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T. Richards (Kent)
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Russell Hobbs 18782 Dorchester 2-Slice Toaster, Black
Russell Hobbs 18782 Dorchester 2-Slice Toaster, Black
Price: £34.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pyhrric toast. The Toaster of Damocles, 22 Aug. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The arrival of a new toaster in the kitchen is a time of excitement. There was a febrile atmos. in the heart of my home as I removed packaging of the new and sidelined the old. The air was tense. Would it defrost? Would I burn my toast while I worked out the 'perfect' setting on the dial? Would my partner get on well with it? Like cars, toasters are said to represent different eras in our lives. And I fear this era I am entering may involve burning.

Not the burning of toast, you understand. So far, it has toasted my crumpets perfectly, and my toast has, to date, never been anything other than beautifully browned. On both sides.

No, the burning item is in fact my hand. This is the Toaster of Damocles. It is a Pyhrric toaster.

On my old toaster, when one's toast was toasted, and awaited a damn good buttering, you could place your thumb against the toaster's 'chassis' (is that the word?) and use it as leverage to raise the lever, bringing the toast elegantly above the metal-line for easy, efficient extraction.

No such luck with this toaster. As I placed my thumb against the toaster to achieve same - extraction of teacake using the 'high lift function' - I recoiled in pain. Where my old toaster protected its user against the heat, this one positively revels in it, super-heating itself to temperatures more usually associated with yellow dwarf stars. It toasts bread admirably. My frozen hot cross buns are defrosted with panache. But it toasts its user too. In a Damoclean swap of the toasters, my new appliance has been found severely wanting. This Pyhrric toaster toasts both toast and toastee.

I've given this toaster two stars for its ability to heat and toast frozen bread perfectly in one single cycle, and reheat toast once you've forgotten about it for a minute. That, and it looks quite classy. I have subtracted three stars because it's burnt me and I miss my old toaster.


Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906
Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906
by David Cannadine
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and authoritative view of Victorian Britain, 14 Aug. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I enjoyed ploughing through David Cannadine's latest tome on the history of Britain. As one of the country's preeminent historians, Cannadine knows his onions and writes with great authority and neutrality on an era that defines Britain's place in the world even today.

Covering the era from the Act of Union in 1800, up to the 1906 election, Victorious Century charts Britain's rise as the superpower of the age, but without jingoistic pomp and pomposity. He elaborates on every element of British life, at home and abroad, throughout the era. The book is a masterclass in balanced reporting and Cannadine brings to life the contrast in self-confidence and uneasiness at the heart of British society and government in the era. The newly-created plutocrats of the age are dealt with as factually and equally as any other group that had a role in the Victorian era - the poor and unemployed, women, the Irish, Britain's millions of colonial subjects.

Each chapter addresses a different era - notionally, by decade, with a few years here and there. Each is broken down into social and economic developments in Britain and Ireland, foreign relations, industry and, all-importantly, the politics at the heart of the whole thing. It's a long book - some 500+ pages - but it's perfect in its clarity. He clearly outlines a range of factors behind Britain's transformation into a global hegemon. Crucially, he avoids both the nationalistic flag-waving and meek apologies that often characterise contemporary intellectual discussion about this defining era in the history of Britain and the role it held in shaping (or failing to shape) the world in its image.

With a neutral and authoritative tone, and a balanced look at all sides, Victorious Century is the ideal place to start for anyone looking to learn more about Britain in the Victorian era - its industry, its politics, its society and its changing global role.


HoMedics Stretch Mat Adjustable Home Body Stretching, Grey, 1-Piece
HoMedics Stretch Mat Adjustable Home Body Stretching, Grey, 1-Piece
Price: £199.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Quick stretch routines, 14 Aug. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Potentially useful for those with back issues. The pad inflates different air cells to simulate various 'yoga-inspired' back and shoulder stretches, with you lying on top. The various different cycles can all have their intensity varied, so you can stretch a little or a lot over a 10-15 minute period.

Positives: it's genuinely useful for stretching and relaxing in the evening, either after a day sat at a desk or a training session. Given you can change the length and intensity of each stretching session, it's something you can quickly do when you wake up or get home. It's really easy to set up - you just fold the mat-out (it stows away folded in half), plug it in, hit the programme you want on the (wired) remote, and lie there breathing. Simples.

