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C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK)
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Zyliss Swivel Peeler
Zyliss Swivel Peeler
Price: £4.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does The Job, 6 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What can you say about the Zyliss Swivel Peeler?

It peels vegetables. Its comfortable to hold. Its well built. It cleans up easily and dishwasher friendly. The blade for removing eyes is useful.

Beyond that I can't think of much to add.


Concord Spin Highchair (Orange)
Concord Spin Highchair (Orange)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 26 July 2013
Normally I wouldn't bother reviewing something as functional as a highchair, but the Concord Spin Highchair is such a work of genius I wanted to let other people know.

First let me say that the Concord Spin is the third proper high chair we have actualls owned, and like most parents with two children we have tried out multiple others over the years in restaurants and friends houses, so I feel I have some expertise in this area.

I also don't use the word genius lightly, or tend to award many things five stars on Amazon. However in this case both accolades are deserved.

Why? Well where to start?

1. Its light but sturdy - Made from plastic and aluminium the Spin is light enough to pick up one handed, but feels solid and sturdy. The plastic parts are connected to the metal using solid pins, so can't come away over time, and the metal frame gives the whole this a rigidity that is is reassuring when you're putting your child in it.

2. Its compact - Before realising how good it was the thing that attracted me to the Spin was its size when set up. We have a small kitchen, so I didn't want a highchair that was too bulky, and with its slim profile the Spin meets that requirement. However, even better is how small it is when collapsed. Once you fold it up as small as it will go it measures barely two feet by three feet by a couple of inches; small enough to store in a cupboard or prop against a wall out of the way. Its so light and compact when folded up you can use it as a travel highchair if you need to.

3. It folds up so easily - Pull one handle, rotate the seat, collapse the legs, put the tray away and you're done. It takes about five seconds to collapse the Spin or to set it up, which means you really can put it away when its not in use and not have to waste too much time when you need it again. You can even collapse it one handed with a bit of practice, which is important when you're holding a small child, and its light enough to carry in one hand whilst holding a child with the other.

4. Its easy to keep clean - We've had our Spin for a couple of months and it looks almost brand new. The materials used are pretty much stain resistant and a quick wipe down is usually enough to keep them clean. The design means there are no awkward crannies where food gets stuck. The fact that you can remove the tray to wipe it down makes keeping it clean a doddle. The padding is machine washable and pretty stain resistant. Even the straps can be removed for washing periodically, something you can't do with a lot of highchairs.

5. It looks good - A minor consideration, but true.

6. Its safe and comfortable - With or without the tray in place my daughter, who is now ten months old, feels secure when strapped in and there's a child-proof lock to prevent little fingers accidentally undoing the straps. Whilst the Spin is relatively compact, its big enough to be used with older toddlers and based on the fact that my daughter seems quite happy when sat in it for longer periods of time, its obviously quite comfortable both with and without the removable padding,

Are there any downsides? None that I have found yet. My wife has commented that it would be nice if it had wheels, but that about the only limitation I can think of apart from the price tag. However I can honestly say it is definitely worth the money.


Concord Spin Highchair (White/ Pepper)
Concord Spin Highchair (White/ Pepper)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 25 July 2013
Normally I wouldn't bother reviewing something as functional as a highchair, but the Concord Spin Highchair is such a work of genius I wanted to let other people know.

First let me say that the Concord Spin is the third proper high chair we have actualls owned, and like most parents with two children we have tried out multiple others over the years in restaurants and friends houses, so I feel I have some expertise in this area.

I also don't use the word genius lightly, or tend to award many things five stars on Amazon. However in this case both accolades are deserved.

Why? Well where to start?

1. Its light but sturdy - Made from plastic and aluminium the Spin is light enough to pick up one handed, but feels solid and sturdy. The plastic parts are connected to the metal using solid pins, so can't come away over time, and the metal frame gives the whole this a rigidity that is is reassuring when you're putting your child in it.

2. Its compact - Before realising how good it was the thing that attracted me to the Spin was its size when set up. We have a small kitchen, so I didn't want a highchair that was too bulky, and with its slim profile the Spin meets that requirement. However, even better is how small it is when collapsed. Once you fold it up as small as it will go it measures barely two feet by three feet by a couple of inches; small enough to store in a cupboard or prop against a wall out of the way. Its so light and compact when folded up you can use it as a travel highchair if you need to.

3. It folds up so easily - Pull one handle, rotate the seat, collapse the legs, put the tray away and you're done. It takes about five seconds to collapse the Spin or to set it up, which means you really can put it away when its not in use and not have to waste too much time when you need it again. You can even collapse it one handed with a bit of practice, which is important when you're holding a small child, and its light enough to carry in one hand whilst holding a child with the other.

