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J. Dawson (Edinburgh, UK)
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Rapid F30 Flat Clinch Stapler Half Strip ABS 26/6 Throat 55mm Black Ref 23256500
Rapid F30 Flat Clinch Stapler Half Strip ABS 26/6 Throat 55mm Black Ref 23256500
Price: £13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy, well made stapler, 18 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of those strange items to review, because really, how good (or bad) can a stapler be? This one certainly does the job with little fuss. It's nice and sturdy, ergonomically designed to fit the hand nicely (though consequently a little bulkier than some cheaper models), staples up to 20+ sheets of paper together without a hiccup, easy to load with standard-sized staples and seems like it's built to last. That being said, for occasional use it is pretty pricey. Might be worth a look if you need something slightly heavier duty, but for light household use it's probably more than you'll need.


Paul Lamond The Story Telling Game
Paul Lamond The Story Telling Game
Offered by a1 Toys
Price: £12.63

3.0 out of 5 stars Good idea with some unfortunate flaws, 1 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As many other reviewers have stated, this game is a great idea but the execution is mediocre at best. The biggest problem is that the added pressure of the (rather naff plastic) timer is likely to hinder creativity rather than enhance it, and it encourages participants to be thinking about their contribution rather than listening to other people's stories. Additionally the timer is the only limit on story length, so one child might do a rather short, lazy sentence without giving it much thought and another might ramble pointlessly until the timer is almost finished (which is obvious to anyone who can see it), leaving someone else as the loser in the round which will inevitably lead to squabbles. And the cards are a little flimsy.

The idea of a group storytelling game is a great one, so it's lucky that it wouldn't take much tweaking of the rules to use the included materials to improve on the game. There are plenty of cards to use which should spark children's imaginations. The cards are also sensibly divided, including 26 (one for each letter of the alphabet) which have pictures so can be used with younger children or less confident readers, and the other cards include a choice of three words, with at least one of these given in yellow to highlight phonetic words for less confident readers to sound out. 45 of these are entirely "yellow words". So it should be possible to play variations of this game with a wide variety of age groups. As well as playing in a family setting, it would also make a good activity for a parent and child (again with a bit of tweaking) as we should all know by now that one to one reading sessions are excellent for developing early literacy, and good in childcare settings.


Fabri-Tac  113 ml Medium Bottle, Clear
Fabri-Tac 113 ml Medium Bottle, Clear
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Effective on textiles but on the pricey side, 1 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I use a lot of glue for textile crafts and altered art, so was thrilled for the chance to try this. I've been rather cautious with it as I think it's pretty pricey at 7.99 a bottle, but it does work really well for fastening fabrics and textiles together. It is very stringy as you're squeezing it out, but anyone who has used hot glue will have encountered this issue before. What I like about it is that it is not runny at all so stays exactly where you put it, dries quickly, and remains clear throughout so easy to see what you are doing and unobtrusive once finished. Only negatives I found were the strong smell - as everyone else is saying, it's highly flammable and it does smell like acetone so make sure you use it only in well ventilated areas - and the fact that when I tried to glue fabrics to a metal brooch pin, it didn't stick to the metal. Suspect that like most glues, it doesn't get on with non-porous surfaces. I don't feel I could justify the cost of this if I was using large amounts of it, but a little goes a long way and it's a handy thing to have around.


Pinzon Egyptian Cotton Sateen, White, Double Fitted Sheet
Pinzon Egyptian Cotton Sateen, White, Double Fitted Sheet
Price: £28.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality basic item, 24 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My suspicions that my tastes aren't very refined is only strengthened by this sheet. Apparently the difference in weight, quality, finish etc should be immediately noticeable but all that really stood out to me is that it has a sateen finish (I actually prefer a normal weave) and the elastic goes right round it (so harder to fold). When I put it on the bed, I found it is very deep and in fact it is designed to cover a mattress and topper up to 18in thick, so great if you use memory foam or similar. Otherwise, there's not a huge amount I can say. I honestly don't notice that it feels much different from my other sheets and I don't tend to pay much attention to quality. It may wear better but that will take time and multiple launderings to judge properly. For me, it does the job but costs considerably more than what I would usually be willing to pay for one fitted double sheet, and I tend to opt for colours and patterns over plain white, but if you like the classics and are willing to pay a bit more for quality, then this should do the job nicely.


