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Reviews Written by
J. Dawson (Edinburgh, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

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L'Oreal L'Extraordinaire Lipstick Number 601, Nude Ballet 6 ml
L'Oreal L'Extraordinaire Lipstick Number 601, Nude Ballet 6 ml
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Very glossy with strong colour but staying power is disappointing, 3 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The USP of this product is meant to be that it goes on like a gloss but has the staying power of lipstick. I find that to be fairly accurate, though neither of those things is much of a positive in my mind, and in fact the whole thing feels a little schizophrenic to me. To whit, the packaging looks like a lipstick but I had a moment tugging on it before I realised it unscrews and applies with an applicator like a lipgloss. Great if you like that slimey gloss feeling and an overwhelming sweet scent, but I'm 40 and prefer not to smell of a sweet shop at my age. I also don't like the feel of lip gloss, it always seems like it is sliding right off my lips. and even sometimes I feel like it creates a barrier between the skin on my lips and the air which causes the skin above my lip to sweat - but maybe that's just me being weird! Anyway, going on like a gloss will be good for people who like gloss, but not so good for folks like me.

I also dislike the colour of this. It's called "Nude Ballet" so is meant to be a nude but is actually quite pale compared to normal lip colour. I don't believe pale lip colour suits many people, and it certainly doesn't suit me. However, you can choose other colours (though admittedly it's tough to get an accurate idea of them when buying online) so that doesn't really enter into the overall experience of the product. It does, however, have a richness of colour similar to a lipstick so if you want gloss with high colour, this should keep you happy.

As for the staying power of a lipstick - well, yes, maybe. But then I always feel lipsticks wear off very quickly, so that's not saying much. This probably lasts a little longer than the average gloss, but I don't feel it has any particular staying power.

At the time of writing, this is selling for £9.99. I might pay that for a really good lipstick (though probably not as I've yet to find one with the staying power I'd like) but I certainly wouldn't buy this at that price. That being said, if you want the pigmentation of a lipstick and the slipperiness of a gloss, this might just be exactly what you're after.


Go Stationery Sketched Floral A5 Gerbera Notebook
Go Stationery Sketched Floral A5 Gerbera Notebook
Price: £3.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality basic, perfect for the kitchen!, 3 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I do love a nice bit of stationery, and whilst the design on this doesn't particularly push my buttons, it's pleasant enough and there are a lot of good points going for it. Spiral binding means it will lie nice and flat and it's easier to remove pages if you want to jot a note down for someone else or whatever. The paper quality is good and the lines are a nice wide rule, not huge gaps but will fit most handwriting comfortable. What is a really nice touch is that the cover is quite a heavy duty semi-transparent plastic, so similarly sturdy to a hard cover and seems quite durable. This also means it will go some way to protecting the contents and would be possible to wipe down. The combination of plastic cover and spiral binding (allowing it to lie flat) means this will be ideal for use in the kitchen, so mine is likely to end up filled with recipes, clippings and cookery notes. As the other reviewer has noted, no bookmarks or elastic to keep it closed, but it's a decent quality version of an essential basic at a pretty reasonable price.


Zanussi ZAN1910UEL Cyclone Classic All Floor Bagless Vacuum Cleaner, 800 W, Ice White/Yellow
Zanussi ZAN1910UEL Cyclone Classic All Floor Bagless Vacuum Cleaner, 800 W, Ice White/Yellow
Offered by Co-op Electrical
Price: £64.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Effective compact hoover, 27 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I hate hoovering, and consequently I end up being quite hard on any hoovers I own as I will put off using them as long as possible, and then expect them to contend with carpets thick with cat hair, dust, snips of paper, wool and other craft materials, and in this case, post-Christmas pine needles. It is, admittedly, a lot to ask, and until a hoover is invented which pretty much runs itself and picks up EVERYTHING from the carpet in a single pass, I'll not be awarding the full five stars.

