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C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK)
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The Leopards of Normandy: Devil: Leopards of Normandy 1
The Leopards of Normandy: Devil: Leopards of Normandy 1
by David Churchill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting History Let Down By Soap Opera Dramatics, 5 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Devil, the first volume in David Churchill's 'Leopards of Normandy' trilogy following the life and times of William the Conqueror, is not a bad stab at historical 'faction'. Its certainly no worse than many best selling efforts in the genre. It also benefits from the advantage of dealing with an individual who may be well known by name but whose autobiographical details have not been widely covered. That lends the book's story a degree of both originality and unpredictability; especially as this first volume concentrates more on the lives of William's parents, wider family, friends and enemies rather than the Conqueror himself. Despite knowing something about William's origins much of what 'Devil' revealed was new to me and much of it was fascinating.

Indeed Churchill is a good history teacher, laying out the story of William's origins clearly and succinctly. Bearing in mind that the book covers the events of several years and features a cast of over a dozen key characters, its to the author's credit that the reader never gets lost or becomes overwhelmed with facts and historical minutae.

However, whilst the history is handled well Devil is let down by weak characterisation, a lack of emotional depth and subtlety and some lumpen prose and dialogue. Churchill may have done his historical research, but when it comes to creating compelling characters or generating atmosphere he has a great deal to learn. None of the characters in the book really leaps off the page or feels like a real, living and breathing human being. Even supposedly charismatic individuals such as William's father Robert come across as one dimensional and lacking in substance. The problem is compounded by the lack of nuance in the characterisations; in Devil the bad guys are wife beaters, perverts or worse, whilst the good guys are heroic, strong yet caring. In a fantasy epic this black and white treatment might just about be acceptable, but for a book purporting to be based on fact and set in the real world its just too simplistic.

Combine the poorly drawn characters with an excessive amount of sub-Mills and Boon style sex (which in one case involves literal bodice-ripping) that is simultaneously cringe-making and strangely coy in a 'pre-watershed' way and therefore unsatisfactory to both those wanting less detail and those desiring more, and the end result is fascinating story undermined by soap-opera level dramatics. Even some medieval military action, competently described by Churchill without generating real heightened excitement or a sense of genuine danger, and a tacked on conspiracy/murder mystery can't elevate Devil beyond the run-of-the-mill.

So, points to David Churchill for trying to shine a light on the background and early years of an infamous but much misunderstood character from history and doing so in a clear, easy to follow fashion. Its just a pity that he isn't able to mix the fascinating play of historical events he lays out so well with equally interesting, intriguing and well drawn characters, or breath genuine life into their interactions.


Skin Game (The Dresden Files, Book 15)
Skin Game (The Dresden Files, Book 15)
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Return To Top Form For Harry & Co., 17 April 2015
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Although I have enjoyed every one of Jim Butcher's 14 previous 'Dresden Files' novels, my one significant criticism of the more recent entries in the series is that the big finales have sometimes gone somewhat OTT. The trend started with Harry Dresden riding a zombie dinosaur though downtown Chicago, but it reached its peak with the massive island assault at the end of vol. 14, Cold Front, which became an all-out supernatural battle in the middle of lake Michigan.

I have nothing against big set pieces per se, but for me the Dresden Files' increasing over reliance on them robbed the series of some of it original appeal. After all, as the 'Dresden Files' sub-title suggests, this was originally an urban fantasy take on the film-noir Detective series; Philip Marlowe with magic if you like. However, over time and as Jim Butcher expanded the alternative universe in which the stories are set, the books have become less mysteries with a magical spin and more grand fantasy epics. They were still enjoyable, but some of what made the early novels such as Storm Front so great for me had been lost.

I am happy to report therefore, that with Skin Game Jim Butcher seems to have rediscovered some of the old magic, if you will pardon the expression, by returning Harry back to a smaller scale adventure. The ever expanding universe is still there and there are still moments that make me wonder how the general public could still possibly be in denial about the existence of magic (bronze lion statue coming to life in downtown Chicago anyone?), but there are no massed battles between supernatural armies, the stakes aren't world-changing and the central cast is kept to a reasonably tight number of players.

