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Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom)
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Discovering Scarfolk
Discovering Scarfolk
Price: £8.64

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully dark, 13 Jan. 2015
The cover of this book caught my eye in a local bookshop - it looks almost weathered and worn, and has an authenticity to it, as though it is a forgotten guidebook, which in some ways is exactly what it sets out to be.

Scarfolk is a fictional town in the north-west of England and is apparently trapped in the 1970s. All manner of sinister events occur, and the council are clearly keen on public information posters, many of which are printed in the book. In case you haven't guessed the book is humour, but of a very dark "League of Gentlemen"-esque nature, with many echoes of classic horror films such as "The Wicker Man" thrown in. The graphical side of the book is stunning, the posters being things of sinister beauty, and as a child of the 1970s they reminded me of the terrifying public information films that interspersed TV shows back then. I did make a bit of a scene on the train one day when I was reading this on my way to work as I started laughing out loud, especially at the section called "The Missing Years" where there is a collection of unrelated bits and pieces from the town, and I loved the part about music, such as the album "Space Minstrel" by a group called Beige. There is also a narrative to much of the book, where a man travelling through the country with his sons stops in Scarfolk and suddenly his children go missing, and the book supposedly forms his dossier of information on the town. but for me the narrative aspect was the least successful part of the book - I greatly preferred the more random sections, where different aspects of the town were covered. For me the laughs did fizzle out somewhat towards the end, as though the book peaked around the half-way mark for me.

Several reviewers have commented about the printing, and my copy (a first edition) did suffer from the faults. Many of the graphics look pixellated, as though they have been enlarged and as a result have become blurred or blocky, but this only really caused a problem on a few of the images where the text is rather small. It did spoil things a little, especially in such a visual book.

All in all, if you're a fan of the likes of "The League of Gentlemen" you'll love this. It's a lovely book to look at too, and the humour is wonderfully dark.


Us
Us
Price: £2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment after "One Day", 7 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Us (Kindle Edition)
Douglas Petersen is shocked when his wife Connie tells him she thinks their relationship has run its course, and that after their forthcoming trip to Europe with their wayward son she intends to leave him. He hopes that she will change her mind during the holiday, but can she be persuaded?

I loved "One Day", especially its imaginative structure, but I didn't enjoy "Us" anywhere near as much. It's an easy read (I'm surprised that it was longlisted for the Man Booker prize) but in my opinion it was far too long, and crucially I didn't warm to any of the characters. Douglas was rather fusty and dull, Connie seemed cold, and their son just came across as rather obnoxious and selfish. Did I find it amusing? I'm afraid not, although I did smile a handful of times. Did I cry? No. It kept me occupied for a few days, but ultimately I found it a huge disappointment after "One Day".


Kärcher WV60 Window Vac - Window Cleaning Vacuum Kit
Kärcher WV60 Window Vac - Window Cleaning Vacuum Kit
Offered by Alex Shanks Ltd
Price: £66.26

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant!, 30 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What a fantastic thing! We bought this on a whim as we're forever finding that when we clean our windows and tiles they end up in a streaky mess. Would this help? YES!

It's smaller than I imagined, and light too. Inside the box you'll find the vac, a mains charger, two squeegee nozzles (one narrower than the other), a sachet of cleaning solution, a spray gun and a fleecy attachment for the spray. Once the vac has been charged (took about an hour for us I think - a red light close to the power connector blinks while charging and is on constantly when charged) you simply clip a nozzle to the device, spray the window, give them a wipe and off you go. To operate, the vac has an on / off switch inside the handle (a button you click on / off, rather than a trigger) and you simply use the vac like a squeegee. The results are brilliant - our largest kitchen window has always been a problem to clean as every streak stands out like a sore thumb, but after a few seconds with this it looked amazing. We had no problems getting to the bottom of the window - you can use the unit horizontally if you need - and there were no streaks at all. Off the first charge I managed to do six picture windows, sixteen small windows, six glass door panels, and a seven panel glass porch! In use the vac is light and doesn't make too much noise - it sounds a bit like a hairdryer actually. To empty, simply pull out the rubber bung on the clear / grey water tank and tilt the unit over a sink. You'll probably be shocked at how filthy your windows are!

The spray gun is essentially a plastic plant sprayer, and the sachet of solution is enough to fill the bottle (20ml, then fill the bottle with tap water to a "MAX" line on the neck) - the windows I mentioned earlier used maybe three quarters of the bottle. 500ml bottles of solution are also available from Amazon and other retailers, including supermarkets. To be honest you can also use soapy water, or other detergent for that matter. Additional microfibre pads are also available, and the one supplied with the unit is washable, but again you could just as well use a cloth or paper towel to wash your surfaces.

Does it just work on windows? No! I've used it on windows, mirrors, tiles (the bathroom wall around the shower), and the stainless steel cooker hood, and all came up brilliantly. You can also use it to clean up small spillages on tiled floors. Be warned though - it's not a wet / dry vac and is only for clearing up liquids.

All in all this is a fantastic little thing. I wish we'd bought one sooner.


