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P. Kendell (Wokingham, England)

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Pinzon - 100% Cotton  Towel Set (2 bath towels) -Eucalyptus Green
Pinzon - 100% Cotton Towel Set (2 bath towels) -Eucalyptus Green
Price: £16.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value towels that benefit from an initial wash and tumble dry, 19 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These towels represent good value in the middle of the quality range. They are comparable to Marks and Spencer or John Lewis towels costing more.

Initial impressions on opening the pack were disappointing as the towels felt rather flat and thin. However, once washed and used the pile stood up nicely - it was compressed in packaging and transit - and they feel much thicker and fluffier now. Just remember to wash them gently and never to use fabric conditioner as it makes the tufts clump together. If you have a tumble dryer, that's great, otherwise hanging them on an outside drier on a breezy day will give the best results.

Philips E27 6 Watt LED Edison Screw, Warm White
Philips E27 6 Watt LED Edison Screw, Warm White
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An ingenious dimmable LED which gives a good simulation of a clear tungsten bulb, 19 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very cleverly designed LED bulb. In case it's not clear from the pictures and product description, there is a ring of LEDs in the base of this lamp and above them stands a clear plastic lightguide folded over at the top into the form of a crown. When the LEDs illuminate, their light is carried up the guide and spread out sideways. The crown-shaped piece simulates the characteristic shape of the tungsten filament in an old-fashioned clear bulb. The effect is very realistic, especially as the 2700K colour temperature of the LEDs is close to the original.

Amazon are doing themselves and their customers no favours in the product description, however, because they fail to make it clear that this is a dimmable lamp. I had to go to the Philips website to discover this. Dimming works well, except for a tendency to flicker at low settings, possibly due to an incompatibility between this lamp and my dimmer. However, I don't get this flickering with tungsten bulbs. That's a shame, because otherwise this would have been a five-star review.

The Cazalets: The epic full-cast BBC Radio dramatisation
The Cazalets: The epic full-cast BBC Radio dramatisation
by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £20.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A high-quality dramatisation that lovers of the original books will enjoy, 16 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is not the BBC's first attempt at dramatising Elizabeth Jane Howard's famous family saga. There was a TV adaptation in 2001 which was cancelled after only six episodes. Thankfully, this new audio version is complete.

The BBC have a reputation for producing excellent radio drama, and this large-scale production thoroughly lives up to it. The five books in the series - The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off and All Change - have been condensed into around twelve and a half hours of drama, spread over eleven CDs. The series was originally broadcast in 15-minute segments on BBC Radio 4.

The production standards are very high; beautifully recorded with clear voices, music and sound effects in the classic BBC manner.

This is a skilful dramatisation, despite a number of cuts; for instance the characters of Richard, Teddy and Bernadette are absent. But the cuts are necessary, otherwise the whole thing would have become impossibly unwieldy.

Performances on the whole are excellent. My one reservation is that Clary sounds affected and, what is worse, the adaptation makes Clary into the narrator, Penelope Wilton. There is no way on earth that that voice could have morphed into the mellifluous tones of Penelope Wilton. However, everyone manages to sound convincingly 1930s and 1940s (and ‘50s).

I was afraid that the piano music which occurs every ten to fifteen minutes was going to become annoying, but it didn't; you get used to it.

All said, if you have enjoyed reading the books you will probably enjoy listening to this production too.

The CDs are stacked one on top of one another in the box and do not have individual protective sleeves. This makes for a very compact package and doubtless helps to reduce its cost. However, it can be a little awkward in use and you tend to end up with two piles of loose CDs; one of discs that you've listened to and other one of the ones you've not heard yet. And, of course, you can't listen to them on the go unless you have a portable CD player.

I don't usually care for downloads - they don't have the reassurance of physically owning the media - but this is one case where it might be better to buy the download even though, strangely, it costs more than the CDs. That way you can listen to the series while, for example, commuting by public transport. On the other hand if you like to listen to audiobooks in the car, this CD package will help while away many happy miles.

Philips B22 6 Watt LED 40W WW 230V A60 FR ND/4, Warm White
Philips B22 6 Watt LED 40W WW 230V A60 FR ND/4, Warm White
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent replacement for traditional bulbs and CFLs, 15 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It seems odd to be reviewing an item that's been discontinued, but here goes...