Moreover Skin Game is very much a 'crime novel' with a robbery, albeit a supernatural one, central to the plot. Its also plays homage to the series' noir-ish origins and inspirations by having more crosses and double crosses than the Maltese Falcon and featuring all the staples of a good pulp Detective novel, including femme-fatales, hulking henchmen (or hench-monsters in this case) and mob-bosses.

It also features an ending that for once feels like a proper, satisfying ending, with minimal loose ends left hanging. No, Jim Butcher doesn't wrap up every sub-plot in the wider Dresden-verse and I wouldn't expect him to in the course of one novel, but the novel's central plot is brought to a pretty definitive conclusion, there are no cliff-hangers, and many of the series heroes and their interpersonal relationships are left in far better places than when the book began.

All of which serves to make Skin Game the most enjoyable Dresden File for a long time and has restored my slightly waning faith in the series. Next time I will not wait nearly a year to pick up the latest volume in the series, and I will hope that Jim Butcher manages to maintain Harry and his Friends' return to form.


The Great Zoo Of China
The Great Zoo Of China
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and propulsive, yet also shallow and superficial, 15 April 2015
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If you are willing to entirely suspend your sense of disbelief and can put up with clunky dialogue, one dimensional characterisation, the laws of physics being broken on multiple occasions, plot holes that are barely papered over and a prose style that can best be described as 'functional', then The Great Zoo Of China is a hoot. Like many of Matthew Reilly's novels its the literary equivalent of Haribo sweets; not good for you and with zero nutritional value but surprisingly tasty, strangely moreish and easy to get through. It is also blessedly free of the tween-friendly sensibilities of his Jack West series, and hews closer to his Scarecrow novels in terms of tone.

If however, you can't go along with the idea of hibernating dragons being uncovered in China (partially ripping off the Christian Bale movie, Reign of Fire) or that a human being could survive the various traumas that Reilly's heroine CJ is put through during the course of the book (and frankly no-one could). Or that you like your characters to be more than a name and series of physical characteristics and the plots of novels to make logical sense and be more than a series of action sequences strung together. If you fall into any of those categories than I'm pretty sure you'll hate The Great Zoo Of China.

For me it offered a fine way to pass a long flight to Asia, and having read several of Reilly's previous novels I knew what to expect. As with most of the authors books however, whilst I enjoyed it at the time in 'brain-in-neutral' sort of way I find my recollection of it is fading pretty quickly. This is a book that is all about immediate buzz, excitement and surface sheen, but doesn't have any genuine depth that will make it stick long in the memory


BISSELL Multi-Reach 2-in-1 Light Weight Cordless Vacuum with 18 V Lithium-Ion, 90 Watt, Orange
BISSELL Multi-Reach 2-in-1 Light Weight Cordless Vacuum with 18 V Lithium-Ion, 90 Watt, Orange
Price: £159.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Device Let Down By Poor Design Choices and Cost Cutting, 14 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Any review of the BISSELL Multi-Reach 2-in-1 Light Weight Cordless Vacuum needs to consider its strengths and weaknesses in its two separate configurations; as an up-right vacuum cleaner and and as a hand-held vacuum cleaner.

Let's start with the first configuration, The Upright Vacuum:
Strengths:
1. Its ultra-portable. The benefits of its small size and lack of a power cable cannot be over-stressed. Grab it off the charging cradle, switch it on, use it, put it back. Its so quick and easy to use you'll find yourself preferring it over a large vacuum cleaner for everything other than the largest cleaning jobs.
2. Its flexible. Both literally and figuratively. Literally in the sense that the adjustable handle and rotating head allow it to get into pretty much every space, no matter how small. Figuratively in the sense that for such a small device it offers multiple functions that will allow you to tackle pretty much any task or surface type.
3. Battery life isn't bad. Unless you're planning to clean an entire four bedroom house with the BISSELL, which would take a long time, the battery life is more than adequate for most tasks.
4. Its powerful enough. Although only 18V, the motor generates enough suction to tackle most dirt. Add in the beater brush and we're yet to encounter any mess that the BISSELL can't handle (and we have two small children generating plenty of unexpected mess).

