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M D Smart (London, UK)
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PRO PLAN Cat Wet NutriSavour Sterilised with Chicken in Gravy 10x85g (Pack of 4, Total 40 Pouches)
PRO PLAN Cat Wet NutriSavour Sterilised with Chicken in Gravy 10x85g (Pack of 4, Total 40 Pouches)
Price: £22.47

4.0 out of 5 stars My fussy eaters approve, but my wallet isn't so keen, 23 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As any owner / servant will tell you, cats are pathologically fussy eaters which makes trying new brands of food a somewhat risky business. You can't even rely on the quality of what you're offering them; they may turn their nose up at an expensive all-natural organic delicacy and then wolf down a cheap supermarket own-label tin. So it was with some trepidation I served my two a dish each of Pro Plan NutiSavour.

My first impressions were good - I find better quality cat food tends to smell like real meat, as opposed to the low cost brands which often have a stomach-churning stench. The meat in these pouches comes in small flakes contained in a thick gravy. I'm pleased to say my cats also seemed impressed, almost clearing their dishes in one attempt.

One minor criticism is the pouches are all one flavour; a bit of variety would have been nice...and it's also slightly on the expensive side. Nevertheless, at least as far as my two test subjects go, this gets the thumbs up (if cats had thumbs, that is).


Brothers in Blood (Roman Legion 13)
Brothers in Blood (Roman Legion 13)
by Simon Scarrow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but this series needs a shake-up, 18 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Simon Scarrow always produces a good, fast paced read and I've no doubt his historical research it impeccable. However, I can't help feeling the rot is faintly beginning to set in with this series. After thirteen books perhaps that's no surprise, but having followed the characters for so long it would be a shame to see them dropped. Nevertheless, I think something is needed to shake up the formula, which is becoming a little too familiar. I did enjoy the book, but there's no denying it can't match the brilliance of the early Macro and Cato novels. I hate to see a series I've enjoyed over the years starting to lose its magic and become stale; hopefully book 14 will be the one to turn things around.


Dettol Anti Bacterial Surface Cleansing Family Pack (Pack of 216)
Dettol Anti Bacterial Surface Cleansing Family Pack (Pack of 216)
Offered by E.U. Xtores
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So useful around the kitchen, 17 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm addicted to these wipes, I admit it. They're just so useful, around the kitchen particularly - I use them on the work surfaces, the floor, wall tiles, on the hob, around the sink, in the fridge, cupboards....just about anywhere. They're pretty hardy, they don't crumble or shred even when you press hard, and you have the reassurance that everything is (pretty much) bacteria-free afterwards. I get through them at an alarming rate so this multipack is ideal.

One small caveat: be careful if you have pets, particularly cats. I find wipes very useful for cleaning the work surfaces if one of my cats has been jumping up, but these Dettol wipes are particularly moist, meaning they leave surfaces slightly wet. Do NOT let your pets jump on the surfaces before they have dried off, especially cats who lick their paws to clean themselves. I tend to shut my cats out of the kitchen for ten minutes or else dab the wiped surfaces with kitchen paper to remove any lingering wetness.

Apart from that, I recommend these wholeheartedly. These particular ones are odour-free too, which I prefer - the perfumed ones are sometimes a little too strong.


Puritane E-Cigarette Starter Kit (Nicotine Free)
Puritane E-Cigarette Starter Kit (Nicotine Free)
Price: £17.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy to use, well made...but not for me, 11 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As with one of the other reviewers, I confess I didn't notice this e-cigarette was nicotine free...I almost ruptured myself sucking on the thing, trying to get a 'hit' from it before I realised I wasn't going to.

I've never used an e-cig before so I can't compare it to any other brand, but certainly this one is simple to assemble and recharge. As a substitute it looks the part but it's on the large and heavy side...so although the tip lights up and you breathe out vapour, it didn't really feel much like smoking a cigarette to me. Obviously I made a mistake in choosing a nicotine free kit, but even discounting the taste (or lack thereof) I wasn't convinced it would do much to help combat my craving for a smoke if I tried to give up.

Of the friends I know who've managed to quit the habit, several used various aids including e-cigarettes, gum etc. but most say the only way they finally succeeded was going 'cold turkey' with no assistance. If you do find e-cigarettes helpful, this one is well made and easy to use, but personally I think I'd rather try to give up smoking without the aid of this gadget.


Bose ® Solo 15 TV Sound System - Black
Bose ® Solo 15 TV Sound System - Black
Price: £399.95

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality sound system that's simple to set up, 9 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've had a Bravia 3D set for just over a year and I've been very happy with it, except in one respect: the sound quality. While it's certainly better than my previous TV, I've fiddled with the settings almost non-stop since I got it but never achieved a satisfactory result - the sound has always been rather muffled and indistinct.

Enter this little box of tricks - well, I say little, actually I was surprised by the size of the thing. I expected something similar in dimensions to a BluRay player or Sky box but it's twice as large. However it's got a very sleek and minimalist design so it doesn't look unsightly, and it's bulk means you can place your TV set directly on top of it, unless you have an absolutely huge screen.