This model does, however, acquit itself pretty well considering how unfairly demanding I am and the very reasonable price tag (£50 at time of writing review). It comes with a couple of different attachments for the floor (one specially for hard floors), a crevice tool and an upholstery attachment. My favourite thing about it is that it's completely obvious how everything works from initial assembly to running it to emptying the cylinder and filter. The last hoover I had (also from Vine) was much higher end and much less straightforward, and it irked me to have to read instructions to run what must be one of the most basic of household appliances.

The really important thing is of course how well it cleans. I thought this had an impressive amount of suction - at times it was difficult to move it over the carpet. But my impression was borne out when I emptied the tank and found it stuffed full of pine needles etc! The cylinder is fairly small so it does need to be emptied regularly - really this was the only obvious drawback I saw to this machine. However, emptying it could hardly be more straightforward and for once I managed to do it without spilling dust all over the carpet in the process. Also, I like that it doesn't have one of those papery filters as they always seem to get clogged with dust that can never be fully cleaned out. It also seemed to retain its suction very well even when it got quite full.

I may never find my ideal hoover, but this will do very nicely for now, and is excellent value for the price.


A. Wong - The Cookbook: Extraordinary dim sum, exceptional street food & unexpected Chinese dishes from Sichuan to Yunnan
A. Wong - The Cookbook: Extraordinary dim sum, exceptional street food & unexpected Chinese dishes from Sichuan to Yunnan
by Andrew Wong
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so much "Street Food" as "Chinese-Inspired Molecular Gastronomy" - totally impractical for home cooks, 1 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
How does one review a cookery book? Is it more important that the recipes work, that they are recipes you want to cook in the first place, the style and presentation? I usually like to try a few recipes before I review, but sometimes I don't find that necessary. Although I love cooking and collect cookery books the way some women collect shoes, I rarely cook from them. I've found from experience that the best test for me is to read through a cookery book and see how much it inspires me. When the cover has been closed, am I desperate to get into the kitchen?

On that basis, reviewing A. Wong is pretty straightforward. After reading through the intro and recipes, I DID very much want to go to the kitchen - but not my own. I wanted to go to the author's kitchen and smack him in his poncey little face. I know this is totally subjective and that others have found him to be witty and charming, but his description of techniques as "arse-achingly difficult", his hilarious "mis-speak" in the third sentence of his intro ("investment wanker (oops, I meant banker" - talk about biting the hand that feeds you!!) and the ridiculous notion of calling recipes that involve sous-vide and vacuum packing equipment, candyfloss machines and ingredients like xanthan gum and soya lecithin "street food" all point to an overgrown "lad" flaunting his pretentious gastronomic gimmicks as he might rev the engine of a flashy car to get attention. All very off-putting as someone who likes straightforward, honest good food.

But personality judgements aside, how does the food look? I got about halfway into the book before I found any recipes I'd even be tempted to try, and by then I was totally exhausted by even considering the effort (not to mention the specialist equipment and ingredients) it would take to attempt most of the others. By way of example, a recipe for "Crispy Foie Gras with Air-Dried Sausage and Pomelo" calls for a single segment of pomelo which is then separated into "grains" (ie, the individual shreds of the citrus fruit that comprise each segment), the "63-Degree Tea Eggs" (which are essentially boiled eggs with a marbled effect from the tea and soy sauce brine) demand a temperature-controlled water bath as any variance in temperature is apparently intolerable, the "'Peking' Cocktail" requires that one ingredient is delivered by means of a clean(!) perfume atomizer, "Salt and Pepper French Bean Fritters" require each bean to be individually dipped and fried, and there's even a recipe for homemade prawn crackers which the author admits is "a complete pain in the arse". It is of course all very glossy and nicely presented with artful photos and chef's notes, but seems like much more aimed at people who want to read about food rather than those who actually want to cook it. And for those misguided souls who, like me, fall for the "street food" label on the cover and expect this to be simple, rustic and delicious home cooking, we've been sadly misled.