Weaknesses:
1. It needs regular emptying. The capacity of the BISSELL's dust collector is pretty small, and when used as an upright vacuum you might find it needs emptying after every job, especially if you have animal or carpets that a prone to shedding fluff. Emptying it is relatively easy to do, but its still time consuming, especially as you have to deal with the Filter...
2. The Filter. This is the worst part about the need to empty the BISSELL so frequently. Inside the dust trap is a fabric filter that prevents the motor from becoming clogged up. Its easy to remove when emptying the trap, but needs cleaning itself. This is a messy job, best done outside, as it can release a substantial amount of dust and undo all your hard work in moments. All of which can make the process of emptying the BISSELL even more time consuming.
3. The Charging Cradle. In principle having a cradle you can simply drop the BISSELL into and leave it to charge sounds great and far preferable to plugging in cables. However, the design of the cradle leave a great deal to be desired. Not only does it occupy quite a bit of floor/cupboard space, but its also far too lightweight and when you lift the BISSELL off you often find the cradle simply comes with it. Furthermore, inserting the vacuum into the cradle correctly requires a bit of effort in order to get the two to connect up correctly. It easy to inadvertently get a bad connection that results in no recharging taking place. Overall the cradle feels like cheap and badly designed afterthought when compared to the vacuum itself.

The same can also be said about the BISSELL when its used as a hand-held vacuum.

Strengths: None
Whilst it sucks up mess perfectly well in handheld mode, it doesn't have any particular strengths in this configuration and it has a number of noticeable weaknesses that compromise its performance.

Weaknesses:
All of the weaknesses that apply to the BISSELL in upright mode also apply to the vacuum in hand held mode. In addition to those however, there are are a few more specific to the hand-held configuration. They are:
1. Weight. For a hand-held unit the BISSELL is heavy. For quick jobs this isn't an issue but for prolonged use you're going to notice it.
2. The attachments. Two attachments are provided with the BISSELL that fit on the nose of the handheld unit. One is a wide brush and the other a narrow nose for getting into tight spaces. Both fit on the nose nice and snugly, but frankly they both feel cheap and flimsy. Moreover, whilst the Charging cradle has space to store one it doesn't store both simultaneously. Again, a case of poor design and treating these items as an afterthought.
3. No separate charging. The handheld unit can only be charged when connected to the upright unit. If the latter was to be damaged for some reason and in a way that prevented it from being charged or the handheld unit being connected there would be no way for you to continue using just the handheld unit by itself.

Overall the BISSELL Multi-Reach 2-in-1 Light Weight Cordless Vacuum is not a bad product, and it does a lot of things pretty well. However, its let down by some poor design choices and penny pinching on materials, especially when it comes to the peripheral items. Considering that its up against similar cordless devices from the likes of Dyson and Bosch (none of which I have ever tried, but both of whom pride themselves on their high end design and build quality) and is far from a low cost device, you would expect more attention to detail and less corner cutting
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 14, 2015 9:57 PM BST


Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel
Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel
Price: £7.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive, 14 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and it is an aphorism that is often true when it comes to series of novels. What in the beginning can be appealing and exciting about a new series can soon feel formulaic and stale if the author does not find ways to change the dynamics or develop the characters. Go on too long sticking to a rigid template and aspects of series that once felt fresh and entertaining can become actively irritating.

With Code Zero, Jonathan Maberry's latest entry in the Joe Ledger series, I have to confess that once or twice I actually found myself drifting toward irritation as yet more of the same overly familiar beats were replayed once again, and that is not the sort of sensation an ongoing series should be generating in a regular reader.