LED lamps have (at last) reached the point where they can be considered the go-to form of domestic lighting. They're ideally suited to locations where the light may be on for long periods - especially in winter - but also need to come to full brightness immediately. So: halls, stairs and landings, bathrooms and cloakrooms are where you should put them first.

This 6W lamp is approximately equivalent to a 40W tungsten bulb or an 11W compact fluorescent (CFL) fitting. Its light quality is nothing like the glaring blue-white of previous LEDs, but more like that of a traditional bulb. Because the upper half of the lamp is opaque it's best suited to installations where it hangs downwards.

It's rated at 50,000 on-off cycles and 15,000 hours running. Obviously no review can verify that but I'll update this one if the bulb fails after only a few months.

AEG AG5104WD Rapido Wet and Dry Handheld Cleaner, 4.8 V
AEG AG5104WD Rapido Wet and Dry Handheld Cleaner, 4.8 V
Price: £47.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Good handy vac with a few quirks, 15 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a hand-held cordless vacuum with some excellent design features, but a few quirks too. Let's start with the good stuff:

- It's light and easy to use. The crevice tool gives a useful increase in airflow for sucking the dust out of sofas and from skirting boards and carpet edges. Although it only has a 4.8 volt motor, it's powerful enough for the job.
- The manufacturer's claim of ten minutes' endurance is well-founded. I ran mine from full charge and it lasted twelve minutes. The first six minutes gave the best cleaning power, though.
- It's a wet-and-dry cleaner, so you can suck up minor spills with it. It's really useful if you're cleaning the filter on your washing machine, for example.
- The charger base is adjustable for angle - convenient for small storage areas.
- The wheels are inspired - they make it really easy to use.

But on the other hand:

- The charger is phenomenally slow. I found that it takes at least fourteen hours to reach full charge from full discharge. That's nearly one and a half hours' charging for every minute spent cleaning. The charger is tiny and only delivers 200mA. It's smaller and less powerful than my phone charger. Surely AEG can do better than this?
- There's stowage in the charger base for the squeegee attachment but not the crevice tool. It's so irritating when attachments go missing. Fortunately you can leave it attached to the cleaner most of the time.
- The charger base has holes for fixing it to the wall, but no screws or plugs are included.

If these niggles don't put you off, you'll find this to be a pretty decent handy vac. Four stars well earned.

EMERGEN-C Zingy Lemon Energy Release and Immunity Support Food Supplement - Pack of 16
EMERGEN-C Zingy Lemon Energy Release and Immunity Support Food Supplement - Pack of 16
Price: £9.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Potent; but expensive, stuffed with E-numbers and not to everyone's taste, 11 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Did you enjoy sherbet powder when you were small? If so, this might be just the thing you're looking for. Pour half a glass of water, tip in a a sachet, stir and drink. Instant nostalgia!

But wait. This isn't a fizzy drink for kids, it's a vitamin supplement and needs to be considered accordingly. There are lots of valid reasons for taking a supplement. You may lead the kind of life that is so busy you never get a chance to eat as good a diet as you'd like. You may be going through a phase when you're so short of time - work, children, commuting, Real Life in general - that you have no time left to cook from fresh ingredients. If you believe you need to supplement your diet for a while then this product may be what you need.

Or, again, you may feel a cold coming on and want to boost your vitamin C intake. If so, Emergen-C may fill your need. However, at 60p a sachet it's pretty expensive. You can get generic vitamin C tablets for much less than that. Also, there are 6 E-numbered chemicals in every dose and it's unsuitable for vegetarians as it contains bovine gelatine. Why a fizzy drink needs gelatine completely escapes me.

So, if you try this supplement and feel better for it, that's fine, but you're paying a premium for it.

Ultrasport Women's Ski Pants Arlberg - Black, Small
Ultrasport Women's Ski Pants Arlberg - Black, Small
Price: £69.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Immensely practical, 8 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I’m a non-skier, so this kind of clothing is not familiar. My first impression was of great bulk, caused by the padding; however, in extreme conditions, this would be necessary. The trousers are well supplied with pockets, and the zips at the bottom allow them to be worn over boots. They are very practical.

