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Reviews Written by
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom)

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by Renée Knight
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The unbelievable truth, 25 April 2015
This review is from: Disclaimer (Hardcover)
Chockfull of casually introduced clues, one of which turns the whole plot around, `Disclaimer' plays with your emotions, upends your preconceptions, and makes you a party to judgements that may well embarrass you later.

Dreadful, life-changing secrets are teased out at an exquisitely slow pace. At first what is happening to Catherine is mysterious, you hardly know what to think. A newly printed, self- published book has appeared at her bedside, following a house move. On opening it, she finds a weird version of events that she recognises to be of a long buried time, days with terrible consequences. Guilt and fear that she truly never thought she would have to face up to. Your own imagination will run wild, but I don't think you will guess correctly - when eventually the truth hits you in the face with a smack.

I read this in one go, staying awake into the small hours, I was enthralled and in awe of its cleverness, the tantalising tweaks and surprises. How one night and a day could cause such damage, not just to Catherine, but to two families, well, it took my breath away. Psychological thriller, yes, but it also struck me as a crime mystery and a family drama, with all the best ingredients for a few hours on the edge of your seat.

Coming Up Roses
Coming Up Roses
by Rachael Lucas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.64

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Daisy Daisy, give me your answer do..., 23 April 2015
This review is from: Coming Up Roses (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
OK, this isn't high brow stuff but honestly sometimes something sweet and simple satisfies. A 'read in a day' romp, preferably enjoyed on a sunny patio or by a pool, it's everyday escapism that hits the spot. This perfectly paced village romance will warm the cockles of your heart and have you rooting for professional gardener Daisy as she recovers from some beastly treatment by her ex Jamie and her also ex BF Sue. Daisy's sister Miranda backs her up throughout, while their dippy hippy SKI-ing parents mean to find themselves, away now off travelling; so there's an empty house in a dear old Marple/Midsomer-style village (nobody dies though) together with the ancient family retriever Polly and an overgrown garden to get to grips with. This the recipe for Daisy's days, topped up with interesting new pals who manage to rebuild her with plenty of sunshine and kindly care.

After a few false starts the real deal guy appears in her life and from then on in you want her to work it out and quick. As for new friends, Neighbour Elaine, a brittle blogger in the Martha Stewart mould, makes contact and breaks down Daisy's 'I want to be alone' frame of mind. All is not as it seems with Elaine's life either, but hey ho she can cope. Patches of pantomime drama pop up, especially when cuckolded husbands beard her prep school head husband in his den. It's not all dalliances in the delphiniums though, throughout this bright and breezy tale the subject of food shines out, pub grub, tea shop tasties, impromptu chef-y treats from an iffie Irishman, mouthwatering descriptions of sophisticated baking by Elaine, which must of course be photographed and posted before eating.

Nice girl Jo has a secret too, her daughter has a dad who doesn't know she happened, so there's some farce like fun catching up with Tom, the poet, at a literary festival. Mostly though it is a fast romp through allotments, vegetable parterres, village shows, open garden days, cosy pubs and charming elderly residents who can see what's needed and are well up to some matchmaking...

This leaves you with an itch to get out in the borders, pricking out some seedlings, tidying up some beds, planting out pretties... I loved it.

Lexar Professional JumpDrive P20 32GB USB 3.0 (400MB/s) Retractable Design Flash Drive Memory Stick - Black
Lexar Professional JumpDrive P20 32GB USB 3.0 (400MB/s) Retractable Design Flash Drive Memory Stick - Black
Price: £38.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast and secure - but could be better built, 21 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was very pleased with this high capacity memory stick as it met my needs perfectly. I was looking for a decent capacity drive for moving around large files from time to time, a decent transfer speed - not common on USB memory sticks - and an easy to use layer of security. The Lexar JumpDrive delivers on all of these, with only one caveat.

