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purpleheart (UK)
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Garmin Vivofit Wireless Fitness Wrist Band and Activity Monitor - Black
Garmin Vivofit Wireless Fitness Wrist Band and Activity Monitor - Black
Price: 90.00

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good fitness monitor with ability to link to HRM and Garmin Connect, 26 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I will update this review when I've had my Vivofit monitor for longer, but wanted to post now as it's recently become available in the UK and many will be wondering how it compares with other fitness monitors and I'm able to compare it with the fitbit flex.. My left wrist is currently sporting both my Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Tracker & Sleep Wristband and my Garmin Vivofit so that I can do a direct comparison. I have also owned previous incarnations of the fitbit - the ultra and the one, and was awaiting the (now withdrawn) fitbit force with much anticipation.

I was lucky enough to get the Vivofit bundle with the Garmin HRM strap and have found that very useful. Vivofit works with any ANT+ strap, so if you already have one then just this unit is all you need.

Pros

+ Vivofit can be linked to a HRM so you can view your rate rate as you run - Vivofit works with any ANT+ straps so if you have one already you don't need the bundle
+ Vivofit links to Garmin Connect. The Heart rate band picks up higher heart rates and logs them as activities. If you already have a Garmin it is possible to integrate this with the rest of your data
+ Garmin Connect data can be uploaded to the Fitbit site, so there is the possibility of using this tracker and the overall calorie in/out info provided by the excellent Fitbit site (I haven't tested this capability yet)
+ Charge is via watch batteries and should last a year, rather than via USB every few days/per week
+ Waterproof to 50 meters, so good for swimmers
+ Display is on permanently and you can toggle through steps (daily total), goal (steps remaining), distance covered (in miles or kilometers), calories burned, time, date and heart rate (when connected via HRM strap) and you can remove any of these via the website.
+ Goal for daily steps is automatically set based on your performance to date, though this can be manually overridden. Default start is 7500 which is lower than fitbit's 10,000 default
+ Set up is straightforward and syncing is via USB dongle on your computer or via the Garmin connect app. Videos are available online and instructions point you to the online site
+ Website Connect UI for vivofit is widget based and not dissimilar to the fitbit one in look, but has less functionality and is generally less slick
+ Bracelet clasp feels secure and is similar to the fitbit flex
+ Has a sleep function
+ Has a red inactivity bar which highlights when you have been inactive for an hour or so. This has prompted me to get moving when it catches your eye.

Cons

- No altimeter, so doesn't give you a stair count like the fitbit one does and the withdrawn fitbit force did
- Display is always on, but doesn't have a back light so can't be read it in the dark
- Style is functional rather than aesthetically pleasing and it's a bit clunky and heavier than others (trade off with the battery life) and it's certainly less pretty than, say, the jawbone. Other colour straps are available though.
- Website does not have the food database of fitbit and the links to partner sites such as Withings and MyFitnessPa,l but Connect data can be ported to Fitbit
- Sleep function is rudimentary and does not provide as much analysis as the fitbit, for e.g.
- Have to press button to initiate sync instead of it happening in background (no doubt to preserve battery life)

In terms of accuracy: the Vivofit and my Fitbit units are providing almost identical measures when compared - within 5%

In terms of websites the fitbit website is better for overall healthy lifestyle monitoring as you can get an overall picture of calories in and out. There is the possibility of syncing my Vivofit data to the Fitbit site automatically and I will test that over the next few days to check that double counting does not happen when wearing both devices.

One of things that I have found most motivating about wearing my fitbit has been the linking with friends on a leaderboard for competition and, of course, I would lose that if I were to switch. I will report back once I have used them in tandem for longer.

In summary:
--------------

If you're already a Garmin user then this will fit in nicely with your suite of other gadgets. If you're already a Fitbit user then the reason to change would be for the link to HRM info on the tracker. Currently, I wear a Polar RS300X G1 Heart Rate Monitor and Sports Watch when running and it would be nice to cut down on devices. The other reason to change would be for the convenience of not having to think about charging your tracker, though the fitbit sends me warning messages when charge is low and charging takes only an hour or so. You'd have to weight those advantages against the less good website, the overall calorie in/out info and the history and links to friends that you'll have set up.

If you're in the market for a new tracker and are more interested in fitness activity than in measuring both your calorie input and output then this is a great unit - especially with the HRM strap as an add on.

Highly recommended
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2014 6:40 AM BST


Frog Music
Frog Music
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.37

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Motherhood, sex and San Francisco, 20 Mar 2014
This review is from: Frog Music (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'Sitting on the edge of the bed, Blanche stoops to rip at the laces of her gaiters. 'Dors min p'tit quinquin - ' Her husky voice frays to a thread on the second high note. She clears her throat, rasping away the heat.'

