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Lady Fancifull "Tinkerbell"
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CafePod Nespresso Compatible Arabica Colombia (Pack of 4, Total 40 Pods)
CafePod Nespresso Compatible Arabica Colombia (Pack of 4, Total 40 Pods)
Price: 6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper than Nespresso, acceptable (for a pod); fiddly recycle, 31 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Firstly, I don't believe that the pod experience can ever rival the carefully sourced beans (and variety of beans) which can be had with the loving hand-grinding experience coupled with my new best coffee method Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker (or even the French Press, cafetiere, for more cups at once) Though I'm the first to admit this takes some time.

Machines are good for the varying demands for coffee, and several cups of these, all at once. My hand grinding muscles can't cope with crowds. Machines also provide the added touch of crema, not to mention the delectable possibility of froth for the cappuccino heads

I don't know what the beans used for this would be like to my tastebuds if I had done the handgrinding and the Aeropressing on them, but, certainly the taste of the coffee lacks the layers of flavour available in my two current favourite beans Barbera Classica Espresso 1000g Coffee Beans JJ Darboven Movenpick Cafe Creme 100 Percent RFA 1 Kg

I couldn't find the described notes in this - the orange zest particularly, which is very evident in the Movenpick. Though these do indeed work beautifully in the Nespresso by KRUPS U and Milk Pure Cream Coffee Capsule Machine with Aeroccino, 1700 Watt in the end the real downside to the, well, acceptable but not memorable, an average cup flavour is the issue of recycling. Which is kind of the real challenge, to me, with pod machines.

Nespresso, particularly for those of us lucky enough to live close enough to a boutique where we can collect a little handfull of recycle bags, have this sorted well as the pods can be packed as they are in the nespresso post bags and returned, for free to Nespresso for recycling using the widely available Collect outlets. More difficult for those who have to wait till they re-order a quantity and meanwhile may be gathering mould on their existing used pods.

Cafepod are half-recycleable and half not, with disassembly needing to be done. The foil individual wrappers are NOT recycleable. Landfill then. The pods are - but not AS they are. The film lid (not recycleable) has to be removed. The grounds from the pod are then scraped out for your compost bins. The rinsed plastic pots can then go to plastic recycle.

Well, on a day recently with several people drinking several cups of coffee, I realised the amount of time I then later spent of doing my environmental bit easily made the fully recycled Nespressos worth their extra cost, and possibly I could have made 'grind those beans by hand' a game for guests to share around and delivered better coffee with even less waste!


A Question of Identity: Simon Serrailler Book 7 (Simon Serrailler 7)
A Question of Identity: Simon Serrailler Book 7 (Simon Serrailler 7)
Price: 3.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Serrailler 7 - has the series outstayed its welcome?, 31 Aug 2014
Hill is a fine and crafted writer, and her Simon Serrailler detective/crime series are equal to her writings in more ghostly, supernatural vein.

But this one, I'm sad to say, seemed tired, even formulaic. Of late Serrialler has dealt with some big ideas, ethics, and metathemes. In theory, this one examines identity, which must always be built of memory too, and given to us by others, as much as put together by ourselves. So what happens when someone's identity is taken away because they are given a new life? This isn't a spoiler, it is in the 'blurb' and we know this has happened very early on.

A series of murders happened, the suspect, who was the perpetrator, was acquitted, but the potential public outcry meant a new identity had to be manufactured for his own safety. Move on 10 years to a different part of the country and crimes being committed with the same modus operandi, down to the smallest, hidden from public knowledge, detail.

So....we know that whoever it is on Serrailler's patch who is responsible is going to be within the cast of characters we meet, probably early on. Easy to spot the red herrings, easy, very, to finger the real 'perp' But that wasn't my problem with this. What holds the interest in crimes, police procedurals and whodunnits, is not just the who, its the psychology and the process which the hunters and the hunteds go through, and also how those in the wider community - victims, families and friends of, etc are touched by this. Less sophisticated writers can go through implausible after implausible twists and herrings because they are trying to keep the reader guessing through shock and surprise alone. Any writer will have their own well-worn grooves, so, particularly with a series, the reader will be well ahead of the writer, and probably able to nail the 'who' within minutes of their first appearance. But that isn't the point. The centrality of this book is not really the police side of things.