The memory is a sensible size which should fit into the vast majority of USB ports, without being the smallest memory stick in the world. The metal underside looks smart and feels solid, and the plastic top side is tough enough if less premium in look and feel. However, the design of this memory stick has, in my view, a slight weakness. The USB connector is retractable, controlled by a sliding mechanism in the middle of the body of the memory stick, where your thumb naturally goes when holding such a small and lightweight item between forefinger and thumb. This slide mechanism is not entirely smooth, and can be frustrating to operate. I can understand that it is not meant to be totally loose, as this would risk the USB connector popping out accidentally. However, it is too difficult when using just a thumb to slide the connector out in one movement.

Transfer speed
The JumpDrive is USB 3.0 capable, and transfer speeds will depend on lots of variables, including file size and type, and the speed of the USB port on your computer. I found the transfer speeds more than satisfactory for my purposes: I transferred files of around 100mb (PowerPoint presentations too large to email) to the JumpDrive via a USB 2 port in not much more than five seconds. For this particular use case I am very happy with the speed, especially as the files being copied are also being encrypted - see below.

The security feature was important to me. While the files I need to transfer are not that sensitive, the biggest risk of using a USB memory stick is of course losing it, or temporarily misplacing it, owing to the relatively tiny size of these devices. The JumpDrive comes loaded with encryption software for both PC and Mac. I used the Mac software and found it very easy to use. I have tried other USB memory sticks claiming security features but this is the first one that has worked easily. You launch the encryption programme direct from the memory stick, then set a complex password with the help of a visual guide to let you know how secure your proposed password will be. After a short period of inactivity the encryption software application locks itself and asks for the password. As I passed the stick around between computers the password system worked flawlessly, but I can’t comment on how difficult it would be to bypass the encryption software. Finally, it’s worth noting that you don’t have to use the encryption software to use this memory stick.

The JumpDrive delivers on capacity, security and, for me at least, file transfer speeds; although I didn’t test it on a USB 3 port. Apart from the slight irritation of the tough sliding mechanism, I was very pleased with the overall package.

American Apparel Cotton Spandex Jersey Yoga Pant - Navy - L
American Apparel Cotton Spandex Jersey Yoga Pant - Navy - L
Offered by Shiningstar*
Price: £14.45

3.0 out of 5 stars And now we will do level three table top, child's pose, standing on one leg...., 21 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am 5'4" and the L size were at least 4" too long. I cut them down and hemmed them and now they are just right. I bought them for PIlates and I like the generous, high waistband that you can fold down or leave as a kind of waist cummerbund.

The material is thick and not see through, strong enough for stretching and gently elastic. It may matter to you that you will need to wear a long top over these pants as they cling and reveal your 'front bottom'.

I think they are very good value but odd in size. My legs are a normal to skinny size around the tops and these pants are tight as leggings at the tops with the loose bell bottom flare quite wide.

WWE Double Attack Daniel Bryan Figure
WWE Double Attack Daniel Bryan Figure
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Ready when you are..., 21 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I chose this for my grandsons to enjoy. I have always realised that play figures are extremely popular toys as they allow the imagination to grow, and are of a size to fit a child's hand, easily portable and in this case quite controllable in the movements. As the child matures, Playmobil pirates, lego men and other small figures with limited movements may well be superseded by lifelike models of real people who the child can recognise. Daniel Bryan is an American professional wrestler, maybe not so well known here but a famous fighter who can be followed. 6+ is the recommended age group for this model. You'll need scissors to release him from his packaging, he is trembling with excitement at the thought of getting free!

Other famous American wrestlers are also available in this format, plus a ring for them to compete in. Playing against another figure is clearly the way to get best use out of this, perhaps two friends enacting matches on the ring you can buy. He's obviously got to have an opponent!

By squeezing Daniel's legs together the action begins. Sideways from the torso he twists and turns flexing his muscles and shooting punches. The range of movement isn't all that impressive, and only one leg seems to have traction, the other is rock solid. You can hold his arms up in a victory salute and move them about separately. I was disappointed that he wasn't even more flexible, he looks so jointed and wired, as if he could do more. It got boring quite quickly just squeezing him watching his body turn from side to side. His strange rigidity only allows a few actions.

