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Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom)

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Carmex Original Tube and Pot - (Pack of 2)
Carmex Original Tube and Pot - (Pack of 2)
Price: £5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff!, 22 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Over the years I've used various lip balms and although they all seem to work, none of them seem to have lasted. I've seen Carmex in shops before but this is the first time I've tried it.

The pack contains two items - a small pot of Carmex and a tube. The pot is a little deceptive, looking deeper than it is (look underneath it!) and the screw-top reveals a rather hard quantity of the stuff. It smells of vanilla and after rubbing my finger on the top for a second I smeared it across my lips. It goes on fairly easily and has a nice tingle, due to the menthol in the product. Best of all though is that this stuff really seems to last. As I said at the start, other lip balms seem to disappear quickly, requiring constant reapplication, but this tends to last almost a full day with a single coat. The second item in the pack is a small tube of Carmex which is slightly thinner in consistency and therefore easy to apply. I carry this one in my suit pocket each day.

Carmex is a great product and I'll definitely use it again. My girlfriend has tried it too and she's also become a fan since I got this.

(Ingredients, in case anyone wants to know for allergies etc. Petrolatum, lanolin, cetyl esters, paraffin, theobroma cacao seed butter, cera alba, camphor, menthol, salicylic acid, vanillin, parfum, hydroxycitronellal, limonene, linalool, geraniol, citronellol.)

FFS - Digipack
FFS - Digipack
Price: £11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Despite the song title, collaborations *do* work, 18 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: FFS - Digipack (Audio CD)
I've loved Sparks for a long, long time, despite finding Ron Mael terrifying when I first saw him on TV in the early 1970s. On the other hand, I've never liked Franz Ferdinand at all, so when I heard about this collaboration I was more than a little hesitant.

Thankfully it's an absolute joy. From the start it sounds extremely Sparks-esque, but for fans of Franz Ferdinand their sound is still all over the record too, from Alex's vocals to the sound of the band themselves. It's a great mixture of their two sounds, and hugely enjoyable from the off. The opening "Johnny Delusional" is probably the most commercial track, and the superb "Collaborations Don't Work" towards the end is the most Sparks-esque. For a person who's never liked Franz Ferdinand I'm now tempted to explore their back catalogue too.

A great little record, and one of my favourites from 2015 so far. I hope they work together again in the future.

Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain
Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain
by Alan Light
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 18 Jun. 2015
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One of the best books on Prince that I've read, and I've read a lot of books about Prince. As the title makes clear, this is focused squarely on "Purple Rain", the album and the film, and it's a cracking read. Superbly written, full of entertaining snippets from interviews with the members of The Revolution and those formerly in prince's employment such as Susan Rogers, and only a few small mistakes. After finishing this I hope Alan Light may one day return to write an authoritative biography of Prince.

The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May
The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May
by Mark Z Danielewski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A huge disappointment for this Danielewski fan, 18 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you could see my bookshelves at home you'd notice several books by Mark Z Danielewski. There are four copies of "House of Leaves", each one slightly different, one also signed. There's a copy of "The Whalestoe Letters", which is an extended excerpt from "House of Leaves". There are two copies of "The Fifty Year Sword", one from the original Dutch release and the other from the more recent reissue. Finally, there is a copy of "Only Revolutions". I've read and loved them all, and "House of Leaves" is one of my favourite books ever. I'm quite a fan of Mark Z Danielewski.

When I heard that his next project was to be a 27-volume serial novel called "The Familiar" I couldn't wait to read it. I imagined each volume would be maybe a hundred or so pages in length, the books released perhaps one per month, and as soon as the opportunity to preorder the first volume arrived I immediately did just that. So how is it?

Volume 1 is an absolute brick of a thing - well over 800 pages in paperback, and it weighs a ton due in chief to the gorgeous paper used throughout. On first examination the book is utterly spectacular, Danielewski's trademark typographical trickery filling the pages, each of its several narrators getting their own typeface and page layout, and one even seems to get a different type of paper completely. Each "chapter" (the narrators alternate throughout the book from chapter to chapter) begins with an illustration of sorts, and images also appear elsewhere - two pages look like a graphic novel, another two show a mobile phone conversation - and it is clear that the book is a triumph of design. At the end of the book there is an extract from volume two, and if anything that looks even more spectacular.