Where my disappointment lay with this book is that the introductions of some new family and other relationship complications for Serrailler and the rest of his family almost make this book 'a chapter setting the scene for the next book' There's actually remarkably little in this book about his relationships within his workforce. This side of things has stalled somewhat. Far more centre stage is the Deerbon family, their dynamics, particularly some troubles between the two older children, and the relationship between Serrailler's father and his wife, Serrailler's stepmother. These are being set up for the future. This book feels like the slip road between one major road and another. It's...okay, it's not a bad book, but it is rather a dull one


Vax S86-SF-T Steam Fresh Touch Steam Mop, 1 Litre, White/ Grey/ Blue
Vax S86-SF-T Steam Fresh Touch Steam Mop, 1 Litre, White/ Grey/ Blue
Price: 87.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Steamed curate's egg, 28 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was lucky enough to be offered the Vax Steam Mop - S2 Upright Hard Floor Master some 3 or 4 years ago, which I thought was a wonderful thing, a boon to someone who loathes housework (as well, I'm sure, as a useful tool for the houseproud)

Despite being offered other steam floor cleaners over time on Vine, I passed them by, as I was more than happy with that S2, even choosing to BUY it as a new item, when the old one suddenly died just after the 2 year guarantee expired, and its price had plummeted due to the influx of `new improved' So......I'm just giving the back story as I still think the S2 is the bee's whiskers.

I succumbed, this time to the blandishments of the offer of this for a number of reasons, as in theory `upgrades' seem useful.

1) Opportunity for a more specialised `for different floor types'
2) Option for a smaller shape/size to get further right into corners
3) Option for scrubbing as well as steaming with that smaller shape which has bristles for stubborn stains
4) Option for `forward jet of steam' as well as the underside.
5) Option for detergent as well

PROS
1) A much longer cord

2) The ability to wind/store the cord better as it includes an integral plug port, with the ability to use this in two vertical positions to accommodate those who wind from the top and those who wind from the bottom

3) A larger water tank - more steam cleaning without refilling

4) That smaller shaped/sized scrubbing tool to get right into corners (you anchor the wider grey outside with your foot, and lift out the smaller white inside

5) The theory of `different floors' though in effect this means WITH detergent - vinyl, tiles, or WITHOUT - Sealed wood, carpet.

6) A range of different floor cloths, some velcroed on for closer contact, some like the more spidery legged old fashioned mop heads, attached by drawstring - and these Coral spidery ones are the same as those my OLD mop takes, and available from other sellers - though the price Vax charges is less than it used to be 3 Pack Washable Coral Microfibre Replacement Steam Mop Cleaning Pad for Vax S2 Hard Floor Master Upright Steam Stick and Elbe-Schott Delta Power for example - if they fit the S2 they will fit this

7) Off-on switch on the machine itself, a little easier than having to go back to the plug to turn off if you are needing to move stuff around, want to change the cloth, refill the water tank etc.

8) Personally I'm happier with having a stand-alone floor stick and a separate small tool with all the bits and pieces which do everything including windows, grouting, toilets, ovens etc, as I think they can end up, with the two together as being a bit jack of all trades, but I'm aware that the combo-steams-everything-you-might-ever-want-to steam-except-puddings-pies-and-green-vegetables may be preferred by some

CONS
1. MUSCLES needed. This is considerably more difficult to move around and needs a fair bit of welly. It might not be suitable for someone frailer. I know that some people gave negative ratings to the old S2 for this, something I never found personally, though because the steamies don't get as sopping wet as the old mop and bucket they are needing of a bit more welly than the old fashioneds, but this one is considerably more of a biceps and triceps workout. Saves lifting weights though - those exercises completed with a mopping of the floors! Dampening the mop head first will help. Possibly with another detergent (see 4, below, or maybe one of the eco ones)

