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Scalextric 1:32 Scale GT Lightning Slot Car (White)
Scalextric 1:32 Scale GT Lightning Slot Car (White)
Price: £19.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not DPR ready as billed, 13 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We've got a few scalextric cars so were excited about this addition to the fleet. Straight out of the box however, the first disappointment was the fact that the car is not in fact DPR ready as per the product description - to be fair this is clear on the box itself. I have emailed amazon about the error which essentially means that if you are expecting to adapt this car to a digital track, as we were hoping to, you can not do so via the base without spending another thirteen pounds and getting out the soldering iron.

On a plus, the car is well made, with the exception of the spoiler which on this car came off and broke within 30 seconds of play - we have the purple version of this car which is faring better but our experience does tend to suggest that the car could be a bit more robust. A plus is the fact that the wing mirrors don't seem to be breakable - an issue we have had with other cars and the stickers really add to the look of the car.

On the track you can really feel the difference with having the magnetic parts on the bottom of the car, it does stick noticeably better to the track than the other cars we have with this feature. We have found the car handles quite well - 3 stars purely as the product description is wrong and the spoiler is a spoiler.

Once I hear from amazon I will update about the DPR issue but I really think it's important to know that it doesn't have this feature if you are a collector. For the casual user not planning to have a digital track this is a good value car for the 1:32 track, though it could be a bit more robust.

Transformers Age of Extinction Stomp and Chomp Grimlock Figure
Transformers Age of Extinction Stomp and Chomp Grimlock Figure
Price: £71.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Is Bigger Better? Probably one for Transformers Hardcore Fans, 13 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is certainly a talking point of a toy - Grimlock, in this his latest incarnation is HUGE, he really is over 50cm when standing, though he's not that heavy as he's pretty well plastic through and through. He comes with a small optimus prime figure who can stand in his shoulders and who activates some sounds. The sounds and lights are in the dinosaur's mouth, and also on Grimlock's face when he is standing up in his transformed state. The sounds and lights are activated when the weapons are touched and also when other points of him, like his teeth (which have a sensor in) are touched. His eyes can flash green and red and inside his mouth (which doubles as his face in robot form) also flashes red.

Most people will need no introduction to Transformers, an iconic toy, but it was a new and interesting concept for my kids, aged 10 and 8. I can tell you about their reaction and the play value, but I would have to say this toy is maybe one for the real aficionado who may well want it to keep it boxed, rather than playing with it. For those people, they may want to note that this autobot has a yellow sword which slots into his tail and which he can hold when in upright robot form and he seems to have different colour ways than his previous incarnations - I checked.

The first thing to note for the average person buying this to be played with, other than the price which does seem to me rather ambitious, to note about this toy is that the quality is average, though it does look very aesthetically pleasing at first sight. There is, though, the fact that you have to assemble the tail and add one leg when you first get it out of the box - not a great start. Once you begin playing with it very quickly the bronze parts of the body, which are spray painted over the grey in the main, start to chip and scratch no matter how careful the play. We've played with it in a carpeted room, but despite this just the act of changing the transformer has lead to a fair few scratches. I doubt very much actually that it would stand up to very rough play brilliantly well either. He transforms well but his jaw doesn't slot that well together in dino mode.

That said, there is something very appealing about being able to transform this toy just by clicking on a small handle on his back in dinosaur mode and pulling him up. Push that same handle forward he lunges forward and roars, opening his mouth - again big on kid appeal, as are the chomping noises he makes when you touch his teeth. It is, then, a real shame that you can't make his leg move or make him walk really, it just feels like you should be able to. Also there's something weird about its centre of gravity that means if you don't have the tail angled right in both positions it falls over a lot and really easily - perhaps this is something that should have been tested if this toy is meant to be played with.

I may well be missing the point on this one, as probably a true fan could put aside all the niggles we have had playing with it, however I can't but feel that in this case bigger isn't necessarily better and although my kids quite like this toy I've got to be honest and say for the price I'd probably have expected something that was better quality and which felt like it had more thought about actual children playing with it put into it.

LeapFrog My Pal Scout
LeapFrog My Pal Scout
Price: £17.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Fantastic!, 10 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This 20cm high little toy is lots of fun and has loads of features for the price. He's quite cuddly and the right size for the age he is designed for - 6 months to 3 year, with lots of clever touches. I love the fact that they've thought about the fact that you might want to program him whilst in the box, ready for a Christmas day or birthday. This I managed to do on my second attempt - you have to register on the website and add your child's name, an item of food they like from a list and their favourite colour. This worked seamlessly when the headphone jack that does this operation was plugged into my iPhone but failed to work with my laptop - I'm blaming Windows 8.

