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

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Dettol Power and Fresh Citrus Zest Spray 750 ml (Pack of 3)
Dettol Power and Fresh Citrus Zest Spray 750 ml (Pack of 3)
Price: £10.36

3.0 out of 5 stars Just fine, 23 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This seems to have done a fine job of cleaning up my kitchen in advance of my mother visiting. Obviously I can't speak for its claims of killing 99.9% (or whatever) bacteria that it meets, nor am I sure that I want it to do so. My hob still has some burnt on marks on it so it doesn't work miracles either. The smell is standard citrus household cleaner scent so relatively inoffensive though not necessarily appealing. The big thing though, is that I really didn't notice any obvious significant difference between this and, well, pretty much any household cleaner I have ever used. So nothing wrong with it, but personally I'll prioritise price and/or eco-friendliness over this item in future.


AmiGami Butterfly and Heart Punch
AmiGami Butterfly and Heart Punch
Price: £15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pricey, pretty, pointless - or is that pricey and pretty pointless?, 23 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Not entirely sure who these are being marketed to. They seem really pricey for a child's toy, and also not terribly durable, so more suitable for display than play. For that reason alone, I'd expect them to hold more appeal (once the initial novelty wears off) for adult collectors of kawaii paraphenalia and toys.

If you are considering buying one of these for a child, do take this into account. They will not be able to play with the "finished" toy as the pins work out fairly easily. The parts don't necessarily sit where you want them to. It's also a personal bugbear of mine to see things like this advertised as being creative - please tell me how sticking precut, pre-patterned paper shapes and stickers onto a plastic toy (already designated as a butterly and with only 5 holes for the pegs) is creative? If you want to buy creative toys for a child, the same price will buy lots of pens, paper, clay, a set of decent quality pens or watercolour pencils - just about anything would be better than this.

On top of that, everything here is so curly and patterned and busy that the finished item doesn't look much like a butterfly or indeed anything else, just a mess of pink flowers, polka dots, and plastic. The fact that the basic plastic figure has so much pattern already on it means the stickers probably won't even be visible if used. As far as I can see, this is too cutesy for most adults and will provide perhaps half an hour of pointless entertainment for most children before being consigned to a shelf.


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 Worth persevering if you're finding this a bit twee, 20 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wish that I could give this book 3.5 stars. During the first few chapters, I absolutely loathed it. I found the main character, a precocious 7 year old outcast, completely unbelievable and inconsistent in her behaviour, her titular granny needed a good smack, the supporting characters were mainly irritating caricatures, the fairy tale sequences bored me, and the whole thing seemed to have been written by someone who thought they were being very clever but actually had no ear for dialogue or comedy.

So why 3.5 stars? Because as the book went on and quite contrary to my expectations, I found myself drawn into the story. The above flaws still held true, but they grated less, and a few of the less verbose characters actually stirred some connection for me. By then end, I was lapping it up with enthusiasm and ended up really enjoying the story.

Fredrik Backman has told a compelling story here, and the interweaving of real life traumas with Granny's fair tales is a neat little trick and rather nicely handled. But I do think the characters are not at all realistic and mostly are pretty annoying. Because the story focuses on Elsa, the flaws are more evident in her case. Her knowledge seems very inconsistent and many stories, particularly ones that allegedly happened before the book's timeline, just stretch credulity well beyond its limits (eg what mother would really tell her daughter "Daddy's gone to heaven" as a joke, and what child would respond with such composure as the story here?!). And it seems the author tries way too hard to make granny outrageous.

This is translated from Swedish so in such cases it's always possible that the fault is in the translation, it's difficult to know for sure. I enjoyed it in the end but would be wary of reading other work by the same author in case it was populated with similarly poorly developed characters.