But what of the book itself?

I'm afraid, not to mention bitterly disappointed, to say that I really didn't enjoy "The Familiar" at all. Okay, it's the first volume of what is clearly going to be a huge novel (it has been announced that two or three books will be released each year, so this means the whole thing will be complete in around thirteen years time!) and the purpose of this book is obviously one of scene setting and introduction, but I found it to be incredibly dull. Nothing really happens at all, there is no drama, and almost no characterisation. Yes, there are different narrators but none of them are really introduced, and by the end we know next to nothing about them.

As for the typography and styling of the book it introduces its own problems. Two characters have their sections punctuated by countless parentheses, used to show their thought process. Essentially a sentence like "I am feeling hungry and am going for some food" would end up here as "I am feeling hungry (not eaten since breakfast(how long ago was that?(five hours))) and am going (walking(it's not far(hope it isn't raining(it's not)))) for some food (fancy a sandwich(BLT?(Actually chicken)) and a cake (carrot? (just sponge)) and something to drink (coffee (black, two sugars) decaf))" which becomes incredibly tiresome very quickly. Others speak in slang or dialect throughout, including one character called "jingjing" whose sections are also entirely printed in lowercase text. It's all very clever, all very artistic, but it doesn't make for a particularly enjoyable read. Even as a huge fan of Danielewski's work I felt that in this book he'd pushed the "style over substance" thing too far, and to use a term from pop culture he seems to have "jumped the shark".

Will I be reading the other 26 volumes? I confess I preordered volume two several weeks ago when it first appeared on Amazon, but at the moment I can't say I'm looking forward to it. I really hope he can turn this around and that volume two will be as good as I'd hoped this would be, but at the moment I'm glad to see the back of volume one and I doubt I'll be reading it again, unlike Danielewski's other books.

Two stars awarded for the appearance of the book I'm afraid.

Shut The Box - Mini Travel Game
Shut The Box - Mini Travel Game

4.0 out of 5 stars Bargain!, 12 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I discovered "Shut The Box" in my local pub which has a small collection of old board games. Keen to buy a set for my own use, I plumped for this one as it was cheap and also listed as being a "mini travel game" and I'd planned on taking it on trips away from home.

It's absolutely tiny! When I opened the parcel I found that the game is maybe the size of two decks of cards, but it's a cute little thing. It's made of wood and okay, it looks a little cheap with some rough edges, nothing at all on the hinged lid, and nothing to keep the lid closed (a rubber band will do the job perfectly well) but it just adds to the charm in some ways, and for the price it's a bargain. The numbered tiles are attached to a metal rod, and to start the game you can just tip the box back a little to flip the tiles, then off you go. The set comes with a pair of dice, and the playing surface is covered with a green felt-like material.

After a few seconds reading the included rule sheet I was off, and luck was clearly with me as I managed to "shut the box" on my second attempt. My girlfriend wasn't quite so lucky, but it's an addictive little thing, a real "just one more go" game, and after a while she managed it too.

For the price it's an absolute steal, and it will definitely be coming with us on trips away.

Braun Series 9 9040s Wet and Dry Electric Shaver
Braun Series 9 9040s Wet and Dry Electric Shaver
Price: £180.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent shaver, 8 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm a fan of electric shavers as wet shaves, as nice as they feel afterwards, always give me a bad shaving rash. Over the years I've tried Remington, Braun and Philishave shavers, and Braun have always been the ones that seem to have worked best for me, and my current shaver - a Braun 8995 - has served me well for the last six or seven years.

First impressions of the 9040s are a little mixed. As another reviewer has mentioned, the box immediately rattles when you pick it up, and once opened you see that it contains the shaver itself, a zip-up case, a charging cable, and a tiny brush and phial of light machine oil, both of which are loose in the box and the source of the rattle. I was a little surprised that these weren't "held" in the box somehow, but ultimately once you've emptied the box you're not likely to keep the cardboard container.