2. The insertion and replacement of the combo water and detergent tanks section. This is a struggle. You have to find a very precise angle to do this, and it rather feels as if you are going to break the machine. Again. I know some people found the much simpler manoeuvre of the old S2 challenging, something I solved by using a tiny amount of oil on the gliding edges, as it was purely a `close fit, two surfaces gliding over each other' problem, and the oil aided glide. I haven't yet identified the challenge with this one, I think it is more precision of angle, but my minute application of oil across engaging surfaces approach is pending as well.

3. Connected to this - the detachable handle, which I thought was a great idea enabling under shelf storage is pretty impossible to easily get out one handed. Two person operation needed, one to firmly depress and hold the button, the other to vertically pull the handle. Once IN I couldn't get it OUT!

4. Detergent. TBH I am not convinced detergent HAPPENS. Though I can see, if I use vinyl kitchen floor option, WITH detergent, that the level of water in the water tank goes down as I steam, the level of detergent doesn't seem to. And as the design is such that the end of the steam pipe is above the liquid level, I am left wondering whether any more than a slight drip drip of detergent from tank is getting anywhere - and this may account for all those reviews saying `can't smell any detergent' I may very well go back to the option I use with the old S2 - using a little detergent applied directly to the floor on high traffic/grubby areas - and then steaming over it.

I think dire warnings (right or not) against using anything other than Vax's more highly priced detergent IN the tank will leave me using that option - direct to the floor, something else, once Vax's included with the pack runs out. And, to be honest, it has always been my preference to add a few drops of antimicrobial essential oils ( 6-8)to the outside of my Coral pads (the spider leggy ones) before popping them onto the S2 - that way, you get any antibact you want, without using any harsh detergent with worrying chemistry and because you are not using this in the watertank, its not damaging the machine. (Lemon, bergamot will give a fresh citrus aroma, and for my wood floors, pine, eucalyptus. Even of course splendid tea tree, though it may smell a little too medicinal for some)

So overall I do come, JUST to like this. It does just enough better to send that much more easily used S2 to a better home/recycle. But I suspect the designers are burly chaps with strong wrists and thumbs who work-out regularly. Those of you users who are similarly constructed may have no problems with using this, and snort `get down the gym and do work-outs' to those of us more delicately built and with more average hand strength, who can't rip apart telephone directories or drive nails into walls with thumb strength alone

I would never go back to the old mop and bucket. Steam sticks rule, OK - its just a question of WHICH


Leitz Style A5 Soft Cover Ruled Notebook - Titan Blue
Leitz Style A5 Soft Cover Ruled Notebook - Titan Blue
Price: 22.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 80 sheets of paper, and an elasticated band priced up as something better entirely, 26 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Oh dearie me, according to the product page, 80 sheets of ruled paper in a soft covered A6 notebook, with some additional sticky page markers so you can easily make sections in your notes, plus a couple of integral ribbon bookmarks, an elasticated band to hold the notebook shut and a slot for a pen/pencil, plus some additional pages that can be torn out, if you want, and a paper pocket for looseleaf bits is to be sold at possibly 16.68 or 22! The listing is confusing as following MY review link for the product comes in at 22. Or 16.68 The version I have is the A5 which curiously (for a larger size) is listed as costing some 5 less than the smaller A6. Strewf!!! Style (or the pretence at it) definitely far over substance. I appreciate there are a lot of extra `bits' - but, are they needed, are they worth it? Personally, my answer is no, no.

I freely admit it, I would never pay 22, or indeed 16.68 for a notebook as described above. Well, unless the pages had been hand-sewn and crafted by a group of William Morris disciples, determined to bring back the idea of lovingly engaged in, beautiful craftwork. I love notebooks, and have loads of them, with pretty, individual covers, carefully bought for me by friends. Though I'm sure, beautiful as they are, they probably cost under a fiver.