L'Oreal Mega Volume Miss Manga Waterproof Mascara, Black
L'Oreal Mega Volume Miss Manga Waterproof Mascara, Black
Price: £7.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Where have you been all my life?!, 31 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First things first, I have a bit of a thing about inconsistent pricing. At time of writing, the price of this mascara ranges from £4.15 for the blue colour up to £8.99 for the waterproof black, with the other colours (purple, turquoise, and non-waterproof black) all being priced differently within that range. I can understand the waterproof variety costing a bit more, but it seems the other colours should cost the same.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can say I LOVE this mascara. I'm not a great makeup wearer but have been rediscovering it recently thanks to some Vine offers that have allowed me to experiment. Mascara has always been a tricky one for me - it so often clumps or flakes, I am forever forgetting that I'm wearing makeup and rubbing my eyes, resulting in that attractive panda look (one of many reasons I'd more or less given up wearing it), and the fact that I am very fair with extremely pale lashes means it's difficult to get a good dramatic effect without it looking too harsh for my colouring.

This mascara avoided all these problems - well, it doesn't stop me forgetting I've got it on and rubbing my eyes, but it held up well to my treatment of it! It went on really nicely - not sure I've entirely got the hang of the bendy applicator tip thing, but this is more an issue with possibly not getting the full benefit of it rather than it being difficult to use. There was really no clumping or "spidery" effect but rather it seemed to coat every lash evenly with an effect that somehow managed to be both dramatic and kind of natural - as if you've just been blessed with super long thick lashes rather than wearing false ones. Where other mascaras often seem to work by clumping lashes together, this one actually seems to create volume by separating your lashes and curling them so they look longer, fuller, and give you a really lovely wide eyed effect.

In wear, it didn't irritate my eyes at all and lasted really well. It took some work to remove it at the end of the night - always a good sign as my skin seems to just suck up makeup without a trace. I think I may have found my perfect mascara, and L'Oreal may be tempting me back to the glam side.


Silentnight Cotton Pillow, Pack of 6
Silentnight Cotton Pillow, Pack of 6
Price: £24.79

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent basic budget pillows, 31 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am a bit of a pillow snob and for my own bed, I always use feather pillows as fibre filled always seem too warm to me. However, I have three guest beds in my home so extra pillows are always welcome, and this pack seemed a sensible way to stock up. As I had two guests arriving later in the week, it was also a prime time to test them out!

The pillows themselves come out of their vacuum pack looking somewhat the worse for wear. They are actually designed to be softer than usual for people who sleep on their backs or fronts, so straight from the packaging they look very flat and indeed a bit underfilled. However I just stuck them in pillowcases and popped them on the bed without trying to "plump". Left to their own devices, they soon plumped up and looked virtually indistinguishable from the other pillows.

I've had a couple of naps on these myself and slept just fine, but I would never use them for anything other than occasional guests. They have a rather "cheap" feel to them, with the super soft filling and the slightly stiff cotton covers, and although I'm not aware of mine "clumping" they feel as though it wouldn't take much for them to cross over to the lumpy side.

It's nice that they are machine washable, which again makes them ideal for guest use. And to be honest, they look and feel better than I feared they might when I first unpacked them. They're certainly an economical way to buy spares as long as you don't have fussy guests, but I really question whether they'd hold up well to regular use.


Purina PRO PLAN Dog Large Puppy Robust with OptiStart Rich in Chicken Dry Food - 3 kg
Purina PRO PLAN Dog Large Puppy Robust with OptiStart Rich in Chicken Dry Food - 3 kg
Price: £16.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Dog loves it, owner is more skeptical, 31 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At the same time as ordering this, we were also sent a bag of the same brand's "Large Puppy Athletic" formulation food. For that reason, what has really jumped out at me as I consider this review is the discrepancy in price between the two formulations. At the time of writing, the "Large Puppy Athletic" food is £12.73 for a 3kg bag - already what I'd consider a "premium price". But this formula -"Large Puppy Robust" - costs substantially more, at £16.99 for the same amount. This seems a little off to me as they are part of the same range! Don't know how much this is due to Amazon's pricing policies and how much to the manufacturer, and obviously prices change regularly on this site, but at the moment this discrepancy alone would be enough to put me off.