Setting up was remarkably painless and took less than five minutes. I just positioned the sound system, placed the TV on top, connected the two using the optical cable provided (cables for coaxial and analog connections are also included), plugged it in and switched on. I had to set my TV speakers to 'Off' and then everything was ready; no fiddling with settings or equalisers. The system is operated by a remote which can be programmed to also work your TV, set top box etc., handy if you're overflowing with remotes as our house is.

I'm not an expert in these matters but to me, the sound is fantastic - a huge step up from the TV speakers as you'd expect. The sound is crystal clear even at a low volume and really expansive (just to make it clear however, this is NOT a surround sound system). The unit has a bass control at the back (a bit inconvenient but I didn't need to adjust it) and also has a 'dialogue mode' at the press of a button for programmes which only feature speech; it seems to cut the bass and focus the sound directly in front of the screen, but again I haven't needed to use it. I've also tried BluRays and videogames and found the improvement in sound quality is even more noticeable.

Obviously this is not a cheap piece of kit, Bose tends to be a good quality but expensive brand; however, if you want a decent sound sound system for your TV that's a doddle to set up (and you can afford it!), the Solo 15 is a great choice.


Keep Quiet
Keep Quiet
by Lisa Scottoline
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive and unconvincing, 4 Oct 2014
This review is from: Keep Quiet (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I made a bit of an error choosing this book. I had the impression Lisa Scottoline wrote crime fiction; in actual fact 'Keep Quiet' is more akin to Jodi Picoult's brand of issue-based melodrama, where a perfect American family undergo some kind of traumatic upheaval in their lives - although, oddly, it turns into a semi-whodunit towards the end.

I'm afraid to say I didn't get on with this book at all. I did read it right through, which I suppose proves I must have felt involved on some level, but it almost drove me mad in the process. The family at the centre of the plot are forever hugging and saying how much they love each other, yet they're an extremely unlovable bunch. Teenage son Ryan whines more like he's six years old rather than sixteen. Mother Pam is an absolute nightmare, forever checking up on the whereabouts of her husband and son and cross-examining them at the drop of a hat like she's leading the Spanish Inquisition. Father Jake spends the vast majority of the book agonising over and over again about what's he's done or what he should do next - literally every few pages we are treated to another long description of the exact same guilty thoughts running through his head. The amount of repetition is unbelievable, not to mention being entirely unnecessary and a chore to plough through.

In fact, much of the book seems unnecessary...for instance, it starts with a great wad of exposition; in the first few pages we are told everything about Jake's marriage, his problems with his son and his parents, and his career history. This is something I particularly dislike, preferring an author to SHOW me rather than TELL me. What's wrong with leaving us to come to our own conclusions about the characters and the state of their relationships based upon the way they interact? Do we need every little detail explained to us in case we're too dim to notice or work it out for ourselves?

As I said, I did keep reading to the end, but even that was a disappointment. I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone so I'll just say there is a sudden change in the book's direction and events become increasingly far-fetched; the climax of the story and its aftermath are almost absurdly unbelievable, with everything tied up neatly in a totally unconvincing fashion.

I don't like writing such a negative review; clearly other reviewers enjoyed the book, but I'm afraid I just couldn't find anything positive to say about it.


The October List
The October List
by Jeffery Deaver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing idea wasted, 2 Oct 2014
This review is from: The October List (Paperback)
I've never read one of Jeffery Deaver's books before, but I was tempted to try this by the interesting premise - a thriller told in reverse chronological order and yet still maintaining the suspense and twists the genre is famous for. Quite a task. In a technical sense, 'The October List' works: the novel starts with the plot's climax and then goes back over the previous two days' worth of events leading up to the opening chapter. And yes, he manages to pull off a few twists.

Unfortunately, it seems Deaver was so caught up in managing the reverse mechanics, he completely neglected the crucial aspects of plot and characterisation. I was surprised by some of the revelations but after finishing the final page my immediate reaction was, 'is that it?'. The plot is really worth no more than a short story at best; once you've finished reading and can think about the events in their proper order, you realise how insubstantial it all was. The characters are similarly flimsy and two-dimensional, only described in terms of their physical attributes and an endless list of brand names for what they're wearing, what car they drive, what phone they use and so on. Add to that some dreadfully hackneyed prose and you have a clever idea but a stinker of a novel.

I notice from the other reviews than many of the author's regular readers were also disappointed with this book, so I suppose he must be unusually off-form here. Full marks for an ingenious concept, but no marks at all for execution.


GoldieBlox and the Parade Float
GoldieBlox and the Parade Float
Price: £19.27

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great concept but the product itself needs work, 26 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What a great idea - a storybook complete with construction pieces, all designed to encourage girls to take an interest in engineering and teach them a few basic mechanical principles. Unfortunately, despite the terrific concept, the actual product has some major problems that prevent it fulfilling it's promise.

