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B. Wright (Gloucester, UK)

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Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel
Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel
by Joseph Fink
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A treat for fans of WTNV, but newcomers may be baffled, 23 Oct. 2015
This is everything I could have wanted from a Night Vale novel. It has many of the familiar names - Old Woman Josie and Erikas, Steve Carlsberg (ugh!), John Peters (you know, the farmer?), Carlos and of course, Cecil, amongst others - and places too, but delves deeper into the lives of several Night Vale residents, expanding on this delightfully weird world that Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have created.

I felt that it took a little while for the book to hit its stride, with the early chapters sounding a little too similar to the podcast, but once the characters were properly introduced and we get the story from their view, I found myself hooked. Chapters alternate between Jackie and Diane, with occasional interruptions from Cecil reading the news, the traffic, the ads... At its core, the story plays with the concept of time and space, looking at what it is to grow up, to remember, or to forget, to find a place for yourself in a confused world. There are some lovely moments of insight here, in among the madness.

Fans of the podcast will feel right at home, but newcomers may be confused. Why are libraries so dangerous? Why is Diane's house sentient and her son a shapeshifter? Why are the secret police not so secret? I've been listening to the podcast for a long time and I have no answers, but have learned to accept the weirdness without questioning it. Suspension of disbelief is essential to enjoying the novel - It is all wrapped up in the usual WTNV humour and weirdness, at times reminding me of Douglas Adams, of H.P. Lovecraft, with maybe a smidgen of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King.

But at the same time, it is very much Night Vale. It's well written and great fun and I loved it. I hope that there will be more WTNV novels to come.

AEG APF6130 PowerForce All Floor Bagged Cylinder Cleaner, 700 Watts - Chocolate Brown
AEG APF6130 PowerForce All Floor Bagged Cylinder Cleaner, 700 Watts - Chocolate Brown
Offered by Reillys Of Enniskillen
Price: £113.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent vacuum, but not a bagless cleaner, 16 Sept. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an excellent vacuum - powerful and fairly lightweight - but it is not bagless (you can see the bag in the 4th product image).

Out of the box you get the main unit, the hose attachment, and then three cleaner heads: two large for cleaning either hard floor or carpet, and a smaller one for upholstery. There is also a small nozzle for crevices and hard to reach areas. It's important to note that there is no soft bristle small attachment so you will need to purchase this separately if required.

There is also an excellent instruction guide. Simple, easy to read and with visual step-by-step guides to use of the vacuum, from basic use to how to change the bag and cleaning the filters, AEG should be praised for getting this spot on.

As for how the vacuum is in action, it packs a lot of oomph. There's a power dial to set as required - at full power, it sticks to the carpet. I found that around the middle setting gave good cleaning performance without holding fast to the surface... Even on low power it is pretty capable. It is exceptionally quiet too on low power, and at higher settings is no louder than a hair dryer. I found the cord length to be reasonable, and shouldn't pose a problem with getting up/down stairs or moving around the house.

Confusion over the bag aside, I have been very impressed with this. It is easy to manoeuvre and provides excellent cleaning power. I would recommend highly for anyone looking for a cylinder cleaner.

Philips HX8372/51 Sonicare Air Floss Pro Rechargeable Power Flosser with 250 ml Listerine
Philips HX8372/51 Sonicare Air Floss Pro Rechargeable Power Flosser with 250 ml Listerine

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the basic model, 11 Aug. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I find flossing very tedious, so the idea of an Air Floss to speed up the process is very appealing. I have previously used the standard version of the Air Floss and was curious to see what the difference was with the Pro.

Turns out, not very much. Out of the box, you get two floss heads and a small bottle of Listerine. The unit is slightly heavier, the well for mouthwash/water is larger and there is the option of a burst mode, switching from one, two or three bursts at the push of the button. This seems to me to be something of a pointless feature, as you can always just use three single bursts to mimic the effect of three quick bursts.

The heads that come with the Pro are not as good as the standard heads - they have a wider aperture for the liquid so it is harder to target gaps between teeth. I felt that I was just spraying water into my mouth, rather than actually blasting food debris and plaque. This was borne out when I flossed immediately afterwards and still brought out a lot of plaque from between my teeth.