This one is nothing special, and the reason for the inflated price is beyond me. Was it designed by one of the great and good of the artistic establishment and the marketing department forgot to put the great ones signature, emblazoned in gold-leaf, on the cover?

Cheeky me, I would never have bought it. I took it as an offered freebie to see why. And hopefully, can persuade anyone feeling sad and sorry because no one offered them a 22 or 16.68 freebie notebook that - you missed nothing, dear heart. Really. Had this retailed for around a third, or even half of its price it might have been quite a good idea, with the combination of little bits and pieces, and might even have got an `I like this' from me. But, at such a price, it's a rip-off! It will go to the bottom of the notebook pile, to be used when I run out of the prettier ones I already have, when waiting for Christmas to yield its fine and usual haul of notebooks!

I like to write with the Pilot or Gel type pens, where the ink is a little runnier than on a biro. Unfortunately, there is very slight bleed on this, leading me to assume (sorry) the paper is not as useful/fit for purpose as on my far less expensive notebooks, or indeed even a bog standard A4 pad containing the sort of paper students use for notetaking to be clipped into ring binders.

On the plus side, the pen holder is slightly elasticated, so I could fit that fatter (compared to a biro) pen within it.

But, no a pad sold at an inflated price for its 80 pages and bits, designed for those who like to write as opposed to pick peck thoughts, masterpieces of fiction and the like, this would need to be a very concise masterpiece, with only 80 pages.

Clearly not something this reviewer can do, be concise.


The Silver Linings Playbook
The Silver Linings Playbook
Price: 2.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Warmth and tenderness about mental illness, family dysfunction, relationship breakdown. And American football., 25 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you have no interest in the latter, you may still appreciate this book, despite perhaps learning much more about the Eagles than you never wanted to know anyway! As this becomes a delightful, frustrating, sometimes (to a female) incomprehensible, irritating but wildly funny example of some of the frankly WEIRD ways in which chaps bond!. And if you adore American football, and even more if you are an E-A-G-L-E-S! EAGLES! Fan, delighting in making the shapes of the letters with your legs and arms when with your buddies watching at home, or being present at, a game, you will love this

Pat is a man in his mid thirties, though he believes he is some years younger, having spent more time than he realises in a `neural health facility' in Baltimore (a psychiatric hospital) Pat committed some sort of violent act, and has an obsession with his ex-wife. He is an incurable optimist, dedicated to happy endings in films and determined that the silver linings on clouds, and the happily ever after, must happen. Following his release from the hospital, engineered by his loving mother, he must agree to regular therapy, and a regimen of psychiatric drugs. He has returned to living in the parental home. He has agreed to all of this, and is working hard on shedding the weight he put on in hospital, his goal being to become again the sports and history teacher with a great body which he had when he met and married his ex-wife. He is convinced they can get together again.

In his life he has : a loving mother, a great and supportive and successful brother, a best friend, whose wife has a sister with mental health issues of her own, the kindest and in some ways most unprofessional of therapists, another great friendship with a fellow inmate in that `neural health facility'. He also probably has Asperger's - at least, this is what accounts for his voice, which sounds not cold, but without emotional nuance and subtlety. Pat, despite being prone to a violence he barely understands when he hears smooth jazz music, particularly a specific piece of music played by Kenny G, is a `good person' with a warm and open heart. He is actively working on `being kind'. He also has an extremely dysfunctional father, who is deeply depressed and emotionally cold.

Part of Pat's journey to try and get re-united with his ex-wife, an artistic, intellectual literature major and teacher, is to begin to read through some of her favourite books, particularly those she taught to her students. So he reads, and responds to such books as The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, Catcher In The Rye, The Bell Jar, responding to them with approval or dismay according to his `Silver Lining' philosophy, and need for the happy wrap. There is a lot of warm humour in the author's use of this.

