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Elaine Simpson-long (Colchester, UK)

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Philips GC4910/10 PerfectCare Azur Iron - One Perfect Temperature Steam Iron, 180g Steam Boost
Philips GC4910/10 PerfectCare Azur Iron - One Perfect Temperature Steam Iron, 180g Steam Boost
Price: £49.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rolls Royce of an iron, 27 Jun. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My old iron which has reached the end of its life is a Morris Minor compared to this Rolls Royce of an iron. This product is designed to use tap water for steaming but with the caveat that if you live in a hard water area, as I do, might be best to get hold of other water. What surprised me at first about this iron and I was a bit dubious about it, is that there is no temperature control for different materials, it is all automatic. Dont ask me how it is done but after ironing various garments and sheets and tablecloths and they all came out beautifully, I realised I need not worry and it was rather good not to have to keep testing the heat all the time.

I decided to put it to the test with a linen blouse of mind that is always difficult to iron if you leave it to get too dry after washing. I usually have to dampen them before ironing but with this iron I merely upped the steam anti and lo and behold my blouse came out as smooth as silk and hardly any effort required.

So very very pleased with this product but in case you are wondering why only four starst, it is because I feel it is rather heavy to lift and use and after half an hour of ironing my shoulders and right wrist was beginning to ache. But that is purely a personal feel and on the whole this is an excellent product
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2014 4:29 PM BST

Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum Book 21)
Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum Book 21)
Price: £4.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love it, 26 Jun. 2014
These stories are character driven and the plot, or what passes for one, is immaterial. We all know Stephanie Plum by now, her side kick and ex-ho Lula with her outrageous clothes, Joe Morelli her policeman boyfriend and the one she secretly yearns for, Ranger, who I certainly would not kick out of bed in the mornings.

In this story Stephanie is chasing down Jimmy Poletti who has skipped bail and is leaving a trail of bodies behind him. She always arrives too late, her car gets blown up (again), her flat is torched (again) and somewhere along the line you know there will always be donuts, mayonnaise, cup cakes and fried chicken.

Total hoot. Loved it. Where is twenty-two?

Angelica's Smile (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries Book 17)
Angelica's Smile (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries Book 17)
Price: £3.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Love these books, 26 Jun. 2014
If you are a lover of these books then you do not need me to urge you to get hold of this one, you will already have it on your radar or may have already read it. I am totally in love with the inhabitants of the police station at Vigata and love Montalbano, with all his failings and yet knowledge of himself. This latest concerns a series of burglaries for which there seems no reason and it takes Salvo sometime to realise they are a blind, a cover up for something more personal. He has been distracted by the arrival of the beautiful Angelica with whom he is in thrall though he knows it is wrong and he is a fool.

Though these books are detective stories, the real interest for all of us who adore these books is the characters, Salvo, Augello, Fazio and the wonderful Catarella. I am so fond of them all that the story almost seems of secondary importance. At times I have felt that the author feels this way too but then I will come across a complicated or fiendish plot twist and realise that I am mistaken. However, I have to agree with other comments here and say that this is not one of his very best, but I adore these books so much, I really don't care.

Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil (Grantchester Mysteries Book 3)
Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil (Grantchester Mysteries Book 3)
Price: £4.80

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gentle yes, a tad slow? Yes, 19 Jun. 2014
I think the best way to describe the pace of this series as 'ambulatory', there is no rush, no hurry, all is discovered and sorted out in a quiet, understated way, no mad stabbings or frenzied killings. Makes Miss Marple look positively skittish.

Each book contains four or five short stories, or long short stories if you know what I mean and I think this is an excellent way to present them. Rather feel there is not enough weight for a full length novel. In the latest we are reaching the Sixties, Sidney is married to Hildegarde, he is happy in his marriage and leading a quiet life.(Have to admit I am not too keen on Hildegarde, feel he should have married Amanda). But we know that things will happen and first up we have a serial killer targeting clergy (and yes I said these are gentle books, even a serial killer does not seem to ruffle the surface); disappearance of a painting; a drowning on a film shoot which is not an accident and a baby stolen from a hospital.