So while I would recommend an Air Floss, I would suggest the standard model over the Pro. The extra features do not justify the cost, and in some ways the Pro is a step down.

Panasonic RPHD10EK Hi - Fi Monitor Headphones - Black
Panasonic RPHD10EK Hi - Fi Monitor Headphones - Black
Offered by AVIDES u.k.
Price: £136.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-balanced headphones with excellent build quality, 9 Aug. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These are no frills headphones, good-looking and with excellent build quality. Out of the box, there are two cables - 1.2m for mobile, and a 3m cable for home use - and also a nice leather bag for storage. They have a clean and well-rounded tone, reproducing the music as it was recorded (no bass boost on these). On the whole, the sound is excellent when listening to CD and high quality downloads. However, standard or lower quality MP3s sound very poor by comparison. There is some sound bleed, and sound isolation is not brilliant - I had to turn the volume up significantly to hear the audio when I used these on the tube.

The problem for me was in the size of them. They are lightweight, and with the large cushioned pads, generally comfortable for wearing over long periods. However, I found that they would not stay in place and kept slipping off my head while I was using them. The slide adjustment to move them horizontally as well as the usual vertical adjustment helped to some extent, but I found the slipping too much of a disturbance to wear them for too long.

These are not for me due to this issue, but others will find them more comfortable and a better fit. The headphones look like they are built to last, and the sound is well balanced, though some may feel slightly characterless. I feel that these still represent decent value for money and would recommend them to others, with the proviso that they need to be tried for size before purchase.

Rare Replay (Xbox One)
Rare Replay (Xbox One)
Price: £10.99

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection of gaming classics, 4 Aug. 2015
With its collection of 30 games and a wealth of behind-the-scenes content, Rare Replay is a great collection that represents excellent value for money. I’ve had my copy for a few days now and feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer.

The collection groups assorted games from Rare’s first in 1985 through to Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, though it is worth noting that Goldeneye and the Donkey Kong games are not included. Games that have previously been released on Xbox 360 appear in their ported form (including any DLC), with backwardly compatible digital copies downloaded to the Xbox One game library (these can also be accessed through Rare Replay but play outside the main environment), while other games are on the disc. Older games play in a 4:3 environment with a themed background to fill the remaining space on screen, while X360 games have no graphical updates as far as I’m aware.

The games themselves are lovingly presented in an imitation cinema environment, with ‘posters’ to access the games. As you play through, you complete milestones and receive a stamp for a ticket, with each new level granting you access to more behind-the-scenes content. This is a nice touch, though it is a shame that the content isn’t available from the start. Every game can be played as a stand-alone, but there are also snapshots for some of the older games, each with 5 challenges to complete. Themed playlists – drawn from a number of games and offering grouped missions such as surviving for a certain amount of time or with a limited number of lives etc – also offer a new way of playing these games. This is a great way for new players to get straight in to older titles that are not already familiar.

Rare Replay is not without its faults. Some of the older games do not hold up well, and you are often thrown in with little information about what to do (though instructions can be accessed through the Xbox One help menu). Due to the inclusion of digital copies for the Xbox 360 games, it is also a mammoth 50GB to install on the system. I have had a few issues with stability too, with occasional crashes and some of the controls on earlier games not working quite right, either not recognising input or reacting slowly. Hopefully these issues will be patched shortly. The claim of 10,000 gamerscore, while technically true, breaks down as 3,000 in Rare Replay and 7,000 across the Xbox 360 games, so anyone who has played these previously will not be able to doublestack achievements.

These are fairly minor issues though, and I cannot recommend the collection highly enough. It is presented with the usual Rare humour throughout, right from the introductory medley with all of the characters ‘singing’ along, to the posters and background themes, it is a wonderful celebration of all that Rare has given to the gaming world.

Philips Sonicare HX8911/04 HealthyWhite+ Electric toothbrush
Philips Sonicare HX8911/04 HealthyWhite+ Electric toothbrush
Price: £55.95

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent battery life & great cleaning power, 26 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an excellent toothbrush. Having switched to this brush from an Oral-B model, my teeth feel much cleaner after brushing. I have been so happy with the results of the Sonicare that I would not go back.