4. Its easy to keep clean - We've had our Spin for a couple of months and it looks almost brand new. The materials used are pretty much stain resistant and a quick wipe down is usually enough to keep them clean. The design means there are no awkward crannies where food gets stuck. The fact that you can remove the tray to wipe it down makes keeping it clean a doddle. The padding is machine washable and pretty stain resistant. Even the straps can be removed for washing periodically, something you can't do with a lot of highchairs.

5. It looks good - A minor consideration, but true.

6. Its safe and comfortable - With or without the tray in place my daughter, who is now ten months old, feels secure when strapped in and there's a child-proof lock to prevent little fingers accidentally undoing the straps. Whilst the Spin is relatively compact, its big enough to be used with older toddlers and based on the fact that my daughter seems quite happy when sat in it for longer periods of time, its obviously quite comfortable both with and without the removable padding,

Are there any downsides? None that I have found yet. My wife has commented that it would be nice if it had wheels, but that about the only limitation I can think of apart from the price tag. However I can honestly say it is definitely worth the money.


The Leveling (A Mark Sava Spy Novel)
The Leveling (A Mark Sava Spy Novel)
by Dan Mayland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Fresh Take On The Great Game, 25 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Leveling is Dan Mayland's follow-up to his first novel featuring former spy Mark Sava, The Colonel's Mistake (A Mark Sava Thiller) and deals with very much the same subject matter in a similar style. Its also at least as good as its predecessor.

Once again Mark Sava, still working as an academic in Baku, Azerbaijan, finds himself sucked into the political intrigues of central Asia where the world's great powers, including the US and China still compete for influence in a modern version of the 'Great Game' once played by Russia and Great Britain. This time what's at stake is a possible war between the US and Iran, although Sava and his compatriots are unaware of this; for them its all about rescuing a friend in need.

Its nice little twists like that; the fact that Sava & Co are unaware that what they're doing will ultimately prevent a catastrophic war, that keeps The Leveling feeling fresh. In a marketplace chock full of thrillers where the hero saves the civilised world from terrorist plot it nice to come across one where the lead characters aren't out to save western civilisation and not all Muslim characters are maniacal fanatics.

With most of the action set in Central Asia, territory not heavily trafficked by other thrillers, and characters who are flawed, complex and recognisably human, The Leveling is in most ways a superior spy thriller. It also doesn't lack for action, with a number of chases and no small amount of violence peppering the story.

Overall this is an intelligent, realistic and exciting thriller. Number 3 in the series will be on my reading list.


Brilliance (The Brilliance Saga Book 1)
Brilliance (The Brilliance Saga Book 1)
by Marcus Sakey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Original Idea But Predictably Plotted, 19 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Brilliance is a classic example of a great concept let down by execution.

Marcus Sakey's alternative reality where, from the late 70's onwards, immensely gifted children began to be born, radically altering the course of history and by their simple existence creating new tensions between 'Brilliants' and normal people is great creation that is cleverly handled. This is an alternative history that feels real, you can genuinely believe in and is genuinely original.

Its just a pity that the story Sakey chooses to set in this world is by comparison so derivative. Not that it starts out that way. During the first third , as you get to understand how the world Sakey has created differs, often subtly, from our own and the plot begins to unfold the book is highly entertaining. Its when the central character, Nick Cooper, makes a critical choice a third of the way in that the story suddenly becomes incredibly predicable.

From that point on it becomes so obvious where the story will go that much of the excitement that characterised the book's opening passages evaporates. There's still a decent amount of action and both the world and characters in it continue to develop, but I could see each turn of the plot coming a mile off they were signalled so transparently. Nothing came as a surprise, not even the big 'twist', which was clearly telegraphed as early as one hundred pages in.

However, I am still giving 'Brilliance' four stars, although it only just scrapes the fourth. Despite all the problems with plot and narrative the strength of the concept, some solid characterisation and decent action meant I still liked it, and there was enough promise there to make me pick up the next in what apparently will be a trilogy of books when its published.


The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur
The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur
by Richard Byrne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.31

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not A Classic, 16 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Whilst nicely illustrated nicely enough The Really, Really Really Big Dinosaur didn't really, really, really grab my three-year-old son. The first time we read it together he began to lose interest before the end. A couple more attempts resulted in similar responses, and he never asks to read it at bed time. Whilst the latter is true of many of his books, it does suggest that The Really, Really Really Big Dinosaur isn't destined to become a much loved classic.

As the adult reading it I also have to admit that I was hardly gripped or enthralled, which is also rather important when you're the one who has to potentially read the words again, and again and again.


Lexicon
Lexicon
by Max Barry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting But Lacks Emotional Depth, 16 Jun 2013
This review is from: Lexicon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Lexicon is a frustrating book. Its packed full of clever ideas and original concepts, but I found it almost impossible to connect to on an emotional level. In both respects it was very similar to the other Max Barry novel I've read; Syrup.