Today my four year old grandson played with it happily after school. He said he would like another model or to wrestle the toy against. So one is clearly not enough. He, his brother and sister knew about Daniel Bryan, he is in a WWE game they play. So that made it better fun. They have asked for the ring and other characters. 'Collecting' the set is what's suggested and clearly we are hooked.

Not a bad toy but could be better I think with more plasticity.

The Spring of Kasper Meier
The Spring of Kasper Meier
by Ben Fergusson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.49

3.0 out of 5 stars The green shoots of humanity, 20 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Beware, if you are of a sensitive nature, as some scenes in this might burn into your brain and stay there. Misery, fear, danger, brutality and the death of innocence are only slightly tempered by the brief flash of recognition that there is hope and goodness in the most apparently broken and downtrodden hearts. I feel that this book could be almost too bleak for its own good. Friendship kindled under the most unusual circumstances, thoughtfulness and consideration lift the mood from time to time. My less than enthusiastic opinion is coloured by the better experience of reading the more likeable book The Aftermath which is another book set in Germany post WWII.

I must admit that I found the large cast in this tale, and the intermittent vignettes of apparently random others, rather tricky to get a hold on. Distracting and unsettling. In fact I only actually enjoyed the last few paragraphs!

Post Apocalyptic in mood, life in the war torn ruins of Berlin could hardly be worse for its defeated citizens. Daily experiences of starvation are a reality, the black marketers the kings. Everything is reduced to basics, people are watchful, paranoid, hard and wary. Kasper Meir isn't easy to take to and follow, yet he is the one we travel alongside. He lives on his wits as a procurer, of goods such as tins of ham, medicines, clothes,cigarettes, whatever, and weirdly, lost people. Gay (not that the phrase was in use then) and under the shadow of illegality, he is haunted, scared, yet he has a measure of understanding and affection for his apparently hapless tormentor that feels like an unexpected ray of sunshine. Kasper even considers that life in prison might be better than his present circumstances, should the blackmailer do their worst and expose him. However he has a sick father to care for, who shouldn't be living in a room beside him rather should be sharing according to the rules. This matters. The unlikely partnership of Kasper and young Eva, a street urchin who could be from a Charles Dickens novel, is the core of the story.

I have read about the Trummerfrau/ the rubble women who feature here, before, particularly in Germany: Memories of a Nation and so it was interesting to meet them at closer quarters here. Dan Fergusson has used his time in Berlin to dig deep into their rubble, to expose the everyday life endured during those dreadful days.

I am I am afraid down beat with my review because it felt very masculine, hard and desolate. The violence, large and small is careless and cruel. Relationships are often based on gain, hidden agendas. It is involving, but I was really glad to finish it. There is some redemption to be had, especially in a selfless act at the end which took my breath away. Twists and turns too with a plot that only reveals itself when you have ploughed through terrible chapters about people you only meet once and then they die.

This is a difficult debut to recommend, I may not be the target audience I feel, it is far from an easy read, but written around a time that deserves a light shone it, to see where history went in Germany after the carnage, bombs and anger were exhausted. There is a debate going on at present about the true role of the Rubble Women. Some of the clearing was done by other miserable groups, prisoners for example. The memorials to the women stand though as their contribution was an uplifting one of restoration one brick at a time.

LED Belt
LED Belt
Offered by RDE Products
Price: £32.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Safe Be Seen, 20 April 2015
This review is from: LED Belt (Misc.)
This is a well made, top quality belt which could literally save your life. The bright flashing LED lights will certainly make you stand out on a dark night. Walking the dog, running after work, even cycling, whenever you need to be seen.

Its easy to switch on the belt by pressing down on the little button on top of the control box, that is slipped inside the belt, by the buckle. Press down for flashing or to have it permanently on. When the battery runs out it can be replaced with a watch/ flat coin type.

I found it most comfortable to wear around my waist, it stays in place, and in my case I had it tightened to the smallest measurement, around 32". So it will fit all but a very slender adult or child. The slot in buckle is clunky but reliable. The length of the belt includes a zipper compartment which might hold a few coins, notes, sweets or a key, not a phone or anything wider than an inch or so.