The problem is that Code Zero, as well as involving a literal re-run of various past threats faced by Ledger and the DMS in the plot, also felt like a reworking of a standardised and by now rather tired formula. Once again the same character beats were trotted out, almost unaltered from the earlier novels in the series. We had yet more of Joe's internal monologuing about his various personality issues. We had Church acting mysterious and Aunt Sallie being unpleasant to everyone. Ghost was still part ridiculously intelligent dog and part vicious beast. Beyond a few new faces around the DMS and Joe still dating Junie from the previous novel, nothing had changed and no-one had developed. You could have cut almost any of the character interactions or moments and pasted them into another Joe Ledger novel and not seen the join they were so repetitively familiar.

The same went for the moments of action. I actually found myself skipping chunks of the action because the feeling of 'been-here-read-that' was so strong, exacerbated by the fact that the threats being faced were redo's of those faced in Patient Zero and the Dragon Factory. Yes, I get it that some of the things the DMS are asked to do in the defence of the innocent are terrible, but do we have to be repeatedly told about how that makes Joe and his comrades scream at the horror of it all every time they go into combat? Does there always have to be a post-combat scene where everyone is shaking with the traumatic stress of what they have witnessed? For some readers those moments may be part of the series appeal, but for me they're just more unnecessary repetition.

There's even repetition within Code Zero itself. I get that these books are the literary equivalent of video games, with the DMS having to battle through various 'levels' before they get to take on the 'big bad' at the end (an analogy hammered home with tiresome frequency within the book itself), but in Code Zero they effectively had to take on the same threat three times in different settings. By the time the story reached its big denouement, which played out like a quasi-repeat of the cruise-ship set finale to The King of Plagues, it just felt like the novel was going round and round in circles.

By the end the repeated sense that the book was just going back over old ground yet again was so strong that I started to find certain aspects of the book genuinely irritating. Ivan's 'balls' jokes, which were never actually funny, just became annoying by the time he rolled out the sixth or seventh in the book. The psycho-babble that Maberry always insists on peppering the books in the series with became even more annoying as it yet again covered the same territory as in previous novels. The moments of over-blown prose that infect all the Joe Ledger novels form time to time went from being forgiveable to laughable. In short, the book's weaknesses began to outweigh its strengths

Unless Jonathan Maberry finds a way to refresh the series and get it out of the formulaic rut it has fallen into then Code Zero will probably be the last Joe Ledger novel I read. That's a shame, because at their best the Joe Ledger novels have provided some great entertainment and even this poor entry has some appealing aspects to it. However, series like this need to develop and change if they're not going to avoid becoming predictable, repetitive and derivative, and based on this latest entry I can't see that sort of change happening to Ledger and the DMS


Motorola Moto 360 23mm Steel band Silver
Motorola Moto 360 23mm Steel band Silver
Offered by KICKmobiles® London
Price: £289.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thing of Beauty and Quality (And Quite Smart Too), 10 April 2015
A couple of years ago, on a whim, I purchased a Sony Smartwatch II, and for a while I enjoyed the novelty of wearing it, but after four or five months I began drifting back to wearing my old, analogue watch more-often-than-not and in the end the Smartwatch II joined the growing pile of old mobile phones and other obsolete tech in a drawer somewhere. It wasn't that I hated the Smartwatch or that it didn't work as advertised; it's simply that I didn't find it indispensable enough to get past its boxy looks, the constant need for recharging and the sometimes iffy performance when it came to maintaining the link to my phone.

Now to be honest I don't find the Moto 360 indispensable either. Yes, sometimes it's nice to be able to glance at your wrist to see who has emailed you or sent you a text without digging out your phone from a bag or under a pile of papers in another room, but having previously had a smart watch and then stopped using it I know I can happily live without such conveniences.

However, despite this I know that I will continue to use the Moto 360 for a long time to come for two simple reasons; it is a thing of both quality and beauty. Facts I realised almost immediately the first time I picked a display unit up in a store in the US during some idle browsing and why I purchased one about ten minutes later.