The lack of emotional engagement stems from the fact that the story Barry tells does feel in any way grounded in a recognisable world. His idea that words can have genuine, tangible power is interesting and some of the concepts he comes up with, such as 'Poets' and 'bare Words' are genuinely clever, but they're never properly integrated in the the wider world. For example we're asked to believe in the existence of groups of all powerful 'Poets' around the world, but we're never shown tangible examples of how they use their powers to influence people and events. Rather as in Syrup, Barry has created a sort of bubble of heightened reality in which events in the book take place, but he never weaves that bubble into the world around and so any sense of there being genuine, world changing consequences to events on the page diminishes and with it the reader's emotional engagement.

That might not have been a problem had the characters in Lexicon been written in such a way that the reader genuinely cared about them or their predicaments, but they're not and we don't. In order to serve the book's convoluted plot and narrative structure, with constants shifts in time and place and multiple twists and turns, we're never really allowed get to know any of the characters until its too late to form a genuine attachment to them. As a consequence much of the story, including a tragic love affair, remains rather sterile.

This lack of real engagement with the book meant I struggled to stick with it and when I did finally finish it I felt underwhelmed. Max Barry is a clever writer who is not short of ideas, and his prose style is sound. However, in the case of Lexicon he needed to engage the reader's heart as much as their brain; something is singularly failed to do with me.


AEG UltraOne AUO8820 Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner, 5 Litre, 2200 Watt, Clear Blue
AEG UltraOne AUO8820 Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner, 5 Litre, 2200 Watt, Clear Blue

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does A Good Job, 25 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you're in the market for a bagged vacuum cleaner, then the AEG UltraOne AUO8820 would probably meet most of your requirements.

In terms of cleaning power, it gets the job done. Suction from the 2200W drive is impressive, even once the bag starts to fill up, and it tackles carpets and hard floors equally well. If looks matter to you then the UltraOne shouldn't offend your sensibilities. The version I received was actually black, not blue, with silver highlights, but it looks pretty good. Design wise there are some nice touches, including a useful handle on the junction of the flexible hose and rigid suction tube, which make pushing the vacuum around a lot easier. The whole unit is reasonably compact and lightweight, and build quality, based on two week's use, seems pretty good. Bag capacity also seems reasonable, with no change yet required after two weeks' use.

If I have criticisms they are reserved for two aspects of the UltrOne. The first is the buttons used to change the vacuum cleaner's settings, with the light that shows which setting is currently selected. At the moment they all work fine but I am concerned that heavy use, this system is not a robust as the simple manual dial on my old Miele S6220 2000 Watt Cat and Dog Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner, Tayberry Red. It seems an overly complicated method for changing the settings and one that has been included for aesthetic reasons rather than practical ones.

The second more glaring niggle is the 'multi-tool' vacuum head included with the UltraOne. This is the small tool fitted to the suction tube to allow you to clean small, narrow or hard to reach spaces. In most similar vacuums you would find two or three tools stored somewhere inside the body of the unit. The tool supplied with the UltraOne is stored under a hatch above the cleaning bag, but in this case AEG have saved space by combining three tools in one, with the single tool converting from brush to narrow head to small, flat cleaning head. In addition to saving space and weight this design feature also saves you having to reach for a different tool for each cleaning task. Unfortunately in order to get a single tool to do three jobs AEG have compromised on the tool' performance and its robustness. Whilst the brush works well, the narrow and flat cleaning heads and simultaneously flimsy and poor at their tasks. A case of a nice idea, poorly executed.

However, overall the AEG UltraOne is a decent enough, powerful, compact vacuum cleaner. Its hard to get excited about this sort of appliance, but so far I'm impressed with its performance.


The Human Division #6: The Back Channel
The Human Division #6: The Back Channel
Price: £0.61

4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Perspective, 13 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
One of John Scalzi's skills as a sci-fi author is his ability to make aliens feel like real 'people' and therefore be relatable to the reader without them losing their inate 'otherness'. He did it very successfully in The Android's Dream, and he does it again in 'The Back Channel'.

It makes a nice change from the focus on the human characters. It also a genuinely entertaining episode and at times very funny too.


The Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series
The Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series
by James Rollins
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 13 Mar 2013
I generally like James Rollins' books, even if he's been coasting somewhat with some of his more recent Sigma novels. However I have to say that Blood Gospel is fundamentally not a very good book, which is really disappointing considering I bought in hardback whilst on a trip to the US.

The concept (a hidden supernatural war between vampires) is hardly fresh and has been done better by other authors. The characters, especially the human ones, don't in any way behave like normal or real people. The clunky Gothic romance elements sit awkwardly with the action-adventure aspects of the story, and the story itself is basically just a series of increasingly labored action sequences strung together with some pretty illogical plotting.

By halfway through I found I was actually becoming bored with the story & characters. By the final third I was skipping pages to get to the end.

The Blood Gospel is the first part of a trilogy and ends with a surprise 'twist'. I shan't be coming back for the next volume.


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