Negatives: it's not the quietest machine ever - the air cells and motor make a bit of noise as the thing inflates. Secondly, you'll need sufficient space to stow it away. Finally...its RRP is very high (hence the star rating). At the time of writing, Amazon's selling it for £199 - it's definitely cheaper to do some of the stretches yourself on a basic yoga mat, if you're so inclined.


Dragon Teeth
Dragon Teeth
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.53

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Wild West story with fossils and a lack of depth, 30 Jun. 2017
This review is from: Dragon Teeth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A good read from one of the most prolific writers of all time. An enjoyable piece of historical fiction, set against the backdrop of the USA's Bone Wars during towards the end of the 1800s.

I felt some of the characters were a little superficial, and you never feel like you're really getting 'under their skin', so to speak. But the story itself is engaging enough: a Wild West journey, filled with rival fossil-hunters, cowboys, Indians, sheriffs, generals, and an enjoyable-enough coming-of-age for the main character. A lack of character depth aside, I raced through, itching to find out what happens in the end. Published posthumously, Dragon Teeth reads as if it had been planned as a film (let's face it, Crichton has previous form here).

An enjoyable read, if a little lacking in character depth and development. It'd make a better film, condensed into a couple of hours of proper Wild West action and adventure.


Zuvo Expanding Hose, Strongest Expandable Garden Hose with Double Latex Core, Solid Brass Connector and Extra Strength Fabric For Car Garden Hose Nozzle, Black
Zuvo Expanding Hose, Strongest Expandable Garden Hose with Double Latex Core, Solid Brass Connector and Extra Strength Fabric For Car Garden Hose Nozzle, Black
Offered by ZUVO
Price: £34.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Stretchy, storage issues, 13 Jun. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Stretches far longer than I actually need it to, and has a useful trigger spray gun with a number of different settings. When not in use, it gathers up into a helpfully small bundle - though it comes with no way to 'store' it. Tidier buyers will want to get some sort of reel to store it, otherwise it just tangles up.


Fulfil Peanut and Caramel Vitamin and Protein Bar - Pack of 15
Fulfil Peanut and Caramel Vitamin and Protein Bar - Pack of 15
Price: £29.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tad expensive, but taste great, 12 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These are incredibly tasty snack bars, which make a good health case too. They're really low in sugar (only 1.8g per bar), high in protein and various other vitamins, and are ideal for filling long gaps between meals. Despite the low-in-sugar thing, they taste great. All peanutty and chocolatey. It's like eating the offspring of an unholy marriage between a Snickers bar and a Boost bar, but presumably with a lower risk of diabetes.

There is a 'but' tearing rapidly over the horizon, however, and that's the fact that, at the time of writing, it's £27.50 for a pack of 15 - nearly £2 a bar. This is broadly equivalent to a shop-bought protein snack, but - if you want the protein - you'll spend far less per-serving if you buy a container of protein powder. If you want the chocolate-peanut 'thing', I can recommend Snickers at less than half the price.


House of Marley Rise Wireless Bluetooth On-Ear Headphones - Black
House of Marley Rise Wireless Bluetooth On-Ear Headphones - Black
Price: £84.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Good looking, good value, good sound, 25 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In a nutshell, these headphones sit really comfortably on the ear, look great and produce a great sound. In particular, I love the denim-style material wrapped around the outside of the headphones themselves.

They're not noise-cancelling, but they cover enough of your ear to block out other noises pretty effectively - it's no hardship to turn up the volume either, as the sound doesn't appear to distort at the kinds of volumes that human ears can cope with.

They can be paired up with a smartphone easily enough via Bluetooth, and for those who still have an iPhone with a headphone cable jack, there is a cord too. In wireless mode battery life is fine - House of Marley suggests up to 12 hours, and I've no reason to doubt that claim if you keep the volume down. If you crank the volume up, it comes with a USB charging cable which tops the batteries back up in an hour or two. It also comes with a (slightly cheap-feeling?) cloth carry bag in which to transport headphones and cables around.

