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M.D. Smart (London, UK)
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My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Odd, irritating and unconvincing...yet somehow I liked it, 3 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have to admit, it took me a fair bit of willpower to keep ploughing through the first half of this book but if you're feeling the same weariness and disinclination to continue, take heart: upon finishing I was surprised to discover I had enjoyed it more than I thought, although I'm not entirely sure why - certainly my irritations with the characters in particular didn't really go away, but somehow I found I cared more than I expected about what happened to them.

While the whimsical synopsis of a barmy, irascible grandmother telling stories to her granddaughter sounded quite appealing, unfortunately I found them both difficult to either believe in or warm to. Seven-year-old Elsa is far too precocious, while Granny is not so much adorably batty as obnoxious and certifiably insane. Granny's fantasy stories come to act as a kind of guide for Elsa in her task of fulfilling her grandmother's final wishes of contacting the people she has offended and hurt, both to apologise and to help them resolve their individual issues at the same time as encouraging Elsa to open up and move on. However I found the endless references to Granny's fantasy kingdoms eventually became rather tiresome.

And yet....I finished the book feeling that somehow it had just about worked. I did feel moved, despite almost giving up on the book a number of times. I'm not sure I can even explain why...the story does have a certain kind of magic after all, it is ultimately a celebration of love and compassion which can't help but warm your heart, no matter how mad Granny and Elsa drove you on the journey.

An odd book, it certainly won't be to everyone's taste, and I can imagine many giving up before the end, but I recommend persevering; the rewards are there if you stay the course.


Igenix Convector Heater with Thermostat, 3000 Watt
Igenix Convector Heater with Thermostat, 3000 Watt
Price: £39.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple but does the job, 25 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a simple heater with nothing more than the most basic functions, but really what more do you need? It's simple to assemble (just the feet need screwing on) and simple to operate with a thermostat dial and three power settings from 1200 to 3000W. I can't actually imagine using the 3000W unless you live in a draughty castle or similar; the 1200 is enough to heat an average sized room pretty quickly, with the 1800 for a boost on cold nights.

The main negative point about these heaters is they gobble electricity at an alarming rate on the higher settings, so don't forget you've left it on! Minor niggles: the power cord is a bit short and the carry handles are awkward, otherwise I can't really fault it. The unit does become very hot while on but as with the power consumption, that's a common trait of heaters. If you need an occasional extra burst of warmth in your house, this fits the bill nicely and at a fairly reasonable price.


Philips Sonicare HX9331/04 DiamondClean Rechargeable Toothbrush White
Philips Sonicare HX9331/04 DiamondClean Rechargeable Toothbrush White
Price: £125.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very swish and effective but rather expensive, 24 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although I have a bog standard electric toothbrush, the charge always seems to dwindle rapidly and I end up using a manual toothbrush more often than not. I'd never tried a 'sonic' brush before and found it did take a bit of getting used to, but now I'm very happy with the results; my teeth feel cleaner than ever before, although I'm not sure whether or not the whitening function has made a difference yet. One minor quibble - it has no light or other indicator to warn you if you are pressing too hard - my basic electric brush has this useful function and yet cost about a quarter of the price of this one. I also didn't find the manual very helpful in suggesting how often and in what combination to use the various settings designed to polish your teeth or massage your gums.

It's a sleek, attractive brush, with a neat glass tumbler you use to recharge it and a display that is invisible until switched on. The charge seems to last a decent while, and you can even charge via the included USB cable if you're travelling (a travel plug is also included). However, I'm not sure I would ever want to pay this much money for a toothbrush, even at the reduced price. If the cost isn't a problem, I would probably recommend it.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, gripping, insightful...but stretches credulity, 4 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gone Girl (Paperback)
With over 7000 reviews already posted it seems slightly pointless adding another...but after finally getting around to reading this book (after two years of meaning to) I thought I'd add my opinion for what it's worth. It's quite difficult to discuss the specifics of Gone Girl without any spoilers, but I'm going to try.