Much though I enjoyed this book my attention did begin to wander after a while as I felt the narrative was verging on the aimless at times, something I found with the First Ladies Detective Agency series. Yes, taking one's time and being philosophical and thoughtful is ok but occasionally you want something, anything,to happen.

This is a series of six books set in post war England and coming up to date and in order to place them there are references to the Beatles, President Kennedy etc just to remind us where we are and this can become a tad annoying at times. Also a sneaky thought crept into my mind when I read the first title, to whit that this would make a perfect TV series. Did the author have this in mind? Six books with four adaptable mysteries in each, three filmed at a time, eight series ready to go. Cynical moi? yes I know but no surprise that there is indeed a series in the offing and gather it is being filmed in the ever amenable Oxford. Just hope that Sidney did not bang into Hathaway and Lewis who are also filming at the moment.

Yes I enjoyed Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil but in a very muted way. On a sunny day in the garden with a glass of something cool to hand they are very enjoyable. Actually, correction, you need a cup of tea and a scone....
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2015 11:44 PM BST

Under a Croatian Sun - From Grey Britain to a Sunny Isle: One Couple's Dream Comes True
Under a Croatian Sun - From Grey Britain to a Sunny Isle: One Couple's Dream Comes True
by Anthony Stancomb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget Peter Mayle and Provence, this is better, 15 Jun. 2014
Of course Peter Mayle started it all off with his tales of life in Provence after which it was de rigeur to have a gite in the Dordogne or a second home in a remote French provincial town, prefereably with a ruin to do up, battered old olive trees to renovate and to produce gallons of superb olive oil. Then there were tales of those who had gone off to Spain to do up a ruin/run an olive farm/lemon grove etc etc. Note there are very few books of French couples hot footing it off to Grimsby to do up a semi detached and go trawling.

Ok I am being a tad satirical here because there were so many of these books at one stage and I used to get sooooo tired of reading about these couples who triumphed over the odds and who were helped out by quirky/eccentric/barking locals. So when I was asked if I would review Under the Croatian Sun I thought ah, do I really want to and then thought well why not? It sounded fun and it was set in a part of the world about which I know very little and Peter Mayle is a thousand miles away and, to cut a long story short, I read it.

Loved it.

And it is full of the eccentrics, the unusual and the totally barmy as in all the other previous books of this ilk, but this one had a wit and a sense of humour running through it and no pretentiousness at all. Anthony Croand Ivana have moved from Fulham to Vis, a remote island off the coast of Croatia when they had visited and fallen in love with it, as you do. So they buy a tatty house and do it up. One thing to bear in mind with this genre of books is that the author(s) are nearly always broke, running out of money and using up their budget. Always. BUT you can only even think of doing something like this if you have a bit of dosh sloshing around in the bank and I rather shy away from this plea of poverty. If you have sold a property in Fulham you are not short of a bob or two so this has to be borne in mind.

They seem to have no problem settling in, both Anthony and Ivana love the island and have no doubts that they are going to be happy there. However, there is a snag, the natives are not friendly.

"The first rude awakening to the actual local hostility was not long in coming. One morning, Karmela press ganged a solemn faced fisherman into helping me carry a table upstairs, and once we'd done the job, thinking that he might like to see what we had done to the house, I offered him a coffee and to show him around. The fellow looked as if he'd bitten into a bad apple and, with an expression on his face that reminded me of Norman Tebbit, he said he was busy and left.

