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H Pedder "bookworm" (UK)
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Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary
Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary
by David Crystal
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars a fun, informative and engaging reference book, 9 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Interesting and engaging format that is both practical and enticing. Packed with information that is easy to reference. Includes lots of examples of usage directly from Shakespeare work.

Great reference or revision book for children and young adults who are studying the Bard, but also for those of us grown ups who just enjoy reading and learning about Shakespearean words.


Singleton Spey Cascade Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Singleton Spey Cascade Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Price: £33.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent all-rounder at a great price - recommended!, 2 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Drunk as it comes, this is an exceptionally smooth whisky that is a pleasure to sip. It harnesses the smokey (but not peaty) essence from the bourbon barrels, without the sweetness that can be found in Bourbon itself.

On the nose, it's vanilla and butterscotch - a delicious sweetness that is soft and palatable.

This is a great all-rounder; a 'safe' gift if you you're not sure what kind of whisky the recipient prefers, and an ideal introduction into the world of single malt whiskies.

Would absolutely recommend.


Philips HR1867/21 Viva Collection Quick Clean Juicer, 2 Litre, 700 Watt - Brushed Aluminium
Philips HR1867/21 Viva Collection Quick Clean Juicer, 2 Litre, 700 Watt - Brushed Aluminium
Price: £91.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, functional, compact and aesthetically pleasing - winner!, 29 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Whoever designed this juicer knew their stuff! It's compact, and can comfortable sit out on my kitchen worktop without taking up too much space. I have called it Eva... It looks so like the character from Wall-E!!

I have only my previous juicer with which to compare this, and that was Russell Hobbs Desire juice extractor. Of the two, this is way more practical, well designed and usable. It comes with a sturdy jug that fits neatly beneath the juicer spout, and the suckers on the bottom of the juicer are strong enough to keep it firmly in place when in use.

The chute for placing the ingredients is wide enough for a full apple, and the design of the juicer itself is 'stacked' which aids its compact size. Between juices, you could run a quick rinse through it by pouring warm water into the chute, or for a good clean just take it apart and wash the segments in warm water. A soft brush is ideal for effectively cleaning the centrifugal extractor. There is only one speed setting, but it handles things like carrots and ginger without a problem.

The instructions aren't great at first glance, it took me a while to work out that the segmented build meant I had to pull off the centrifugal juicer part before I could remove the final bit that collects the pulp, but once you've done it it's easy thereafter.

In comparison with my old juicer, the residual pulp is perhaps more moist - suggesting it doesn't remove as much liquid - but the juice itself was less frothy so I'm extremely happy! It's a good looking, well designed juicer that makes great juice. Would recommend.


Pearl Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Grow Your Own Kit
Pearl Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Grow Your Own Kit
Price: £18.95

2.0 out of 5 stars great concept, not great results! :-(, 29 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A fantastic idea, to use upcycled coffee grounds to grow your own pearl oyster mushrooms! As somebody who loves gardening and tree-hugger, I thought this was a great concept. I followed the instructions to the letter, however, but I now have a box of shrivelled semi-developed mushrooms lodging sorrowfully on my windowsill. Sad face :-(

The box arrived in great condition, and instructions were clear. It was difficult finding something suitable to weigh the buoyant box down in a bowl of water overnight (so the contents could soak), I ended up using a plate balanced precariously on the bobbing box. But sure enough, within about 10 days my mushrooms started to sprout, and using the water spray pump that comes with this (just attach it to any bottle) I could ensure they were kept well-watered.

They did grow quickly, but at about day 14/15, it all started to go wrong! Despite careful watering (what I thought was not too much, not too little) the mushrooms stopped growing but hadn't reached the point of harvesting, for sure. Then they started to look singed and brown around the edges! Nothing I did could rescue them so I've had to give up.

This is a great idea, albeit an expense way to get perhaps the equivalent of 2 punnets of oyster mushrooms (after 2 or 3 harvests, that's it...but you can then out the coffee grounds on your plant beds for an excellent fertiliser!), although its obviously just as much about the experience of growing your own and eating them fresh.