I held back from the final star because the overall tone of this warm, charming and sweet book, despite the bleakness which appears along the way at times, is perhaps a little too anodyne and Hollywood. This did not quite equal my first acquaintance with Matthew Quick: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, which I preferred. Nonetheless, recommended

This was made into a film, which I haven't seen, and didn't know about, so my review is from someone coming new to the book, purely from my appreciation of Quick's writing in Leonard Peacock'


Ashenden (Vintage Classics)
Ashenden (Vintage Classics)
Price: 3.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A cool, clipped narrator narrating tales of espionage, spliced with sudden, deadly bleakness., 24 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
W Somerset Maugham was one of the most commercially successful `popular literary authors' of the first half of the twentieth century. His tone combined a certain waspishness, and indeed emotional coldness (no doubt a result of an emotionally cold childhood) with sudden, unexpected displays of heart. There is a cool precision in his writing, an absence of fussiness, that tells a narrative cleanly and simply, and describes character incisively.

This particular book, `Ashenden' recounts the third person story of a writer, during the First World War, recruited by the Intelligence Department to go to neutral Switzerland, glean information, run Intelligence Operations, trap agents working for Germany, and later to travel to Russia on the eve of the Revolution, to prevent the Russian Revolution and to keep Russia engaged in the war on the Allied side. The book consists of short chapters in which our hero, urbane and observant, plays the espionage game with Bond like suavity (reputedly this book did exert some influence on Fleming) Though Ashenden himself is not the one who dispatches those agents who are spying for Prussia, he certainly lays the traps which will end in their executions by firing squad or dispatching by other means.

What is however the real hook for the modern reader is that Maugham himself was that writer, recruited by the Intelligence Agency, sent to neutral Switzerland and to Russia, with those goals, and the stories told here are factual, `from his case-book, as it were, though shaped and tidied, as Maugham explains in his foreword, for `the purposes of fiction' :

"Fact is a poor story - teller It starts a story at haphazard, generally long before the beginning, rambles on inconsequently and tails off, leaving loose ends hanging about, without a conclusion"

By all accounts, Winston Churchill asked Maugham to burn some of the stories which WERE to have appeared in this book, originally published in 1928, as they breached the Official Secrets Act.

These are beautifully constructed stories, though perhaps Maugham's/Ashenden's in the main rather chilly, mildly amused urbanity does tend to hold the reader also away from emotional engagement. Having said that, this is a device which then works brilliantly in the `wrap' of 2 or 3 of the stories where Ashenden's rather emotionally inhibited, intelligent, ironic, cultured persona temporarily reveals a sombre, bleak acknowledgement that playing the undoubted game of espionage can create collateral damage in the lives of innocents. The story called `The Hairless Mexican' would be an excellent fictional story, but the suspicion it may not be completely fiction delivers the killer punch to the reader.

Maugham's disciplined writing, refusing to emote, merely displaying an event dispassionately, without comment, letting the reader make the judgement, gives the kick to the solar plexus. I think it is the uneasy knowledge that these stories are not really quite fiction, which is responsible for that kick


Cat Mate - 235W - 4 Way Locking Cat Flap/Door With Liner - White
Cat Mate - 235W - 4 Way Locking Cat Flap/Door With Liner - White
Price: 15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Silent, discreet return from the cat disco at dawn, 22 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am delighted with this. More importantly, the felines have not objected.

Many years ago THE brand name for Cat Doors, Staywell, used to produce a square cat flap, with very little wasted space on surround (very like this one, in fact) only in an unappealing dingy brownish shade. This was what I had. it didn't look particularly pretty, but it did work well. Until a set of vigorous and destructive kittens broke it. Unfortunately, Staywell had upgraded to the (to my mind) stupid curved flap in the still square surround base. So that was what I had to have, and it never quite fitted. I was loath to have the carpenter enlarge and reshape the hole in the door, in case I ever found the right one again, or it came back into fashion.

