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Apollo 11 (UK)

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Remington D6090 Colour Protect Hair Dryer
Remington D6090 Colour Protect Hair Dryer
Price: £18.36

5.0 out of 5 stars No need to spend more - the Remington does it all, 24 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For the price, this Remington is highly recommended. You could spend three times more, but I doubt (unless it made the tea) you'd get better value for money. Three temperatures, two air speeds and (bit of a mystery to me, but hey) a button which gives a prompt gust of cool air - and the power puts my old hairdryer to shame. Using the focusing attachment this gave great curls while using a brush; the dryer itself is light to hold, and there's loads of flex.

No need to spend more, as the Remington does it all.

Remington AS8090 Keratin Volume and Protect Air Styler
Remington AS8090 Keratin Volume and Protect Air Styler
Price: £29.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great product - if a bit too big and cumbersome, 24 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Very clever idea - and for the right buyer, a great tool. However, I was disappointed that Remington only provided this Airstyler with two large (well, one large and the other larger) brushes - as it pretty much restricts its use to people with very long hair.

Airstyler. Not just a catchy name. The idea is that it's like a curling tong but, with air vents through the brush, it essentially blow dries your hair curled. Smart idea! Likewise, the ratio of brush to handle recognises that there's really not much point in heating up a long tong, as the area of hair being curled doesn't even stretch half way along the average tong. The effects are impressive, and my mother - who I got this for - said it made her hair feel lovely afterwards.

Use wise, the brush attachments clip on and off easily, and the heating controls are simple and well placed. However, there are some potential - and I would say, fundamental -- pitfalls to this model, which it might be worth bearing in mind. As mentioned, the two brushes are large and larger, so it'd be worth checking whether they suit your needs before you buy this. Had Remington included a third, smaller, brush, this could have serviced such a wider audience. But they haven't so, unless you have long hair, you might struggle to use this as intended.

Likewise, the handle is big... wide, much wider than holding the average brush or tong. In fact, I'd say it's somewhere between holding a beer or wine bottle - which is a bit excessive and, given women's hands, might make this cumbersome.

On the whole, a great product that does a good job. But design-wise, it's not quite there.

The Astronaut Wives Club
The Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.89

4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing tale..., 24 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Great book. Some reviews have sited the lack of deep detail about the NASA background, but I think they could be expecting too much. This isn't the definitive take on the moon years - rather, it's the tale as told from the perspective of (the clue is in the title) the astronaut's wives. In our world where, seemingly, every Tom, Dick or Sally gets onto TV they know it works, this investigation reveals a more innocent time not that long ago. The astronauts' wives weren't media trained, so had to find their own way to get through what, on top of the fear (well presented in Koppel's telling) of their husbands leaving after breakfast and never making it home, must have been a hellish experience for any loved one.

If you're interested in the moon years, or new world history, then The Astronauts Wives Club is essential reading. Stylistically, it reads like an extended article in the style of Vanity Fair. To suggest this book lacked detailed historical fact is, perhaps, to give the impression this book is fluff.... Well, it isn't. It's just told in a style that reflects its subject. If you want to get all gender about it, one could argue that a lot of factual books are written by men and read by the same; blokes with a fetishistic desire to collate all known detail, minor or otherwise. Against which, I'd say, this is written with equal gender in mind - and for a wide, general audience.

In short: collecting all known (and previously unknown) detail about the moon missions isn't what this book is about. It's a compendium, an addition to the existing library - and I would say a great one. Great, for its inventive angle, it's depth of research, and its portrait of a bygone time.

Arguably the very best version of this book would be one that has oodles and oodles of the press photography, the gather of, and printing of which, proved so intrusive to - and iconising of the families concerned. I guess I'm saying there's another great book to be made... one that is a pictorial record of this subject.

But in the meantime, this is a highly commendable, well recommended - and absorbing work of investigation.

Vita Coco 100% Pure Coconut Water 500 ml (Pack of 6)
Vita Coco 100% Pure Coconut Water 500 ml (Pack of 6)
Price: £11.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Blimey, coconut water rocks!, 24 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Why have I never tried coconut water before? Blimey, it's lovely. Subtly sweet (but not like sugar stirred into water), there's no fat, barely any calories, and according to the ingredients less than 1% fruit sugar added. Yet the taste is really refreshing. Imagine the zing of a juicy melon, but with the dance of chilled water on a hot day.

Fair dues, if I only drank this everyday it could work out a bit expensive (hence I've only given this a four-star review), but 500ml is actually quite a lot - and I've yet to drink a carton in one sitting; so it'll last.

Honestly, try coconut water for yourself, because you won't be disappointed - and after this, so-called soft drinks are anything but!

Nature know best, I'm convinced!