This book is a thriller, of course, but it also has a lot to say about men and women, their wants and needs from a relationship and their attitudes to each other. The narrative is split between husband Nick and wife Amy, but we know very early on that Nick is keeping things from us and that Amy's diary entries bear little resemblance to his memories of their marriage. So we have not one but two unreliable narrators. This is handled very well by the author; the writing is very good throughout, the two main voices are distinct, and Flynn's observations on the relationship between the sexes are sharp and penetrating.

The mystery aspect - what did happen to Amy? - is also well managed, the tension building nicely as more and more secrets are exposed. There's also a twist, naturally; it's not unguessable by any means but that didn't spoil the plot for me, I was still anxious to know how it would all turn out. I should add that later events in the novel require some fairly major suspension of disbelief; I was enjoying the book so I accepted them and carried on, but you may find some developments highly questionable when you think back on them after you've finished reading.

I'm not surprised to see some criticism of the ending. Again, it's difficult to talk about without revealing details, but I can see why some readers felt it didn't bring the closure they wanted. Personally I thought it fitted the tone of the book so I wasn't disappointed; besides, I don't really like neatly tied conclusions, life is rarely so perfectly ordered. I believe the film version has a different ending, so I'll be interested to see how that concludes the story.

Overall then, an enjoyable and frequently gripping read with piercing insights into relationships, but parts of the book do strain the credulity of the reader somewhat.


The Ice Twins
The Ice Twins
by S. K. Tremayne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.00

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good plot and atmosphere but the writing lets it down, 31 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Ice Twins (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a tough one for me to review because I have very conflicted feelings about it. On the one hand the story was, for the most part, gripping and atmospheric. On the other, a variety of niggles really marred my enjoyment of the tale.

The premise is certainly interesting and compelling. A couple with identical twin girls, one of whom has died in a fall - but both the parents and the surviving daughter seem unsure which twin died. This unfolds just as they move from London to an isolated island in the Hebridies, where things take an even stranger and darker turn. So which girl died? And what exactly happened to her?

The plot and setting are the novel's strong points. Although the aforementioned niggles frustrated me, I was still sufficiently gripped to keep reading; I never considered giving up on the book altogether. The gradual building of tension is nicely handled, and the stark, eerie location is the perfect match for the increasingly unnerving events. The stormy weather builds in unison with the mystery as the climax approaches in a satisfyingly chilling fashion.

However, I couldn't wholeheartedly enjoy the book for several reasons . Firstly, I found the writing highly problematic. As another reviewer has astutely pointed out, a lot of the narrative is grossly over-punctuated. Let me say I'm not the sort of reader who pores over a book looking for grammatical (or other) errors so I can feel smug and superior; far from it. Nevertheless I found it impossible to ignore whole paragraphs littered with commas and semi-colons every two or three words. It completely disrupts the flow of the prose, giving it an irregular staccato rhythm that is uncomfortable to read. I also felt there was some very clumsy descriptive writing, most memorably the "ginger Jewish hair" horror once again highlighted by another reviewer.

Another problem was the two central characters, Sarah and Angus. I found them both rather irritating and hard to sympathise with. I have very much enjoyed novels with unsympathetic narrators in the past (Notes On A Scandal springs to mind) but here it just didn't come off. In the very first chapter Sarah laments the couples' financial woes by remarking they now have to settle for a "cheap Chilean red" to accompany their ciabatta and saucisson...I felt my sympathy wane at that point and it was all downhill from there. It's difficult to explain without any spoilers; let's just say Sarah's behaviour later in the book is not a convincing portrait of a concerned, caring parent.

Lastly, I found the ending disappointing; the final revelations were less shocking than I'd been expecting, and the vague hint of the supernatural, which had been used sparingly and effectively up until then, became rather over-the-top and hysterical.