I'll try again, of course, but my first results were not good... and for £18 it's a sore disappointment with such uncertain results.


Maclaren Lavender 100 Percent Pure Essential Oil
Maclaren Lavender 100 Percent Pure Essential Oil
Price: £6.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Very concentrated, powerful floral lavender scent, great for relaxation, 22 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Part of the Maclaren 'Beginning' (of motherhood) range, this 100% pure essential oil seems a little highly priced when compared to other essential oils available. At £6 for 5ml, this is twice the price for half the amount compared to the lavender oil I usually use.

However, I thought all pure lavender oils would smell the same...not so. My usual brand from a local health food shop, is 'Country Harvest', and is the same source (genus): Lavandula Angustifolia), the only difference being the Maclaren one is certified organic (always a good thing). Comparing the two, the Country Harvest one smells quite deep and almost musky, whereas this Maclaren product is profoundly floral. It's difficult to say which one smells more natural, but the Maclaren oil definitely has a more obvious 'nose' appeal out of the bottle.

It's really concentrated, and just a couple of drops added to bathwater is sufficient. This makes me think it's more concentrated than my usual oil; the first time I used it, I added half a dozen or so drops like I usually would and the scent was almost overpowering! So although it's a super small bottle, it'll last twice as long I'm sure.

The child-proof cap is, I guess, a necessity but it's frustrating and at times adult-proof too! And the packaging was a bit of a joke, with the bottle wrapped in a small padded envelope that was then sent in an A4 brown envelope - so wasteful!

Ultimately, even though it's more expensive than I'm used to and a smaller bottle than I expected, the oil itself seems of a very good quality and a little will go a long way.


Avalon Organic Clarifying Lemon Shampoo 330 ml
Avalon Organic Clarifying Lemon Shampoo 330 ml
Offered by Blue Herbs
Price: £7.26

5.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous, and ethical!, 12 April 2015
Gorgeous natural lemon scent, foams nicely, rinses well and - in conjunction with the conditioner - left my hair beautifully soft and shiny. I have fine, long brown hair and I always use 'professional' hair products, but wanted to try a more natural hair care line that didn't break the bank. My hair was feeling lank and dry, but this perked it up and left it completely revitalised. This is definitely a keeper.


Maclaren Nurturing Bath Milk
Maclaren Nurturing Bath Milk
Price: £16.00

3.0 out of 5 stars yummy (mummy) bath milk but a bit pricey for what it is, 11 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although this is marketed as being nurturing for 'mothers' or mums-to-be, it's a nice product for anybody to enjoy, including even us childless women!! ;-)

The packaging is nice, it looks expensive, and the product is in a frosted glass bottle. All rather plush. The oil itself is strongly scented in the bottle, and it is recommended that you add 2-3 capfuls to your bath. I use 3 and the scent remains, but doesn't overpower and doesn't transfer all that strongly onto the skin. The most prominent note is citrus, with a lavender undertone.

As you add it to the water, it louches, turning milky on contact, so the water becomes cloudy. It doesn't make the bath feel oily though, which is good - you're not left with that oily film on the surface of the bath afterwards.

My skin felt soft and nourished after use, and it's great knowing that 70% of ingredients and organic and it's all pretty natural.

I have given it only 3 stars for a couple of reasons. It's expensive, and if you used the 3 capfuls per bath I'm not sure you'd get many more than half a dozen baths out of it, so you'd have to be a little more frugal with it. The scent is nice, but no nicer than the essential oils you could add to bathwater yourself...although with this being aimed at mothers and mums to be it will at least be 'safe'.

It feels like a lot of the price of thus goes towards the indulgent packaging, and it plays on the fact it's for expectant mothers which is a market ready to be milked (excuse the pun).

But it is without doubt a lovely bath milk that smells yummy, so if you want to treat yourself this is a nice option.