Firstly, as other reviewers have pointed out, there's a strange disparity between the storybook and the construction elements in terms of the target age range. It's billed as suitable for ages 4 to 9; however, the storybook is very simple and unlikely to hold the interest of a child older than 4, whereas the pieces and process of building are clearly far too advanced for that age. Even our 7 year old needed help with creating the larger models, some of the pieces are surprisingly difficult to fit together properly. So whatever the age of the child, one part of the package is not going to be suitable.

Secondly, and crucially, as far as our experience went the set didn't manage to hold our daughter's interest. There are three animal characters included which temporarily caught her attention, but the pieces themselves are designed simply to be functional; in fact they reminded me of the Mechano and Lego Technic pieces I played with as a youngster, in the sense that they produce a framework rather than a solid shape. This means the models you build with them don't really resemble what they're supposed to - or anything much at all to be frank, except perhaps an obstacle on the Krypton Factor's assault course. I understand that this is an educational toy, it's not designed to create lifelike models in the way Lego does, but when a child is presented with the option of playing with this set or something in the Lego Friends range for instance, with it's detailed and easily recognisable houses, cars and animals - which do you think they're going to prefer? Our daughter was growing restless after a few minutes and quickly returned to playing with her Lego instead.

In order for this set to teach children anything, it has to capture their interest enough that they actually want to spend time playing with it. As far as our experience went, it failed to do so. The Goldie Blox sets have no problem appealing to parents - as I said, it's a great idea - but some serious work needs to be done on improving their appeal to children if they're to fulfill their worthy aim.


The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surely destined to be 2015's must-read thriller, 25 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Girl on the Train (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A lonely, depressed commuter takes comfort from imagining the idyllic life of a couple she passes on her train journey, until one day her harmless fantasy is shattered when something she sees reveals that all is not as perfect in their lives as it appeared. Shortly afterwards she realises what she witnessed may be vitally important in an urgent police investigation - but she has no idea of the danger she is about to bring upon herself...

This is exactly the kind of thriller I love. The writing is intelligent and perceptive, the characters well-drawn and convincingly flawed; having experienced depression myself, I found Rachel's struggles painfully accurate. The plot starts to unfold slowly at first, then gathers pace as twists are revealed, confounding our expectations and causing our sympathies to shift back and forth, until it reaches breakneck speed for the almost unbearably tense denouement. Paula Hawkins shows tremendous skill in controlling the unfolding drama and keeping the reader unsure of who can be trusted until the conclusion, which is all the more remarkable when you consider it's her debut novel.

I was wandering around the house reading the last fifty pages, trying to do the household chores with my nose stuck firmly in the book all the while because I couldn't bring myself to put it down. In fact my cousin telephoned when I had less than thirty pages left; I told her I was just about to get in the bath - which she must have thought rather odd as it was about 4pm - so I could finish the novel in peace (if you're reading this, Christine, I apologise). Then I had to fish out and rinse the Lego I'd inadvertently sucked up the Hoover because I wasn't looking where I was pushing it... surely proof of how gripping the plot is.

This has all the makings of a must-read thriller, in the vein of Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep, the kind of book that everyone seems to be talking about - and that's exactly what I foresee when it's published in January. I'm already eager to see what the author will produce next.


The Monogram Murders (Hercule Poirot Mystery 1)
The Monogram Murders (Hercule Poirot Mystery 1)
by Sophie Hannah
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poirot (but not as you know him), 19 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There seems to be quite a market for continuations of much-loved authors' works; it's possible to read new stories about everyone from James Bond to Elizabeth and Darcy these days. You can understand the publishers' eagerness - an already existing fan base, hungry to hear more about their favourite characters.

Personally, although I have been tempted to try a few, I think they usually turn out to be a disappointment. The main problem is that a writer's style is a very unique and personal thing and consequently nigh-impossible to recreate. Therefore I approached 'The Monogram Murders' with fairly low expectations, despite having enjoyed several of Sophie Hannah's other crime novels.

As I anticipated, notwithstanding the presence of Poirot and (to me, at least) a decent period setting, it really feels nothing like an Agatha Christie novel. I'm not saying it's a bad or poorly written book; it just doesn't 'fit' with the other Poirot novels. Leaving out the supporting cast such as Hastings and Japp doesn't help, but I think the chief problem is the choice of author. Sophie Hannah writes slow-burning psychological thrillers in the same vein as Barbara Vine or Nicci French; I greatly enjoy that kind of crime fiction, but it couldn't be further from Agatha Christie's work. Christie's genius lie in her exceptionally clever plotting and her subtle skill of misdirection; her books are like baffling, intricate puzzles that make perfect sense when they are explained to you and yet you somehow missed all the hints. She never showed much interest in the detailed exploration of dark, damaged minds, unlike Hannah's novels which are as concerned with the 'whydunit' as the 'whodunit'.

As I said, I enjoy both these types of crime fiction. But I think asking the author of one kind to write an imitation of the other was doomed to failure from the start. If you approach this novel expecting a recreation of Agatha Christie (which is, after all, what the cover promises) then you'll almost certainly be disappointed. I doubt if anyone could produce a perfect Christie pastiche, but perhaps a writer with a more traditional approach might come closer.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2014 5:53 AM BST


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