Homeys Rufus Slippers - Autum Tweed
Homeys Rufus Slippers - Autum Tweed

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice slippers, but be careful if you've got big feet!, 30 Dec. 2014
For years I've had a thing about what my girlfriend calls "old bloke slippers", as whenever I buy a new pair I always seem to plump for the tweediest styles imaginable, and always with what I'd describe as "a good sole." I've fancied a pair of Homeys for some time now, so when my old pair gave up the ghost late in 2014 I already knew what I wanted for Christmas.

They look great - lined with white fleecy stuff, with a nice patterned exterior, a velcro tab on one side, and moulded soles complete with a fun teacup pattern. They look retro yet modern. When I put them on however I noticed a tiny issue. I've got big feet (size 11 or 12, depending on footwear brand) and the only Homeys that would fit me were the large size, which are officially stated as being 11/12, yet they feel a little snug on me. In addition, the slippers are quite pointed, the upper part of the foot pointing down quite sharply towards the toe (visible on the second picture on the product page) and as a result they squash the tops of my toes a little. I'm sure than in time the slippers will stretch a little and this will improve, but at the moment they're not quite as comfortable as I'd hoped they would be.

All in all they're a nice looking slipper but if you're a big-footed monster like me you might wish to try them in a shop first.


In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile
In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile
Price: £9.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, gripping, and disturbing, 23 Dec. 2014
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When I was a child Jimmy Savile was all over the media, from "Jim'll Fix It" on Saturday evenings, through his radio shows, to his annual appearances at the London Marathon and occasional stories about charity work in the media. I remember some members of my family commenting that he made their skin crawl but personally I thought he seemed fine - a man who helped people to realise their dreams while doing so much good work for charity. Of course, as the years went by there were always rumours, whispers in the media and in more recent times online, and then the Louis Theroux documentary finally painted him as a rather unnerving and sinister character, and my opinion of him changed.

This is a superb book, incredibly harrowing in places, but utterly unputdownable. The author spent a great deal of time with Savile over the years, recording conversations and seeing the man behind the public image. From the outset it's a horrifying tale as we read of so many incidents where people knew what he was doing but let him continue, sometimes out of fear due to his litigious nature, sometimes because of his connections in high places, and sometimes because of his charity work - something of an "if we tell he'll stop raising money for us." I found the chapter "Your Porter Hurt Me" almost unbearably hard to read, but there are mind-boggling sections of the book where he appears at local fêtes and the like and asks for six young girls to be his bodyguards, and the local councils actually audition girls for the roles. All the way through I kept expecting each chapter to end with him getting caught, but of course we know this only happened after his death.

One of the best, if most disturbing, books I've read all year.


III
III
Offered by FLASH
Price: £10.88

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Progress from "Progress", but still some catching up to do to reclaim their past glories, 8 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: III (Audio CD)
Since their comeback I've become something of a Take That fan, but their last album, "Progress", was a huge drop in quality for me. The issue there was the overbearing presence of Robbie Williams, who seemed to take over the record (and the live show), turning it more into a Robbie album instead of a Take That album, and the songs on that collection just weren't as good as before. Thankfully his return was just for that album - the cynic in me also thinks it was perhaps just to raise his own profile once again, as he followed it almost immediately with his own solo record and tour. When "III" was announced it was also the moment that Jason's departure from the band was revealed, so how would things be this time around as a three-piece?

It starts promisingly with the great "These Days", similar in many ways to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky", and for a while the record follows a dance template. It's all very up-beat, but something has gone a little awry and it feels like a collection of solo songs rather than "band" songs - each track seems to have a single vocalist and the others are hard to detect. That said, the songs are almost all very good, the only dud for me being "Give You My Love" sung by Howard Donald. In fact, the best tracks in my opinion are sung by Mark Owen, never my favourite singer in the band, and "Into The Wild" is by far and away my favourite. Also worth a mention is "Believe", one of the bonus tracks, again sung by Mark. Another bonus track, "Amazing", seems to be Gary's attempt at writing a Beatles song, and sadly it fails.

So are they any good as a three-piece? It's a consistent album, but I do miss the variety of the likes of the "Beautiful World" and "The Circus" albums, which had a real mixture of sounds. This seems heavily inspired by the sound of "Progress", but for me does it a whole lot better. I can imagine it being enjoyable live, with one of their trademark huge productions, but it's a shame there's no "Patience" or a "Rule The World", although the closing (of the "main" album) "Get Ready For It" pushes all of the anthemic buttons.

All in all it's a good album and thoroughly enjoyable, but not a great one. Maybe when Jason comes back for their 25th anniversary he'll bring that missing ingredient with him.


Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Tracker & Sleep Wristband - Black
Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Tracker & Sleep Wristband - Black
Price: £64.99

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, 8 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm not a fitness enthusiast, but for a long time I've wondered just how far I walk each day, and how well I actually sleep. I bought one of these as an Amazon "Black Friday" offer and it quickly became my latest obsession.

