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Isobel Henry-Rufus
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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L'Oreal Paris Infallible Sexy Balm Number 109, Such A Babe
L'Oreal Paris Infallible Sexy Balm Number 109, Such A Babe
Price: £4.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You get what you pay for, 29 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is not an expensive lipstick, so perhaps one should not ask too much, but L’Oreal makes quite extravagant claims for it:
• Introducing infallible sexy balm: our first no compromise life-proof balm, with up to 12 hours of irresistible moisture.
• Enriched with moisturising gel balm with a weightless velvet texture and vibrant pigments for a true kick of colour.
• Choose between sheer and bold textures to fit every mood and occasion
• Choose sheer for a subtle, just-bitten look or choose bold for an ultra-sassy, daring look
• No stickiness, just a ton of moisture

Let’s look at each:
1. a life-proof balm, with up to 12 hours of irresistible moisture – how can one tell? The only guide I had to its durability is how long the colour lasts. If applied after breakfast it lasted about an hour and a half. By that I mean after an hour and a half there was no trace of colour left. If applied before breakfast (a roll and butter and coffee) it didn’t survive breakfast.

2. Enriched with moisturising gel balm with a weightless velvet texture and vibrant pigments for a true kick of colour – it goes on quite smoothly. It isn’t greasy but velvet? Not really. It didn’t taste very nice.

3. Choose between sheer and bold textures to fit every mood and occasion – I couldn’t find any information to tell which mine was. The colour was much brighter than was indicated on the colour chart.

4. Choose sheer for a subtle, just-bitten look or choose bold for an ultra-sassy, daring look – see above.

5. No stickiness, just a ton of moisture – it was a bit sticky

All in all, bearing in mind it only costs £4.99 one should not expect too much. Great for a young teenager who is playing around with make up for the first time, but not really suitable for adult wear unless you want to be renewing it every half hour.


Burned and Broken
Burned and Broken
by Mark Hardie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent new writer, 28 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Burned and Broken (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a cracking detective story set in Essex, in or around Southend, I think. It is told mostly from the point of view of DS Frank Pearson and his new partner DC Cat Russell and Donna Freeman a sixteen year old in her first year out of care. Pearson is separated from his wife and is undergoing tests for pancreatic cancer. Cat’s former partner DI Sean Carragher is under investigation and suspicion of misconduct appears to be falling on her too, or so the standards officer DI Ferguson implies. Donna, just out of care, is in mourning for her friend, Alicia, whom she insists has been murdered.

Donna has teamed up with Malcolm Michell, a hanger-on of Donna and Alicia’s group at school. Malc goes through life mostly unnoticed and wishes people would call him Mitch. He is also angry that people have forgotten Alicia.

The book starts with a prologue: a horrific scene a man sits in his car, coming back to consciousness covered in blood and wet through, as he realises too late to do anything, with petrol. A match is thrown and he and the car explode into flames. Part One starts on Friday and Pearson arrives at the scene of the burnt out car. It belongs to Carragher and there is an unrecognisable body on the front seat. The investigation starts.

Then we switch back to four days earlier and we follow the incidents that lead up to this moment. We meet Donna and return to the care home with her as she tries to persuade the manager to do something about Alicia’s death. We see Carragher visiting a night club that’s being refurbished, putting pressure on the owner. Is it blackmail or is he being overzealous? Later the care home manager is found hanging from the scaffolding at the club – murder or suicide? Is there a connection with Carragher’s visit? Are rumours of paedophilia at the care home true? And so on, going through the details of their lives, uncertain where the connections lie. The action builds up a very vivid picture of their lives and characters.

Part Two is the investigation of Carragher’s death, the progress, the blind alleys, office politics, innuendo and rumour. It’s all there, building up our knowledge of the characters and the crime in fascinating detail giving us the opportunity to work out what happened - but will we get it right?

I understand that this is Mark Hardie’s first book. It is an excellent start. Pearson and Russell are interesting characters, so I hope we see more of them.


The Madwoman Upstairs
The Madwoman Upstairs
by Catherine Lowell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

5.0 out of 5 stars A literary puzzle - sort of, 28 Jun. 2016
This review is from: The Madwoman Upstairs (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Question: Do you have to know a lot about the Brontes to enjoy this book?
Answer: Probably not, but I bet you will want to know a lot more after you have read it.