The brush is easy to use, switching between cleaning modes with a single press of the on/off button. These modes are adjustable using the +/- button too (ranging from 1 - 3), which allows those with sensitive gums the option to change the power of the brush. The battery life is also excellent, and does live up to the three weeks that is suggested, and charging is quick. It may take a little getting used to the sensation of using the brush though, as it pulses rather than spins like the Oral-B. This is supposed to get further between teeth and down to the gums, and I have noticed that my teeth are much cleaner before flossing with this brush. This is also helped by the shape of the brush head, which is smaller than I'd imagined, but is able to get between gaps better due to its size.

The 'white' mode is supposed to offer noticeable improvement in a few weeks, but in reality I have not been able to tell the difference and have reverted back to 'clean' mode. While brushing, there is a two-minute timer, with 30-second buzzes to suggest changing quarter. Using 'clean' mode, the brush stops immediately at two minutes, where 'white' will keep going until the user chooses to stop the brush.

After several weeks of using this brush, my teeth feel much cleaner and I would not switch back to the Oral-B. However, I am not sure this model offers the best value for money. A less expensive brush in the Sonicare range may be a better option - there are several that provide whitening modes, though to be honest, I have found that I stick to the basic cleaning function. For those who are trying to choose between Sonicare and Oral-B, or thinking of moving across to the Philips range, I would heartily recommend making the jump.

AmazonBasics Everyday Fitted Sheet, Double - Blue
AmazonBasics Everyday Fitted Sheet, Double - Blue
Price: £7.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Great 'basics' fitted sheet, 12 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a great fitted sheet, I was pleasantly surprised as its quality is better than the 'basics' name would suggest. It is a lovely light blue colour, and deep too, comfortably fitting over my mattress with stretch to spare. It is also wonderful to lie on, crisp and soft, and washes well at both 60 degrees and lower temperatures.

I am very impressed with the quality and will be looking to buy other products from the range, recommended.

Sony HT-CT80 2.1 Channel Sound Bar with Virtual Sound System (80 W, Bluetooth and NFC)
Sony HT-CT80 2.1 Channel Sound Bar with Virtual Sound System (80 W, Bluetooth and NFC)
Price: £95.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sony HT-CT80 Soundbar, 17 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a great product to add a boost to any lacklustre tv speakers, and it looks good to boot.

In the box is subwoofer, soundbar and a small remote with batteries. Setup out of the box is pretty much plug and play, with several ways to connect the soundbar - either analog using a standard 3.5mm audio cable, or digital via the provided optical cable. Bluetooth is also easy to use, needing nothing more than turning on bluetooth on the device you want to connect then finding the soundbar and pairing them.

The sound is impressive, though won't blow you away like full 5.1 surround. There are two main audio options, either ClearAudio+ or Surround (with additional options of Night to reduce bass and Voice, presumably for podcasts or similar). Sound is clear through both, and I found little to choose between the two, perhaps preferring ClearAudio+. The passive subwoofer (controlled via the remote) provides a good level of bass and gives a well-rounded sound that adds a lot to both music or films.

I have had a minor issue with the analog connection where the unit turned itself off even though content was still streaming from my laptop, though this has not happened again so it may have been a one-off. The control buttons on the side of the soundbar (On, Input and volume control) are occasionally unresponsive too, though I have not had any issues using the remote. Otherwise, I have been very impressed with the sound quality from these speakers. They add a much needed boost to bog standard television speakers, and while not as good as a full surround system, for the size and convenience, the compromise is worth it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2015 1:35 PM BST

Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB 2-bay (2x 2TB) Home Media Storage - NAS
Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB 2-bay (2x 2TB) Home Media Storage - NAS
Price: £202.34

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seagate Personal Cloud 4TB Home Meda Storage, 6 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
UPDATE: 30/07/15

After very little use, I am now having an issue where the LED is alternately flashing white and red, and I am unable to find the drive on my network. I have tried resetting it several times, with no result, and also tested the cable on a different device and have had no problems with the internet connection. Seagate's online support guides are pretty poor so I am not sure what the issue is.