The shaver has a pleasant heft to it and feels nice in the hand. The head is huge - when trimming the hairs below my nose I tend to tilt the shaver on one side and use one of the four cutting foils to do the job - but shaving is easy, and a little quieter than my 8995. There are only a couple of buttons on the shaver. A circular on / off button which, when held for three seconds, also toggles a "travel lock" so that the shaver won't take a knock in your luggage and switch itself on. There is a slider just above this, which allows you to let the foils tilt to follow the curves of your face, or you can lock them in one of five angles. On the rear there is a pop-up sideburn trimmer. On the front of the shaver a series of blue bars lights up to indicate the charge level. The shaver comes with a spiralled cable complete with a standard two-pin plug at the end, so to charge the device you'll need a shaver adaptor or a bathroom with a shaver plug perhaps by the mirror as you find in some hotels. The instruction manual advises the owner to charge the shaver for an hour or so before the first use, and once the device is fully charged the blue "bars" go out. Note that as this is a wet and dry shaver you cannot use the shaver while the cable is plugged in, for safety reasons - as soon as the cable is inserted into the bottom of the device it turns off, so you can only use it cordless.

This is a wet and dry shaver so you can use it dry as with all other electric shavers, or with foam or gel, and it is apparently waterproof to a depth of five metres! I've used it both wet and dry and personally it seems to shave the same in both modes. If you use it wet, or choose to clean the shaver by holding it under a running tap, the instructions say that you need to apply a drop of light machine oil - the supplied phial - once a week. I think I'll stick to using it dry myself.

Cleaning the shaver is simple. Press two buttons, one on each side of the head, and the top section of the head comes away. You then tap the cutter section on a hard surface, such as the inside of a wash basin, and brush any bits out of the inside of the shaver using the supplied brush. You can also clean it under a running tap, as I mentioned previously. Unlike the 8995 the entire mechanism is contained in the part that pops off, and the shaver body simply has four "fingers" that waggle back and forth, driving the gizmos inside the head. This means that when you choose to change the foils - advised as an every 18 months process according to the instructions - you'll simply pop the old foils off and click the new ones on, instead of removing the foils and then pulling the serrated blade away separately as with the 8995. Replacement blades are available online and in stores and seem to cost about the same as for the 8995, maybe a little more. Personally I change the blades on my electric shavers once a year as I use mine at least once a day, and when you weigh up the cost per shave it's negligible.

The shave quality is excellent with the 9040s. I often go for Turkish wet shaves when I have my hair cut and the shave from this seems comparable, and lasts longer than my previous electric shavers before I start to feel rough bits. Yes, sometimes you have to go over areas repeatedly to catch all of the bits, but this is common to all electric shavers I've ever used, and also for wet shaves. It also seems to do the job more quickly than my previous shavers, missing fewer hairs and cutting closer first time around.

The travel pouch is big enough to hold the shaver and nothing more. Another reviewer has complained that the cable doesn't fit inside the case but I don't see this as an issue. An old shaver of mine had a case which also held the cable and as a result the case was bulky, which was a pain when I was going away for a night and wanted to fit everything into a small piece of luggage. With this I can just throw the shaver into my case, and push the cable into a convenient gap somewhere, and that's that. The case is rigid and made of an ABS-like material, almost like stiff rucksack fabric, and zips up along the two short ends and one long side, so it doesn't need a long space to be available when opened. It looks good actually.

Now for the niggles, and they're minor. The aforementioned case doesn't have a recess for the cleaning brush, so if you put the shaver and brush into the case the brush will fall out as soon as you open it. If you own a cleaning station for a previous Braun shaver the size of the head of the 9040s probably means that you won't be able to use it anymore - it certainly won't fit into the station for my 8995. I do slightly miss the LCD display from my 8995 too, which provided a reading of how many minutes of shave time the battery had left (more accurate than bars!) and also told me when the device needed a really good clean.