Beaphar Spray Away Plus, 400ml
Beaphar Spray Away Plus, 400ml
Price: £5.15

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effective against cat pee!, 9 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My elderly cat has begun marking her territory in some distinctly inconvenient places. The problem is that once she has peed somewhere, there seems to be nothing that will effectively remove the smell. I've already had to throw out one suitcase and I have fabric that has been laundered several times but still retains a whiff of ammonia such that it had been rendered useless. Recently I discovered she had peed on a throw which I'd been intending to use on a chair in my new home. I tried laundering it but again, I could still smell cat urine. With perfect timing, Amazon and Beaphar came to my rescue! Now, this spray has a pretty heavy perfume itself which I could have done without, and I used it very generously...but the good news is, it seems to have done the trick! This issue has been a problem for some time and I've tried other products claiming to do the same thing, but nothing else has proven effective until now. My problem was odour rather than stains so I have yet to test that aspect, but based on what I've already used I would not hesitate to buy it again in future.


Philips SHL3100BK/10 Headband Headphones DJ Function Black
Philips SHL3100BK/10 Headband Headphones DJ Function Black
Offered by Red Mobile
Price: £25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Sound quality makes up for bulk!, 9 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I tend to listen to podcasts on bus journeys, so in the past I have always gone for earbud-type headphones but thought I would give these a try. They are obviously much bulkier so a bit more of a pain to carry around. I'd assumed from reading eh manufacturer's notes that the "swivel" function would make them easier to listen to with one ear, as when I was getting on the bus for example, but I didn't find this to be the case. They do swivel, but there's not really no halfway point between taking them on or off, nor are they any easier to extricate oneself from once they are on. As they cover the whole ear, I really notice the difference in warmth when I wear them - handy as the weather gets cooler and more functional than earmuffs or a hat too! What really counts of course is the sound quality and I must say I notice a big difference between these and my old ear buds. In fact, these are a sufficient improvement that I continue to use them despite the fact that they are less convenient due to their size. I'm not sure how much I should expect them to cancel any noise for people around me, I did test them at home with my flatmate and found that there is some noise audible when sitting next to me, but not really enough to be a concern. They may not function exactly as I expected, but I think the pros outweigh any cons and I plan to stick with them now.


SEVERIN SEVOF SM 3718 Jug Blender Brushed Stainless Steel, 1.5 Litre, 550 Watt, Black
SEVERIN SEVOF SM 3718 Jug Blender Brushed Stainless Steel, 1.5 Litre, 550 Watt, Black
Price: £31.30

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great performance but hard to clean, 5 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is quite a straightforward blender with no added bells and whistles, but it feels solid and robust and it seems to do a nice job. The jug is heavy glass and a very generous size. There are two speeds plus an added pulse setting. The black and chrome finish means it looks sleek and stylish enough to leave out on your worktop if you care about these things.

I used it to liquidise a batch of soup and it worked perfectly - the jug is generous enough that even though the soup wasn't fully cooled it was no problem and I was able to do it in two batches (had I been less cautious, I might well have got away with doing it all in a oner). And just a few seconds on the high setting produced a lovely smooth texture.

So far I have found two little flaws, one minor and one rather more annoying. The first is that the jug only seems to fit into the base at one point and fitting it in can be rather fiddly. Worse is that, as far as I could tell, the bottom of the jug which includes the blade does not actually unscrew for cleaning. Now it could be that my muscles weren't up to the job, but it did seem pretty firmly attached, and this might be a bit of a deal breaker for me, as without detaching the blades I suspect I will never feel certain that it's really clean. Very disappointing when the overall performance seems very good for the price.


Bose ® SoundTouch 20 Series II Wi-Fi Music System - Black
Bose ® SoundTouch 20 Series II Wi-Fi Music System - Black
Price: £314.96

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very expensive way to listen to the radio, 28 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Up until recently, I lived with a flatmate who did a PhD in computer science, so for the last 20 years or so I've not really had to install my own tech. So setting up this Bose system was a test of my skills. I thought it was a test I mostly failed until I read the other reviews here and realise lots of people had similar problems.

To begin with, I was unable to install the SoundTouch app on my Chromebook. Can't see anyone else mentioning this so perhaps this really is my fault. In the end I used my iPad. Found the process fairly frustrating, but in the end I got the app installed and found I was able to play various radio stations on my new soundsystem. So far, so good. The sound quality seems good to me and programming the presets was easy enough.

Then I tried to play my own music, and that is where it all went wrong. As far as I can tell there is no ability to stream from my Amazon Cloud which is my default choice. I could see the option to add Spotify and that's a free service, so I made a bunch of playlists and got very excited about playing them - until I found that I was unable to do this unless I paid £9.99/month for a premium account. Similar deal with Deezer, although they offer a free trial. Then I decided to try and be clever and plug my iPad into the SoundTouch and just use the Bose system like speakers - but the cables included didn't work for that.