Emma Donaghue's latest novel opens in a four room building known as the Eight Mile House. Blanche and Jenny are holed up on the outskirts of San Francisco. We know the song makes Blanche think of her baby named P'tit and we know that they are in hiding because Blanche thinks things would be too dangerous for them in their usual haunts. There is little more set-up in the opening pages and then 'The cracks come so hard Blanche takes them for lightning.' Jenny is shot; the novel start with a murder before flashing back to Blanche and Jenny's first meeting when Jenny, dressed in male clothing and riding a Penny-farthing literally runs into Blanche. The novel continues to move between these two timeframes and to explore some of the same themes in Donoghue's recent short story collection Astray - mothers give up children, cross-dressers seek new worlds, secrets are exposed and eccentrics celebrated. And all of this is done in wonderful detail - Donoghue is nothing if not forensic in her research.

Emma Donahghue had a run away commercial and critical success with Room and I was so impressed with that that I read her back catalogue including Slammerkin andThe Sealed Letter and Life Mask. Those who have only read Room may be disappointed by this novel which is based on true events in 1876 San Francisco and which is more discursive, but once again explores the relationship between mother and son. This is a San Francisco in a heatwave and smallpox epidemic and the atmosphere is hot and heady. It is a bit too long but there is much to enjoy.


The Power of Doing Less: Why Time Management Courses Don't Work and How to Spend Your Precious Life on the Things That Really Matter
The Power of Doing Less: Why Time Management Courses Don't Work and How to Spend Your Precious Life on the Things That Really Matter
by Fergus O'Connell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent summary of what's out there on focusing your time, 20 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was attracted to this by a number of five star reviews. It's not a five star book and I would be unhappy if I'd paid the print list price for it.

It's a decent summary of how to figure out how focus your time. And we all know time is a scarce resource. It's brief, and there's not much content, and there probably isn't anything there that you haven't seen already or don't already know. Why get it at all then? Because we need some reminding of the most common sense stuff and it may prompt you to some self change....but reading this is not going to change your life.


Vanishing
Vanishing
by Gerard Woodward
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as his previous novels, 20 Mar 2014
This review is from: Vanishing (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'He came into my cell this morning.'

The novel opens with Brill, the narrator, in prison, suspected of spying for the enemy during WWII as he has been drawing the land around what will become Heathrow airport. This is essentially a comic novel and Woodward plays with conventions in an amusing way. Even the opening scene plays with the convention of starting with an awakening. Brill awakes as the officer, who will represent him as counsel in the trill, comes into the room and he feigns sleep and even drools for good measure.

The novel is interesting in terms of its evocation of time and place and had excellent passages - of course, Woodward can write, and I especially liked the description of student life at the Slade.. Yet it doesn't add up to a coherent whole and I was left somewhat dissatisfied. I had enjoyed Nourishment and August and felt that this wasn't written as tightly and wasn't as strong in terms of observance and social comedy.


Consumed: How Shopping Fed the Class System
Consumed: How Shopping Fed the Class System
by Harry Wallop
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'We are all middle class now', 18 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Harry Wallop start his introduction by quoting John Prescott's famous assertion in the run up to the 1997 general election. Wallop points out that despite the derision which Prescott faced at the time he was prophetic with the majority of people in the Uk now considering themselves to be middle class. Wallop's thesis is that traditional labels of class are now less relevant that our consumerist choices - that even if seven out of ten people *are* middle class that they have very different lifestyles and that their class does not reside on the products they own but in what they embrace or reject.

When it comes to food nobody would be surprised by his observations - that the supermarket, office lunches and ready meals you buy carry messages about your aspirations. Waitrose and Iceland cater to very different demographics. He trots out his labels of Asda mums, Rockabillies, Portland Privateers and Middleton (named after Carole) classes and walks them through chapters on food, Family, Property, Home, Clothes, Education, Holidays, Leisure and Work. At the end of the Work section he asserts that 'Class is no longer what we do with our hands nine to five, it is what we do with our wallets at the weekend.' His evidence for this is thin, however. It's an interesting idea and one that deserves and examination but the book is essentially lightweight and not wholly convincing. One to picked up now and again rather than read as a whole.


A Change of Appetite: where delicious meets healthy
A Change of Appetite: where delicious meets healthy
by Diana Henry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.75

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where healthy meets delicious - superb book by a great food writer, 18 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have been a fan of Diana Henry for a long time, but she really has surpassed herself with this book. In the introduction she outlines her approach to eating and how it had changed over the years. She lists her bibliography at the end of the book and I wasn't too surprised to see that I have shared much of the research she has undertaken - like Diana Henry, I avoid sugar and processed foods. She says 'the best thing you can do for good health is to eat proper home-cooked food, limit anything processed, really keep an eye on refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), switch to whole grains for at least some meals and up your vegetable intake.'

