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Stucumber "Stucumber" (N. Wales)
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Jack and the Beanstalk: A Book of Nursery Stories
Jack and the Beanstalk: A Book of Nursery Stories
by Kathleen Lines
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, possibly a bit too scary., 14 Oct. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Recently, I had the opportunity to read a few modern versions of some popular children's stories; something about them was a little unfamiliar, I thought. In the versions I remembered, there was an unpleasant fate for some of the characters; Grandma was eaten by the Big Bad Wolf, who incidently polished off at least two of the Three Little Pigs, in short, a gruesome death was always a possiblity and frequently did happen to at least one person. Sometime between the 1970s and today, our sensibilities have changed and these stories have been rendered a bit less gory and probably a bit less nightmare inducing.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised by the contents of Jack and the Beanstalk, though I was familiar with all the tales and how dark they could really get. These are collected and told in a near to original form and contain all the deaths and gruesome details that more anodyne modern retellings gloss over. The ogre at the top of the beanstalk has the bones of boys for his supper, grandma isn't saved by the woodcutter - she's eaten by the wolf instead , and the wolf isn't chased off to learn the error of his ways; no, the woodcutter slays him or he is boiled alive to be eaten by the sole remaining little pig.

Despite these being the versions I was told back in the seventies, I think I will follow modern sensibilities and reserve them for when my son is quite a bit older. I will hold onto them though, they are a part of our culture and I'll want my boy to experience them in this form, but not until he is somewhat older. Each parent will have to decide for themselves what is fitting for their own children; if you don't think they did you any harm, then certainly read them to your children because you won't find as well told anywhere else.

In fitting with the older style of storytelling the illustrations, though new, have a 'vintage' feel to them. They are line and wash, with a limited colour palette that echoes the limits of colour printing for much of the twentieth century. In fact, the pages have been printed with a slight yellow cast, which with the old fashioned typography lends the whole book the vintage feel.

Though probably not a bedtime favourite, this is a fascinating and beautiful book and one that will be worth holding on to.


Gibsons My World My Body Jigsaw Puzzle
Gibsons My World My Body Jigsaw Puzzle
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and educational., 14 Oct. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A fun and educational toy, the My Body jigsaw puzzle is an excellent introduction to anatomy for small children.

There are two puzzles; one concentrates on the external anatomy, the other on the organs, muscles and skeleton. They are both presented in a bright, clear and colourful way, with good quality illustrations. Each has a cartoon illustration of a child, standing in a beach setting, such that the body is presented as in life, in a setting with which they may be familiar.

The bodies can be finished separately with the rest of the puzzle being completed around them. There are separate colour-coded labels for the body parts, which need to be placed correctly to finish the puzzles. The information is basic but pitched at just about the right level for small children. Neither puzzle is too hard for a four-year-old but should still provide a challenge for older children. Each has a few illustrated factoids scattered about, which add to the general interest.

Our nearly-four-year-old loved them and they helped feed his current curiosity about the human body. He finished each with a little parental help on the first go, but now whizzes through them. We think these are excellent and particularly useful in helping our son understand the body. That they are fun to play with will hopefully ensure that continued use will reinforce what he has learned from them.


My Big World: Facts and fun, questions and answers, things to make and do
My Big World: Facts and fun, questions and answers, things to make and do
by OKIDO
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Get them thinking., 26 Sept. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Small children are naturally curious but that hunger can, if not fed, fade with time. Being a father of a young boy, I can attest from personal experience that you can never sate their curiosity, at most an answer to a question will give a parent or carer a brief respite while the child mulls over their new knowledge and turns in to a brand new question. Often they can surprise you with a question that you never expected and equally often one you'll struggle to answer. It's not always easy to come up with the correct answer or to express it in a form that younger children will easily get.

OKIDO, a design studio, seek to produce books aimed at this age range, that satisfy and peak a child's curiosity, whilst also being beautiful books in their own right. They are largely successful and in 'My Big World' the focus is on, as you'd expect, the world, both the natural and the human-made and how a person fits in and interacts with it.

So we begin with looking at the differences and similarities between people, this leads to our food and where we live, which lead to where our food comes from and the built world, which in turn lead to an exploration of the varying types of geographical environments and the creatures and plants within them. The focus expands toward the end of the book, touching on geology, weather etc to build a picture of the whole Earth before expanding to encompass the Solar System briefly.

Each subject is treated to either a single page or usually one, two or sometimes even three double-page spreads. With a focus on good design and contemporary illustration, the pages supply a suitable amount of information and explanation without cramming in too much and avoiding unnecessary information. That said, I found some of the illustrations weren't good in less than bright light being either too dark, too light or lacking contrast enough to easily discern, but we did find the pages were, in general, interesting and attention grabbing.