When you switch the toy on via his paw, your child is greeted with their name, which caused lots of giggles with my little tester - the name also comes into a couple of the songs. The voice is British English which means it's not too grating and the loudspeaker has two levels, always a good touch.

Play wise, the flashing bone bow tie is engaging and a toddler can press the paws fine whilst I found a baby needed assistance - as you would expect really. A nice touch is being able to press his left lower paw to play songs for a fixed amount of time, and the guessing game and songs on the other two paws are fun too.I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of this toy - the inner workings do make his body a bit non-cuddly but in my experience this isn't an issue.

This isn't going to replace actual interaction/play with your baby or necessarily teach them anything, but it's fun, well designed and the baby visitors to our house seem to love it. Excellent toy.

Melissa & Doug Girls Activity Bundle
Melissa & Doug Girls Activity Bundle
Price: £14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Big colouring, 10 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's plenty of colouring fun to be had from this pack of three pads which come all packaged together but, once separated, are all individually sealed so could be used as three separate gifts. As billed the pads are big at 35cm by 28cm, the colouring ones contain 50 different sheets of pictures on the kind of quality paper it is pleasant to colour on; it's not going to leach colour through and can withstand a fair bit of rubbing out. There's quite a lot of surface area to cover, but it's nice that each sheet has a space for the child to add their name and also because the pictures have quite a lot of blank to them there's scope for adding more detail. My daughter has enjoyed customising some of the pictures eg adding more sea life to the dolphin scene.

The pack is unashamedly girlie, especially the stickers which do venture into the realms of girl cliché. That said my daughters seemed to like it and there are enough non pink pictures to keep me relatively happy too.

Recommended for party fun or rainy afternoons.

Peter Rabbit Treehouse Playset
Peter Rabbit Treehouse Playset
Price: £23.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice item for fans but shame only one figure included, 10 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My kids have had fun playing with this toy which comes ready assembled and ready for play - once you have wrestled your way through the ubiquitous ties. There are a number of fun features to the house, a small bucket and lift to pull up - the figure fits in the lift well and both can be tethered by putting the string through a gap in the tree platform. The best feature, play wise is the trap door which in the top of the tree which leads to the slide. There's lots of fun to be had posting Peter through this, though he overshoots sometimes this adds to the fun.

It's a real shame that only one figure is included, particularly as the others are pictured on the back, I think it would have been better had these been included. It's fairly robust though and better quality than, say, the moshi treehouse which is a similar idea. It doesn't pack away for storage but is attractive enough to be out on display and there's mileage to be had by playing with other figures you already have from this.

Nice item for ardent fans of the show, but just be prepared to factor in buying more figures to the cost of ownership.

Ultranatura 20010000055A Floating Tub or Pool Thermometer with Animal Figure - Crocodile
Ultranatura 20010000055A Floating Tub or Pool Thermometer with Animal Figure - Crocodile
Offered by Ultra24Shop
Price: £17.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Fab pool accessory, 10 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an excellent thermometer for use in the larger paddling pool or home swimming pool. I don't have the latter but for the former it's ideal for monitoring the temperature. The crocodile figure on top floats nicely meaning the thermometer stays in place in the water and can be easily retrieved - you can tether it to the side of the pool so he doesn't float off anywhere. There are no holes in the crocodile, so he's not going to fill up with water and grow mould or anything icky, which is a plus.

The display is really easy to read and in both Centigrade and Fahrenheit in increments of two degrees - you can see at a glance if the water is at a pleasant temperature and when you take it out of the water it drains quickly due to a hole at the bottom. It's 23 cm, so a bit long for bath tub use as suggested, I have tried it in the bath too though, in a shallower bath the crocodile leans to one side but still floats. It does seem to be pretty accurate, I checked with my aquarium thermometer for reference and the results were the same.

If you have got a hot tub or outside pool this is a quality item which will add a touch of fun to the experience. The thermometer detaches easily from the figure if required and the whole thing seems very robust. Recommended, for outdoor use essentially.

Melissa & Doug Peel and Press Stained Glass Undersea Fantasy
Melissa & Doug Peel and Press Stained Glass Undersea Fantasy
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars All round fantastic Toy, 9 Sep 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an absolutely fantastic activity which is mess free and produces great results. In the pack you get a 20cm by 20cm picture in a frame as pictured and little clear plastic gel stickers on a sheet to stick on to it. You transform what is a clear plastic scene to a really vibrant stained glass effect picture with a hanging cord - ours looks lovely on our kitchen window and it lets the light through nicely.

