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Martin Turner "Martin Turner" (Marlcliff, Warwickshire, England)
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Belfine Chocolate Finger Pup Pets Assorted Characters 15 g (Pack of 8)
Belfine Chocolate Finger Pup Pets Assorted Characters 15 g (Pack of 8)
Price: £8.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Lekker! But not quite sure how much the puppetry adds, 16 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These are delicious chocolate puppets, each wrapped in their own plastic wrapper. Once you've eaten one, you can then use the holder to make your own finger puppet.

I lived in Belgium for ten years, and can attest that the chocolate has the authentic Belgian taste. If you're used to Cadbury's, you may find it a little on the rich side. In Flemish we would call it 'lekker'. It's maybe not the finest Belgian chocolate, but it's definitely the right stuff.

The puppet idea is also quite Belgian. However, while the taste of the chocolate crosses the cultural barrier very easily, I'm not sure that the finger puppets do to the same extent. You can do zoo-themed finger puppets before you eat the chocolate, and then make your own puppets to go on the sticks after you've eaten it. Puppets are big in Belgium (sometimes as much as 30 feet tall, and come out for carnivals) as well as little, like these. I've never quite found the same fascination with puppets in Britain, but the novelty of these may well work as a Christmas stocking treat.


DLAND Apple MFi Certificated Golden Braided-nylon Fiber Aluminum USB Cable 3.3ft (1M) 8-Pin Lightning USB Charge Tangle Free Heavy Duty Lightning Charger Cable Cord for iPhone 6/6 Plus/5S/5C/5, iPad Air, iPad 4th Generation, iPad Mini, iPad Mini with Retina Display, iPod Touch 5th Generation and iPod Nano 7th Generation
DLAND Apple MFi Certificated Golden Braided-nylon Fiber Aluminum USB Cable 3.3ft (1M) 8-Pin Lightning USB Charge Tangle Free Heavy Duty Lightning Charger Cable Cord for iPhone 6/6 Plus/5S/5C/5, iPad Air, iPad 4th Generation, iPad Mini, iPad Mini with Retina Display, iPod Touch 5th Generation and iPod Nano 7th Generation
Offered by Dandan UK
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Braided cable for extra strength — would suit gigging musicians among others, 16 Dec 2014
This is a tougher cable for the situations where Apple's supplied cable is too easily damaged. Apple's own cable is beautifully thin, making it easier to keep unobtrusively, but isn't especially proof against the wheels of large amplifiers, flight-cased equipment, or even closing guitar cases. If you've already identified that your supplied cable isn't quite up to the task, this one is about three times as thick and covered in a goldy-coloured braid, a bit reminiscent of one of an electric iron lead, though nowhere near as chunky. The USB and lightning ends are nicely made.

The only downside is that, as a thicker, braided cable, it's stiffer than the Apple cable, and doesn't flow into place. On the other hand, it's less likely to tangle up.

I was looking for one of these, and was offered this one as a review model. It certainly fits what I wanted.


Cole & Mason Wood and Glass Croft Wooden 12 Jar Herb and Spice Rack
Cole & Mason Wood and Glass Croft Wooden 12 Jar Herb and Spice Rack
Price: £64.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully presented, strong jars, seal as good as anything you'd normally find in the shops, 13 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a beautifully presented set of twelve herbs and spices, including fennel, mint and sage, in labelled, refillable glass bottles with reasonably effective twist tops for sprinkle, pour or seal. This jars are very hard wearing: we've dropped Cole & Mason jars onto our tiled kitchen floor a few times and they've never taken any harm from it.

The complete contents are:
Cinnamon
Basil
Fennel seed
Thyme
Parsley
Coriander
Rosemary
Mint
Sage
Oregano
Chilli Flakes
Marjoram

The heavy wooden base looks gorgeous, though be careful where you put it: herbs should be kept dark when not in use.

The tops are as good as the tops on any herb pots we've seen, but they don't really keep herbs fresh for long. Compared to the herbs in resealable plastic bags, lidded metal tins and an external box that we got from Dine, herbs in these are never _really_ fresh. However, they are just as fresh as the kind you buy in the shops — you'll only notice the difference if you cook with something kept perfectly for a while.

With that caveat, this would make a beautiful gift for a lover of herbs, or a nice thing to have in the kitchen.


Belkin F8W500 Sport Fit Armband for iPhone 6 - Black
Belkin F8W500 Sport Fit Armband for iPhone 6 - Black
Price: £17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Splashproof and cushioning great for workouts, not for hard sports. Nowhere to plug in headphones., 13 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Splashproof and offering a reasonable degree of protection, the Belkin iPhone 6 armband fits around anything from a bare arm to a chunky tracksuit. It's comfortable to wear, despite the large size, and fits on an upper arm without a great deal of difficulty. It's slightly loose, and responds easily to pressing the home button, reasonably to swipe and touch gestures on the screen, and not at all to Touch ID unlocking.