Whereas the SWII looked and felt like a digital watch circa-1983, sported an ugly rubber cover over the micro-USB port used to charge it, and boasted indifferent build quality (the black enamelling on the metal strap that my SWII came with began to rub off after about a month), the Moto 360 looks like a classic watch but also feels like a high quality product where due care and attention has been paid to the design.

The Steel band model feels and is solid*. The seals between the back, side and front plates are so tight and flush as to be almost invisible. The crown, when pushed, provides a hint of mechanical resistance that is reassuring. The screen, which apart from the narrow case around it and a small black band at the bottom occupies almost the entire face of the watch, is crystal clear and hard wearing (after one month of continuous wear not even a hint of a scratch or blemish). Add in the wireless charging dock that not only makes charging easy (no fiddly and ugly rubber caps over mini-USB ports to ruin the look of the Moto360) but also more practical by turning the watch into a desk or bedside clock when off your wrist, and you have a device that has been designed to be as robust and user friendly as possible.

Moreover, with its bevelled edges and minimalist design the Moto360 has a tactile quality that just makes you want to stroke it but is also subtle enough to not stand out on your wrist as an obvious piece of technology. When I wore the SWII, with its angular design, people were always asking whether it was a smartwatch. With the Moto360 I have only been asked twice, and in both cases it was when I glanced at it to check an incoming messages.

The bottom line is that I love the Moto360 because it is a beautifully designed and built watch. The fact that it is also a smartwatch, and it is pretty good in that department too, is an undeniable bonus but for me almost a secondary consideration.

*Having played around with the Dark Steel version in-store I can testify that it looks and feels equally well built. My choice of the Steel finish was entirely on aesthetic grounds.

UPDATE 10/04/15 -

Having owned my Moto 360 for several months, and used it continuously over that period, I thought I would add a few additional thoughts to my original review.

Firstly, let me say that my positive opinion of the Moto 360 has grown since I started using it and I now feel able to increase my star rating from four to five. I do genuinely love this device, and can't see myself going back to wearing my old analogue watch for any reason. I like the fact that I no longer feel it necessary to keep glancing at my phone to check for notifications, or hunt it down in the house when an email or text pings in, only to find the message was junk and could safely be ignored. I genuinely like the low key pressure that the heart rate monitor/activity tracker puts on me to exercise more. It doesn't bully you with constant reminders to do more, or blind you with unnecessary data; it just subtly suggests periodically that you might want to do just a little more exercise that day and to my surprise I have reacted to these reminders by trying to do more.

I also like the watch's reliability. In the months since I bought it, and having worn it every day, the software has only fallen over twice and in both cases quickly rebooted. There have also been no issues with the connection with my phone. If I move out of range and then come back reconnection occurs pretty much instantaneously. Battery life has also turned out to be surprisingly good. Yes, you need to charge the watch every night, but the wireless dock makes that easy and I now also use the watch as bedside clock. However, suggestions in various reviews that the Moto360 battery will barely get through a day on a single charge have turned out to be groundless. My watch gets pretty heavy use and yesterday, having taken it off the charger at 6:30 a.m., I put it back at 12:30 a.m. (18hrs later) with 45% charge remaining.

My Moto360 also looks as good now and when I bought it. Despite being worn all day, every day, irrespective of the activity I may be doing (apart from swimming) and travelling overseas with me several times during that period, neither the screen or case have a single scratch or nick on them. This is one hard wearing device.

Bets of all, from my point of view, hardly anyone notices that its a smart watch. In all the time I have worn it only a couple of people have noticed what it is, or commented on it. I believe this is because, with its round face, it looks like a watch rather than some piece of technology. So, if like me you're not one for flashy statements, the Moto360 is probably the smartwatch for you.


Standoff (Vin Cooper Book 6)
Standoff (Vin Cooper Book 6)
Price: £4.49

3.0 out of 5 stars A Dip In Form, 8 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm a big fan of both David Rollins and his lead character, Agent Vin Cooper. 'The Death Trust', the first novel featuring Cooper, is one of the better crime thrillers I have read in recent years, and the more recent 'Ghost Watch' is a great military adventure.