All in all though these niggles are minor. This is a brilliant shaver, and if you're a fan of Braun electrics I heartily recommend it.

GENUINE! New, Packaged, Aquila Nylgut Soprano Ukulele strings (key of C) AQ-4U - Beware of Imitations!
GENUINE! New, Packaged, Aquila Nylgut Soprano Ukulele strings (key of C) AQ-4U - Beware of Imitations!
Offered by Omega Music
Price: £5.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Great strings, 20 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A lovely set of ukulele strings. The package is a paper folder sealed in a plastic bag, and inside the folder you'll find the four strings in individual plastic envelopes, marked with coloured stickers, and the paper folder tells you which colour represents which string. The strings are loosely coiled and were quick and easy to fit on my ukulele. Obviously make sure when buying new strings that you get the correct ones for your ukulele - these ones are clearly labelled as for soprano models.

As with all strings, they stretch a fair bit when new, but after a while they settle down and hold their notes well. I've noticed a little buzziness on some chords since changing my strings but again I'm hoping this will reduce over time. The tone is good, and I'm very pleased with my new strings. I'll definitely buy Aquila again.

Jim Dunlop 100SI Guitar String Winder
Jim Dunlop 100SI Guitar String Winder
Price: £1.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, 20 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It was time for me to change the strings on my ukulele, and I'd watched various YouTube videos showing the process and in most of them winders were used. I'd read some bad reports of Jim Dunlop gear, but this was cheap and I thought I'd give it a go.

It comes shrink-wrapped on a card, and there are no instructions but it's obvious how you use this. It's small enough for me to keep in my ukulele case alongside my tuner and capo, and it works well too, making changing strings a quick and easy process. I'm sure other winders are available but this one does the job well enough for me.

byteStor Pro 32GB USB 3.0 High Speed Flash Drive - Black
byteStor Pro 32GB USB 3.0 High Speed Flash Drive - Black
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars It's ugly, but it works well, 20 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was impressed by how this was packaged. Having bought various USB flash drives over the years they've tended to come in an impenetrable plastic shell which requires a Stanley knife to open, but this came in a cellophane pouch which, once torn open by hand, contained a plastic tray with the drive sitting inside. It's a shame the packaging was still plastic, but it was easy to open at least.

The stick itself is about the same size as any other USB drive, so it's not the kind you could leave plugged into your laptop and use as a semi-permanent hard drive. It's made of fairly cheap and nasty matt black plastic, with a cap that pulls off but doesn't remain attached (you can click it onto the back end of the drive if you wish though) so this may be lost, and unlike some others the USB plug part isn't retractable. There's a hole in the back end so you could always attach it to a keyring I suppose, or maybe a cord of some kind (not supplied.) It certainly won't win any prizes for its visual appeal.

But what about performance? My laptop recognized it straight away and reported it as being 28GB - a little less than the advertised 32GB - and it was named "USB DRIVE" by default, but obviously you can change this. I selected a bunch of large PDFs - about 100MB in total - from my laptop and sent them to the drive, and the file copy window barely had chance to open. The same was true when I moved them back to my laptop. It's a fast little thing, and I hope to try running a virtual machine from it soon, as I think it should perform just fine.

All in all, it's a USB memory stick, it's fast, it works well, but it's not exactly a looker. For the price it's a bit of a bargain too.

Hive Active Heating and Hot Water with Professional Installation
Hive Active Heating and Hot Water with Professional Installation
Offered by garyrip
Price: £189.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive!, 10 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an intriguing system that offers the ability to control your central heating and hot water from wherever you are, via your mobile phone, tablet or computer. Potentially this could offer reductions in your heating bills, which can only be a good thing.

On arrival the package is surprisingly an empty cardboard box, containing a leaflet with a scratch-off panel, behind which is a reference number. You then contact British Gas to arrange installation. Annoyingly the installation can only be done between 8AM and 6PM Monday to Friday, which is extremely inconvenient for those of us who work and struggle to get time off, and British Gas don't offer any flexibility on this, such as paying extra for evening or weekend installations. As a result I had to wait a month to get the system installed.

