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M.D. Smart (London, UK)
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Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent (The Father of Lies Chronicles)
Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent (The Father of Lies Chronicles)
by Alan Early
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great mythological adventure for children aged 8 and up, 19 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the first book in the Arthur Quinn series, about a young boy living in Dublin who finds an mysterious pendant in the tunnels his father is helping to build for the city's metro system. The story is reminiscent of the Percy Jackson books, but this time the mythological element is Norse rather than Greek or Roman. It's a fast-paced, exciting adventure with a likeable hero that will appeal to children of around eight years and up, especially those with an interest in myths in general or Vikings in particular. Recommended.


XLS Medical Max Strength Diet Pills for Weight Loss - Pack of 120
XLS Medical Max Strength Diet Pills for Weight Loss - Pack of 120
Price: £63.74

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impossible to tell how much help these are..., 15 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I think it's important to state right off that these are NOT the miracle slimming pill we all pray for daily (nor do they claim to be). Sadly, they aren't a licence to eat pizza three times a day and still lose weight. You take two of these tablets before you eat two of your main meals each day (lunch and tea presumably for most people). They act upon roughly one third of the fat / carb / sugar content in whatever you eat, binding it and expelling it as waste before it has chance to become body fat. I've no reason to doubt that this is true; however, how much difference that actually makes to your weight is virtually impossible to judge.

I took this same brand of tablet several years ago, when it had a different formula and you took it after meals instead of before - but unfortunately it produced temporary (yet chronic) diarrhoea after every dose. I'm glad to say that these improved tablets seem far more gentle on the system, and I didn't even experience the increased wind the directions warn of. I did get a slightly bloated feeling but it passed after a couple of days of taking them. I'm sorry to say I didn't notice any of the supposed 'appetite suppression' effect, though.

The difficulty is, in order to lose weight with these tablets, you still need to cut your fat intake and exercise as you would on a normal diet - the idea being these tablets will cut the fat, carbs, etc. by a further 30% or so. I did lose weight during the four weeks I've been using them, but how much of that was the XLS tablets and how much was the diet? It's impossible to know, even over a longer period, as weight loss tends to have its peaks and plateaus over time. They probably did help me lose a bit extra...but I can't see myself paying out for these pills every month whilst knowing I will never be sure if they're making a worthwhile difference or not.

If the monthly cost meant nothing, I might be tempted to continue taking XLS...but as I'm not in a position to spend money on something of unquantifiable benefit, I'll stick to plain old dieting and exercise for now.


Happy Times in Noisy Village
Happy Times in Noisy Village
by Astrid Lindgren
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming, nostalgic stories from Pippi Longstocking author, 13 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Astrid Lindgren is best remembered as the creator of Pippi Longstocking but she wrote many other books, including two set in the tiny Swedish hamlet of Noisy Village, which were apparently based on her own childhood. This book is the second of the two but there's no need to read them in the set order as the setting and characters are introduced at the start.

Noisy Village consists of just three farms with a family in each; a total of six children (plus a baby) live on these farms and all play together - the book describes their adventures from Christmas of one year to the following summer. The nearest school and shop are a way off, but despite the isolation and the lack of TV, music, videogames, iPods etc., the children find plenty to keep them busy and entertained.

The flavour of the stories is very reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking, with plenty of humour and some quirky characters. I imagine most young children of around 6 to 9 will enjoy hearing about Lisa and her five friends and about rural Sweden, and the short chapters are ideal for bedtime reading. A welcome reissue.


GILDA Aha Lotion
GILDA Aha Lotion
Price: £39.83

2.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant and cooling, that's about it, 10 May 2015
This review is from: GILDA Aha Lotion (Personal Care)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This product promised much - to moisturise, to exfoliate, to control excess oil and even to fade fine lines and wrinkles. It's full of wonderful-sounding fruit extracts and other natural ingredients, which seemed encouraging. You spray the stuff over your face twice a day after cleansing; it feels like a very fine water mist, pleasant and refreshing with no scent to speak of. It dries quite quickly but leaves your skin faintly sticky until it does - then you can apply your chosen moisturiser etc..

Considering the fairly exorbitant price, I expected to see results; unfortunately, apart from the pleasant cooling sensation when I sprayed it on (which I could've got from using tap water, frankly), I can't say I was impressed. My skin didn't feel any smoother or look any healthier than it did when I was just using my normal Body Shop moisturiser, and that costs under a tenner. It claims to exfoliate - I don't see how? - but again, I didn't notice my skin texture improving and went back to using my usual scrub. As for working on my fine lines...well, I haven't noticed the slightest difference after a couple of weeks, but I suppose (giving Gilda the benefit of the doubt) that might take longer.

Perhaps the spray has been doing my skin all kinds of good but there certainly aren't any noticeable results, and at this price I expect more than a nice cooling sensation. I'll stick with my usual face scrub and moisturiser; in my opinion, you only get what you pay for up to a point.