So, a slight draught was the result, and then those vigorous and destructive kittens, now grown, or at least ONE of them, to an impressive Robert Mitchum type shoulder and chest girth, began to struggle with the fact that the curved Staywell flap itself was actually fractionally less wide across the top, and the curved bottom gave much less wriggle room. And broke it. Not to mention the discomfort of his sagging beer-type belly being shaved by the curve (less height, as well as less width, on the inner flap itself)

And then, finally I found Cat Mate's door - which gives the largest possible flap size for the same overall cut out size. AND comes with the 4 way lock (crucial for those nasty vet's visits, where the mere idea of time-to-get-the-basket-out entering my mind seems to provoke a mad dash for the cat flap, and the sight of a trio of cats heading for the hills)

What I like also (compared to that curvilinear Staywell), is the refinement of the little brush surround and magnetised seal. Not only does this create draught proofing, but no longer does the flap slam shut, rudely waking me from slumber even in another room, when something causes those felines to charge in, with no consideration, no doubt well trolleyed after a night on the tiles.

The see through flap is also good for scouting out the lie of the land before entering and exiting.

The big challenge will be to see how the door withstands multiple battering when exit is denied and the hated wicker basket appears..........

I can't comment about ease of fitting, as I was not the one who did it, but I heard no muttered curses whilst the deed was being done, and twere done quickly (cut out hole already being in place and just needing a light sanding to even up an edge)

It's the fact that the maximum space possible is allowed for the flap itself, relative to surround, that makes this a sheer winner. Fat cat, (sorry, chunky, muscular, well-built cat) is particularly delighted, and strolls, rather than hauls himself, in and out


Aqua Optima Juno Jug with Anti Bacteria Water Filter, White
Aqua Optima Juno Jug with Anti Bacteria Water Filter, White
Price: 18.25

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Filtration for Snails, 21 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been using Jug Water Filters now for many years, essential to maintain the life of kettles, coffee makers, irons, steam cleaners and the like, living in a hard water area. Not to mention that I do prefer the taste of the filtered water to tap.

But I've always used a Brita, starting with the various classic varieties, and then latterly, jugs using Brita Maxtra, the larger filters. Many of the more modern filters have some sort of digital display to alert to when the filter needs changing. To my mind, a retrograde step from the old manual method which the user set when they put a new filter in. The displays give up the ghost in 18 months to 2 years, as my current Brita did, a while ago.

So.......a useful opportunity to be offered this Aqua Antibacterial to try. The jug style is similar, a little more streamlined than my old Brita Elemaris. Like that one, it can be stored in the fridge, if desired. There is no display, manual or digi, to set the date of when the cartridge is used, or should be replaced.

These cartridges are more expensive than the Britas BUT, they last for 3 months, not a month, based on a life-span of 300 litre filtering. Actually, that's not much, not if you use filtered water for cooking, drinking, kettles etc - 3 litres a day used up easily.

The large Aqua filter claims to be antibacterial as well as the usual filtering of hard water etc. Obviously, without the home user sending samples of a) water from the tap b) water filtered by a non-bacterial, or not claiming to be so, filter - eg Brita Maxtra, c) water filtered through the Aqua bacterial, there is NO WAY OF KNOWING whether the claims are justified or not. It's easy enough to detect the efficiency of the hard water filtering in the residue on the elements of kettles etc. I know the Brita does that well and dandy, and assume this does too. It's not something which will show immediately anyway (if it doesn't) but will slowly accrue (or not) over a month or so.

Filtered water through a new filter on the Aqua does taste slightly different from filtered water through a new filter (within about the first week of its use) on a Brita. The Brita water on a new filter had a slight sweetness to the taste, to my perceptions, which I liked.

The PLUS on this, is a much better, slightly larger filling opening, which will lead to less splash-back, and the lid fits more snugly than the Brita, pours better

The MINUS is in the review title. It takes an age to filter through. Does this mean it filters better, because it filters around 4 times more slowly? Pass. I have no idea. Once primed and up and running, one litre takes a good 10 minutes to filter. The first few litres took 20 - so, with the pre-soaking for 5 minutes and the run-through-2-litres-of water and discard, third litre is drinkable, it was an hour before I could drink my first glass! A snail could have dessicated by then.

