens, and war looms, it becomes clear that life must change. The novel follows how that change takes place; the story's twists are so good I'd rather just leave it there and let you find out for yourself. Noel is a wonderful central character, a warm, funny, touching depiction of a serious, clever child left to fend for himself. I couldn't work out what genre of book it was really, and consequently felt very anxious about whether the novel was going to end well for Noel; all I can say is, don't worry, the end will please almost everybody.

Evans' style of writing is particularly attractive: fantastically economical, and quietly hilarious. Not a word is wasted getting the story going, and then it cracks on a good pace, mainly down to her skill at constructing scenes which swiftly convey exactly what needs to be said. The cleanly-drawn, tiny little scenes of Mattie's worsening dementia that begin the book are so funny, so quick, so vivid, that you almost forget you are also feeling terribly sorry for her. And the dialogue, particularly of the children in the book, and of one particular foreigner who appears later, really made me laugh as it was so accurate. I also felt the period detail (which normally can quite put me off a book if too heavy-handed) was perfectly, lightly done, absolutely beautifully.

Incredibly readable, I longed to get back to it, but the book also posed all sorts of interesting questions: how immoral, or unethical, is breaking the rules in wartime? Filtering petrol, getting people passed unfit for active service, stealing from bomb sites, or engaging other activities designed simply to make ends meet? A really entertaining, diverting read.


L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Lipstick Number 630, Beige A Nu
L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Lipstick Number 630, Beige A Nu
Price: £6.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars lovely lipstick and slightly disappointing casing, 4 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Really like this lipstick, which has a good deep coverage colour-wise, in a perfect neutral nude colour. But the packaging is sort of disappointing. Maybe I'm being too critical but it just feels really cheap, to me. I guess it's the faux-metal casing, which picked up seems much too light. I question why I'm mentioning it, because should packaging really come into it, when really all that matters is that the lipstick is good? But to me, it slightly detracts from the product. And as lipstick is something you are likely to take out in public, to me I think it matters more than say for an eyeliner. So five for the make-up itself, and three for the casing, adding to 4/5


True Tales of Scientists  Reading Book: Alhazen, Anning, Darwin & Curie
True Tales of Scientists Reading Book: Alhazen, Anning, Darwin & Curie
by CGP Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Content really good, layout and presentation a bit less satisfactory, 4 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book contains four stories of scientific lives, and they are a good range of choices. First comes the medieval astronomer Alhazen, based in Basra then Cairo, with suggestions for kids on how to draw a star map, as Alhazen did, and clear diagrams about his theories on experiment and on optics. Secondly, an early female scientist, Mary Anning the Victorian, telling her story of home education, hard work and self-discipline, and her efforts to support her family as a professional fossil hunter. Thirdly comes Charles Darwin, with details of his voyages, illness, as well as his scientific breakthrough. Lastly, comes Marie Curie, again with evocative details of her life story and a clear explanation of what she discovered. All include childhood anecdotes, and vivid life detail, though I'm not sure of sources for these.

The Darwin story is the one I know best, and I can vouch that the science is well explained; it is especially careful to show that evolutionary ideas were common before Darwin, and also that his book didn't cause that much consternation to begin with. It is accurate to current history of science thinking, in other words.

The only disappointment for me was the way the book has been laid out. I felt like it is not that easy to read, with text very dominant on the page and not much visual signposting to help a junior reader. For this reason, only 4/5


Maybelline Great Lash Big Mascara, Blackest Black
Maybelline Great Lash Big Mascara, Blackest Black
Offered by NailPolishDirect
Price: £5.60

5.0 out of 5 stars It could be none more black, 2 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a classic mascara that I've seen really, really good makeup artists use at work. There are people who will use much more expensive products for foundation / eyeshadow, but when it comes to the mascara, always go back to Maybelline pink and green. There have been many innovations with mascara in the last few years - the false eyelash look, that over-the-top fullness, brushes designed to separate each eyelash, etc etc. I remain quite sceptical about all of this... and will always argue that this very VERY black mascara, which has an almost artificial, inky quality to it, is going to do the job just as well as any of the more expensive and complicated alternatives. Really really five star.


Zanussi ZAN1910UEL Cyclone Classic All Floor Bagless Vacuum Cleaner, 800 W, Ice White/Yellow
Zanussi ZAN1910UEL Cyclone Classic All Floor Bagless Vacuum Cleaner, 800 W, Ice White/Yellow
Offered by Co-op Electrical
Price: £64.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great on so many levels, especially for a second cleaner or for those who can't lift heavier powered vacuums, 30 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was expecting this tiny vacuum cleaner to be a bit of a disappointment after my high watts existing cleaner. Really, really surprised and delighted by this Zanussi!
Firstly, the size. This vacuum is properly small, and light to lift, too. For people sick of lugging a cleaner up and down stairs, for older people, for people who've had surgery and who aren't allowed to lift over kettle weight, even for kids (smiley face there) it's ideal. Also for people with only a small storage space for cleaning stuff, this would really fit into a small cupboard compared to other cleaners.
Secondly, the effectiveness. I was AMAZED at the cleaning on this thing. It does great cleaning, compared to a 1200W normal vacuum cleaner, and it only has a 800W motor, so that's great. In fact, let me post a picture of the stuff we got off my kid's bedroom floor, which was hoovered before christmas and which has hardly been used since (just for one guest): Look! it's a combination of disgusting and really impressive! The cleaner was brand new and we vacuumed for about two minutes, and all that dust came up!
Thirdly, it is extremely cute in design. My child was delighted with the "BB8 factor" :-)
Any drawbacks?
Well, it is LOUD. The Cyclone motor is on the loud side.
Apart from that, there's a good range of tools, with separate heads for wooden floors and carpets, crevice heads, small-scale head; the wheels and construction are sturdy; the on-off is simple to operate (some vacuums are too stiff for the elderly to turn on, but this is rather more gentle of touch). I was REALLY impressed by this vacuum cleaner and will be finding a place for it upstairs, whilst keeping my bigger cleaner for downstairs / car hoovering FOR the moment (though who knows? Could the Zanussi do it all? I wouldn't actually be surprised.)
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