It sounds like I've been highly critical but I must emphasise I did enjoy the story and it did keep me turning the pages. I just feel it was such a promising idea, the book could have been so much better than it was. Still, probably worth a read if you like your thrillers with a dash of spookiness.


Avojo Black Peel Off Mask Set of 4 Sachets (10ml each)
Avojo Black Peel Off Mask Set of 4 Sachets (10ml each)
Offered by Instant Beauty Fix
Price: £10.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The 'peel-off' mask that requires sandpaper to remove (and smells awful as a bonus), 29 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have always suffered from an excessively oily T-zone; even now, in my forties, my nose is still constantly prone to blackheads. I've tried a myriad of face masks and washes over the years and generally find Biore's Pore Strips the best method of clearing blockages. Sadly, despite all my efforts, the pores on my nose remain so large and open that you could probably park a family saloon in one. I'm always looking for a new treatment so I was keen to try this peel off mask from Avojo.

The stuff itself is a thick black goo which comes in sachets, containing just about enough for the full T-Zone (the instructions say to apply the mask thickly). It has a rather strong scent which reminded me of marker pens or solvent, heady and not very pleasant. It stays on for about half an hour, after which you're instructed to peel it off. Unfortunately, it would only come off in tiny pieces, and some bits were stuck so fast I had to literally scrape them off, which was rather uncomfortable. With pore strips, you stick them on for ten minutes then rip them off in one go - job done. This mask took over 45 minutes to use and remove.

I suppose if the results had been astonishingly good I would have considered it worth all the time and fuss, but sadly they weren't. My skin certainly felt very soft and smooth after I'd managed to remove all traces, and it had definitely cleared some of my pores, but I was rather disappointed to find it hadn't made as good a job of it as my usual pore strips - although they can leave the skin slightly dry and red, whereas this didn't (except for the areas I'd had to scrape the mask off).

So, this product does work, after a fashion, but not as well as I'd hoped, and the fiddly job of removing it was very off-putting. I'll be sticking to my usual pore strips for the future.


The Boy That Never Was
The Boy That Never Was
by Karen Perry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling, often tense portrait of grief and obsession, 29 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Boy That Never Was (Paperback)
Aspiring artists Harry and Robin have returned to their native Dublin from Tangier after an earthquake which robs them of their young son Dillon. Five years have passed since the tragedy; both are still grieving in their different ways but making an effort to move on with their lives, when suddenly Harry catches a distant glimpse of Dillon with an unknown woman in the centre of Dublin.

So begins The Boy That Never Was, a book that combines elements of a psychological thriller with an examination of the different ways in which that most intense of griefs - the loss of a child - affects parents, both as individuals and as a couple.

If your taste is for fast-paced, breathless action, you certainly won't find what you're looking for here. This is a 'slow burner', with much of the book taken up by how Harry and Robin's lives have been crumbling since they lost Dillon, exposing the cracks they've tried to paper over. That's not a criticism; I prefer thrillers with a more measured pace. The two central characters are well drawn if not always sympathetic, and the way their lives are peeled back to expose the secrets and guilt hidden within is cleverly done. At first the reader believes Harry has genuinely seen his son, somehow; however Robin's narrative reveals her worries about her husband's state of mind and a past bout of mental illness, so it becomes unclear who can be trusted...

The last third of the book cranks up the pace, and there's a twist I certainly didn't anticipate. Still, I have to confess there was something slightly unsatisfying about the story's climax; personally, I felt the final reveal of whether Dillon was alive or dead and what exactly happened during the earthquake would have been a suitable end, instead of the rather melodramatic events which occur afterwards and which don't quite fit with the tone of the book up until then.

Having said that, I found it a compelling read, worth trying if you're a fan of the kind of domestic thrillers which are so in vogue at the moment.


