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

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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 Insoles Gel for Women
Scholl Active Everyday Insoles Gel for Women
Price: £14.99

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: £9.60

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: £15.00

0 of 1 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: £23.06

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.


The Settling Earth
The Settling Earth
by Rebecca Burns
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Their children will inherit the earth..., 8 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Settling Earth (Paperback)
This brief collection of interlinked short stories, set in colonial New Zealand, around Christchurch, is linked not only by character but by theme; children lost and found, dead and alive, grown-up or in infancy. While one woman hopes for pregnancy, we discover the darker side of nineteenth-century childbirth in the premises of a baby farmer, taking in unwanted, illegitimate infants who are condemned to a gradual death through neglect and drugging. In another story, a remarried woman realises, too late, that as her daughter has grown into adolescence, she has grown away from her, and she has not been able to protect her. Rebecca Burns's writing style is clear, direct and compelling, and these stories are consistently readable. They perhaps err on the side of too little historical and geographical detail - while I liked the fact that they are stripped back to basics (unlike much historical fiction, which labours under the weight of its own research) occasionally I felt as if the Christchurch landscape might have been more vividly conveyed. However, Burns uses telling details well, and cleverly links these stories through particular objects as well as characters; the lamp with coloured glass that brightens up a prostitute's room is one good example.

Voice was something that I thought a lot about while reading these stories, which are all told in a different third-person perspective. On one level, the characters' voices are very similar, regardless of their differences of gender and situation. On another level, however, this consistency of tone contributes to the calmly hypnotic quality of the book, whereas jarringly different voices might have shaken the reader out of its spell. Overall, therefore, I felt that Burns had made the right decision in order to tell the narratives she wanted to tell. I'm afraid, however, that I was disappointed by the final contribution in the book, a story written by Maori writer Shelly Davies from the point of view of Haimona, a Maori man who provides a different perspective to the conflicts between white men and white women that we have seen played out over the preceding pages. I loved the idea of providing a counterpoint of this kind, and was very much looking forward to reading Davies's story. Unfortunately, to me, it read very similarly to the earlier stories in the book, just at the moment when a break with the unity of style provided by Burns would have worked well. Rather than interrupting and questioning these narratives, Haimona's narration seemed to add much less than it might have done, although it was still an interesting read. Nevertheless, The Settling Earth is a strong collection that may appeal even to those who don't think that they like reading short stories, and I would definitely recommend it.

I received a free review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley.


The Dish
The Dish
by Stella Newman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful meal, but slow service, 8 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Dish (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Laura Parker is a PA at popular magazine The Voice, but she also has a secret sideline; she's the anonymous food critic for weekly column, The Dish, where she expresses her passion for non-pretentious, good food. When she meets chef Adam, who cooks at the new luxury restaurant, LuxEris, which has just opened, she finds herself falling for him, but there's already an obstacle in their path - Laura has already been to LuxEris, and hated everything about it. When it comes time to publish her column, should she stick to her guns or relent for the sake of their relationship? This is a charming and very readable novel that reminded me of other chick lits that have successfully focused on food, such as Katie Fforde's Recipe for Love and Dana Bate's The Secret Supper Club and the Stall of Second Chances (the latter is particularly similar, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Dish). I haven't read anything by Stella Newman before, but she clearly knows her stuff when it comes to food, and the detailed descriptions of various dishes made me rather hungry.

This novel's strengths and weaknesses are both linked to its slow pace. The plot line I outline above, which tells no more than appears on the back of the book, is the sole focus for most of its 450+ pages. I do feel that this page count could have been cut substantially, as it does feel that the story is being dragged out unnecessarily. On one hand, I did appreciate how the pace allowed us to get to know Laura and Adam as characters, and really invest in their developing relationship. This worked very well, and distinguished the novel as a cut above much chick lit with its somewhat indistinguishable heroes and heroines. On the other hand, I was a little frustrated that Newman did not take advantage of the space she had to develop the secondary characters more solidly. There seem to be endless encounters between Laura and her one-note antagonist at the magazine, Sandra, and I would have much preferred it if Sandra had been presented as a more complex person, rather than a bureaucratic villain. Similarly, Laura's two close friends, Sophie and Kiki, remained hard to tell apart in practice throughout the novel, despite their 'tags' of very different personality styles. Despite the pacing, I still enjoyed the novel and read it quickly, so I would recommend it - but if you like fast-paced, tight writing, this may not be for you.


InstaNatural Eye Cream For Dark Circles, Puffiness, Wrinkles & Bags - 1.7 OZ - Best Under Eye Gel Treatment Solution For Eye Bags, Crows Feet, Dry Skin, Fine Lines & Sagging Eyes - With Plant Stem Cells, Hyaluronic Acid, Matrixyl 3000, Cucumber, Peptide Complex, Cucumber, Aloe, MSM & More
InstaNatural Eye Cream For Dark Circles, Puffiness, Wrinkles & Bags - 1.7 OZ - Best Under Eye Gel Treatment Solution For Eye Bags, Crows Feet, Dry Skin, Fine Lines & Sagging Eyes - With Plant Stem Cells, Hyaluronic Acid, Matrixyl 3000, Cucumber, Peptide Complex, Cucumber, Aloe, MSM & More
Offered by InstaNatural UK
Price: £79.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely perks up tired eyes, 6 Feb. 2015
I really like this product. Not only does it visibly improve the under-eye area, there is a pleasant tingling sensation after you apply it that makes your eyes feel much more relaxed. It has a lovely fresh cucumber scent, and the bottle is well-designed so you can squeeze out a small amount of the gel each time, as you don't need very much. The product can be used on your whole face, but I've been avoiding that for the moment, as I want to conserve it. I've knocked off a star for two reasons: firstly, it does make the area under your eyes a little sticky when it dries, so it's not great to wear under make-up. For this reason, I've tended to put it on at night rather than during the day, although the bottle says you can do both. Secondly, the price is a little prohibitive. The bottle is a good size and should last for a long time, so that mitigates it slightly, but this would be a big investment for me and I would have to think before purchasing it again.

I received this product free from the manufacturers in exchange for an honest review


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