Generally there is an attempt to make the reader an active participant in the book by either getting the child to interact with the page (perhaps by taking their fingers for a walk through the mountains, for example) or with hands-on activities (making nutshell boats or cooking). Passive learning is probably the least good way to develop an understanding and OKIDO have created as interactive a book as they can.

Being an OU student of environmental and geology courses as well as a dad, I was very interested in this book. Not every parent is going to have the 'right answers' to all of a child's questions or be able to properly simplify them, such that having a resource like this to share and enjoy is a positive benefit, to my mind. I think it is a brilliant introduction to geography and Earth sciences for the small and is a fun-packed, generally well-designed, addition to the home library as well.


Roberts SportsDAB3 DAB/DAB+/FM RDS Personal Digital Radio with Loudspeaker and OLED Display (discontinued by manufacturer)
Roberts SportsDAB3 DAB/DAB+/FM RDS Personal Digital Radio with Loudspeaker and OLED Display (discontinued by manufacturer)
Offered by Hughes Direct
Price: £64.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great little radio., 28 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was pleasantly surprised by the diminutive size of this Roberts radio when I opened the box, it is about the size as a pack of cards, fitting pleasantly in the hand and slipping easily into a pocket. It really does live up to the portable claim, with a light but noticeable-in-the-pocket weight.

It seems to have taken some design cues from iPhones with the piano black body and metallic bezel.

The internal, non-replaceable battery comes with some charge, though the comprehensive instruction manual does ask you to charge fully before first use (which I didn't because I'm impatient). I was initially disappointed in that the radio couldn't find any signal, even when in direct line of sight to the local transmitter, however this was readily solved with a factory settings reset described in the manual. Once it had found the signal it took a minute or so to discover all the stations before we were ready to go. Like all DAB radios even without full signal the sound quality remains good. If you find yourself in a non DAB area the radio can be switched to FM mode.

The sound through the supplied earphones is good but the front speaker is a little weedy, which is fine for a portable radio and saves battery charge, though it does struggle to be heard in noisy environments. There are settings that alter the sound levels to increase the volume of quieter sounds, however I found the best way was to connect the radio to a speaker through an audio cable. In fact if you already have a speaker with a standard audio jack you can use the radio as a home radio.

The controls could do with a little more differentiation when used blindly - in a pocket say - the power button being next to the volume buttons, I have switched off accidentally more than once. The rocker dial for accessing stations works very well though and the button lock prevents other accidental presses.

The OLED screen is bright and clear, displaying a decent amount of information including signal loss and sound format as well as the usual station and now playing information. It is easy to read in most light conditions.

The build is of a generally high quality to a high finish but the aerial is very thin and requires delicacy to slide back into the body and as such I will keep this away from my three year old. You might not want to walk around with the aerial extended in your pocket given the chance of accidental damage but I found I could get decent reception even with it stowed away. I wouldn't go as far as to say that the radio is rugged, so I wouldn't take it camping necessarily though it would go great in a camper van or caravan.


TP-LINK TL-WA750RE 150Mbps Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender/Wi-Fi Booster (WPS function,Easy Configuration)
TP-LINK TL-WA750RE 150Mbps Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender/Wi-Fi Booster (WPS function,Easy Configuration)
Offered by DigiDirect
Price: £22.50

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Won't work for me., 28 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This product claims that it will work universally to extend your router's range by forming a relay at a point midway between the router and a part of your house that is otherwise out of range. Living in a three storey house I thought that would help the average signal strength in the bedroom/study. Unfortunately this didn't happen and I wasted more than one evening trying to get it to do so.

The scant instructions ask you to use your router's WPS button to allow the extender to connect with it, this is apparently automatic and doesn't require anything else other than pressing another button on the extender. This won't work for me because (and this is obviously not TP Link's fault) my Plusnet supplied tg585v7 router has the WPS button disabled, apparently in the firmware. However, TP Link do give you more options via a web browser to connect wirelessly or wired. This initially seemed to work but only for a very short period, proabably less than five minutes, at best I could connect to the net but would soon lose all connection to the extender AND was unable to connect to the router, this was across all Wi-Fi devices and necessitated a power on/off of the router. I've tried this with a much older Siemens router and had similar success.

I'm a little disappointed in the extender but am aware that this is a compatibility issue but as my router is 802.11b/g I would have expected better. Considering the number of high scores in other reviews I'd suggest that my problems are in the minority, though this is a small sampling so only further reviews will give a fair understanding of general compatibility. I'd certainly check that your router's WPS button is functional and that it is less than a couple of years old before considering purchase.

In the reviews for another product TP Link customer support are quick to contact those posting negative reviews, so they seem eager to create a positive image for their products and you'll at least get some help if you do encounter problems. Me? I'm giving up for the time being and may come back to the extender when I upgrade my router in the future.