Samantha Whipple is the last surviving relation of the Brontes. Her father was an author and noted authority on the Brontes. When Samantha was fifteen he was killed in a fire and his library was destroyed. Aged twenty Samantha leaves Boston to study at Old College Oxford, one of the more ancient colleges. Her arrival arouses a lot of interest from the student newspaper and debate about the Bronte legacy. Their intrusion drives her back into herself and she rarely emerges from the archaic and rather uncomfortable tower room where she has been lodged, except to go to tutorials. One of her father’s books appears in her room, and then another. Who is putting them there? How did they survive the fire?

Samantha’s father’s will was very complex and has taken five years to sort out. Samantha is sure, from what he told her, that he has left her a Bronte treasure. Many other people, led by scholar Sir John Booker, the curator of the Bronte museum in Haworth, think that she is sitting on a hoard of Bronte artefacts and memorabilia that she ought to donate to the museum. The will is finally sorted out. He has left her a box which contains nothing but a bookmark. She is bitterly disappointed until she convinces herself that it is the first clue in a treasure hunt – but is it?

Intertwined with this narrative are Samantha’s tutorials with Dr Orville, who completely undermines the way she has been taught to think. Orville is very hard to please and although Samantha is very good at arguing, she never wins and, quite frankly, he terrifies her. Through these discussions on authors, their intents and the reliability of narrators, we get to know Samantha, our narrator, through eyes other than her own – or do we – because the filter is still hers.

So, does Samantha find her treasure? Does she learn to live as herself, pulling herself out from beneath her father’s influence and the weight of the Bronte legacy? It is a fascinating read which I really enjoyed, though I can see that someone who is not interested in English literature might find some elements of it drag a bit.


A Quiet Life
A Quiet Life
by Natasha Walter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book, 26 Jun. 2016
This review is from: A Quiet Life (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Natasha Walter has taken the story of Burgess and MacLean and told it from Melinda MacLean’s point of view. She emphasises that it is a fictionalised account and that is probably true as far as the personal details are concerned, but Edward and Laura Last’s lives follow closely the pattern of the MacLeans'.

The book starts in 1953 in Switzerland. Laura, her small daughter and her mother are living there in limbo following the great scandal two years before. Laura has heard nothing since her husband’s defection. Then on a lonely road, contact is made.

The action changes to January 1939. Laura, a young American woman, boards the ship taking her to England to stay with her English aunt and cousins. On the way over she meets the left wing Florence who fascinates her and introduces her to communism. Although welcomed by her aunt and cousins, Giles and Winifred, she feels isolated, that she doesn’t fit in with their set. Then at a dance, a chance remark to one of Giles’s friends, Edward, reveals that she is familiar with left wing ideas.

Slowly, their relationship develops, and thinking that she knows more than she does, Edward reveals that he is a spy for the Soviet Union. Laura is drawn into the espionage ring, copying and photographing documents for him, eventually onto more risky assignments. They are posted to the embassy in Washington and we see the toll the double life takes on Edward and how the levels of secrecy they have to maintain, even between themselves, affects the nature of their relationship. Edward has a breakdown and is returned to England where he eventually resumes his Foreign Office work, until having got word that he is about to be arrested, he disappears, telling Laura, who is eight months pregnant, that she has not been abandoned and that they will be in contact.

The rest of the book deals with how Laura copes on her own. The Press, the Secret Service (who interrogate her regularly), her friends and relations batter her with contradictory and mostly unpleasant views of Edward and her relationship with him. She reviews the past (which we have experienced with her) and wonders whether she got it all wrong, whether she was just a useful tool for Edward and the Soviets – a useful appendage, but never part of ring or of Edward. Her belief in the strength of her friendships is shattered by their hostility and sometimes outright betrayal, which causes her to doubt her judgment even more.

It is a fascinating book and, regardless of one’s politics, one is wholly caught up in Laura and Edward’s lives and in the pain that their ideals have brought them. I really enjoyed it.


RHS Miniature Garden Grower: Terrariums & Other Tiny Gardens to Grow Indoors & Out
RHS Miniature Garden Grower: Terrariums & Other Tiny Gardens to Grow Indoors & Out
by Holly Farrell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and fascinating handbook, 25 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have recently downsized from a huge garden which had woody bits, wild flower meadows, an orchard as well as the more formal flower garden. I now have a tiny garden which is mostly pebble over rubble so I have enthusiastically (and somewhat desperately) embraced the concept of container gardening.