That being said, there's little chance I'd be buying this again in any case. Like the other make, the ingredients listed do not really justify the price tag. And once again I've inadvertantly chosen a product made by Nestle without being aware of the parent company, and as a rule I will not buy Nestle products.

However, the dog likes it. We had a few days of loose stools on switching to this, which is not unusual for him, but things soon stabilised and he's enjoying the food and certainly not leaving any behind for waste! He's not terribly fussy in his diet, but he does seem to have been particularly keen on both of these foods. However, due to the above issues, we'll be back onto our regular brand at the end of this bag.


PURINA PRO PLAN Dog Large Puppy Athletic with OPTISTART Rich in Chicken Dry Food, 3kg
PURINA PRO PLAN Dog Large Puppy Athletic with OPTISTART Rich in Chicken Dry Food, 3kg
Price: £13.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Premium price, run of the mill ingredients, 31 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Well, the dog liked this but I was less impressed. As many other reviewers have noted, the price seems unreasonably high for a product that's not particularly high in meat content and whose ingredients generally don't rate the "premium" label or price tag. As a customer, that's the bottom line for me.

That being said, the dog was extremely keen on this and even the change of food from his normal brand didn't seem to affect his digestive tract as it sometimes does. So there was certainly no waste and one happy dog.

But really, there is far too much "filler" in here to justify the price, and very little variance in ingredients from cheaper brands, so dog will be back to his usual stuff when this bag is finished.


Maybelline Tattoo 25 Eyestudio Color ml Everlasting Navy
Maybelline Tattoo 25 Eyestudio Color ml Everlasting Navy

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice colour but difficult to apply, 22 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'd already ordered this in the pomegranate colourway when I was offered this blue shade, which is much more to my liking. I don't wear makeup often but I like a good strong navy or dark blue to smudge round my eyes like liner for a smokey effect, which is what I intended to use this for. My plans turned out to be a little ambitious - as, I'd argue, is the manufacturer's advertising. I find this formula almost too responsive in application - it's a super-slippery sort of cream that goes on very heavily and can easily spread everywhere. It does allegedly stay put once dry but I had a hard time just getting an even coat where I wanted it and had to use wipes to remove excess and start over. Any little smudges on finger tips or applicators are very quickly spread and I felt like I ended up with dark smudges round my eyes that probably just looked like shadows after a bad night of insomnia. After a couple of hours of socialising, it felt like 98% of the colour had disappeared and, once again, my eyes just looked like I'd either been punched or not slept for a week. Not exactly the smouldering look I was going for! And nothing like the 24 hour staying power claimed by Maybelline. I've practiced with this a few times but have yet to get satisfactory results. I do like the colour and will continue to play with it as maybe there's just a learning curve to using this particular formulation, but I am rather disappointed so far.


Maybelline Master Drama Chromatics Eye 1.1 g Turquoise Vibe
Maybelline Master Drama Chromatics Eye 1.1 g Turquoise Vibe
Offered by Tiger Lilley Cosmetics
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I'm in love with this liner!, 22 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not a frequent wearer of makeup, but this eyeliner may be converting me! I love pretty much everything about it. It goes on like a dream, totally smooth even on my wrinkley old eyelids. Feels nice and cool and gives a great strong line whilst still being forgiving of less-than-steady hands. It feels really "slippery" so doesn't seem to drag on skin at all, but also dries really quickly. Most importantly of all, it stays put!! For hours. The main reason I don't often wear makeup is that it always seems to disappear within half an hour or so of application. I've used this eyeliner a few times now and aside from once when I slept in it (and still had some "bonus makeup" the next morning) it always looks almost as fresh at the end of the night as it did on application. As far as I'm concerned, this is nothing short of a miracle. And the "Turquoise Vibe" colourway is simply stunning - slightly metallic, the most gorgeous shade of greeny-blue, it reminds me of peacock feathers. The only negative I could possibly come up with is that, at the time of writing this, there only appear to be three colours available, and for some reason the other two come in just under £4 whilst the turquoise is £7.99 which seems very odd. But to be honest, I'd probably still buy it even at double the price. Probably the best eyeliner I've ever used.


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