What She Left
What She Left
by T. R. Richmond
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.49

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious but unsatisfying, 5 May 2015
This review is from: What She Left (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While the genre certainly isn't new, there has been an absolute deluge of 'woman in peril' psychological thrillers over the past couple of years. A fresh approach is needed to differentiate new releases from the ever-growing herd; What She Left promised just that, but unfortunately in my opinion didn't capitalise on that promise.

Alice Salmon, a 25 year old journalist, has drowned after falling from a bridge on a return visit to her old university town of Southampton. Professor Jeremy Cooke, a lecturer at the University who knew Alice briefly during her time there, decides to undertake a project in her memory, gathering photos, correspondence, recollections and social media posts to piece together the story of her life and death. However, everyone connected with Alice, including Cooke himself, has secrets to hide, and it soon transpires her death may not have been the accident it first appeared.

Over the years I've read crime fiction which includes fictional news reports, police documents and court transcripts as part of the narrative (Minette Walters springs to mind). In What She Left, author T R Richmond has taken the next logical step and extended the story to include online sources - blogs, texts, forum comments and social media posts. These, along with Professor Cooke's letters and Alice's own articles and diary entries, are presented out of chronological order so the reader can only gradually piece together the frame of events, which inevitably prolongs the suspense and throws in a few twists.

I have to admit, I wanted to know what happened; the pace is rather slow at times and I felt like a lot of the information I was being drip-fed was ultimately unnecessary, but nevertheless I wanted to keep reading so on that score at least the book succeeds. However, I felt that it promised more than it delivered; the intention of taking a serious look at how we record our lives, our personalities, in the Internet age, seemed to be abandoned or forgotten. I can only agree with another reviewer on this page that the author's ambition overreached the execution, and in the end it was just another 'what happened to this girl?' thriller.

The other problem for me was the lack of authenticity - I found I didn't much care about Alice or Cooke or any of the other characters because I couldn't quite believe in them. The dialogue, particularly of the students, is often unconvincing and occasionally downright farcical, a bizarre mix of public school banter with the odd teenage buzz word thrown in, while Professor Cooke sounds at times like he's just escaped from Goodbye Mr Chips (I know he was supposed to be stuffy and old-fashioned but the author laid it on so thickly he became a caricature). The attempts at recreating student life didn't ring true either: ordering champagne in a student pub? Cocaine as the drug of choice? Sorry, but in my experience not even the wealthiest students ever behaved like that.

As I said before, the book kept me reading till the end, but my lack of empathy meant the final revelation of what really happened to Alice didn't evoke the reaction it should. A novel that started out promising much ended for me with a bit of a damp squib.


Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi
Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi
by Kevin Hearne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Bit of a mixed bag, 1 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
'Heir to the Jedi' was the first of the "New Canon" books I've read, since most of the Expanded Universe - most notably everything set post-Return of the Jedi - was wiped clean in preparation for the forthcoming film. Events after the Battle of Endor are being kept under wraps for now, and this novel is set sometime between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, with the rebel fleet in hiding, searching for a new base. It focuses on Luke Skywalker, sent on a mission with the trusty R2-D2 and a new female character named Nakari, who acts as a mild love interest for Luke. They are charged with rescuing an expert code decrypter and cartographer who is being held by the Empire, in return for which she will provide them with assistance breaking Imperial codes.

Author Kevin Hearne has taken the unique approach to using first-person narration in this book - the whole story is told from Luke's viewpoint. This is a somewhat risky strategy with such a well known character: the author has to maintain that character's voice for the book's entirety, and any slip is likely to stand out to fans who know him so well. Hearne makes a valiant effort and at times does capture the somewhat naive, idealistic Luke of this time period, dealing nicely with his anxieties about how he will develop his Force skills without Ben and his thoughts about his father. However, the portrayal isn't consistent; at other times Luke sounds more like a goofy pre-teen, while at still others it's clear the author's own voice has taken control. One thing I do give Hearne credit for is the delicate way he handles Luke's feelings towards Leia - after all, he was attracted to her at this point, although of course subsequent events make that attraction somewhat awkward to deal with.. Hearne manages to treat the subject tactfully without simply ignoring it ever happened.

The plot itself is a bit hit-and-miss. The central story of liberating Drusil the code expert and the flight to escape pursuit from both the Empire and a gang of bounty hunters is decent enough; it takes a while to get going but eventually the pace cranks up towards the end. However, as another reviewer has pointed out, the first 100+ pages of the book are taken up with various other minor quests Luke and Nakari need to go on before they are able to set off to find Drusil, and much of this felt like padding. Also, I have to agree with yet another reviewer, who questioned why Luke was ever sent on a diplomatic mission when Leia would be the obvious choice?

I've been very critical but in actual fact this isn't a bad book; it's an easy read and held my interest to the end - but the meandering plot and the inconsistent portrayal of Luke mean I would certainly recommend other Star Wars novels before this one.