I wanted to make my garden as varied as possible within its tiny confines and so I have been trying to create a rose garden, an orchard, a herb garden and a kitchen garden. I also have tubs of delphiniums and hollyhocks, geraniums and petunias. It all looks very lush at the moment and smells wonderful. It is also productive: rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, runner, French and broad beans, carrots and potatoes. (My fruit trees are still very young, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for next year.) However, my aim is to keep the garden going year to year, without massive replanting. So I need to know how to keep the containers healthy and the plants happy.

So far, things have gone well, but I will not be able to maintain them without this book. Container growing is very different from planting in the ground. You have to be very much more aware of your planting medium. Many plants will not tolerate compost straight from the bag and you have to mix in sand or grit to lighten the mixture. The planting medium also gets exhausted quickly so you need to plan the feeding. Irrigation can be a major problem – too dry or waterlogged – getting it right in our unpredictable climate is difficult. This book made me aware of the problems so that I can plan what to do. (With this dreadful stormy weather, I have been adding grit and sand to my pots to aid the drainage.) Problems will occur as the plants grow older and this book will help to identify and remedy them.

I have been most interested in the chapters on productive gardens and miniature landscapes, but it also tells you about water gardens, vertical gardens and terrariums and those chapters look as informative and helpful as the ones I have been using.

The final chapter is container gardening basics which is wonderful. It tells you all you need to know to get started and there is also an excellent glossary and index.

My one complaint is that the illustrations are drawings rather than photographs. I would have liked to have seen photographs of some of the finished gardens. Otherwise an excellent and helpful book.


Rapesco ECO A4+ Popper Wallet with Press Stud - Assorted Colours, Pack of 5
Rapesco ECO A4+ Popper Wallet with Press Stud - Assorted Colours, Pack of 5
Price: £4.36

4.0 out of 5 stars It is a good product for the price, 20 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are an awful lot of document wallets on sale. What, if anything, makes this one stand out from the others?
Plus points
• It is quite tough – it doesn’t rip easily
• The fastening looks quite robust
• There are five different colours
• It holds quite a few documents (A Private Eye and A New Statesman with room to spare)
• The sticky label it arrived with ripped off easily without leaving messy bits behind
• It is quite cheap (just under 75p each)
• Rapesco is a well-known and reliable brand

Negative points
• No slot for a label – you have to rely on sellotape or a sticky label and hope that they stay in place long term or use a Sharpie
• The ‘securePen holder cut-out under flap’ remains obscure. Whatever I did, my pen fell out unless I put it right inside and let it fall to the bottom.

It is a good product for the price.


Rapesco Paper Holder/Staple Remover - Pink
Rapesco Paper Holder/Staple Remover - Pink
Price: £9.54

5.0 out of 5 stars A very useful gadget, 20 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I got this more out of curiosity than anything else as I wanted to see if it worked. It does and is surprisingly useful. It is quite small – three inches by two and almost egg shaped. It is a sort of dusty pink colour which looks better in reality than in the picture. It has a slit which holds the document in place and a sort of small horn up the pointy end of the egg which is a very efficient staple remover. The reason it works so well is that it has some weight to it – about the same as my non-smart Nokia.

The product description lists all sorts of uses for it, so I won’t list them again here. I would like to add that it would be great, if you were sewing, as a pattern weight and instruction holder. One pattern weight wouldn’t be much good, I hear you cry. Indeed, but you get six paper holders in the pack. Plenty!

I think it might turn out to be a stocking filler present that you would actually find yourself using. (A useful stocking filler – is that a contradiction in terms?)

A very useful gadget.


Mr Todiwala's Spice Box: 120 recipes with just 10 spices
Mr Todiwala's Spice Box: 120 recipes with just 10 spices
by Cyrus Todiwala
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Learn how to play with spices, 20 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At last the supermarkets have caught on to spices other than curry powder, ginger and chilli and you can go to your local Sainsbury’s or Tesco and see shelf after shelf of spices, spice mixes, spice kits, whole spices and ground spices – a plethora of them – but this is a mixed blessing. Where do you start?

Most of us start with a recipe and we go out and buy the spices we need, but we don’t use all them. So the half empty spice containers make their way to the back of the shelf and get forgotten. The process repeats itself every few months and we end up with a collection of duplicated, half open packets of stale spices. (Or is it just me?)