I'm therefore disappointed to report that, whilst enjoyable, 'Stand Off' marks a definite drop in form for both Rollins and Cooper. Whilst the book does display many of the strengths of both the author and his leading man, including the latter's usual sardonic, world weary and cynical attitude, its let down by some highly implausible plotting, even by Rollins' standards (this being a writer who's hero has previously survived falling out of a plane at several thousand feet without a parachute). Not only does the main bad-guy's master plan feel illogical, the big denouement that results from it plays out in a wholly unrealistic fashion.

The result is a book with some decent moments offset by other parts that go too far into the realms of action-movie fantasy land. If Vin Cooper rides again, and I sincerely hope he does, then David Rollins would be wise to rain in some his wilder flights of fancy and try to get back to the far tighter plots and smaller scopes that featured in the Agent's earlier adventures.


Motorola Moto G 5-Inch (2nd Gen UK Stock) Dual Sim 8GB SIM-Free Smartphone Black
Motorola Moto G 5-Inch (2nd Gen UK Stock) Dual Sim 8GB SIM-Free Smartphone Black
Offered by EU Digital
Price: £126.93

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Phone With A Great OS At A Very Competitive Price, 30 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought the Moto G primarily for one reason; it was cheap.

My previous phone was a network provided Sony Z2 Compact, and I was happy with it. It didn't blow me away, but mobile phones vary rarely do. I appreciated its small size and decent processor speed, and it did what I needed it to do perfectly well. However, over the year I had owned it the Z2 had become rather worn. The screen sported a sizeable scrape that blurred images and the rest of the case was nicked, scratched and dented. I decided I needed a replacement handset and with no upgrade due for some time the only option was to buy a new one.

Not wanting to spend many hundreds of pounds, I settled on the Moto G because it offered decent performance at a reasonable price. Not only that but the reviews were generally positive. I chose the Dual Sim version, rather than the more recent 4G handset, because I travel to Japan regularly, where data roaming charges are horrendous, and its always a good idea to have access to a local pre-paid Sim Card.

So far I'm not regretting my choice. Yes, the Moto G isn't the sleekest handset on the market, but I actually quite like its low-key looks. The plastic back does feel a little cheap but its non-slip feel is appreciated after owning several smooth-shelled and downright slippery handsets.

Size-wise its substantially bigger than my old Z2 Compact, but not a huge slab that is closer to a Phablet than a phone. As someone who prefers their phones small and discreet I was worried a 5" device would feel too massive, but the minimal bezel around the edge means its still fits quite neatly in a jacket pocket.

The screen quality isn't going to win any awards for clarity when up against retina displays and the like, but its perfectly good enough for me. Likewise the cameras are fine for point and shoot snaps or the odd skype call on the move, but you aren't going to be doing wildlife photography with them.

The processor does what I need it to do, but is noticeably slower than my Z2 when it comes to opening and closing apps, with some lag on certain actions. The internal 8Gb memory is a little on the low side, but can easily be boosted by a 16Gb or 32Gb micro-SD Card. Battery life is okay, but will not stretch beyond 24hrs unless you're being really strict on usage.

One feature that has no downside for me is the phone's OS, which is Android Lollipop.(5.0.2 to be precise). In contrast to most handset manufacturers Motorola have added next to no bloat to the software (a hold over from when they were owned by Google), just a few proprietary apps, including a useful one for transferring data from your old handset over wifi that works quite nicely. There's no bolted on interface to get in the way, clutter up your screen and eat up processor capacity. The result is a pure, up to date Android experience that will be familiar to anyone who uses a Nexus device and makes the phone a pleasure to interact with.

