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Reviews Written by
M. D. Smart (London, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

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Spider Catcher
Spider Catcher
Price: 11.71

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great in theory, hopeless in practice (if you're very arachnophobic), 19 Aug 2014
I'm terrified of spiders - literally terrified, even typing the word makes me shudder. So I live in constant fear from September to the year end, when the real monsters mount their annual invasion of our homes. However, being an Eco-friendly, animal-loving type, I don't want to hurt the poor mites, I just want them to LEAVE ME ALONE. So this device sounded absolutely ideal for me.

Unfortunately, the theory was brilliant but the practice appalling. Firstly, although these tools are described as having a 'long reach', true arachnophobes will find they have to get MUCH closer than they want to...I don't call two feet a 'long reach', I want to be at least five times that far away from the thing when attempting to catch it. Having to stand barely two feet away meant I had to take off my glasses just to bear looking at the thing, which admittedly didn't help my capture attempt.

So I'm blindly trying to get the bristles near a specimen about the size of a VW Beetle when the obvious thing happens - it runs for it's life. A motionless critter I can just about take with my glasses off, but as soon as it started running like the wind I screamed, dropped the catcher and ran from the room. Disaster.

The creature in question is still lurking near the ceiling as I type - I'm reduced to waiting for it to die of old age or else descend low enough for one of my cats to eat it, which they occasionally do (not very nice I know, but we're talking about my very survival here).

In short, you may find this useful if you are mildly arachnophobic and don't panic when approaching a beastie or if it starts running - but if, like me, your phobia is severe, the search for an easy solution to the eight legged menaces continues.


Tassimo Oreo Hot Chocolate pack of 1 (8 servings)
Tassimo Oreo Hot Chocolate pack of 1 (8 servings)
Offered by EU-XTA
Price: 7.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For those with a sweet tooth, 8 July 2014
I love this, but as other reviewers have remarked it's very sweet and you only get half a standard mug's worth of drink - I top it up with hot milk, this makes it a little less sweet and you still get the Oreo taste (not as strong, obviously). However the price here seems rather extreme; it's far cheaper in your local supermarket.


The Child's Child
The Child's Child
by Ruth Rendell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.19

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the wait?, 16 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Child's Child (Hardcover)
It's been five years since the last Barbara Vine novel; I had begun to think Ruth Rendell had abandoned her alter ego but at last we have The Child's Child, her fourteenth Vine book. After such a long gap, I wondered if this new title would live up to the high standards of so many previous Vine novels.

My initial impressions were not all that favourable; I must agree with another reviewer that the part of the story set in 2011 is pretty weak. I understand that the point is to compare the change in attitudes between illegitimacy and homosexuality since the 1930s - the former has lost it's stigma altogether while the latter still has a way to go - but I still think the book would have been better set entirely in 1929, or using some other framing device. The 2011 characters are not convincing, especially James, and are often little more than mouthpieces for some rather stale arguments about sexuality.

Thankfully, as soon as the focus switches to 1929, it improves immeasurably and becomes a proper Barbara Vine novel - and fortunately this section is 200 pages, making up the majority of the book. This is Vine back on form, and my only regret is she didn't make this section a little longer and abandon the 2011 part altogether.

So was it worth the wait? Yes, I think so - but be prepared to slog through the first 60 pages or so to get to the real story.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2013 9:35 AM BST


Innocent Victims
Innocent Victims
by Minette Walters
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.31

98 of 99 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A warning..., 16 July 2012
This review is from: Innocent Victims (Hardcover)
I just want to alert readers that this is not a new Minette Walters book. It consists of her two previous novellas, The Tinder Box and Chickenfeed, in an omnibus edition for the American market. Both are decent reads although neither represents the author at her best, but if you are looking for something new from Ms Walters, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little longer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2012 1:01 AM GMT


The Best of Kylie Minogue
The Best of Kylie Minogue
Price: 3.69

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 25 years...for THIS?, 4 Jun 2012
Kylie Minogue is celebrating 25 years of hits so it's no surprise to see a retrospective collection in the shops...but this must be one of the worst compilation efforts in recent memory.

Like Madonna, Kylie has now amassed so many top singles that anything less than a double CD is an insult both to her and prospective buyers. EMI have managed to squeeze 21 songs onto this CD but there are at least a dozen huge tracks missing - her deConstruction era is virtually ignored, represented solely by Confide In Me, and where are early smashes such as Hand On Your Heart and fan favourites like Shocked and What Do I Have To Do?? It really is a poor showing - and what's worse, no new songs whatsoever, bizarrely not even her current single Timebomb. This half-hearted effort has made me wonder if perhaps she is planning on leaving EMI for a new label; it has the feel of a release cobbled together in five minutes with little thought or respect merely to fulfill the contract of a departing artist.

If you want a Kylie compilation, you'd be far better off looking for a second hand copy of the Ultimate Kylie collection and downloading the singles from X and Aphrodite to add to it. There are some great pop tunes here but Kylie's 25th Anniversary surely deserved better.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 8, 2012 3:27 PM GMT


Words And Music By Saint Etienne [Deluxe Edition]
Words And Music By Saint Etienne [Deluxe Edition]
Price: 16.41

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return of the real pop heroes, 21 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Its been seven long years since Saint Etienne last graced us with a brand spanking new studio album; it began to look as if 2005's Tales From Turnpike House might prove to be their swansong - but they're back at last, and they've put their long hiatus to good use by providing us with a 24 karat pop nugget.

