Profile for Laura T > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Laura T
Top Reviewer Ranking: 896
Helpful Votes: 1056

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Laura T (Oxford, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
I Am China
I Am China
by Xiaolu Guo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough of a story, 23 May 2015
This review is from: I Am China (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This novel, Xiaolu Guo's fifth, is both important and interesting in terms of subject-matter, but for me, did not really work as a piece of storytelling. Iona Kirkpatrick is a rootless translator in London, who has been rather randomly assigned a collection of Chinese letters to translate (the editor who gave them to her admits himself that he has no idea what they are or what he means to do with them, and this plot device feels a little contrived). The correspondence she is translating is a series of exchanges between two lovers, Jian and Mu; Jian is now in a detention centre at Dover for illegal immigrants, waiting to find out what will happen to him, while Mu, in Bejing, is desperately trying to track him down. As Iona translates the letters, the narrative jumps from point to point in the trajectory of Jian and Mu's relationship, and the reader is left to piece the sequence of events together.

The two earlier novels by Guo that I have read, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers and 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, were enjoyable, but slight, and felt superficially very similar, both narrated by a young and vulnerable Chinese woman. I Am China is a very different enterprise; much more ambitious, and much more structurally complex. For me, it was hampered rather than helped by its structure. The sequence of very brief chapters made it difficult to become completely immersed in the world of the letters, or Jian's present-day experiences, or Iona's isolation, before we're jerked away to focus on something else. A more serious flaw, for me, were the sections that focused on Iona. She never really comes to life as a character in her own right, so the time we spend with her feels a little pointless, a way to demonstrate that she isn't the plot device that she seems, and Guo dwells on a series of endlessly dull details, from predictable email exchanges to endless repetitions of Iona getting up, going for a walk, observing London or looking up things in books. The Jian/Mu story is much stronger in comparison, especially in its depiction of life in modern China, which I found fascinating, but it is difficult for it to really get going when it's constantly being dragged to a halt by Iona.

In many ways I Am China is a worthwhile read, especially if, like me, you know little of China's more recent history. Nevertheless, its structural flaws made it difficult for me to enjoy.


Nespresso Pixie Clips Capsule Coffee Machine by KRUPS - Black/Yellow Neon
Nespresso Pixie Clips Capsule Coffee Machine by KRUPS - Black/Yellow Neon
Price: £129.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coffee machine, 20 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The coffee machine we had before this one was the De'Longhi Coffee Machine EC220.CD, which I bought my husband for Christmas a few years ago. While it's held out well in terms of durability, I've always been a bit disappointed in its performance, as there isn't a huge difference between the coffee it makes and what I could make in a cafetiere. It was half the price of this Nespresso machine when I bought it, but has since risen substantially in cost, though it is still a lot cheaper. This is to say that trying out a Nespresso machine became more attractive after the disappointing performance of the De'Longhi, although I was still concerned about the cost and availability of the replacement pods. I have to say I've been very impressed by the performance of the Nespresso so far. It looks great, is easy to use, and the pods aren't too expensive and are easy to order online. Most importantly, the coffee does taste a lot better than your bog-standard machine-made coffee. I hope that it continues to perform well.


Philips HR1832/01 Viva Collection Compact Juicer, 1.5 Litre, 500 Watt - Black
Philips HR1832/01 Viva Collection Compact Juicer, 1.5 Litre, 500 Watt - Black
Price: £39.99

3.0 out of 5 stars It does not take a minute to clean, 20 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am always a bit suspicious of juicers. My husband and I owned one in the past, but eventually got rid of it as we found we were never using it due to the hassle it was to clean. It didn't seem worth it when shop-bought juice is relatively cheap, if not as healthy or interesting. This Philips juicer claims it would take a minute to clean, and this, along with its elegant design, made me willing to try it out. However, as other reviewers have said, this claim is simply not true, even if you have a dishwasher which you can run the various bits through (which we don't). It was an improvement on our previous juicer, but it is still very tricky to get all the little bits out. Perhaps this is a problem that all juicers will have, but I've knocked the star rating down because Philips are so clear that this is a USP for their juicer. Unfortunately I don't think this is something we would use regularly enough to make it worth the cost, so I wouldn't recommend it. I think I will go back to making smoothies in a blender.


Oral-B Pro 2000 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush - Pink
Oral-B Pro 2000 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush - Pink
Price: £34.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The second cheapest model, 8 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an effective electric toothbrush that is reasonably good value for money, although the cheaper model Braun Oral-B PRO 600 Cross-Action does seem to be equally effective, despite lacking the 'Gum Care' mode. It has similar features to the other model; it times the brushing so you know how much time to spend on each quadrant of your mouth, and lets you know when you should stop brushing. The battery life is good and I'm a fan of the hot pink outer casing, which is something that it does have above the cheaper blue PRO 600. Both models take the same range of Oral-B replacement toothbrush heads. I don't see that there's otherwise much to choose between these two models, so I'd probably recommend the less expensive version, but check out the current pricing, as it can fluctuate.