Revlon ColorBurst Lacquer Balm Stain - Demure
Revlon ColorBurst Lacquer Balm Stain - Demure
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Minty fresh lips!, 20 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not a huge one for cosmetics as a rule. I find lipstick usually wears off quickly and lip glosses can be so greasy they feel like they are sliding off your lips, and both types of product are often very drying. Therefore my favourite thing about this product is that it seems to last quite well, feels like it stays put, and actually feels like it is moisturising my lips as well!

The "Demure" shade I was sent is a little pale for my liking, and I'd be a little cautious judging the product you will receive by the photos on the Amazon site - Demure looks much darker than it is in real life, so the others may look very different too!

This has been produced really nicely too: it's a good chunky "pencil" type applicator that pushes up from the bottom so no need to sharpen. The lid feels like it's a nice tight fit so hopefully wouldn't come open in your handbag (always an important consideration or is it just me these things happen to?). And it's quite generously sized, especially considering how little you need and how well an application lasts. You're not going to get strong "lipstick" style colour as this is a transparent, slightly sparkley "stain" but it's perfect for work, daywear or when you want a subtler effect.

The only thing I don't like about it is the mint fragrance. Don't know whether it's meant to plump your lips as these "tingley" oils sometimes do, but I could have done with unperfumed lips. That being said, it's a fairly subdued scent so not actively offensive.


Revlon Nail Enamel - 14.7 ml, Red
Revlon Nail Enamel - 14.7 ml, Red
Price: £6.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The perfect red, shame about the chips, 6 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Anyone who has ever purchased makeup - and specifically nail varnish - will know to be wary of claims like "chip defiant" and "sets in 30 seconds" so it shouldn't come as any surprise that this varnish fails to live up to the hype. That being said, it's not too bad. It goes on really smoothly and the slightly smaller brush works really well. I probably could have done with a single coat in a pinch (unusual as deep reds like this are often streaky) but I went for two, for both an even finish and, I hoped, durability. It didn't dry in 30 seconds, but it did dry pretty fast. A manicurist once told me that darker colours take longer to dry, so the fact that this one seemed more or less fully set within about 5 minutes was pretty impressive in itself. I am forever getting impatient and messing up the finish on my wet nails because I can't sit around doing nothing til they dry, but I ended up with a lovely even coat with this one, and I suspect the strong colour and high gloss finish would absolutely show off the slightest imperfection. As for the "Chip Defiant formula", to my complete and utter lack of surprise, this also turned out to be nonsense. Within 24 hours during which I did nothing terribly arduous with my hands - a shower, some typing, a bit of light cooking - some of my nails had severe varnish loss already. So about what I would expect from any run of the mill polish there.

The description also lists "Beautiful story behind our signature shades" in amongst the claims for chip resistance and even coverage, as though this is an added selling point. I'd hope that no potential buyers would be swayed by this, but if they were they would be sorely disappointed. The name of this colour is simply "Red" and if there is a beautiful story behind it, Revlon have not bothered to share that story with the consumer.

For me the main selling point here is the colour. This is a truly fantastic red. Many shades are too orangey, too pinky, or just don't look right once on. This is a perfect pillarbox red, ideal if you are going for a classic or vintage look. In fact, the colour and the application are good enough that I would buy it again despite the chip issues (since most varnishes seem to do that anyway) and I'd say it's well worth a try if you've been searching for the perfect shade of red.


Igenix Stainless Steel Catering Urn, 15 Litre, 1650 Watt
Igenix Stainless Steel Catering Urn, 15 Litre, 1650 Watt
Price: £68.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for entertaining but can also serve other practical purposes in the home!, 6 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I got this urn for a rather unconventional purpose: I live in an old cottage and the hot water supply to the kitchen can be rather temperamental. I found that every time I did the washing up, I was having to boil several kettles. So I hit on the idea of using an electric urn rather than spending more money on hiring a tradesman to come in and change the whole system. And then, as the fates would have it, this one became available through Vine! What better time to give it a go? I love that I can heat 15l of water relatively quickly and then hold it at the same temperature as long as necessary. Also nice that I don't have to heat it to boiling as that's a bit extreme for washing up by hand! Also, being metal and holding a decent volume of water, even if it is switched off altogether it retains the heat for some time, so even more energy efficient. I am still getting my head round the most effective ways to use it, but if, for example, I wash dishes in the evening, I can then also fill a hot water bottle for my bed from the same tank, use it for cooking, etc.