Philips Satin Soft Wet and Dry Epilator
Philips Satin Soft Wet and Dry Epilator
Price: £50.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Good for my sensitive skin, ironically!, 11 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I haven't epilated before and yes...it hurts. However, each time gets a little easier. I have sensitive skin so this felt like something I ought to steer clear of, but in fact it's better than the standard razor. It's more intense as it essentially plucks the hairs out, but the effect on the skin is much kinder.

This feels well made, sturdy and compact. It's quite noisy, but that's OK, it hides my whimpers of pain ;-)

It comes with 5 attachments including a shaver. I only really use the massager and sensitive areas ones but it's good to have options. The carry pouch is a basic white nylon bag but it does the job.

It's great you can use this wet or dry, and the overall result is super smooth skin.


Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (Black)
Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (Black)
Price: £292.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars superb sound, lovely looks, some minor niggles but overall, top notch., 24 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's larger than I imagined (perhaps the size of a large toaster, if I had to compare it to a standard household item!) and is quite heavy - heavy enough to make me feel a tad nervous at the thought of affixing it to my walls with the hangings supplied! It's a reassuring weight, given the price - it feels good quality. I'd respectfully disagree with another review I saw saying that it looked cheap, in my opinion the finish and overall appearance (particularly the front) is minimalist and sleek...just shows how subjective such things are! The control buttons are touch sensitive and discreet, so don't impede with the stylish silhouette.

Additional plus points:
* What is the purpose of a speaker? Good sound and volume. This delivers in bucketloads. At lower levels, the sound is lush - full, rounded and defined. At top notch volume, it's ear-thumping. Somebody standing next to you would not be able to hear your voice, put it that way! Even at maximum, there is little distortion (although it depends on the bass level of the music, of course) so it's still a pleasure to absorb. It handles bass heavy music very well, and treble heavy music even better in my opinion. I'm no expert on all things audio, but for a domestic sound system I was mightily impressed.
* You can control the sound directly from the device you're playing music through, and unlike other speakers it's actually aligned to the volume of the speaker. So if sound is at max on your phone for example, it will be at max on the speaker.

Cons:
* Set-up was fiddly. The quick start guide is great and easy to follow, but needed to be clear that a system/firmware update was likely required, with guidance on how to do it. I followed the instructions to the letter, but it wasn't working and only on reading the full manual online did I realise an update might resolve the problem.
* It's great for streaming music from online services, but I don't think it's right that you can only stream Spotify if you have Spotify Premium. I'd say this was a deal between the two companies, but is penalising those who may not want or need Spotify premium. It smacks of corporate greed! What's more, it's not obvious how to get it to play through Spotify, so read the online manual for details!
* No USB port (there's only an Aux port)

Some reviews question why this uses WiFi to connect devices, rather than standard bluetooth. This will be because the speakers are designed to work in conjunction with others around the house, if you're lucky enough to have multiple speakers! Via WiFi, the speakers can all connect/group and play from the one device. I don't think this would be physically possible via Bluetooth. What's more, I've experienced some interference with Bluetooth connected speakers, but with this it was uninterrupted.

I'm not sure how I feel about having to download an app and play music through that, but it works quite well and so I can't complain. It just feels like one more stage in the set up.

If I was looking to spend this kind of money on a speaker, I wouldn't be disappointed with this.


The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom
The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom
by Blaine Harden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing historical tale, 23 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
North Korea is a state of such secrecy and intrigue that I couldn't help but be enticed into reading this, although I'm not usually a fan of war/historical books, either fiction or non. That said, I enjoyed this retelling of the lives of two Koreans in very different circumstances. Harden's narrative is easy on the eye and engaging; informative but neither complicated nor condescending.

I couldn't work out really what the link was between No Kum Sok and Kim Il Sung, as far as their stories are concerned. I imagine the two tales have been interwoven to highlight the differences, with one man fighting for (his) freedom whilst the other strived to restrict it. I did find it a bit confusing sometimes, flitting from one to the other, and wonder whether it would have been better to be two separate books. I also sensed a bit of a bias to US attitudes, but am all too aware that historical texts are often subjective, even if only subtly so.

That said, I found this an interesting read and it certainly feeds on the mystery of the secretive North Korean state.


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