Scholl Active Everyday Gel Insoles for Women
Scholl Active Everyday Gel Insoles for Women
Price: £11.24

3.0 out of 5 stars Very difficult to use, 8 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found these insoles extremely difficult to fit. First, you have to cut them to the correct size, but it is misleading that the packaging suggests that you only need to cut some length off the end of the insole - I had to take a bit off the sides as well to fit them in any of my shoes (I have size six feet that are not especially narrow). Doing this with no guidance - none of my shoes have removable insoles - was very difficult, and I think I may have taken a bit too much off, as the insoles slip around a bit in the shoe. I tried these insoles in two pairs of shoes - ballet-style patent flats with a very low heel, and shoes with a slightly higher heel, though still low enough for everyday wear. In the first pair, they bulked up the shoes so much that they were extremely uncomfortable to wear, so I had to take them out. In the second pair, they fit well and did make the shoes a bit more comfortable, but due to the unclear sizing, they still weren't quite right.

I would be reluctant to pay £15 for these insoles, and would prefer to buy insoles that are the correct size initially, as the main design flaw in my opinion is that you have to cut them to size yourself. This is a shame, as I usually find Scholl products to be useful and effective, but I can't recommend these.


Dettol Antibacterial Surface Cleansing 252 Wipes Family Pack
Dettol Antibacterial Surface Cleansing 252 Wipes Family Pack
Price: £6.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handy wipes, excellent value for money, 12 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These wipes are very useful for everyday cleaning, and, thinking about the intensive clean I did of my flat when I moved out last summer, would be even more useful in that sort of situation, where disposable cleaning products are particularly helpful. They are relatively thick and sturdy, so can be used to wipe up fairly stubborn grease, spills, etc, without becoming too soggy or falling apart. I find them particularly good for cleaning the sink after any really heavy-duty stains have been removed, as they leave it shiny and hopefully more hygienic, as they are anti-bacterial. I've only used them in the kitchen so far, but they can also be used in the bathroom. I think these packs will last a long time, as even though I've been using them on a daily basis, a wipe or two goes a long way. In this context, they are excellent value for money given how convenient they are compared to using e.g. a spray of cleaning product and a cloth (and these cloths frequently need to be replaced anyway). I would strongly recommend this product.


Single, Carefree, Mellow
Single, Carefree, Mellow
by Katherine Heiny
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Coupled, carefree, conflicted, 8 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a number of reviewers have pointed out, this collection of short stories focuses on an array of women who are very rarely 'single, carefree and mellow'. Indeed, that sequence of words seems to capture an ideal that lies beyond the reach of all these characters, tied as they are to marriages, affairs, families, and in one case, an ailing dog. These women's lives were not carefree and mellow before they committed to their current set of entanglements, but beyond the horizon they all seem to see the same fictional version of the lives they could have led - if not for the fact that they do love their husbands, their lovers and their children. While Katherine Heiny steadfastly refuses to judge the women that she writes about, the stories in Single, Carefree, Mellow are not quasi-feminist pleas to the reader to recognise the limits of these characters' lives, like Helen Simpson's Hey Yeah Right Get A Life or Constitutional - and in my opinion, the stories are the better for it. Any hint that Heiny had a point to make would quickly have become very tiresome, as these stories unfold in very similar ways - and yet, for me, they rarely felt repetitious or stale.

'The Dive Bar', the first story in this collection, was one of my favourites. Its central dilemma is introduced immediately: Sasha is invited for a drink by her married lover's wife, Anne. Yet what I found charming in this narrative is that it's not really about the relationship between Sasha and her lover, but between Sasha and Monique, her best friend. Their intense closeness is vaguely reminiscent of the wonderful film Frances Ha, and is underlined by Sasha's chief worry about the meeting with Anne: 'She wishes she could shake the feeling sometimes that Monique sympathises with Anne entirely too much.' After meeting Anne, Sasha is less concerned with her lover's reaction than with the realisation that 'Monique is on Sasha's side', and when her lover chooses an apartment for them to live in, her first thought is 'Monique would love it... Finally he has done something Monique would approve of.' This story works particularly well, perhaps, because it deals primarily with female characters, and throughout this collection, Heiny's women are much sharper, more interesting and more individualised than her men, who share the same fondness for trivia and disappoint their partners with their mundanity. Nevertheless, I loved 'How To Give The Wrong Impression,' first published in The New Yorker back in 1992, which is daringly told in the second person and made me emphasise completely with Gwen, who is in love with her flatmate but cannot admit her feelings. (I disagree with the reviewer in The New York Times that this story is too 'cute' and has a 'darling ending'; the ending seemed to me to be thoroughly ambiguous.)