As well as the temperature controls, it's nice that the element is concealed, it's quite lightweight so easily portable when empty, and the locking mechanism on the lid feels quite firm yet still easy enough to use, and the base feels nice and solid and secure so you don't need to worry about it shifting when in use. Also really nice that you can check the water level from the outside. Indeed I have only two qualms with it, and at least one of them is down to my particular needs. I'd have liked a longer spout so that it could overhang my sink a bit, but I realise this is unlikely to matter to anyone else! The other thing, which is more problematic, is that once the water level drops below about 10l, the tap seems to slow down to a trickle. Very frustrating when this happened the other night and I was trying to wash up, but it may just be that it needs to be kept topped up or that my worktops have a slight angle or something. Will persevere and hopefully solve the problem.


120 Ways to Annoy Your Mother (And Influence People)
120 Ways to Annoy Your Mother (And Influence People)
by Ana Benaroya
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

1.0 out of 5 stars How to Patronise Young Women and Reinforce Stereotypes, 26 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I love interactive books that encourage journalling and creativity, whether serious or satirical. The problem here is that it's just not clear how far the "brilliant, young, independent American illustrator" Ana Benaroya's tongue is inserted into her cheek. The jacket blurb recommends it for girls "aged 11-14 with a quiet renegade in them and all young women who want to keep that rebellious streak alive". So I guess the contents with headings like "How to Make Your Hair Look Horrible Every Morning", "How to Buy Shoes", "How Not to Hate Men", "How to Become a Love Magnet" and "How to Find That Perfect Little Black Dress" are designed to be comic. Except the book consists of a huge number of this sort of jokey magazine stereotyped views of women alongside equally jokey sections on more serious topics like "How to Talk About Your Feelings", "How to Be Mentally Unbalanced", and "How to Be Self-Sufficient" - so what comes across is that all these topics are equally absurd and deserving of ridicule. That might fly if it weren't aimed at girls at such a critical age and in an era when the messages young women are being sent are more confusing than ever, but sadly that's not the world we live in and many young women of that age are already struggling with their priorities and the messages our society sends. More to the point, it might be forgiveable if this book was actually funny. However, young people can sniff out authenticity a mile off, and of the (literally) hundreds of girls I have taught over the years, I can't imagine any who would appreciate this book. I imagine most of them would find it slightly embarassing, clearly written by an adult who is trying far too hard to pretend they understand what adolescents are like. And as for the "brilliant" illustrations, many of the 11 year old girls I worked with could produce stronger and more appealing images themselves. Sadly I'm not teaching at the moment, as I'd have been curious to hear from feedback from the young women. But then again, I'd have been slightly ashamed to present them with this clumsy, patronising and frankly unattractive book.


A Robot In The Garden
A Robot In The Garden
by Deborah Install
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A blandly saccharine "touching" perfect for fans of unchallenging romcom and family films, 12 Jan. 2015
This review is from: A Robot In The Garden (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I nearly did not choose this book simply because it contained one of the smuggest "About the Author" statements I have ever seen:

"Deborah Install has worked as a website copywriter. Her debut novel, A ROBOT IN THE GARDEN, is inspired by her own young son, and is backed up by copious technological research. She lives in Birmingham with her family where she bakes good cakes and writes even better books."

Quite a claim to make about a debut novel, and does anyone care whether the author bakes or indeed how her proficiency in the kitchen measures up to her writing ability?! Anyway, the premise sounded interesting and I reminded myself that I should read before I judge, but it turns out my first instinct was probably the correct one.