TONI&GUY  Nourish Normal Conditioner 250 ml
TONI&GUY Nourish Normal Conditioner 250 ml
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Good conditioner for frequent use, 1 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Toni & Guy Nourish conditioner makes a good frequent-use conditioner for almost any hair type. It's thick and creamy with a pleasant fresh fragrance, and left my hair feeling soft and looking shiny; it also managed to de-frizz some split ends. One word of warning - the pump button on the top is quite forceful; first time I used it, I ended up with a whole handful of the stuff, so be gentle with it. Overall a good everyday conditioner, though perhaps not rich enough for hair damaged by colouring or perming. Not too pricey either!


Lenor Unstoppables In-Wash Scent Booster Beads Fresh 275 g (Pack of 6)
Lenor Unstoppables In-Wash Scent Booster Beads Fresh 275 g (Pack of 6)
Price: £24.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strongly scented, a little goes a long way, 20 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Unstoppables are a brand of tiny scented beads which you add to your washing to give it a fresh fragrance. They are designed to be used in addition to, rather than instead of, your fabric softener. Of course, making the washing smell nice is part of the fabric softener's job, but the Unstoppables scent is stronger and lingers considerably longer - up to twelve weeks in storage, the advertisements claim; I can't swear to this but certainly I could still detect the scent on my clothes a couple of weeks later.

The instructions leave it up to you how much to use in each wash - anything from a few beads to three capfuls. Personally I have found that just covering the bottom of the cap with beads is enough for a full load - I can't imagine how strong using a whole capful would be, and I think more than a capful would render the household unconscious; they really are quite strong, which is good as it means they last a fair while. Don't worry about a clash of scents with your softener - in my experience, these beads overpower the softener's perfume completely.

Certainly they aren't a necessity but if you find your fabric softener isn't doing a good enough job making your clothes smell fresh, these are a great idea. They also make your drawers and wardrobes smell pleasant as a bonus.


LEGO Elves 41074: Azari and the Magical Bakery
LEGO Elves 41074: Azari and the Magical Bakery
Price: £22.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, colourful set from the new Lego Elves range, 29 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After the huge commercial success of their 'Friends' theme aimed at young girls, Lego have now introduced a second theme primarily designed to appeal to budding female builders (although there no reason boys can't enjoy the sets too, of course). Elves consists of six sets based around a woodland fantasy setting; each prominently features one of the four elements of earth, air, fire or water.

This bakery set is centred around the element of fire and consists of the bakery frontage, kitchen and preparation area inside, a small table and stools and a large lava fall which also houses the bakery oven. Two characters are included: the fire elf Azari and the Baker (complete with chef's hat), plus a cute fox cub. The set is strikingly colourful and attractive, whilst managing to avoid the overwhelming pinks of the Friends sets, which have resulted in some criticism for being too traditionally 'girly'.

As always with Lego, everything is cleverly designed and full of delightful details such as a rolling pin, mixing bowl and dough, storage jars and various cakes and treats. The characters are the same size as the Friends mini dolls and, as with all the Friends sets, everything can be combined with regular Lego bricks.

The build is fairly simple, in three stages, and should prove no trouble for children of about six or above, although younger ones may need a little assistance. Lego is a reliably high quality toy but it isn't cheap; as always, the finished model doesn't quite seem to warrant the price - but the value is in the many ways the set can be rebuilt. In my experience children need little prompting when it comes to redesigning and rebuilding, which is why I feel it still represents good value.

Overall, a charming set which I'm sure any young girl, or indeed boy, would have fun with. Highly recommended - but be warned: your children will want all the other models in the series once they've tried this!


No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome 2)
No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome 2)
by Sarah Hilary
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.19

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars, 12 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the second book in Sarah Hilary's Marnie Rome crime series, the first of which was featured in the Richard and Judy book club and duly became a bestseller. I usually like to read a series in order, but in this case if, like me, you missed the first book, worry not; this book contains all the background you need to know about DI Rome and her team.

No Other Darkness is a traditional police procedural, beginning with the macabre discovery of two small children's skeletons in an underground bunker. They have lain hidden for five years, sending Rome and her detectives on an investigation into both the past and the present, with many twists along the way - several of which caught me by surprise. It all leads to a quite tense climax in the disused tunnels under the Thames...probably not the ideal read for anyone claustrophobic.

The plot certainly goes at a rattling pace, with very short chapters. The prose is simple and serviceable, if slightly clichéd in places and a little clunky in some of its metaphors. The characters were rather nondescript, nothing particularly to distinguish them from many other similar police officers in similar novels, except for DI Rome's rather eventful past. The story certainly kept my interest up and managed to surprise me at times...yet I felt there was nothing in particular that set this novel apart from so many other titles in the already overcrowded crime genre. Having finished it, I didn't feel the need to rush out and buy the previous book, and I can't say I'd definitely rush to buy the next one either. I did enjoy it for what it was, but felt it was competent rather than outstanding in any way.

Nevertheless, if you're looking for an easy holiday read that will keep you guessing, you could certainly do a lot worse than this. 3 1/2 stars from me (as a side issue, I do wish Amazon allowed us to mark in half-stars!).


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