Dettol Power and Fresh Citrus Zest 80 Wipes (Pack of 4)
Dettol Power and Fresh Citrus Zest 80 Wipes (Pack of 4)
Price: £16.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So handy, 27 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These wipes are incredibly handy, not just in the kitchen but the bathroom and around the house too. Spills, smears, fingerprints, grease marks, dirt, dust; it all comes off with a wipe, and what's nice about these particular wipes is they're a decent size, enough for pretty much any small cleaning task. The Dettol brand means you can be confident virtually any unseen germs and bacteria are also being removed. They do leave surfaces rather damp, but the drying time is no more than a few minutes - or you can use kitchen paper if you have children or pets about.

Two niggles: firstly, the fact has to be faced that you're creating a fair amount of extra waste using these instead of a spray and cloth, they're not exactly environmentally friendly; I try to save them for emergency clean-ups only to limit my use. If only someone would invent a biodegradable version! Secondly, it's down to personal taste but I have to say I prefer the non-scented wipes - the citrus smell of these is pleasant but rather strong. Otherwise, thumbs up.


SmartBedz Eticat Natural Cat Litter 5.5 kg
SmartBedz Eticat Natural Cat Litter 5.5 kg
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My cats give Eticat their seal of approval, 26 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My two cats are eighteen now, and over the course of their lives I've only switched litter once: from the fairly cheap supermarket clumping sort to the more expensive but less smelly Catsan. I've seen rave reviews for natural litter online but never got around to trying it until now, and I'm pleased to say that so far, I'm impressed.

The first benefit of using this stuff is that you don't need to use as much as regular litter; with two elderly cats who no longer venture outdoors, I need a large litter tray, and trying to carry it to the dustbin to empty the thing has been positively backbreaking before - the Eticat is far lighter and easier to manage, and the bag lasts longer too (which is just as well considering it costs twice as much).

The other major benefit has been a definite improvement in air freshness in the vicinity of the tray. Catsan is billed as 'odour control' and it does work - for the first couple of pennies spent in it, anyway...after that, it soon begins to reek (although never quite as bad as the cheap clumping stuff, which I wouldn't recommend to anybody!). So far, the Eticat-filled tray seems to have diffused all unpleasant scents more successfully, which is a huge relief when I take the lid off to use the scoop; up until now I've been stuffing my nostrils with kitchen paper for the cleaning process.

Obviously, it does cost more than any litter you'll find in your local supermarket, but it goes further so I don't think it works out any more expensive in the end. I was a little concerned how the cats themselves might react to a sudden change in their toilet facilities, but after popping in and out of the tray and walking around it sniffing for a while, they finally signalled their approval by each leaving a deposit behind. You can't ask for more than that.


Philips GC6631/30 SpeedCare Compact Steam Generator Iron with 170 g Steam Boost and 1.2 Litre Water Tank, 2400 Watt, 4.5 Bar - Purple
Philips GC6631/30 SpeedCare Compact Steam Generator Iron with 170 g Steam Boost and 1.2 Litre Water Tank, 2400 Watt, 4.5 Bar - Purple
Price: £198.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Quick and impressive results - at a hefty price, 13 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Using a steam iron was new to me, and this Philips model looked cumbersome at first, but what you actually have is a small, lightweight iron connected to a water `reservoir' by a thick, hardy cable. The set up instructions were clear and easy to follow and the iron itself straightforward to use - the higher settings enable the steam function; press the button and steam comes out - simple as that. However I was slightly surprised that no water jug was included.

The iron itself is small and light, making easy work of shirts and bedding, and proved to be a very effective. My ironing was completed much more quickly and this model ably handled creases my previous iron couldn't. I was very pleased with the results, and any reduction in ironing time is always extremely welcome. The iron comes with a self cleaning function, particularly useful as I live in a hard water area. It also has a lock, making it safe to carry around and store. There is a space for stowing the cable, though it's a bit of a squash.

The only sticking point for myself is the cost. For the relatively small amount of ironing I do on a weekly basis, I couldn't really justify paying so much, no matter how good the results or how much time it saved. For families with several children or even small businesses, generating a greater amount of laundry, I would certainly recommend this.


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