Less easy availability of these antibacterial filters (as the Brita is the most well known, and therefore widely available filter in supermarkets, chemists etc) might be another minus, though of course they are available on this giant mail order site. Plus as a little research has shown that these advertise themselves as being compatible with all `Classic Brita' jugs - Aqua Optima Anti Bacteria Water Filter, Pack of 3, White - that is not those that take Maxtra, the common or garden long universal filters made by either Brita for their classic jugs, or the same, by Aqua, should fit this jug

So, whilst very firmly a water filter user, I have to give an on-the-fence rating to the Aqua AntiBacterial, filter. IF it could be shown there were harmful bacteria in my tapwater, and that these were absent in the filtered Aqua water, I would revise this rating upwards.

Instead, I do rather wonder if the antibacterial is clever marketing. Does our tapwater really contain giardia, cryptosporidium and the like? I think fear is being whipped up in order to create a product niche! The properties might indeed be very useful should I wish to carry my jug into the countryside and decide to drink the water from a lake.

LIKE the better lid and spout DISLIKE the watching paint dry filtration speed.

Cynical question mark face over the necessity for antibacterial filter if using drinkable tap water - i.e., water that doesn't need boiling anyway to render it safe. So.....failing advice from health agencies and the like on national news that our drinking water is no longer safe to drink, I suspect I shall be giving a whirl to the less expensive, universal filters for classic jugs, taking a chance that if these fit Brita classics, as they say they do, those filters must fit this!
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2014 2:51 PM BST


The Devil in the Marshalsea
The Devil in the Marshalsea
Price: 3.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of plot, sketchy on characterisation, 19 Aug 2014
Antonia Hodgson's first novel, set in The Marshalsea debtors prison, made famous in literary fiction by Dickens, has had inevitable `Dickensian' descriptors added in reviews, because of the setting, a certain energy in her writing, and also in connection with the huge cast of raffish characters she employs.

Whilst I enjoyed her verve, `Dickensian' seemed another of those `how-can-we-describe-it' comparisons which have to be less than helpful to the new author. Dickens not only juggled huge casts, he juggled huge and individually memorable casts, by virtue of descriptions which surely and precisely captured and were more than just the size or shape of the individual.

Set some 150 years earlier than Dickens' use of the prison, this 1727 Georgian Marshalsea is in fact a different prison, as the author tells us in her interesting foreword.

Into it, comes Tom Hawkins, a young and honourable rake, son of a country curate, raised to be the same, but constitutionally too much of a bon-viveur, good time boy and appreciator of female charms to become one for the church himself. His fondness for the gaming table and some family machinations and treachery have placed him on the verge of defaulting on debts, and incarceration. And within The Marshalsea is already a crime to be solved, and a complex spider's web of corruption reaching from high society to low society around it. Various people want the crimes solved for varying reasons, and greed, ambition, revenge, power, delight in cruelty, lust, love and hate are all part of the complex rationale for Hodgson's characters to proceed

Hodgson, despite the vivacity and energy (and horror) of her Marshalsea did leave me thinking - `now who was that?' often, as the interminable brutality of the various keepers, warders and the like, and the interminable suffering and cruelty visited against the inmates was not always easy to distinguish each person from within one of two groups.

I also found, fairly quickly, that I had understood her `trick' with plot and character - volte-face every character, so that no one is what they seem (other than the central narrator) and then you immediately know who, how, what. The element of surprise quickly left me.

It looks like this may be setting up somehow to be a series with Hawkins as a Georgian detective. For my tastes, the author can spin a plot, but has not provided actors of believable complexity to make me want to go further with her, and could easily have excised some of her formidable research in order to have moved her plot more trippingly along. Which is needed when character is not deep and rich enough to make lingering enjoyable.