In terms of splash-proofness, this feels like it will stand any amount of rain, though absolutely certainly not immersion. However, there is no allowance made for the headphone cable. Belkin assumes, I think, that you will be using a bluetooth headset if you want to listen to music with this device, because inserting a headphone cable means that i) the phone is now upside down and ii) it's no longer rain proof.

In terms of shock-proofness, this will offer gentle cushioning. If you're doing a sport that involves the occasional risk of bashing your arm (squash, fencing, tennis, anything with a risk of falling down), then this isn't going to be the item for you: it's a tool for workouts, not for hard play.

Beyond that, this makes sense of the iPhone 6's size for work outs, runs and exercise.


Polaroid Cube HD 1080p Lifestyle Action Video Camera w/Built-In Rechargeable Battery for up to 90 Minutes Recording - Weatherproof, Shockproof & Mountable - 124° Wide Angle Lens (Black)
Polaroid Cube HD 1080p Lifestyle Action Video Camera w/Built-In Rechargeable Battery for up to 90 Minutes Recording - Weatherproof, Shockproof & Mountable - 124° Wide Angle Lens (Black)
Offered by Gadget Grotto
Price: £99.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous little fish-eye camera that is far cuter than its competitors, 12 Dec 2014
An inch across, this is a gorgeous little pocket camera with a well thought out range of accessories which competes well with the GoPro range and may be a better choice for many people.

The lens is 124 degrees, recording the fish-eye view which is fairly standard on this kind of device. As a rule of thumb, things in the middle will not appear distorted, things on the edges will. There's no zoom on this camera, but that's immaterial, as other cameras of this kind offering zoom are only zooming digitally, which you can do in your movie application afterwards. The video quality is superb, but don't expect the audio to give you more than atmospheric background.

Polaroid have followed the dictum 'more is less'. It's one click to take a photo, double click to start a video. You can physically switch from 720p to 1080p (ie, the two kinds of HD, 1080p being 'full' HD), after you've removed the back cover with a coin, which is also where you insert the micro SD card and the USB for charging.

You can have endless fun with this device. If you dare, throw it in the air and catch it while recording. The result would be hard to beat on any kind of equipment.

I was sent this as a review model, along with the tripod mount and the waterproof case/suction mount. You don't need either of these, as it comes with a built in powerful magnet, which will enable you to put it on many surfaces. However, the lack of supplied accessories is the main difference between this and the GoPro — while the GoPro has a display and more controls, it's also larger and therefore less useful. Absence of display is not a problem, as, most of the time, you'll be mounting this somewhere and editing later. The GoPro, by contrast, comes with a huge range of accessories, so you are most likely getting what you pay for.

In terms of a device to own, this is far cuter and less obtrusive. It also has a longer battery life in use, which may be important, though it's still only 90 minutes.


Philips SW700M/05 Multiroom Speaker with Spotify Connect
Philips SW700M/05 Multiroom Speaker with Spotify Connect
Price: £82.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to install but works well once settled -- only for Spotify Premium users, 12 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Philips Multiroom Spotify Speaker has great sound with a real warmth to it and will comfortably fill most living rooms. However, it is hard to install and temperamental until it has 'settled down'.

We had to run the install procedure three times. The WPS install did not work at all, despite the device being only ten feet from the router. We then installed on an Apple Airport network, using the free iPhone app. Following install, the device said that it had a very weak signal, and stuttered so much that it was not possible to listen to. We then put it a foot from the wi-fi transmitter, at which point it said the signal was 3/4, 'good'. It still stuttered and started. Having left it for an hour, it suddenly started working, and continued to work without much difficulty.

Once running, the sound is nice, and it's easy to move along a Spotify list, with the backwards and forwards keys, change volume, or start and stop. You need the free iOS or Android app to actually change lists.

Note that you will need a Spotify premium account, at £9 a month, though you do get the first 30 days free.

If you like Spotify, and want an easy way to listen to the music without tying up your devices, this is great. Once started, it doesn't stream from your device, but straight from the network, so, while you can control it whenever you want with the Spotify app, you can switch off your device entirely, take calls, or even walk away.

Five stars for the quality of the sound and utility. Minus half a star for the cumbersome installation and settling down period, and minus another one because, ultimately, this is a one-trick pony that could just as well have streamed via AirPlay without costing any more to make, or had an input to do the same.


Dry Clean Stain Remover Spray
Dry Clean Stain Remover Spray
Offered by Diy & Homeware
Price: £3.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Did the job, 9 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This stain remover worked well on a small, prominent stain on a dress, which would otherwise have had to have been dry cleaned. It sprays on, and then brushes off as powder shortly afterwards.

As such, it did exactly the job it was bought for.