I did read this quickly, but that was less to do with being compelled by the book and more to do with waiting for it to redeem itself. Obviously my opinion is not in line with other reviews on the site at time of writing, and probably this book will be a big hit. But that's because it has about as much depth as the average Hollywood tearjerker, and is just as emotionally manipulative. Yes, we get it, the robot is childlike, he's small and cute and argumentative, prone to tantrums but also affectionate. Pair him up on a round-the-world trip with an aimless-stay-at-home husband whose wife has just left him and prepare for the almost completely predictable outcome...

I say "almost completely predictable" because the one part of the book I didn't see coming was the darkness of the climax. Now, I've no problem with dark - indeed perhaps this book could have used a little more shadow and a little less saccharine overall - but it is an action-packed chapter that would slot neatly into a thriller and seems bizarrely out of place here, as does the "Hotel California" episode other reviewers have commented on. The whole thing reads as though the author has one eye firmly fixed on the film rights already (and again, no doubt it will be snapped up and made into a huge hit) but couldn't decide whether to do a romantic weepie, a buddy comedy, a family-friendly fantasy, or a pretentious sc-ifi thriller that raises deep issues of ethics and morality in the field of Artificial Intelligence, so she just threw up her hands and said "Why not make it all four?" Obviousluy it's a formula that works for many, but I'm sure I'm not the only reader who will find the whole thing grating in the extreme.


Wasp
Wasp
by Ian Garbutt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The beginnings of great historical fiction, 7 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Wasp (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Wasp" is the story of the House of Masques, a prestigious yet controversial 18th Century establishment where fallen women, as long as they are sufficiently beautiful and compliant, may be trained as decorative companions for the rich and powerful. The House operates a strict no-touching policy, but still the Masques are seen as little more than prostitutes in respectable society. Feisty Bethany Harris arrives into this strange world from a mental hospital where she has been languishing since causing a village scandal. She is suspicious of this luxurious new world, and confused by the motivations of her fellow Masques and the elderly "Abbess" who runs the House. The more questions she asks, the more she discovers that nothing is quite as it seems in this world of beauty and grace.

The blurb on the book teases "personal horrors, coupled with dark ambition, are leading to a crisis that not only threatens to destroy the House of Masques and everyone in it, but reaches to the heart of government and the throne itself" but readers looking for mix of historical sexiness and political intrigue are likely to be disappointed on both counts. The few sex scenes are squalid rather than sensual and the politics limited to a few passing references that powerful men frequent the House of Masques.

Ian Garbutt deserves some credit for his bravery in voicing so many strong female characters, and for doing so reasonably well. The premise of "Wasp" is intriguing and there were enough twists and turns to keep me absolutely gripped throughout, yet at the end I felt that it hadn't quite delivered on its promise. There were many loose ends that could have been explored in more detail, and the resolution felt rather rushed. Indeed, the whole thing read slightly like it was written by someone who wanted to write a historical novel but had not had the time to do any real research. As it is, it just misses being something really special.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2015 11:02 AM GMT


Zyliss Burger Press with Adjustable Thickness
Zyliss Burger Press with Adjustable Thickness
Price: £15.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for what it is, 3 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you want to make a lot of uniform burgers and have cash to splash (a substantial £22.79 as I write), then I have no hesitation in recommending this product. It feels like it should last a lifetime and has lots of nice touches: adjustable thickness setting, non-slip rubber feet, a design that allows you to easily remove the burger intact without touching it, nonstick coating, "grill" ridges, and the whole thing easily disassembles for cleaning. It truly is the Rolls Royce of burger presses.

So why only three stars? Well, it's a burger press which to my mind means it's an essentially pointless piece of kit. Was I not participating in Amazon's Vine programme, there is not the proverbial snowball's chance in hell I would bother with ANY burger press, let alone a pricey workhorse like this.

If one was in the catering trade or organised lots of barbecues perhaps, this would be excellent for ensuring burgers were hygienically produced and of a uniform size and shape for cooking. But for all but the most gadget-happy home cook, it's a hefty price to pay for a task that is almost as quick to do by hand.


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