However, the key thing is that she's put together a book of recipes where the food naturally follows these principles and that food is completely delicious. As she says, this is not a book of deprivation or crankiness. These are dishes that are perhaps 'accidentally healthy' whilst being delicious. Diana Henry says that she has been heavily influenced by Middle Eastern food and also plundered the cuisines of Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

I had this book on pre-order as I am such as fan of Diana Henry's other books and I see that the copy I was sent has its sub title inverted - mine says 'where healthy meets delicious' and the link takes you to one saying 'where delicious meets healthy' - both are correct, however you want to say it!

If there is a criticism I have of the book is that the recipes and menus aren't listed in the table of contents - yes they're in the index and, yes, I like the seasonal themed approach, but it would have been nice to be able to run your eyes down the list of spring recipes, for example, now that the sun has come out and I fancy something light and flavourful.

I have enjoyed exploring the book's recipes and will post an update when I have made more. Each seasonal section includes 3 menus of starter, main course and pudding. Much of the book follows my preferred layout of recipe with photo on the facing page but there are a number of recipes without photos and some bonus recipe where she builds on a soup, say, with an alternative. Dispersed throughout the book are some thoughts on diets, a list of breakfast and of lunches - directing you to recipes within the book - but again these pages aren't highlighted in the contents list.

Spring
In addition to some lovely fresh salads and fresh dishes such as crab with chilli and garlic and teriyaki salmon with pickled vegetables and seams seeds, spring menus are:
- feta and orange salad with honeyed almonds/ persian saffron and mint chicken with couscous/greek yoghurt and apricot ice cream
- rice paper rolls with nuoc chan / Japanese rice bowl /fruits with mint and ros-Shave vegetables with lemon / salmon with bay leeks / blueberry and gin jellies

Summer
summer menus are:
- sicilian artichoke and broad bean sale with saffron dressing / espresso granita
- white beans with roast peppers eggs and hilbeh / persian spice bread / berry and hibiscus sorbet
- grilled summer herb mackerel / poached white peaches with rosé wine jelly

Autumn
autumn menus are:
roast veg with agresto / cavolo pilaf with figs /watercress salad / blackberry-apple rye galette
Persimmon and avocado salad / burmese chilli fish / citrus compote with ginger snow
lentil, roast tomato and saffron soup / indian spiced beetroot, pumpkin and spinach / mangoes

Winter
winter menus are:
red lentil kofte / spiced quail with blood orange and date salad / yoghurt and apricot compote
mandaly carrot salad / spiced haddock stew / blood orange and cardamon sorbet
bagna cauda / georgian chicken with walnut sauce / orange and pomegranate cake

These full menus are one of the things I appreciate about Dian Henry as a food writer - she picks a menu where you can rely on the flavours working together and I look forward to trying these out.

All of the recipes I've tried so far have been great and straightforward to cook. You do need a wide range of spices but since I cook from the Ottolenghi: The Cookbook a great deal, my store cupboard was already furnished with these.

For my recent book group I made the carrot and ginger soup with cucumber raita and the orange and pomegranate cake - both winners. For a mid-week supper I made the chicken with yoghurt and pomegranates which was easy and delicious. When a friend came over I tried the Japanese ginger and garlic chiken with smashed cucumber and was praised to the skies. I've also had success with the teriyaki salmon with pickled vegetables and sesame seeds - my first time pickling vegetables. I have also made the Ballymaloe bread and the borlotti beans with anchovy and rosemary sauce - both quick and delicious.

I can tell that I'll be cooking from this all year.

Highly recommended
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2014 12:14 PM BST


A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing
A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely authentic - a tour de force, 7 Mar 2014
'For you. You'll soon. You'll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she'll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed I'd say. I'd say that's what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round. Wait and hour and day.'

Eimear McBride's debut novel opens in fragmentary sentences, a full blown Joycean stream of consciousness, as the young girl starts to draw us into her world whilst she addresses her brother. It takes some time for us to adjust as readers. In discussing this yesterday, I said 'you just have to breathe it in to begin with', and then its rhythms and cadences take you into her world, and the narrative starts to become clear. The novel starts with the protagonist only two years old. It finishes when she is twenty. As things progress it gets darker, whilst still being completely human and authentic. We learn that her beloved older brother has suffered from a brain tumour and our unnamed narrator loves him and is ashamed of him in equal measure.