When the engineer arrives they bring the gear with them, and the system consists of three items. First there is a small white box which plugs into your internet router (you need a spare port on your router, and a mains plug socket for this) which just sits there and you never have to touch it once the system is working. Secondly a similar plastic box is attached to the wall next to your boiler, and this requires a spare mains socket in the vicinity. On my system I was replacing a UP1 controller, and the Hive fitter simply replaced the old unit with the Hive receiver, so a mains socket wasn't required for us. The final piece of the system is the thermostat, which attaches to a wall in your home and contains two AA batteries. The front of the unit has a large LCD panel which displays the current temperature in the house, and four buttons allow you to make the temperature hotter or colder, or override the schedule entirely, for example if you just want to turn everything on or off centrally. Installation took around an hour for us, the biggest chunk of time taken up with pairing our system with the servers back at Hive.

Of course there is then the part of the system you'll see the most - the app. I've tried the Android and iOS apps, and they are both easy to use and intuitive. You can also control the system via a web browser, setting schedules and so on, and again it feels very slick. The mobile apps also offer a geospatial feature, where you can instruct Hive to, for example, switch your heating and water off when you are a certain distance away from home and getting further away, then come back on when you are getting closer. When you enable this you obviously require location access to be enabled on your mobile device plus have a working data connection, but if you cross the radius you set your phone will notify you and ask if you want it to change your heating accordingly. It's a nice idea but in reality it doesn't always work, and if you spend your day moving back and forth you could get a lot of notifications which could quickly get annoying! I asked the fitter about this and he said he tried it, but as he's constantly on the road it drove him crazy, his phone asking him to confirm again and again if he wanted his heating turning off or on as he went closer to then further away from home.

Worth mentioning is that you can also control your boiler by text message once the system is installed, so you can just text your boiler asking it to come on even without a data connection. I expect this will be an absolute boon when I go on holiday, texting my boiler when I get to the airport, and arriving home to a nice warm house instead of what feels like a fridge.

So does it save any money? I expect to see my bills drop a little now that this has been installed, and if I remember to do so I'll update this review accordingly over time.

All in all it's an impressive system, and looks promising. Minus a star for British Gas's infuriating installation policy.

UPDATE 28/4/15 - We've now been using Hive for about a month and it's working well for us. Our British Gas tariff requires us to submit monthly meter readings and comparing April 2015 to April 2014 our gas bill is £5.03 cheaper, and we've used 119.79 kWh less of gas. Not a massive cost saving, but a saving nonetheless, especially when prices have probably increased since last year. The flexibility of Hive is great too. We don't use the geolocation feature, but on a couple of occasions we've woken up on a chilly day and turned the thermostat up by a degree or two without having to get out of bed :-)

Some reviewers have mentioned the fact that the thermostat is battery powered. This is true. From the Hive dashboard (website) you can see the amount of power left in the batteries, plus this is also visible on the thermostat itself, and the engineer who installed the system told me that it sends alerts to your phone to warn you if the battery fails. If it is anything like the water tank thermostat on our system (separate to Hive) which is also battery powered, the batteries last a couple of years. I suspect that the Hive thermostat will have a similar battery life, especially if you control the temperature via your phone, tablet or computer rather than from the thermostat itself, which lights up whenever buttons are pressed. In my opinion the battery powered thermostat isn't a big issue at all.

UPDATE 27/5/15 - (I won't do this every month - don't worry!) Just had our latest bill for the month and once again our gas usage has dropped. Granted, it's dropped by 26.4 kWh which isn't a huge amount, and this equates to about £2, but it's still a fall. It's also worth mentioning that we have turned the heating up a fair bit of late as it's been unseasonally chilly. The Hive app is still a bit of an obsession for us, and we often squabble over who gets to fire up the app and change the temperature (sad, but true!) plus it's interesting to open the website or the app from work and see what the current temperature is in the house, and from the graphs how it has changed while we've been out. In terms of batteries, the batteries in the thermostat are still reading as being full. We're still delighted with the system - wish we'd had it installed long ago.

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