My eight year old took about three quarters of an hour to complete this and she really enjoyed the process of matching up the shapes. There's a key to each shape and then an underlay you put under the blank picture so you know where each number goes - it's actually a lot easier to do than explain! The clear bits of plastic stick really well but can also be repositioned if you don't quite get them lined up with the black lines the first time.

This is probably a bit more grown up than average Melissa and Doug activities but I'd say it would suit a child who is able to recognise double digit numbers (necessary for following the key), and the 6+ guideline is about right. There is, it's true no creativity as such with this toy, but going on the reaction of my child who was enthralled by this, I don't think it's an issue really.

Great set that produces quality results and well worth the price I'd say - I'll be buying more for birthday presents for sure!

Nixies Swimming Mermaid
Nixies Swimming Mermaid
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The kids fell in love with her as soon as they saw her, 9 Sep 2014
This review is from: Nixies Swimming Mermaid (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This toy - we got given Merissa the one on the far left - has been a surprising hit in this house and really makes for a fun bath times. The doll is a little smaller than I was expecting, it's exactly the same length as a ruler - and it comes quite simply packaged, you will need to use your own AAA battery to make her swim.

To look at the doll isn't the most robust, and the finish is a bit variable - she got a few scratches whilst I was inserting the battery into her back, but she has glittery hair and a glittery fin which actually show up really well in the water.

Making the doll work is really easy - she has a button to press in her tail and you can angle her tail at various angles to make her swim in a different way. She actually swims in a complete vertical or horizontal circle and also can be made to swim in loops or a straight line. The doll is in practice much more robust than it looks and holds up well to play from enthusiastic children. Both my girls aren't really into the whole fairy/mermaid thing but the fact is that this is a fantastic toy play value wise which has them in peals of laughter as it glides through the bath tub, we'd love to give it a whirl in a swimming pool one day to see how it holds up too!

Really great toy - the four stars is really because of the build quality, but we think it's great and I would definitely buy more as gifts.

Make Your Own Lip Balm
Make Your Own Lip Balm
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Mix up your own colours of balm, 8 Sep 2014
This review is from: Make Your Own Lip Balm (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This kit allows you to mix up your own colour of lip balm and fill some cute little pots with compartments in. You get everything you need to complete the activity; base white lip balm, the cases, three colours in little droppers (red, blue and yellow), and also some pearlescent powder and stickers to decorate the cases. There are full and clear instructions.

My two girls were keen to get stuck into this and we enjoyed it but it was a lot messier than we had anticipated and also there was a limit to how much they could do without supervision. The problem is that the cases are a bit small for the balm, which means they are tricky to fill with the spatula and also the colour bottles require an adult hand to squeeze out the colour.
As an adult I found this pretty uninteresting to supervise, as I seemed to spend a lot of time cleaning out the measuring cup (tricky as the balm is very greasy) and helping to squeeze the bottles. At least by the end of it my hands were very well moisturised and smelling of, at a guess, cherry.
The end results, apart from being quite fragrant and variously coloured were fine to use as balm once put to set in the fridge but it would have been nice for the pots to be a bit chunkier and more child friendly and there was a lot of waste.

This set is probably not bad for a birthday party gift but I think it's quite expensive for what you get. Nice kit if you are not adverse to pink looking sets but needs a few design tweaks to make it something that kids will really enjoy doing.

The Third Wife
The Third Wife
by Lisa Jewell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes families are not quite what they first appear to be, 7 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Third Wife (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Adrian Wolfe seems to have life sorted. He's in his mid forties and has five children, admittedly by two former wives, but everyone seems to get on and enjoy life and love wife number three, the slightly younger Maya. This is until the day when Maya dies tragically and unexpectedly (this is a spoiler as it happens at the start of the book), and slowly but surely the cracks in this eclectic family start to show. The question is, did Maya die by accident or did something else happen. This isn't really a "whodunit" as such but more an interesting look at the complexities of families and relationships and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I seem to have grown up with Lisa Jewell and graduated from chick lit to more meaty fare as she has - I really enjoyed "Before we met", her previous work and was not disappointed by this new book which is somewhat darker in places and full of tension but which I found a really fascinating and satisfying read. I thought that the children, who ranged from pre-schooler to grown up, were all very convincing and Adrian himself is very three dimensional. As the story unfolds the reader is exposed to every character's flaws and innermost feelings.It's hard to classify this book, it's not quite a thriller but it's thrilling nonetheless, and it's somewhere between a light read and more taxing fare. For me what made it a five star read is that I bought into the story completely and really cared about the characters, I wanted to race to the end but I didn't want the read to stop all at the same time.

I thoroughly recommend this book whether you've read any other of Jewell's books or not, it's a really satisfying read.

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