I think the visibility will be more pronounced from behind as the length of the light stops before the front fastening and the adjustable straps.

I was sent this useful item by RDE products for a fair review, which I am happy to give.

Alicia's Gift
Alicia's Gift
by Jessica Duchen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Be careful what you wish for, 19 April 2015
This review is from: Alicia's Gift (Paperback)
I have come late to the party for 'Alicia's Gift', which was given to me by a most musical friend who had even attended a concert last year featuring Viv McLean on piano and the author narrating alongside.

The book tells a most touching, thoughtful story, which may well be greatly more appreciated by listeners to Classic FM. Even with a tin ear you can still be moved by the magic and carried away by the melodies. Beautifully written with never a jarring phrase or off key remark, we follow the progress of Alicia from babyhood to achieving her majority.

Why and how people can hurt each other, attempt to control to them nth degree and behave in a way they never dreamed they could is all in a day's work for Jessica Duchen. Those who love Jodi Picoult will recognise the interior dialogues, the self blame and the modern theme of over involvement of parents in their children's' lives.

We may all think it would be immensely rewarding and proud making to rear a prodigy but for Kate/Katie it is a two edged sword. Already wrecked by a upbringing thwarted by twisted agendas and abandoned musical ambition herself then worse still losing her first child, she approaches parenthood with an attitude that bears no challenging. Husband Guy, who has a gentler nature and plays piano himself, is shouted off the court. Adrian, the other member of this messed up family does his best but is never listened to or taken notice of once it is confirmed that Alicia has her gift.

An enjoyable tale with an ending that leaves you breathless and wanting more, a perfect mix; well researched background and poignant appreciation of the ways of the heart.

Thomas & Friends My First Pop & Go Thomas
Thomas & Friends My First Pop & Go Thomas
Offered by Fun Collectables
Price: £15.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Bubbling and bouncing along, full steam ahead, 19 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I chose this for our eighteen month old grandson. It was quick to put the handle on, with a cross thread screwdriver, just two screws. Of course the engine alone can be pushed along and played with as a big Thomas toy. Using the handle makes it more fun, gives the feeling of hoovering or mowing for instance; joys to come in later life...

The little chap beamed and laughed, recognising Thomas immediately. The few coloured balls inside the transparent engine bump up and down as the train is moved ahead. A small button device in the bottom of the engine reacts to motion and propels them up and down, I think.

This is a friendly, attractive toy which will be appreciated for several or more months. Happily it does not make a loud noise!

Keep Quiet
Keep Quiet
by Lisa Scottoline
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Driving you round the bend, 16 April 2015
This review is from: Keep Quiet (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Once opened you are locked in for the ride, this is a dilemma you have to see resolved. Who knows what one would do in the same situation. I'd like to think I would behave appropriately, in fact I'd stake my life on that, as if I didn't, my life wouldn't be worth living. However these characters are a different breed. Mother Pam, who is an ambitious rising Judge is a holy terror, a tiger mother of the first water. She is incredible. Absolutely ghastly. Lectures in therapy-ese, micro manages her unfortunate son Ryan's daily movements, even logging into something appalling called The Parent Portal, an online watchdog website set up by the school to alert parents to any misdemeanours, no shows, recent grades... She even justifies being unfaithful by blaming her neutered husband Jake, who is so squashed by her and his career ups and downs he daren't say boo to a goose. Or dial 911 when he so clearly should. A nightmare.

I did feel empowered by the dawning realisation that I'd worked out the end halfway through which does add a warm feeling of satisfaction. However this book is Jodie Picoult's recipe right down to the endearing dog who endlessly rattles its toe nails on the wooden floors. Too much repetition of phrases, the one about feeding the car gas being the most frequent, really annoyed but maybe that was my proof version.

I read it in a few hours and did get totally involved, although until I was properly into it I could have thrown it down in frustration. I felt so cross that an adult was behaving so ridiculously. Reading this is certain to raise your blood pressure and make you want to shout out at the ridiculous 'parenting' mess up two apparently clever adults were busy facilitating, I was sorriest for Ryan and even the ending made me long for him to be allowed to grow up and leave home!

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