Black + Decker Handle Command Steam Mop, 1600 Watt - White/ Blue
Black + Decker Handle Command Steam Mop, 1600 Watt - White/ Blue
Offered by tools-warehouse
Price: £52.50

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very, very good steam mop., 25 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The mop itself is easy to assemble and takes just a few minutes, without any complex fittings or procedures. I'd recommend ignoring the quick start guide and read the whole manual first; not only does the manual contain important safety features but the quick start guide is somewhat misleading as the pictures don't match and you'll waste time with the carpet glider when you don't need it to begin with. The build seems pretty rugged and though lightweight it is a substantial piece of equipment.

Using the mop is very simple: once you have filled the reservoir, switched it on and selected your floor surface it heats up very quickly and you're ready to go. The deceptively small reservoir actually allows you to mop a surprisingly large area. We mopped the whole of my roughly 80 square metre shop using about half the water. The results were also surprising as no other cleaner is used other than steam and I obtained results better than the mop and bucket we had been using. We have a few large refrigerators in the shop that have a very low clearance (say 5cm) and the thin mop head easily got under to a distance of about 10cm, the head also swivels which increases the the mop's reach.

Once finished cleaning there is a small mat to place the mop upright on once you've clicked the handle into place, this turns the mop off. The water reservoir needs to be emptied before storage and this was a little faffy as the opening protrudes into the body such that a small amount of water becomes trapped in a gully surrounding it. There are two machine washable mop pads supplied.

My only qualm is that unlike with a mop and bucket you may want to plan your mopping route so that you end at the socket into which the mop is plugged, otherwise you'll have to traipse across your freshly cleaned floor. That said, the tiles dried within minutes, so that if you plan it properly, your route back to the socket will be dry by the time you have finished a medium sized floor. Leaving the resting mat at your planned finishing point will allow you to stand the mop, switched off, until you can reach the socket. The time saving compared to traditional mops means that the inconvenience of waiting for the floor to dry is very minor indeed.

Overall, I'm very happy with this mop; it's easy to use and cleans hard floors very well, some minor gripes make it less than perfect but it is a solid piece of equipment and much easier and with less water usage than traditional methods.


Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset (for PC and PS4)
Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset (for PC and PS4)
Price: £53.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good quality mid-rangers with a clever extra feature., 18 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I must admit I was somewhat dubious as to how headphones could give a 7.1 surround sound, being as those numbers refer to an array of seven speakers plus a sub-woofer arranged around a physical position and the headphone's natural limitation in having just two speakers. However I was pleasantly surprised by the effect produced through just those two speakers, there is a noticeable, roughly 180 degree, directionality to the sounds produced in the game world.

There is a small program that you download from Logitech that shows off the ability to create seven distinct sound positions, centered around the wearer's head. I tested this myself by loading up a game (GTA4), closing my eyes and moving the in-game character so as to be facing the source of a sound and opening my eyes, without fail there would be the source in front of me. This 7.1 effect is simulated of course and I assume it alters the timing and pitch etc of the left and right sound channels to mimic the slight differences between the sounds perceived by each ear.

You do need to connect the phones by the dongle, as it is this that actually is doing the work in emulating 7.1.

As to the sound quality; well it's good, not great (these aren't top-of-the-range) but more than adequate for enjoying a game environment. The microphone comes through well to other players on multiplayer games, though I'm more of a single-player player, so it's a feature I won't use much but it works well none the less.

The phones themselves are light, with fabric covered cups, this means that you'll be able to finish a two hour gaming session without burning hot ears and a stiff neck.

I thoroughly recommend these headphones to any serious gamer. They work solidly, are comfortable to wear and may help you gain a slight competitive advantage - or at least allow you feel more immersed in the game.


Colliding Continents: A geological exploration of the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Tibet
Colliding Continents: A geological exploration of the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Tibet
by Mike Searle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal exploration of a tectonic wonder., 4 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Colliding Continents is one geologist's account of his time in and around the Himalaya and Karakoram and his work in piecing together the geological history of this impressive region. The book is well written and features a vast number of excellent photographs and illustrations. Unlike some, I don't think this is at all textbook like but does require a reasonable level of comprehension, though no prior geological or mountaineering background is necessary as there are comprehensive glossaries and addenda at the end that explain any unfamiliar terms.

The book is unique (at least to me) in that it appears to bridge two seperate genres; it is part Popular Science part Travelogue - geology and mountaineering specifically and respectively - and the author is obviously expert in both. Being unacquainted with the latter, I was somewhat wary of ploughing through a subject I had little prior interest in, whilst chamfing at the bit to get back to the science. However these sections are well enough written and the author enthusiastic enough to impart that same enthusiasm to the reader. What is important in these sections is that we feel some of the grandeur of the mountains, that we understand that there is some sort of remarkable phenomenon that begs for an explanation. The excellent photographs - often the author's own - really speak for themselves in this respect and warrant extended examination.