Karmela had heard my exchange with the fisherman and came in from the garden 'You mustn't take it badly' she said 'this is how we are - suspicious of everybody'

What to do? and how to get the locals to accept them? Various schemes come to mind and are tried out but my favourite was when Anthony decided to set up a local cricket team. Nelson's navy had occupied the island and played cricket there for years and, as a keen cricketer, Anthony decides that he will get a cricket team together and, once assembled, starts to teach them to play. He is only partially successful and manages to obtain a grant for the services of a cricket coach who duly arrives and sets to:

"Be patient. Wear the batsman down"

"Arm straighter. Use your wrist"

"Pitch it up lad. You'll never get anybody out like that!"

It was music to my ears. I was back in my Aertex shirt and Clark's shoes with a brown paper bag containing a doorstep sandwich and a bottle of Tizer beside me"

This was the part of the book I enjoyed most as I am a cricket lover and found this both amusing and touching and, yes, in the end they are accepted by the community and all is happy and glorious.

As I have said, I loved this book and though it is full of the usual cast of eccentrics, it rings true. Sometimes in other books of this kind I suspect that traits and characteristics have been exaggerated to make the narrative more interesting. I do not feel that here.

A read that will lift the spirit

Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking
Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking
by Tilly Walnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff, 11 Jun. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I used to make all my clothes when younger but that was a long time ago now and it is only because I have been watching the Great British Sewing Bee that my interest in sewing, along with millions of others, has been revived and I have dragged my sewing machine out and dusted it off.

I remember the basics well, they all came back to me but I still needed some guidance and this is the biz. Starts withe basic, how to thread a bobbin etc and, believe me, I had forgotten through to pressing, facings, putting in an invisible zip (always my downfall) and has plenty of simple projects to get one going. Simple instructions on how to make a scarf even and as I have two blouses I no longer wear and do not know what to do with, I now have my answer.

This book also comes with patterns tucked in the back which you can trace off and use again and again.

An excellent book for beginners and rusty sewers like me who need reminding of how to do it all.

Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat
Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat
Price: £9.02

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Fascinating, 11 Jun. 2014
A book about the rise of the female diplomat may not sound the kind of book you would want to read or relax with but believe me, this witty and engaging book will keep you happily reading for some time.

Women nowadays automatically assume they will take exams, go to University, get the jobs they want and no hassle. And this is as it should be though there are still plenty of male bastions around who are not too keen on a female intake and it is clear from Women of the World that the Foreign Office was and still is, to a certain extent, such a place.

The author has intereviewed many ex-diplomats and civil servants, female, and tells their story with with and humour. Considering the restrictions imposed upon them and the lack of support for their careers most of them sound pretty philosophical about it all and seem to have had a varied and interesting careet.

I just have to write about the following response from a woman fighting for equality in the Diplomatic Service, when it was posited that women were unsuited for the less salubrious aspects of consular work.

It was felt that they could not deal with 'inebriated sailors' and their physical fraility would put them at a disadvantage.

Back came a response from Alex Kilroy, who had joined the Home Service in 1925:

'I have a very definite view' she replied 'which is supported by a good many of my friends, that women have a rather special technique for managing drunken men, which they have acquired by long years of experience at home'......

Bet that shut them up. It is also worth mentioning that the marriage bar, ie if you married you had to leave the service, was not scrapped until the earlier 70s. Imagine what would happen now if you had to give up your job when you got married!

The Kill: (Maeve Kerrigan 5)
The Kill: (Maeve Kerrigan 5)
by Jane Casey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best yet, 11 Jun. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I started reading Jane Casey's books a few years ago and though I was not over the moon with her first one, I liked it enough to try the second one which was so much better than the first. And so it has continued. They have got better and better and this one is the best yet.

I feel with a series like this that it is best to read them in order if you have come to them late as the relationships are explored and become more mature and involved and this is really the case in The Kill. Best to know what has gone before to really enjoy this title.

There is a serial killer in London and his target is police officers. Maeve Kerrigan and her abrasive boss Josh Derwent are on the case but nobody knows why the police are being murdered. As the body count mounts Maeve begins to suspect that it may have something to do with a secret she knows about a high ranking police officer who she knows well. But will anybody believe her? Josh certainly won't as he is a huge admirer of the officer in question who is one of the most respected men on the force. So she keeps quiet.