However, the company have been responsive and quick to reply to my emails when I contacted them directly. They suggested that I connect the drive directly to my computer via ethernet and I have been able to use it as a normal external hard drive in this way, but doing this defeats the purpose somewhat. Seagate have suggested that it is faulty and I will be looking to replace it.


For anyone looking to set up their own cloud storage, this is a good option. It offers plenty of storage and allows access from a variety of devices through apps. However, it is not without fault.

Out of the box, the device looks good though is a little heavier than I expected. It comes with the power cables and also an ethernet cable to connect to a router (it will not function unless connected to the router) and a very small instruction guide.

I have been using this on Apple devices and found set-up to be pretty straightforward, despite the lack of instructions that other reviewers have mentioned. After plugging it in and connecting up the router, I waited around 10 minutes then was able to find the drive on my laptop without trouble. There is a weblink in the 'Public' folder that redirects to the set-up page where first-time users will create an account. Here you can also choose how to use the device, either selecting the full 4TB or splitting it into 2TB with another 2TB of back-up in case there is a power issue with the first. You can also create a back-up schedule, choose how long the device remains powered before shutting down through inactivity and a few other details like inviting other users. There are also some apps available to install on the device but these are very limited, with only six currently available (including Plex, BitTorrent and Wordpress).

Transferring data to the drive is not as quick as I'd hoped, but it is not too bad. Users will have the option of putting things in a public folder - accessible to anyone using the same wireless network regardless of whether they have an account - and their own personal folder, which is accessible only to them.

Accessing data from home is very easy. The real problems come when you try to access remotely. The app for iPad is very clunky, making the user click through many folder levels to find data, rather than making it easily and quickly accessible. The app sorts items by title, date, type or size, which means that albums may not play in the correct order when listening within the app. A default image is also used on each item, rather than displaying album cover, thumbnail or other information typically used on folder view, which makes it difficult to quickly find an image you are looking for. One further oversight with the app is that you are only able to access the public folder and cannot connect to your personal folder. This greatly limits how useful the drive is if you are regularly connecting remotely and want to store private data.

For those who will only be using the drive to share data through the home, grouping family photos, music and films together in one place, this is a good option. It is considerably let down by its remote access options though, with a poor app and limited access to files. If this will be the primary method for using the storage, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

Philips GC3810/20 Azur Performer Steam Iron with 150 g Steam Boost, 300 ml, 2400 Watt, Blue
Philips GC3810/20 Azur Performer Steam Iron with 150 g Steam Boost, 300 ml, 2400 Watt, Blue
Price: £34.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great lightweight iron, 27 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This was an upgrade from an older Azur model that has served me well but has now seen better days. On opening the box, I was surprised to find that there was no water jug included. A minor irritation but not too problematic.

The iron itself is quite light, but feels well built. The cord is a little shorter than other irons I've tried, perhaps around 2 metres long, so be aware of this if you do not have a socket nearby. The cap for the water tank opens to the side, which I felt was more convenient than opening up/down. I found the positioning of the buttons is a little awkward, with the water jet button sitting at the front of the handle and the steam jet as a trigger under the handle. I had to move my hand to hit the water button, and would occasionally pull the trigger for the steam accidentally. I imagine this will be less of an issue with repeated use as I become more familiar with the position of buttons.

There is also an automatic steam setting (which you can adjust to off, eco and on using the blue slider on the top of the iron), which adjusts the amount of steam to the temperature setting. This takes away some of the flexibility of models where you can manually adjust how much steam is used, but I found it worked well and definitely helped speed up the ironing.

I can't fault the performance of the iron. It heats up quickly and glides well over clothes, easily dealing with everyday wrinkles. With a jet of water or steam, it also copes with heavier creases. The precision tip, which tapers to a fine point, is great for getting into corner of shirts and other slightly awkward clothes too. The anti-calc feature should also help prolong the life of the iron. I'd definitely recommend to those looking for a reasonably priced lightweight iron without losing all of the standard features, though do be aware of the shorter cord.

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