I have still found no way to play my own music through this device. So what I have ended up with is a very good quality radio - at an extremely high price, and which eats my bandwidth and interferes with the speed of my laptop on occasion. It's nice to have a decent radio in my basic little cottage, but there's no way I'd shell out this kind of money for what I was able to get out of it.


Finding Vivian Maier [DVD]
Finding Vivian Maier [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Maloof
Price: £11.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Rather ordinary documentary of an extraordinary talent, 28 Oct 2014
This review is from: Finding Vivian Maier [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I missed this film when it screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier this year, but was told by an industry person in a queue that, as an artist and arts educator with a particular interest in women artists, I needed to see this film (she was not affiliated with this film herself but had just come from the press screening). So I was thrilled to have a chance to see the DVD, but perhaps my expectations were a little high because I came away pretty unimpressed.

Vivian Maier's photographs are undeniably accomplished - magnetic, even. It's just a shame that more of the film does not focus on Maier's actual work. Yes, she was eccentric, presumably suffering from mental health issues which became more pronounced later in her life, but the "mystery" element feels forced here. Why, asks director John Maloof, did Maier take all these photos? Apparently he has not come across anyone else with an obsessive hobby! The possibility that she might simply enjoy photography, even without the formal validation of the art world, or that Maier's official career as a nanny could possibly be fulfilling, are ideas which are never really explored.

It doesn't help, either, that many of the participants in the film are actively unsympathetic. The fact that several people who knew Maier mention how uncomfortable she was with sharing information about herself, and yet still participate in the film, feels slightly voyeuristic. Again, one can only wish this film focused more on Maier's work and less on trying to create a narrative from a life that she strove to keep private. Maloof's narration is clumsy and in one telling segment, he comments that he wishes he could give the money he's making from Maier's work (after discovering some of her negatives in an auction and then acquiring the rest of her work) to her, but sadly it's too late. Perhaps this clip is included for the sake of disclosure, or to make Maloof seem sympathetic, but to me it simply drew attention to what he stands to gain by bringing her work to prominence.

It's an interesting film, and great to see Maier's work, just wish there was more of the latter and less of a sense that the directors were working to force the narrative into the shape they wanted.


Tacwise Z3 Stapler 4-in-1 Nailer Kit
Tacwise Z3 Stapler 4-in-1 Nailer Kit
Price: £20.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Handy tool, would benefit from some instructions!, 26 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In the interests of disclosure, I will start by saying I don't know much about DIY. I chose this item more because I thought it would be handy for craft use, and perhaps a few basic DIY jobs round the house. So it's entirely possible that there are things about this tool which would be obvious to an enthusiast but are lost on me, and therefore this review should be read with that in mind - if you have next to zero experience using tools like this, I am speaking to you!

The first thing I noticed was that there are no instructions included, just basic images on the side of the tool itself. I'm not really sure what that's about but I found it really off-putting. Yes, it is simple to use and yes, you could argue printed instructions would be a waste of paper - but the images on the tool are pretty small and would be clearer if a little more information was given, plus I ended up struggling quite a bit with the locking mechanism and if you're new to using a tool, you want to feel confident it's not going to suddenly fire when you don't expect it (it didn't). That was the main drawback for me, but it's a pretty big one for a DIY newbies as far as I'm concerned.

Now, the pluses. This is a 4-in-1 tool so comes with a generous supply of headless pins, nails, staples and cable staples. It feels substantial but still fairly lightweight and comfortable to use. I like that, once you've fired off a round of staples or whatever, you can engage the safety lock without firing off any additional "ammo". And the staple remover is a nice addition - although I found it didn't work very effectively with standard staples, but it was brilliant for removing cable staples. This also fired every single time and didn't require a huge amount of strength on my part - the one staple gun I've used in past seemed to fire more blanks than staples and I felt like I almost had to be leaning on it with my full weight to get it to work. This one seems much more effective with less effort.

The only issue I have with it in use - and this could be down to my lack of experience - was that I couldn't work out exactly where the nails fire from. Which is to say, if I wanted to fire a nail or pin into a precise location, I can't see any way to ensure I do so. I also don't know what the lever on the top that moves from + to - is for, but again, I expect that would be obvious to anyone with any experience, though it seems to me that tools could be more user friendly to those of us just learning.

So a couple of small niggles, but it seems like a useful tool to have around and to me it's good value for money as the included nails and staples will probably be all I ever need!


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