Mr Tadiwala’s Spice Box should remedy this. He has taken ten common spices:
• Black mustard seed
• Red chilli
• Cumin
• Coriander
• Turmeric
• Cardamom
• Cloves
• Saffron
• Cinnamon
• Mace
and used them in a hundred and twenty recipes which will teach you how to use and combine them and experiment further. He describes the recipes as a culmination of his experience so it is difficult to categorise them as Indian or Asian or whatever. I suppose you could call some of them fusion as they have influences from several different cuisines. In truth, the recipes are best described simply as Cyrus Todiwala’s food using his favourite spices and they are good because Mr Todiwala is a very experienced restaurateur.

How accessible are the recipes? They are clearly set out and easy to follow. The most difficult technique is, to my mind, gauging how long to toast the spices for, because it is a fine line between optimum toasting and burning, but it is very interesting discovering how heat intensifies and deepens the flavours of the spices.

Who should buy this book? Anyone who wants to learn how to use spices better; anyone who likes Cyrus Todiwala; anyone who likes exciting new recipes and anyone who likes experimenting with food – this is an excellent jumping off point.

It is beautifully produced with lots of gorgeous photographs.


A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3)
A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3)
by Antonia Hodgson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended - Even though it's the third in a series, it works well as a stand alone book, 18 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This the third in a series of books about the charming and reckless scoundrel, Tom Hawkins. I have not read the other two, but found it worked very well as a stand-alone novel. References to what has happened in the past did not spoil this book, instead they made me eager to read the first two at the earliest opportunity.

The plot is too complicated to go into in detail, so I shall just set the scene. It is 1728. Tom is recovering from nearly being executed for murder (he was cut down just in time), but instead of being allowed to recover at his ease, he is blackmailed by the queen to go north to the house of John Aislabie, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and one of the masterminds of the South Sea Bubble. Aislabie has ‘asked’ the queen for help, because he believes he and his family are being threatened. Ostensibly Tom is going to sort out Aislabie’s problems, but since Aislabie’s method of asking the queen for help was to blackmail her about her and the king’s involvement in the Bubble and the corruption surrounding it, Tom’s real errand is to find the incriminating documents and return them to the queen.

Tom has a tough job because, in addition to being hated by the many thousands of people who were ruined by the South Sea Bubble, Aislabie is cordially loathed by his neighbours and tenants. In addition to this is the question of his daughter, who has returned from the dead . . . or has she?

The book is great fun. Tom, his ‘wife’ and ‘ward’ are fascinating and amusing characters. The mystery is engrossing and the sense of period and place are excellent. You cannot escape the fact that life was cheap and times were very hard if you weren’t rich. So morals and integrity could be bought at a price. Who can you trust?


Crisis (Luke Carlton 1)
Crisis (Luke Carlton 1)
by Frank Gardner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Enfrossing, brutally viollent thriller - not for the faint hearted, 15 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is four hundred and fifty pages of brutal, plot driven thriller. It is written by Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, so (and this is what is so frightening) one must assume that the detail is not as farfetched as one would like.

Luke Carlton, raised in Colombia, following a career in the Royal Marines and other special ops divisions of the army is on probation at MI6. A respected British agent is murdered horribly in Colombia and Luke is sent to find out why. What he finds out is so horrifying and threatening to Britain that he goes out on a limb to try and sort it and then discovers that corruption in Colombia is far more deep seated than he thought.

The book tells the parallel story of the Colombian mobsters’ attempts (with the help of North Korea) to ‘punish’ Britain for being too successful in shutting down their drug operations and Luke’s and MI6’s attempts to stop them. Woven into this is Luke’s increasingly fraught relationship with his girlfriend, Elise.

The book is brutally violent and frightening because it is all too easy to imagine this happening. (I hope no Columbian mobsters read it, as it might give them ideas.) You hope it will end safely, but what is not at all sure is who will survive to the end and/or what state they will be in. It is fast paced and exciting and every time I thought to myself, surely this couldn’t happen, I remembered that it was written by Frank Gardner, so it must be authentic.

I cannot, in truth, say I enjoyed it. ‘Enjoy’ is not the correct word. I was engrossed by it, but there was too much graphic violence for my taste. I am an ostrich and prefer to bury my head in the sand and not think of the extremes of violence people are prepared to use to get what they want.


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