So overall I'm pretty pleased with my choice of the G5. Its not the sharpest, prettiest or quickest phone on the market, but in terms of what you get for the very competitive price, especially taking into account the unadulterated Android OS, I think its hard to beat.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2015 4:43 PM BST


Philips HX6732/45 Healthy White Rechargeable Toothbrush
Philips HX6732/45 Healthy White Rechargeable Toothbrush
Price: £61.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Another High Quality Sonicare from Phillips, 27 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a member of the Vine Programme, this is the third Philips Sonicare Toothbrush I have received, having previously been sent the Philips Sonicare HX6782/33 HealthyWhite Rechargeable Toothbrush 2-Pack back in 2011 and then a Philips Sonicare HX6511/44 EasyClean Sensitive Rechargeable Toothbrush in 2014. With my original HX6782/33 getting a bit tired and the HX6511/44 in the hands of my wife since her HX6782/33 died, I was pleased to get offered the HX6732/45 because, frankly speaking, these are great tooth brushes.

Reliable and generally pretty robust (my original Sonicare still works fine after nearly four years. Its just getting a little stained and the battery life is starting to deteriorate) they leave your teeth feeling about as clean as they can be without a visit to the hygienist. They're not the lightest or most slimline units on the market, but on a full charge they'll keep going for a good couple of weeks and come with a carrying case, so if you travel regularly (like me) you can take them on longer trips without needing to carry the charger too.

If I had to say which of the three models I have tried is the best I would probably have to say the HX6511/44 EasyClean Sensitive purely on the grounds that the other two have rubberised grips on them that I know from experience tend to become stained over time. It doesn't effect their performance, but its not great aesthetically speaking. Apart from that there's really nothing to choose between them, and the HX6732/45 is still a great sonic toothbrush. They've even managed to add a small improvement on the previous models I've tried by including a case for the charger base that tidies up the power cable. Its a very small improvement but a welcome one in a cluttered bathroom. However, I suspect its now standard on all Sonicare models.

The only downsides I have encountered with the Sonicare are the price of the unit themselves (although I have been lucky enough to receive them all via Vine) and, more significantly the cost of the replacement heads. I can understand the toothbrushes coming at a reasonably high cost, as these are definitely a premium product and you get what you pay for in terms of quality, but the heads can be very expensive for what they are. Fortunately you can usually find them available on-line at a pretty heavy discount and they also don't need changing that often, but do be aware that they can come at a pretty steep price if you don't shop around


Mr. Beams MB702 Wireless Motion-Sensing Mini Stick-Anywhere LED Nightlights, Small, White, 2-Pack
Mr. Beams MB702 Wireless Motion-Sensing Mini Stick-Anywhere LED Nightlights, Small, White, 2-Pack
Price: £19.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small But Bright Enough and Reliable, 24 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As the last person to go to bed in our house on most nights, I usually end up stumbling around in the dark, not wanting to turn on bright overhead lights for fear of disturbing sleeping children. With the Mr Beams MB702's however, such nocturnal stumblings are done away with. One of these small units at the bottom of the stairs automatically lights my way up, preventing me from tripping over discarded toys, without creating enough illumination to disturb anyone else. Then it switches itself off until someone else has a need to head downstairs in the middle of the night and half asleep to get a glass of water or similar. In the morning it can be picked up an put away somewhere its motion detector will not be set-off until its need the following evening.

As such its an incredibly useful little light. Its small enough to disappear into the background, but bright enough to illuminate an entire stairwell sufficiently to see where you're going. The motion detector is reliable and just about sensitive enough, and its also light sensitive so it doesn't come on if left out in daylight or with overhead lights on.

The only downsides are that for such a small unit it takes a significant quantity of batteries (x4 AAA), and the build quality is definitely on the cheap side. In the two units I was sent I had to work quite hard to get the batteries to fit into their compartment, and the plastic cases don't feel terribly robust. How durable these lights are remains to be seen.

Also, and this is a word of warning rather than a criticism, there is no off-switch on these lights, so if you're intending to fix them permanently in place be prepared for them to come on in low light conditions even if you don't want/need them to. The only way to switch them off is to remove the batteries, which isn't the greatest solution.

Otherwise they offer a low cost alternative to always-on plug in night lights, and are a great way to avoid the pain of standing on a Lego brick in bare feet in the dark.


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