Casio CTK-7200 Full Size Piano Style Keyboard
Casio CTK-7200 Full Size Piano Style Keyboard
Price: £266.17

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious kit - superb price..., 22 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Irrespective of price, clocking in as it does below the £400 mark, the CTK-7200 is real next-generation gear. Whether you want this as a straightforward instrument that generates top-end sound (but doesn't require a masters degree to use) for the price, it's superb. On the other hand, if you want to experiment with sequencing, programming and multi-layered real-time performance, then its also up there. Put the two together, however, and the CTK-7200 is one heck of a machine.

Once upon a time, unless you wanted to spend thousands of pounds, keyboards had all the life (and sonic finesse) of a pocket calculator - yet, having taken delivery this morning, I'd only got the CTK-7200 out of the box and powered it up (super simple) and I was impressed. The five-octave, 62 key spread (which can be easily shifted up or down the piano scale, as required) is beautifully weighted and, using the organic classical piano as a first sound, the tone and sustain of the stereo sound was a surprise.

If you're looking for a full-keyboard to play at home, or perhaps even something to learn on, this unit is reassuringly accessible. The stereo-sound quality is superb, and volume-wise it packs serious punch, so you won't need an amp. Connection's wise, there's a headphone socket (as you'd expect), a USB out (for connection to a laptop) and sockets for pedals, should you wish.

Of the 820 pre-programmed sounds, ranging across the entire orchestra (from strings, horns and percussion, quartets, choirs and ensemble) to the synths, organs, pipes and guitars (the latter: very good, but, honestly, synth acoustic guitars always end up sounding like some European rave track) what you get on the CTK-7200 is a world of sample-based sounds that are as good as you're likely to get away from the real thing. Likewise, the synth setting sounds are contemporary and robust, offering real possibilities for lead synth, washes and more electronic sequencer style work.

Stop there, and already the CTK-7200 is great value for money. But, add on the additional layers of sequencing, sound programming and composition potential and, honestly, for the money, I can't see how this unit can be bettered.

There's comprehensive opportunity to split the keyboard into multiple instruments (for example, if you wanted to perform both piano and strings in real-time), pre-program arpeggios to be triggered at will, or you can even launch (automatic or self-composed) harmonising accompaniments. All of which, seriously ups the opportunity to explore and perform music on your own. Okay, some of the functions will require a bit of reading up, but the instruction manual is pretty straightforward and, well, this isn't a toy - it's a professional piece of kit.

I could go on and on, but the basic point is... the CTK-7200 offers as good as it gets this side of diving into studio-grade laptop programs and digital plug-in music production - and the investment of thousands of pounds.

If I was a parent reading this, looking to invest in a keyboard for a son or daughter, given we're all concerned about value for money these days, I can honestly recommend this model. It'll give the owner the benefit of a full keyboard to practice on (and the sound quality is right up there), but it also has those increasing layers of programming, performance and production facility, which mean they've got something they'll keep using (and getting something out of) long after other keyboards have lost their sparkle.

In short - superb.

(By the way, the Casio CTK-7200 also comes with a detachable music-stand to prop sheet music up on, and a mains adapter.)

All That Is
All That Is
by James Salter
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit ho-hum, I'm afraid..., 20 Jun. 2013
This review is from: All That Is (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First time with James Salter and... I enjoyed it until I didn't. Feels awkward critiquing such a great writer but, given I'm now reading his first book, The Hunters, I'm enjoying that much more.

All That Is has something of the shaggy dog about it: Salter is on the way somewhere, but its the caveats, the sidelines, that make up the bulk of the tale. Which is both the novel's strength and weakness: Salter's attention to the details of lives gone by is gorgeous, but all too often this work seems directionless. I've loved Martin Amis' prose, and his 'story as excuse for observations' is fine with me; but too often I got the feeling Salter lacked a driving plot for this. Sure, in context, the book's somewhat ethereal title makes sense: this is a book about life and... all that is. But, in order to engage and stay engaged, I needed some kind of (for want of a better word) reason to stick around.

I read somewhere that this work was written in bursts over a long period of time - the author writing bits, then leaving it for stretches... and, I fear, it shows. Likewise, I find the author's slavish rejection of semi-colons frustrating. I know it's a stylistic thing and, sometimes it works for Salter - but too many sentences are rendered confusing by what is effectively a lack of signposting.

Iams Cat Food ProActive Health Adult With Wild Ocean Fish & Chicken 3 kg (Pack of 3)
Iams Cat Food ProActive Health Adult With Wild Ocean Fish & Chicken 3 kg (Pack of 3)

4.0 out of 5 stars My cat was an immediate Iams cat!, 6 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You'd never believe it, but my cat's quite fussy. So, not least because he's got a thing for the green vegetable ones in another dry cat-food (he noses them out and eats them all first), I was expecting him to turn his nose up at Iams. But no, big hit straight off.

The cat has wet and dry food: wet food twice (or if he can manage me, thrice) a day, along with a general large bowl of dry-food next to his water. So it was interesting to watch him crouch down to eat his breakfast and, without even moving, turn his head and start eating the Iams at the same time. Obviously cats like an easy life, but, that said, I've never seen him do that before.