And then a colleague of Maeve's boyfriend Rob is killed and the fall out from that death affects their relationship and the entire investigation is rebounding on Maeve more than she would like.

I am saying as little as I can about The Kill as I know in the past I have given away too much and Amazon readers have told me so in no uncertain terms! So all I will say is that this is the best yet in this series, the narrative grips you so you cannot put it down and I can hardly wait for the next one.

Oh and Jane Casey - please get Maeve and Josh together!!

Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from this author, 22 May 2014
This review is from: CAULDSTANE (Kindle Edition)
Cauldstane is the story of two ghosts. The first is Jenny Ryan. She is a ghost writer who travels up to the Scottish Highlands to meet Sholto McNab, retired adventurer and Laird of Caulstane Castle. He wants to publish his memoirs in order to raise money to stave off the sale of the castle which is crumbling around its inhabitants.

"When I first caught sight of Cauldstane, I didn't see a building and a way of life in its death throes. Cauldstane stood, heroic, long-suffering, defying all that the centuries had thrown at it........I saw an ivy clad tower, much taller than it was wide, with more windows that I could easily count, the whole topped by conical-roofed turrets and looking, from a distance, like a child's toy".

Jenny is installed at the Castle and begins work. She hears all about the Cauldstane Curse which seems to Cauld
have claimed Sholto's two wives plus his daughter in law, Coral. A fall from a horse, a car crash and a drowning in the river have blighted the lives of the McNabs and leaves the two sons Felix and Alec alone and with no chance of marrying and having children in case the curse strikes again.

Then the second ghost makes its presence felt. What I loved and laughed about was the way in which Meredith, the wife who died in the car crash, communicates with Jenny and lets her know she does not want her at the castle. She writes on Jenny's laptop. Now this is certainly a modern take on haunting and I thought it was a brilliant idea. It is also immensely spooky and Jenny gets angry:

"Is this some kind of threat? Who are you and why are you leaving me these messages?.......I'm here to do my job and I only want what is best for the family....

I sat there glaring at the screen. Then, to my absolute horror, words began to appear, one by one:

And I only want the worst.

Bat out of hell doesn't begin to describe it. I was out of my chair, across the room and into the hall before I stopped to think of any rational explanation"

This is a terrific read full of turns and twists and revelations. More ghostly happenings, attempts on Jenny's life, flying hat pins, simply marvellous. Oh and I forgot to mention that there is a housekeeper who used to adore Meredith and keeps her room dusted and cleaned and just how she left it. Mrs Danvers perhaps? Or perhaps will not know until the end.

So to sum up, ghostly goings on, romance, secrets, lies, unrequited love, a gloomy castle in Scotland...well what are you waiting for? Go buy and read.

A Colder War
A Colder War
by Charles Cumming
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better and Better, 12 May 2014
This review is from: A Colder War (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have read all of Charles Cumming's spy books and I thoroughly enjoy them. They are more akin to George Smiley than James Bond which is to the good, well in my opinion anyway.

In this title we meet Thomas Kell once more who featured in the previous book when he was tasked to find Amelia Levene, head of Intelligence Service, when she went off grid. This time he is sent to investigate a mysterious plane crash in which MI6's Head of Station in Turkey, met his death. It seems he was involved with a woman who may or may not be what she seems, was seen having a meeting with a Russian agent and as it appears there is a Mole somewhere in the service, suspicion is aroused by these actions.

What I like about these books is that there is no attempt to make spying a glamorous profession. OK there is a beautiful woman here for our hero, but the emphasis is on winkling out the traitor through elimination, surveillance and a lot of basic work. I find this approach fascinating, I loved Tinker Tailor by le Carre for the same reason, and so Charles Cumming finds a fan in me.

Twists and turns but I will say no more as I do not want to give anything away or spoil the ending. Do read.

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