On the one hand this is truly experimental writing, on the other, there is a clear link to other Irish writers and novels - Becket, James Joyce and Edna O'Brien, as others have said here. One reason why this novel works so well is that McBride has a great ear. The voices of the mother and brother, uncle and grandfather are all differentiated. The words they speak breathe Ireland as much as those in O'Brien's Country Girls. As Anne Enright says, 'A ranting, Catholic mother, a disabled brother and a pervy uncle: these may be bog-gothic standards of any Irish book season, but McBride brings passion and and distance with the voice of her highly dissociated protagonist.'

There are a number of scenes in this novel that are seared into my consciousness - a first sex scene that has been written completely fearlessly. Her response to avuncular abuse is in seeking sexual degradation. Brutal events are described unflinchingly and with shocking clarity, without being forensic in physicality. This means the book can be both highly disturbing and a demanding read. And it's probably the best book I read last year.

Her language is not lyrical but it is poetic. Anne Enright says that this is a work of genius. I think it's brilliant and agree that we've seen the debut of a very important writer.

Intense, fearless and brilliant


L'enigme D'argan 100% Pure Organic Argan Oil
L'enigme D'argan 100% Pure Organic Argan Oil
Price: 10.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Good price for organic argan oil, 20 Feb 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have used argan oil on my skin and hair for some time and this feels like a good quality argan oil, albeit a bit lighter in texture than I'm used to. The plastic bottle and packaging and lack of certification on the bottle itself does not fill you with confidence and others have already pointed out that the used by date is reduced as this is older stock. that aside this is a good price for good quality argan oil and I have been using it happily with good results on skin and the calm down my sometimes frizzy hair and to give it some shine.

These earphones have the buds set at an angle which makes them very comfortable and they feel secure for exercising. I tested them with a wide range of music and found the sound quality fine to good. Noise isolation is also ok and there appears to be no leakage.

Pros
+ Oil feels to be good quality and is quickly absorbed
+ Excellent for sensitive dry skin
+ Scent does not linger
+ Perfect as hair serum for slightly dry hair

Cons

- the transparent plastic bottle does not spray very well and provides not UV protection
- lack of certification info on the bottle


SoundMAGIC ES20 In-Ear Sound Isolating Earphones - Red
SoundMAGIC ES20 In-Ear Sound Isolating Earphones - Red
Offered by Advanced MP3 Players
Price: 24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good value earphones, 20 Feb 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These earphones have the buds set at an angle which makes them very comfortable and they feel secure for exercising. I tested them with a wide range of music and found the sound quality fine to good. Noise isolation is also ok and there appears to be no leakage.

Pros
+ Angled design of the earbuds means that they are very comfortable indeed and three sets of ear buds are provided
+ Sound quality is fine throughout the range though perhaps a bit light on the bass
+ Good noise isolation
+ Like the bright red look

Cons

- the red wires feel a bit cheap in comparison to the rest of the design


Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner with ReadyScan LED Technology
Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner with ReadyScan LED Technology
Offered by Ballicom International
Price: 190.57

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good scanner for home use, 16 Jan 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was pleased to have the opportunity to review this scanner as I have an ongoing project to digitise the photos I have taken on my film camera. I have been using the scanner on my Canon MP610 all-in-one colour printer to scan family photos and create photo books. It is the most straightforward way for my siblings and me to all have copies of photos from when we were kids, together with the precious photos of our parents' wedding etc. I have also been able to compare this model with an earlier Epson scanner belonging to a friend - the Epson Perfection 1670. I have found a significant improvement in results using this V550 scanner.

The V550 scanner is very sleek looking and is longer than I was expecting (485mm), so check if size is an issue for storage or if you have a shelf above the scanner. This length allows it to scan two 35mm filmstrips (12 frames) or four 35mm mounted slides at a time. The holders for the negatives are an improvement on the Epson 1670 as they are more secure and can take four mounted slides or medium film rather than the two on the Epson 1670. However, the key line for the 35mm film is covered by this holder and that can be a disadvantage for editing.

Thanks to Steve's review we were able to use the Professional Mode to select individual frames and tweak options before scanning.

Pros

+ Set up on a laptop running Windows 8 was straightforward
+ User manual is available as part on the installation and sits in the Epson folder
+ Scanning speed is quick
+ High-quality scans - 6,400dpi
+ Can scan straight to cloud for sharing
+ ICE mode is helpful in quickly improving the look of old and scratched negatives

Cons

- set up diagram was very basic
- set up on a Mac was troublesome at first but fine after a reboot
- ICE light only so option is there for negatives but not for photos


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