Overall, worth the money if you're after a good pair of wireless headphones.


Bulbul Ore Unisex Quartz Watch with Grey Dial Analogue Display and Grey Leather Strap O04
Bulbul Ore Unisex Quartz Watch with Grey Dial Analogue Display and Grey Leather Strap O04
Price: £329.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Minimalist, cool, generates compliments; cheaper in Europe..., 8 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Bulbul Ore 04 is beautifully designed, and feels really high quality at the same time. I've never worn a watch that has garnered so many comments (or compliments).

It's properly minimalist, and goes against the grain of apparently ever-larger watches with three or four dials. Bulbul makes a thing of the Ore being 'stripped of ornamentation', and they're certainly not joking. The watch does without any face numbers, and doesn't have a date display on it (you'd better be able to tell the time at a quick glance). Bulbul has even moved the crown up around the bezel to keep it out of the way of wrist movements. I also like that it isn't massive, and doesn't cost the earth - the case is only 39mm and its RRP is £329, so it doesn't stand out like some of the larger, more LOOK-AT-ME watches with eight testosterone-fuelled dials, with a price tag designed to empty wallets and incur the wrath of the poor.

It feels like a solid, quality wristwatch. The leather-wrapped steel band feels like it'll last a lifetime and the case feels solid. I do have a doubt about the longevity of the blue band on the strap itself. That's probably why Bulbul throws in a spare when they ship it. That said, the battery does come with a 10-year life, the watch itself has a two-year guarantee, and I'm yet to register any scratches on the crystal glass face.

The colour - or lack thereof - makes it pretty much perfect for any occasion. It works as well with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt as it does with a suit. I've had a few comments on its clear, minimalist design - it looks contemporary and stylish, but I don't think it'll age badly at all. I can only apologise when I say this watch has a certain air of timelessness to its design.

For the money, it's a beautifully-designed, minimalist watch, and I love it. My only piece of advice is that you can buy the thing for £329 in the UK or €329 on the continent (£286 at the time of writing; before P&P)...


Vitabiotics Wellman Energy Orange - 10 Effervescent Tablets
Vitabiotics Wellman Energy Orange - 10 Effervescent Tablets
Price: £5.35

4.0 out of 5 stars An effective post-lunch pick-me-up, 7 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've taken to drinking these for a post-lunch pick-me-up - it makes a (caffeine-free) change to chugging down my Nth coffee of the day, and the orange taste is pretty innocuous. It reminds me of orange squash, but with more interesting packaging. Would definitely recommend for those days when you've not quite got the energy to do whatever it is you're being paid to do.


Cole & Mason Precision Grind Harrogate Inverter Salt and Pepper Mill Gift Set - Acrylic/Clear, 15.4 cm
Cole & Mason Precision Grind Harrogate Inverter Salt and Pepper Mill Gift Set - Acrylic/Clear, 15.4 cm
Price: £29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Grinds perfectly. But not for the indecisive, or crystalline of decanter., 6 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A wooden mill still looks nicer, but these plastic-and-acrylic mills both work perfectly well. In particular, the ability to change the fineness with which it grinds salt and pepper - you can choose from one of five settings - is handy. Heaven help you if you have a problem with indecision, though - how do you decide which fineness to go for?

They're 'inverted', which means you have to turn them upside down to grind (unless you live in Australia or New Zealand, obviously). This in turn means you don't end up with a table or kitchen surface covered in grounds. Bad news for vendors of surface wipes and cloths.

Being Cole & Mason - a brand beloved of John Lewis - I suggest they'll probably last forever.

Obviously (I mean, OBVIOUSLY) you wouldn't put these on the table alongside your sterling silver cutlery, finest crystal decanter and your very best linen. They're plastic and acrylic. For those of a snootier persuasion, may I instead suggest employing a 'man' to serve guests their ground pepper with a full-size wooden mill and perhaps a polite clear of the throat? For the rest of the world, however - those partaking in TV dinners, enjoying informal gatherings with informal friends, or to the mean-spirited husband trapped in a loveless marriage, grinding larger bits of pepper on the meals of his wife and children to induce spluttering coughing fits - these mills are fine. Or not so fine, if that's how you like your salt.


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