I received this as a review copy via the publisher, Hodder


This Is How
This Is How
Price: 4.63

3.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling portrayal of dissociation set in a not completely accurate place and time, 10 Aug 2014
This review is from: This Is How (Kindle Edition)
Set in a seaside town in Southern England in some time frame which might be, variously, some time between 1965 and 1975 (see later) This is How follows the story of Patrick Oxtoby, a man in his early-mid 20's from (the signs indicate) a lower-middle class background, who is rather socially unskilled, somewhat of a loner, unable to properly `read' people, who dropped out of university and became a car mechanic. He has left home, is subject to, it seems, irrational, slightly paranoid thoughts, and at the same time has something about him which makes women feel attracted to him - or at least, not find him repellent, even if they might just want to mildly mother him, rather than take things more intimately.

The book is written in the first person, through Patrick's eyes, and so everyone else in the book is interpreted or mis-interpreted by him. And, to be honest, everyone seems a little weird, a little unhinged, a little flakey and lost. But because Patrick is so clearly and obviously an outsider, with some not fully defined personality or behavioural disorder - the reader realises he is most certainly `an unreliable narrator' It's possible he could perhaps be mildly on the autistic spectrum, he might be even be to some degree sociopathic, but he certainly has limitation to being able to properly read other people, and a fairly high level of social anxiety.

A combination of Patrick's nature, his impulsivity, and external circumstances, leads him to a violent act he can't really explain (either to himself or anyone else)

The book is divided into two halves, the build-up to that violence, and its aftermath.

I struggled a little with the first half, simply because first person narrative from a character who effectively was a remarkably fixed one, with his particular inability to be nuanced in his responses, made for quite heavy, despairing and, to be honest, a little dull, reading. There was very little light within the shade, and unlike some other books with disaffected, rather dour characters, there was not much progression going on to relieve the dreadfully leaden angst. Not to mention the fact that it was obvious (and not just from the publisher resume on the back jacket) that some act of violence was going to be carried out by Patrick.

It was late on in the book, in the `After The Event', that I began to find more absorption in my reading. This was for two reasons - Patrick's carapace begins to give way, and though we continue to see the world through his eyes, the characters in his world in the second half become more clearly drawn, their stories and back-stories become more personalised. And Patrick does begin to see that other people have their own identities and challenges outside of him. So, change and development begins subtly to happen, and because of this, the book feels as if it is going somewhere

The second half then takes the book, for me, to a higher rating than I expected earlier on, though I do still have reservations at what seems to be conflicts and inaccuracies or imprecise setting in time and place, as detailed below.

Capital punishment for murder in the Great Britain was abolished in 1965, and some 8 years later in Northern Ireland. At some point in M.J. Hyland's book, This Is How, a prisoner makes reference to changes since in abolition of the death penalty '10 years ago', which presumably sets the book in 1975. However, curiously there is a scene set some few months before this conversation, where a court case is in early process, and the defendant asks their brief why there are only 2 women on the jury. To which the reply comes that only property owners (or the named tenant on a secure lease) could be jurors. This rule which meant that fewer women, younger people, or poorer people could be jurors, changed from 1972. Yet the central character of the book, Patrick Oxtoby, working as a car mechanic, is asked at one point to do some repair work on a 1966 MGB Convertible `only a few years old' And a desired car which the central character borrows to impress a young woman, at the same time is a Triumph TR4. This was manufactured between 1965 and 1968 (so my Wiki searches told me) I know nothing about cars, but it was the curious legal anomalies which had me confused as to exactly when this was supposed to be set which had me drawn out of the story and researching time setting indicators

I did like the bleak spareness of the author's style, and on the focus on interior life. It's a brave, even if not completely successful, choice to attempt to explore, in any depth, only the psychology of remarkably damaged men (particularly from a female writer, who curiously seems to create more credible male characters than she does the (few) females within these pages.


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