The box contains the Fitbit flex - a rubbery wristband with a small "chip" inside it which can be removed if you'd prefer to carry it in your pocket for example - along with a smaller wristband, and a charging dongle of sorts into which the "chip" is inserted whilst the other end plugs into a USB socket on a computer or your mobile phone charger. You'll need a Bluetooth device of some sort - a phone, a computer, or a tablet - to configure it. I used the Android and iOS apps, both of which are very similar in terms of look, feel and functionality. The initial configuration is a matter of installing the app (or visiting the website if you're using a computer), firing up your Bluetooth, and the app will find your Fitbit. Create a Fitbit account, and that's pretty much it. Within a few minutes I had the band on my wrist and I was away.

Via the website you can set goals for number of steps walked each day and so on, and while you're on the move you can use the app to document what you've eaten, how much water you drink, and if you do any specific exercise activity such as swimming, cycling and so on. The rest of the time the Flex sits on your wrist and records what you get up to. You don't need to keep your Bluetooth switched on on your phone, and you don't even need your phone to be nearby, as the data gets stored inside the Flex until you choose to download it by opening the app and enabling Bluetooth on your phone. You'll see statistics and, if you tap them, graphs showing how you've done, and if you meet your target number of steps you'll feel the Flex vibrate on your wrist - a strange sensation every time it happens, but neither audible nor noticeable to those around you. You can even use this feature to set "silent alarms", programming your Flex to vibrate at a set time which can be useful as an alarm clock that won't disturb anyone else, or - craftily - if you're going somewhere and want to leave at a certain time you can set the Flex to remind you to do a runner and nobody will ever know, as you've not been constantly checking your watch.

In operation the Flex is rather minimalist. The product image shows a line of white lights, but these are only visible if you tap the Flex. The lights show how close to your daily goal you are - five lights means you're there. It's comfortable to wear, easy to remove and adjust, and there are no sensors or catches to irritate your skin.

As for the sleep tracking, it's fascinating! When I go to bed I tap the Flex repeatedly for a few seconds until two of the lights are displayed, and that's all that is required to tell it you're in bed. Wake up the next morning, tap the Flex a few times again until it vibrates and the lights come back, and if you look at the app you'll see how long you were asleep, and the graph shows sleeping time in dark blue, restless time in light blue, and awake time in a pinkish-red. Okay, so it only classes restless as when you move your arm, and it doesn't rate the quality of your sleep, but it's still addictive. Incidentally, if you forget to tell the Flex that you're going to sleep you can manually log your sleep via the app, and the graph is still displayed.

Battery life is good, and if you disable "all day sync" (where it constantly tries to send Bluetooth data) it lasts even longer. A charge normally lasts about five days for me. The app tells you your current battery level.

All in all this is a great little thing even for those of us who don't choose to go running.


Monument Valley
Monument Valley
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Small but perfectly formed, 8 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Monument Valley (App)
Short and very sweet, this is a wonderful game. Easily completable in an hour - probably less - it's reminiscent of those MC Escher paintings where people walk up endless staircases, or water flows uphill.

You play a little girl in a strange landscape, and your task is to progress through these ten environments, sometimes moving parts of the structure, occasionally avoiding bird-people who stalk around the pathways, until you reach a goal at the end of each level. It sounds strange but it's simple to play, just a case of tapping where you want the girl to go, or dragging items such as totem poles or handles around. Throughout there is gentle, calming music, and there's nothing to offend or shock at any point, so it is safe for anyone to play.

A small, but perfectly formed game. I loved it.


The Sins of the Father (Clifton Chronicles Book 2)
The Sins of the Father (Clifton Chronicles Book 2)
Price: £1.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of the same entertaining fluff, 8 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After recently reading book one of Jeffrey Archer's "Clifton Chronicles" saga I bought the second book, hoping for more of the same, and I wasn't disappointed.

As with the first book, this is a fast-paced, easy read, where the good are saintly and the bad are just evil, and as you suspend disbelief the pages fly by in a blur. It's shorter than its predecessor, so it doesn't sag quite as much as that one, but the story here was a little less interesting than the first for me. As before, there's another huge cliff-hanger at the end, and once again I immediately found myself buying the next book in the series, despite promising earlier in the read that this would be my last book in the saga.

Entertaining fluff on the whole, but hugely entertaining fluff at that.


Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles series Book 1)
Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles series Book 1)
Price: £0.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, easy reading, 8 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The second Jeffrey Archer novel I'd read, and the start of his epic "Clifton Chronicles" family saga.

As you'd expect from Archer, it's a fast-paced, easy read, and the pages fly by. If I'm honest I'd admit I found the second half of the book not quite as interesting as the first, but I continued and have since bought (and read) the second volume of the story, and since then the third too, so it must be good.

The story revolves around a few central players, and each part of the book sees the story through the eyes of one of these people. There are frequent surprises, and regular "oh no!" moments when the plans of a character are thwarted by the acts of another. It's all very stereotypical in a way as the good people are saintly, whilst the bad are just plain evil, often in a rather cartoonish way, but it's entertaining hokum nonetheless. Of course, the whole thing also ends with a massive cliff-hanger too.

If you're looking for something entertaining, easy to read, and which will probably suck you in to the whole series of books, this is a decent offering.


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