Cabin Max Shirt Tidy - 2 Pack- Easy Packing and Travel Solution (White)
Cabin Max Shirt Tidy - 2 Pack- Easy Packing and Travel Solution (White)
Offered by Home & Travel
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good value for money, but not the best solution, 9 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These are relatively cheap and cheerful soft plastic boxes, each one capable of keeping a shirt relatively uncreased. They come with a card insert with instructions for folding. The boxes are not water tight, and the catches are relatively weak — one was broken on arrival, but it was much easier to fix it with superglue than to return it, and they suffer no ill effects from the repair.

At this price, you really can't complain, but this is by no means the best way of keeping a shirt clean and ready, as it won't do anything to stop rain, dirt or coffee getting inside.


Philips HR1855/01 Viva Collection Juicer, 2 Litre, 700 Watt, Black
Philips HR1855/01 Viva Collection Juicer, 2 Litre, 700 Watt, Black
Price: £49.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enormous but excellent, 9 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are two things you need to know about the Philips Viva Collection Juicer. First, it is enormous. Second, it does an amazing job making juice.

More than a foot high, and as wide as a decent sized saucepan, the juicer occupies a lot of real estate in the kitchen. It's heavy to move around, and adheres to any smooth surface. It really needs its own place, because you aren't going to enjoy moving it around too much. When you open it to clean it, the clasps deploy to triple the width. It looks like it might have been once considered for a part of a droid in Star Wars.

Given that all it does is make juice, this might seem like a high price to pay for the privilege.

That's until you try it.

Peel three mandarin oranges and discard the peel, and add about an inch of root ginger, cut into three. Put these into the top of the juicer and put the supplied jug under the spout. Then turn it on. Within about four seconds, the fruit has disappeared and about half of the eventual liquid has appeared in the jug. Leave the juicer running for another thirty seconds or so, and all the juice that is going to come out is now in the jug. Put it to one side, and take the juicer to bits to clean it. It rinses easily under the tap, but you have to disassemble it in four pieces to get that far. Leave to dry.

Now taste the juice: fresh mandarin and root ginger has an amazing, zingy taste which is like nothing you can ever get out of a carton. Straight from the juicer, it will be a little warm, so you can add ice or just drink it like that. Don't put it in the fridge and leave it, though — more on that in a moment.

From a Public Health point of view, eating fresh fruit and drinking fresh fruit juice correlates strongly with a healthy lifestyle, whereas drinking fruit juice from a carton correlates with diabetes. This — my Public Health colleagues tell me — is because all of the useful vitamins in fresh fruit juice denature after it's been left for half an hour or so. Fruit juice in a carton just retains the sugar.

So, is this worth it? One thing you'll notice when you clean it is that there is a lot of pulp to be cleaned out. Clearly, you are losing a lot of the fruit in juicing it. I was surprised that three mandarins was enough for one long glass. Directly eating fresh fruit is clearly going to be a better way of getting fruit inside you. On the other hand, if you want to drink fruit juice, this is an extremely fast and painless way of getting healthy, fresh fruit juice. What's more, it will juice things like ginger which you would never be able to juice by hand. And it tastes so good.


The Invisible Library
The Invisible Library
by Genevieve Cogman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.23

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heady new cocktail of familiar elements, done like you've never seen before, 7 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Invisible Library (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Not one element of the premise of this book is original, and yet the combination of them is a universe which is compelling, satisfying, and like nothing you've ever seen. Genevieve Cogman weaves together elements borrowed -- some explicitly -- from other fiction to give us a multi-dimensional library with its own internal politics and baffling devotion to acquiring every book in every dimension.

You can almost play fiction-bingo with this book. The Name of the Rose meets A Wizard of Earthsea meets The Difference Engine meets Sherlock Holmes meets Advanced Dungeons and Dragons meets half a hundred other, more general, tropes, including the Fae, alternate realities, werewolves, vampires and many others. No-one, though, has ever mixed this heady cocktail in quite this way before. Taking the murderous bibliophilia of Umberto Eco's most famous creations into the realm of techno-fantasy makes this a book about the ultimate importance of story, and gives a thematic coherence to what would otherwise be a collection of fantasy motifs.

This is a first novel, and Genevieve Cogman may not quite yet have found her narrative voice. It's about a third longer than it should be, and things are too often spelled out which the alert reader got as soon as they were first raised. Much of the dialogue is explanation and people agreeing with each other, and there some awkward romantic moments which don't go anywhere, or serve much purpose. On the other hand, the action sequences at the end, including a were-wolf chase, zeppelin flight and attack by silverfish is masterfully done: the book may sag a little in the middle, but the start and finish are taut, and it's ultimately a satisfying read.

This is a heady cocktail of familiar elements, creating the 'Big Premise' that fantasy fiction has to have these days. Plot and character will, I'm sure, come together much more effectively in the sequel, which is flagged as clear as day on the final page.


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