The other stories in the collection are more of a mixed bag, although I enjoyed reading all of them. The three interlinked stories focusing on Maya and Rhodes as they date, cheat and have a baby are somehow less than the sum of their parts, although at least two of them, the eponymous 'Single, Carefree, Mellow' and 'Dark Matter' are strong individually as well. Part of the problem, I think, is the fact that they're set within a collection of very similar stories, where many of the women are a little like Maya and the men a little like Rhodes, and they could stand better as a novella. The stories that branched away from a close exploration of relationships into a more social observational mode also worked less well for me, as I found much of the detail a little shallow - while stories such as 'Blue Heron Bridge' and 'Cranberry Relish' were amusing, they said little other than that neighbours can be stifling and our heroines can be snobbish, and failed to flesh out the secondary cast. 'Andorra', the final story in the collection, is especially forgettable; having been fully versed in how Heiny's stories work by now, I found it extremely predictable.

Overall, I recommend this collection for those who enjoy small-scale, slightly offbeat short stories about relationships, like Melissa Banks's 'The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing' and 'The Wonder Spot'; it's a fun and easy read that is thought-provoking more often than not.


Nivea Q10 Look and Feel Beautiful Skincare Collection
Nivea Q10 Look and Feel Beautiful Skincare Collection
Price: £10.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not suitable as a gift, 27 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This gift set contains three Nivea Q10 products: 250ml Body Firming Lotion, 100ml Anti-Wrinkle Age Defying Hand Cream and 50ml Anti-Wrinkle Day Cream. As other reviewers have noted, the quality of these products is good and they are a decent size. However, I was very disappointed in the presentation of the set. The bag looks extremely cheap and tacky - it's basically just white plastic with a flimsy gold zip. I don't think it looks nice enough to give it to somebody as a gift, and I certainly wouldn't want to reuse it myself as I already have a couple of old gift set bags that are much nicer. This is compounded by the fact that the gift set is actually slightly more expensive than buying all the products individually. I know that many gift sets follow this model, but I far prefer gift sets like the ones from the Body Shop that represent a slight saving on the prices of the individual products as well as being well-presented. If the gift bag was reusable, I might not feel so strongly about this, but in my eyes it is not. Three stars for the quality and reliability of the Nivea products, but nothing for their presentation as a gift.


RESEED Ginkgo and Sabal fortifying Shampoo for Women 250 ml
RESEED Ginkgo and Sabal fortifying Shampoo for Women 250 ml
Price: £23.77

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Your task this week is to design a shampoo..., 14 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This shampoo is aimed at women with fine or thinning hair who want a bit of a volume boost. As I have fairly thick hair, I am not really the intended audience, but as other reviewers have pointed out, it seemed unlikely that its pseudo-scientific claims will do much good. It's incredibly expensive for a shampoo - I would normally spend about £2 for a bottle this size - and while it's true that it lathers extremely well, so you don't need much to wash your hair, I don't believe that this represents good value. For a premium product, the packaging/branding is extremely boring (think Apprentice product design task) and the bottle is even more unimpressive. I think the idea is to make the shampoo look more medical, but it simply makes it look cheap. The shampoo itself is clear in colour, with a rather nondescript, citrusy smell that I didn't find particularly pleasant. (It feels like putting soap/shower gel on your hair, rather than shampoo.) Its effects on my hair have been fairly neutral, but it does seem to weigh it down a little - something I've noticed before with other shampoos that claim to increase volume. I can only imagine that this effect would be even more noticeable if you had thinner hair. Some reviewers have obviously found that this shampoo works for them, so it may be very dependent on your hair type - but I would be wary of spending so much money when I imagine there are equivalent products at a fraction of the price.


Dettol Mould and Mildew Remover Spray 750 ml (Pack of 3)
Dettol Mould and Mildew Remover Spray 750 ml (Pack of 3)
Price: £10.47

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye mould, 14 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have used this Dettol spray for several years to tackle mould problems in a series of rented flats. It is extremely effective for the black mould that forms on grouting, on tiles and shower sealant, and around windows. Often, when I spray it on, I can actually see the mould disappear instantly, but for more persistent mould issues, leaving the spray on for a few minutes before wiping it off usually does the job. The instructions advise that it should not be used on painted surfaces, and this is probably good advice if you are especially worried about damaging the paintwork. However, I frequently use it on paintwork without doing any damage - it seems to be fine as long as the mould is not too severe. It's important to use this product in a well-ventilated area, as it can be painful to the eyes and nose if accidentally breathed in, or if it is present in the air. Usually opening windows and doors etc to get a through draft does the job. I usually buy this product from large supermarkets, where I think it costs around £4, so this three-pack also represents excellent value for money. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a place with bad mould issues, like our last flat, you will get through a lot of it, so it's a good idea to stock up. Highly recommended.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20