The band have always come up with stunning singles, but their albums could be a little patchy at times - experiments that just didn't quite work or melodies that didn't quite fulfill their potential. The last album was one of their most consistently strong to date, and this new release follows in the same vein. There are highs of course: gorgeous bittersweet opener Over The Border and uplifting pop rushes Tonight and DJ for instance. However there are no tracks where I felt my finger creeping towards the skip button on repeated listenings. The mood is mainly upbeat, albeit with touches of nostalgic regret, and the sound is mostly Saint Etienne's patented blend of effervescent pop influences from the Sixties to the Noughties, although there's a moving folk ballad, I Threw It All Away, towards the end - and there's more than enough variety in the melodies to prevent any suggestion of repetition.

The theme of the album is music - the effect our favourite music has upon us, the memories it evokes, the emotions it stirs...and the question of what role music plays in our lives as we get older - can it still stir and excite us as it once did? I think I can safely say, as long as Saint Etienne keep making great records like this, the answer is definitely yes.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2013 7:49 AM BST


Strangeland
Strangeland
Price: 6.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Hopes than Fears, 9 May 2012
This review is from: Strangeland (Audio CD)
Keane have always been easy prey for music critics - they're middle class and they produce earnest, melodic, non-threatening tunes; as far as the NME and similar magazines go, they might as well have targets painted on their heads. Their debut album was a phenomenal success which seemed to merely fuel the hatred for them from certain sections of the media. However, the record-buying public couldn't get enough: Hopes and Fears is still one of the UK's top 20 all-time sellers.

I liked Hopes and Fears, but what really made me a fan was their evolution over the following years. Second album Under The Iron Sea (still their best in my opinion) was darker, with a (relatively) harder edge, and third album Perfect Symmetry took them in another direction entirely, blending elements of 'Eighties pop and electronic beats provided by Madonna collaborator Stuart Price amongst others. The EP Night Train continued in this new vein, adding unlikely raps to a couple of songs. Not everything worked - the EP in particular was hit-and-miss - but they were pushing both themselves and their audience, which I loved.

Now we come to fourth album proper, Strangeland - and it's almost as if the previous three releases never happened. Let me make it absolutely clear: this is still a very good album. The melodies are strong as ever and there are plenty of great songs such as We Are Young, Sovereign Light Cafe, Neon On The Water and Day Will Come. In fact, if you've been longing for a return to the sound of Hopes and Fears, you will love this; it's more upbeat but still very reminiscent of their debut. Certainly it makes good commercial sense: each album has sold less than half as well as its immediate predecessor, and perhaps the band felt they had strayed too far from their roots. However, I can't help feeling just a small stab of disappointment at this backwards step. As I say, this is still a strong collection, but I hope Keane won't be content to just tread water with their next album.

One final comment: if you like Strangeland, make sure you download the B side to current single Silenced By The Night - its a beautiful ballad called Myth that's at least as good as anything here.


Dick Whittington (Vintage BBC Radio Panto)
Dick Whittington (Vintage BBC Radio Panto)
by Chris Emmett
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 6.10

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather dated but enjoyably awful, 26 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of a series of Radio Pantos from the early '80s the BBC have recently released, and they are very much of their time - the cast are sitcom and variety stars of the era, and there are a handful of 'topical' jokes that have (naturally) aged badly. However it's all good, relatively clean family fun, and the cringeworthy puns and dreadful songs are simply part of the great panto tradition. A pleasant, faintly amusing seasonal nostalgia trip, but I doubt you'll want to listen more than once.


RetarDEX Oral Rinse 250 ml
RetarDEX Oral Rinse 250 ml
Offered by Inter-Dentals
Price: 6.55

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing that fresh feeling..., 26 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We all like our mouths to feel clean and fresh,but some mouthwashes are so intensely minty they bring tears to your eyes. RetarDEX (awful name) is rather different - it comes completely flavourless, with a sachet of peppermint oil to add if you prefer - rather a neat idea, I thought.

First I tried the mouthwash as it comes with no flavouring. It was rather a strange experience, like gargling a mouthful of tepid water, and after I had finished I missed that tingling fresh feeling that minty mouthwashes usually leave. So I added the sachet; unfortunately this was very weak, so I now felt like I was gargling with massively over-diluted mint cordial.

I'm sure the product does its job against oral bacteria, but without the minty tingle afterwards my mouth just didn't feel particularly fresh. If you find even 'cool' mint rinses too strong for you, this will be ideal, but I think I'll stick with the eye-watering variety of mouthwash in future.


Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
Offered by Dynamic Solution UK Ltd
Price: 12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sure to be a divisive album..., 2 April 2012
With Nicki Minaj now established as one of most popular rap artists of the moment thanks to the success of her first album, there's been a huge amount of anticipation for this, her sophomore effort - which turns out to be a very different prospect. It seems likely that her popularity will continue to rise...but the fairly drastic change in sound from the original Pink Friday to the confusingly titled Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is certain to alienate some of her old fans.

As the single Starships clearly indicated, Nicki has embraced a far more dance-oriented sound on this album; what may surprise people is just how thoroughly this chart-friendly material dominates proceedings. The record opens with half a dozen tracks that are closer in style to her previous releases (although even some of these are fairly commercial rap). After that, it's all-out pop virtually to the end; a combination of Guetta-like dance such as Whip It and Automatic and slower-paced numbers such as Right By My Side and Marilyn Monroe. Two of the best songs are actually bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, Va Va Voom and Masquerade.

Whether Roman Reloaded will appeal to you depends very much on what you're looking for from Nicki Minaj. Personally I enjoy a lot of pop music but I'm not a huge fan of rap, so I enjoyed this album more than her first. If you like Starships and the kind of chart-friendly dance music that Rihanna has been putting out over the past couple of years, you'll like this. However I can easily imagine many long term Minaj fans being utterly disappointed, even horrified, and left feeling that she has 'sold out'. There's no doubt this is going to be a very divisive record.


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