I took this as a good sign, not least because I'd got 3kg of Iams for him. I needn't have worried. He's been tucking in well and, surprisingly, the Iams must be good because it's lasting longer than the other brand of dried food. Whereas I'd have refilled his bowl about three times in a week, with the Iams going down, I've only done it twice.

And, well, okay, cats don't talk - they can't be bothered - but his coat says it all: it's come up gloriously. He's a good looking cat (and knows it) but he currently looks the best I've ever seen him. I've not tried the Iams for myself (tried Sensations... can't quite see what all the fuss is about), but it smells good: kind of like wandering into a petfood store: wheaty and wholesome.

Initially I thought Iams was a bit expensive, but having seen how a little goes a long way, it's clearly money well spent. I can see a 1kg bag lasting at least three months. Compared to the price of wet and dry food at the supermarket - and if the cat will eat it, and not turn his nose up and wander off - I'd say it works out a good deal all round.

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56
by Anne Applebaum
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At times dark, but a valuable, compelling read., 15 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Cold War is still talked about - but generally only for the American side, and for the lingering shadow of nuclear weaponry - so feels less dusty than other history. Yet one half of its background, the compelling story of how the East stood in polarity to the West over our relationship with money, specifically, for its origins as a Russian tale, already feels way more distant than either of the 20th century's wars. In fact, because communism lost out to capitalism, the telling of its lessons as anything other than a tale of evil, has been pushed from our understanding of modern times.

Which is why Iron Curtain is such a compelling - valuable -- book. Not because it saves communism from damnation, but because it tells of a world revolution that it is impossible to imagine today. Moreover, Iron Curtain illustrates how power corrupts and politics is only ever a wink away from dark practice (the clue's in the title 'the crushing of Eastern Europe'). Read Applebaum's brilliantly humanistic and, quite honestly, fantastically researched history of how the greater chunk of Europe simply disappeared behind a shield of secrecy, subterfuge and manic obsession to control, and suddenly the 20th century doesn't seem as clear cut as television and easy media has us believe.

We live in great literary times, and as a result, this work is presented not as a dusty compendium of facts and statistics, but as a tale that crackles between macro and micro-vision, the human impact of communism's rise and domination of everyday life is its main draw.

Dense, but a good read, don't let the brooding vision of its cover put you off - this is as much our history as it is someone else's, and should be visible on the bookshelf of the 20th century.

Highly recommended.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
by Michael Pollan
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it, and be amazed!, 15 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Cooked is an admirable stab at having the reader reconnect with food through, of all things, cooking. At times laboured, but never less than spirited and well researched, Cooked - as Pollan's somewhat exhaustive introduction sets up -- is a wake-up call on the fact that too many of us don't eat cooked food, but the engineered result of food processing. And while it would be possible to come away after 10 pages with the feeling Cooked is going to be some paean to 'the good old days', Pollan then sets out to remind the reader of the magic that is cooking.

Cut into four sections, denoted by the elements - fire, air, earth and water (roasting, baking, vegetables and boiling) -- each part acts as a history/process overview, invariably set against the author's experience in, say, learning to bake bread for himself.

At times Pollan slips a little too far down the rabbit hole and the detail gets dense, but stick with Cooked and what evolves is the kind of story of how mankind discovered the processes of food preparation which, if they were aspects of a fictional movie shown to aliens, would have viewers marveling at the brilliance of life as we know it. In short: Pollan reconnects us, through revelation, with the kinds of insight into our daily meals which, in the end, shows just as far we've been tempted into eating rubbish by the commercial food industries.

Cooked could possibly do with a revision: Pollan's introduction is too dense, gives too detailed an overview of what he then goes to explore in the main book, to the extent that, the intro done and starting on the first chapter, we already know 'the butler did it'. However, plough on, and the book is a treasure trove of the kind of knowledge and stories that really does (albeit gently) shame us into realising we've somehow traded in our humanness and connection with our ancestors for little more than convenience and a few minutes saved, standing in front of a microwave instead of getting our hands into the soil of our very - magical - existence.

To conclude: a fab book; a bit heavy on the detail from time to time, but, in the spirit of Pollan's mission, a much more satisfying meal for its inclusion.


Shady Farms Pure Organic Maple Syrup Flexible Pouch 125 ml
Shady Farms Pure Organic Maple Syrup Flexible Pouch 125 ml
Price: £3.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great., 28 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Great idea putting this into a plastic pouch - less breakage, easier on the environment. Cost-wise, however, it's no really any cheaper than buying a reputable supermarket make in a bottle. That probably sounds disrespectful, given how much goes into making maple syrup - however, on taste alone I found this a bit disappointing.

Do like Shady Farms maple syrup, however, this lacks punch. It's tasty, but I tried it on pancakes this morning and it wasn't that bold; got the feeling I'd have to put twice as much on to get the full impact. It's organic - but that shouldn't excuse the final taste - and the packet is marked Medium, so perhaps there's a stronger version (although I couldn't see it on here).

Good, but not great.

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