Size: there are Velcro tabs which allow you to pull the waist in.

The material makes a swishing noise, disconcerting at first, but you would get used to that.

In cold weather they would be ideal for rambling, walking, gardening or any other outdoor pursuits.

Celestron Astromaster 76EQ
Celestron Astromaster 76EQ
Price: £79.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent first telescope, 1 Oct 2014
This telescope is a great introduction to astronomy. It costs only a little more than table-top toys and dodgy two-inch refractors but delivers a terrific package for the money. It may be inexpensive, but it is a real telescope, with an equatorial mount (so you can track objects easily), a reasonably stable tripod with a useful tray, and two eyepieces. One is a 20 mm erecting eyepiece that nicely covers the area of the full moon, the other is 10 mm and allows you to look at parts of the moon's surface or see the planets clearly.

As the focussing tube is a standard 1.25" diameter you can attach other eyepieces (5 mm is the shortest practical focal length for a 3" mirror with a 700 mm focal length) or slot in a webcam adaptor. I've had good results using a clamp holding a compact camera to the eyepiece.

What can you realistically expect to see with this 'scope? Well, a 3" mirror doesn't gather all that much light, so the dimmer deep-sky objects are probably out of reach unless you have very dark skies. You'll definitely see the rings of Saturn (but not the Cassini Division unless the seeing is especially good). Mars will show a definite disc, but not much detail, and Jupiter and its moons will be spectacular.

The red-dot finder comes in for a lot of stick - and it's not undeserved - but with a bit of practice it can be made to work. Celestron sell an optional motor to keep objects in view as the earth rotates.

This is a beginner's telescope, to be sure, but it's good enough not to disappoint while you discover whether you've got the star-gazing bug or not.

Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium 13.0 (PC)
Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium 13.0 (PC)
Price: £136.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Works fantastically well; far better than previous versions, 23 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Speech recognition and dictation software has been around for quite a few years now and, frankly, it's not been very good.

However, times move on, and on-line services like Google Now and Siri are offering high quality voice recognition on mobile platforms. They do this by using powerful servers to process your voice. The challenge for off-line voice recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking is to achieve the same level of accuracy as online services on moderately powered hardware without the need for lengthy and tedious training.

I'm using Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 13 to dictate this review, and I'm achieving very high rates of accuracy - well over 98% - without having done any training at all. I've never seen this level of accuracy in previous versions of Dragon, especially straight out of the box. Whole sentences are being perfectly transcribed, one after another. It's uncanny.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 13 is supported on Windows 7, 32-bit and 64-bit, and Windows 8 and 8.1, but no previous versions of Windows. It supports MS Office 2010 and 2013, but I have been able to dictate into Microsoft Word 2007 with no problems.

The Premium package comes with a light and comfortable headset, but I have also tested it with a desk microphone and an Olympus pocket voice recorder. It worked very well with both.

I had a few questions about the licensing conditions, but Nuance support were able to answer them very quickly and straightforwardly. This is most encouraging, and gives me confidence that they will be able to answer in a timely manner any other questions I may have.

Not everybody needs or can use dictation software, but if you're a rotten typist (like I am!), or find it difficult to use a keyboard, for example because you have issues with RSI, then this new version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking could be the answer to your problems. It is far ahead of any previous versions I have tried and despite being rather expensive is easy to recommend.

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but too long, 18 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Girl on the Train (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Until about three-quarters of the way through I though that this was a book with a complex, but not hideously convoluted, plot. Then for some reason it lost me. I think it is probably too long.

The structure is unusual; it has two time frames, one main narrator and two secondary narrators. Rachel, the protagonist, is an alcoholic, so an unreliable narrator; consequently no one believes anything she says. The depiction of her disintegration is the novel’s best aspect.

The publicity refers to Hitchcock, and there are nods to Rear Window and The Lady Vanishes. They are indirect nods; the novel reminded me slightly of both of them.

Certainly there’s a lot of suspense, and it is well-written, with some convincing characters. But it is yet another woman-in-jeopardy (women-in-jeopardy, in fact) scenario, and that becomes a bit tiresome. It is, however, involving, until the point where it became over-long and over-ingenious.

Warning: there’s a Grand Guignol moment near the end.

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