The geology I am more familiar with, being an Open University student taking Earth Science courses. I found the science sections to be excellent revision for me, though there wasn't anything of such an advanced nature to leave the general reader bewildered. There is a scientific journey portrayed here of a gradually increasing understanding of how the Indian continent pushed into and under the Asian and pushed up great mountain ranges and the Tibetan plateau. The sequence of events is encoded in the rocks and the story of how the story was decoded is itself fascinating. Again excellent photography is used to great effect to help tell a story that is also aided by fantastic illustrations.

Overall, although initially dubious about the mountaineering aspects of the book, I was kept interested throughout and would recommend Colliding Continents to any curious person. If you're looking for a purely science-based account, you won't get it here but then science doesn't exist in a cocoon seperated from all other human endeavours and if you do decide to read this book you will be rewarded with a sense of the awesome nature of the region as well as some understanding of how it came to exist.


Philips GU10 50 Watt MV Master LED Spot 6, 2700 K, Warm White
Philips GU10 50 Watt MV Master LED Spot 6, 2700 K, Warm White

5.0 out of 5 stars Potential to save hundreds., 29 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In order to assess Philips' claim that these bulbs last an extraordinary 40,000 hours it would obviously take a fair amount of time (around 4.5 years of continual use), so we'll have to take their word for it. They do suggest that this would last 25 years at average usage; at which time I'll be in my sixties, so I suppose I'll keep an eye out then if they haven't burned out before then.

The high rrp of £37 might seem justified by this long life, particularly as the bulbs this replaces are a pound or less. However, traditional GU10s last around 2000 hours, so the equivalent would be just £8. This isn't the real reason though, and if Philips' claims are true the real saving arrives at the bottom of your electricity bill.

One of these Philips bulbs uses 6W in comparison to a standard GU10's 50W for the same light production - the 85% reduction listed on the package - some back-of-the-envelope calculations give a flavour of the savings that could mean. Assuming a rate of £0.15 per kWh the traditional variety would cost £300 to run over 40,000 hours, excluding the cost to purchase. This can be compared to the Philips cost of around £36 to run, which if you've paid full whack for the bulb is around £73 all in. So you're looking at over £200 saved over (potentially) 25 years, which may not sound like a huge amount but can become significant when, like most people, you have multiple bulbs fitted and before the increasing cost of electricity is factored in. Even without increasing electricty prices, these would see a complete return on investment in under five years.

This leaves you with the choice of whether or not to spend now in one hit recouping the cost some time down the line, or to save in the short term but pay for it with higher bills. I know my choice is to replace all GU10s with these.

The come in a range of whites, allowing you to suit the most suitable for their environment and being dimmable you can save more energy by finding the optimum level for the room.


Philips Master GU10 6-50 Watt LED 2700 K 25D MV Spot Light, Warm White
Philips Master GU10 6-50 Watt LED 2700 K 25D MV Spot Light, Warm White
Offered by enigma electrical

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Potential to save hundreds., 29 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In order to assess Philips' claim that these bulbs last an extraordinary 40,000 hours it would obviously take a fair amount of time (around 4.5 years of continual use), so we'll have to take their word for it. They do suggest that this would last 25 years at average usage; at which time I'll be in my sixties, so I suppose I'll keep an eye out then if they haven't burned out before.

The high rrp of £37 might seem justified by this long life, particularly as the bulbs this replaces are a pound or less. However, traditional GU10s last around 2000 hours, so the equivalent would be just £8. This isn't the real reason though, and if Philips' claims are true the real saving arrives at the bottom of your electricity bill.

One of these Philips bulbs uses 6W in comparison to a standard GU10's 50W for the same light production - the 85% reduction listed on the package - some back-of-the-envelope calculations give a flavour of the savings that could mean. Assuming a rate of £0.15 per kWh the traditional variety would cost £300 to run over 40,000 hours, excluding the cost to purchase. This can be compared to the Philips cost of around £36 to run, which if you've paid full whack for the bulb is around £73 all in. So you're looking at over £200 saved over (potentially) 25 years, which may not sound like a huge amount but can become significant when, like most people, you have multiple bulbs fitted and before the increasing cost of electricity is factored in. Even without increasing electricty prices, these would see a complete return on investment in under five years.

This leaves you with the choice of whether or not to spend now in one hit recouping the cost some time down the line, or to save in the short term but pay for it with higher bills. I know my choice is to replace all GU10s with these.

The come in a range of whites, allowing you to suit the most suitable for their environment and being dimmable you can save more energy by finding the optimum level for the room.


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