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techpuppy "woof." (UK)
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Star Wars Art of Colouring The Force Awakens (Star Wars Colouring Book)
Star Wars Art of Colouring The Force Awakens (Star Wars Colouring Book)
by Lucasfilm
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

4.0 out of 5 stars The pencil-case awakens..., 26 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens colouring book could be suitable for both child and adult colourers as it features a mix of illustration styles, both simple and complex, for the felt-pen-wielding artists. Most two-page spreads feature an abstracted pattern based on some motif or icon from the movies on the left page and a more conventional representational illustration on the right. The paper stock is good quality and reasonably heavy, enough that normal water-based felt pens shouldn't bleed through, but avoid using Sharpies or other solvent pens. It's a nicely sized and bound book too, about A4 dimensions, and with a good amount of pages to work your way through. Also scattered throughout the book are larger two-page repeating patterns resembling wallpaper designs and maybe you colour those to match your home decor?

There's a slightly incongruous Art Nouveau styling to some of the illustrations and I'm not sure it adds very much to the overall effect but at least it's different from the conventional hi-tech look sci-fi merchandise gets. If you're a real collector you'll never go near any of this with a coloured pencil or felt-tip of course and it'll remain 'mint-in-box' for as long as possible but thankfully it's an attractive book even before you've added your own colour schemes. It seems a little over-priced, in line with most big-movie merchandise, but not as bad as some and delivers decent quality for both Star Wars and Felt-Tip fans alike.


Hitman: The Complete First Season Steelbook Edition
Hitman: The Complete First Season Steelbook Edition
Price: £27.57

4.0 out of 5 stars The hitman cometh..., 26 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When it was announced that this outing of Hitman would initially be released in monthly episodes, each one featuring a different location and mission, a lot of gamers were nervous (or appalled!) but it seems to have worked out fine in the end. The episodes actually did get released (some pre-ordered episodic games have failed to deliver) and although a couple of the episodes lack the depth and breadth of others it's a format that actually suits the game. However, it's still good to have all the episodes gathered here into one boxset and it lets you see just how much game the first season eventually delivered. With the PS4 version you also get a few extra missions that were released alongside the main episodes but you don't get to chase down the 'Elusive Targets' which were special time-limited characters that got injected into the game for you to track down and eliminate before they disappeared again. I think some more Elusive Targets have been promised for the future and will appear as long as you play this game in online mode.

The first versions of this version of Hitman had to be played in online mode to track your achievements and keep the items you'd unlocked along the way, but there's been an update now that removes that limitation and now offline mode lets you keep your stuff with you. There are many ways to complete each episode and they're worth replaying to try a different method to take out your target - being able to replay a mission with improved levelled-up gear helps too.

There are side-missions and 'Opportunities' along the way and these have a particularly intrusive and hand-holding tips feature which basically walks you through everything step-by-step - you might want to switch off some/all of these tips when you first play and rely on your own ingenuity, but if you're a rookie Hitman then they're a good way to learn the game. I find some of the animation a bit clunky and dated looking but the levels look great with lots of detail and plenty to explore. Supposedly the game looks especially amazing on the PlayStation 4 Pro, but I don't have one of them to test it on unfortunately.

The metal 'steelbook' packaging looks great and you get the codes to download the extra missions, the game's soundtrack and a 'making-of' documentary, so it delivers a decent amount of content for your investment. If you're an impatient kind of Hitman who couldn't have waited for each episode to be released then you can binge on the whole season now - but be warned that this Season One will probably leave you hanging off a cliffhanger and waiting for Season Two…


House of Marley Get Together Mini Speaker - Palm
House of Marley Get Together Mini Speaker - Palm
Price: £120.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite jammin'..., 25 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Getting a speaker from the House of Marley might sound like a great idea but unfortunately this isn't the greatest sounding speaker and is a bit of a disappointment considering the (implied) heritage and the price. It's looks and feels great with a really nice build quality and feels solid and quite heavy with everything, including the fabric covering, well bonded and finished. I'd hardly call it a mini speaker, it's the size of an elongated house-brick and weighs about the same, but it is reasonably portable. However you'll have to carry it with some care because the drivers are all exposed and if you accidentally puncture any of them then it's Goodnight Jamaica. The front panel is formed from laminated real Bamboo and looks great and there's a matching panel on the back which is actually a passive bass driver and vibrates to accentuate the low sound - you have to be careful not to damage that part too whilst carrying it. A carry-bag or case would have been a nice inclusion but there isn't one. However you do get a mains charger with a set of international socket adaptors and a funky braided USB cable to use with it, so that partly makes up for it.

When you first switch on you're greeted by a lady announcer who advises you that you're "Powering On" and unfortunately she seems to only do that at full volume regardless of where you left the volume setting last. It's particularly annoying late at night if you switch the speaker off and get told you're "POWERING OFF" at a volume fit to wake the dead. You can't disable these announcements.

The row of integrated controls on the top are nicely done, with just a rubbery icon to show where they are, and they allow you to switch on/off, toggle or pair the Bluetooth feature and adjust the volume up/down - the volume buttons also work to skip songs back and forward, you tap them to adjust volumes and hold them for a couple of seconds to skip songs. The speaker pairs quickly and easily on Bluetooth and I haven't had any issues with any device I tried it with. On the back panel are two USB ports, a micro-USB to recharge the speaker and a full-sized port to use the speaker as a power-bank and recharge another device. There's also a Line-In aux input so you can connect analogue devices that don't have Bluetooth and play music from them.

With a funky style and great build quality it's disappointing the sound doesn't live up to the same standards and in use the speaker is a bit meh. It isn't a bad portable speaker, it's loud and powerful-sounding, but there isn't much finesse here. The sound really lacks detail and so the stereo image suffers too and even with the speaker placed right in front of you there's not much space or dimension to the sound. It sounds quite boxy and slightly muffled, the high-end isn't very impressive at all. The upper-bass and lower-mid ranges are the most prominent which gives the speaker a muddy and indistinct sound that has presence but no real definition. The upper-bass range is really too prominent and it goes into overload and distorts with some music even at moderate volume. Lower bass isn't that impressive either and lacks any real kick - so ironically if you're a reggae or dub fan you can probably find much better sounding speakers more deserving of the Marley name.

I have to assume the House of Marley name is just a bit of marketing as I already own a very similar Bluetooth speaker with similar quality and styling to this one and it came without the Marley name and from a different company - it's also got a much nicer sound than this one and a lower price ticket. If you love the funky styling of this speaker then it's still worth considering, it's not a bad speaker, but if you want the best, most detailed and powerful sound you can do better and maybe even spend less.


Gatineau Aquamemory Hydration Collection
Gatineau Aquamemory Hydration Collection
Price: £48.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Hydration hat-trick..., 23 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'd previously tried the Gatineau Melatogenine range and was really impressed so I had (quite) high hopes for this Aquamemory kit too, but it hasn't (quite) matched the results of Melatogenine. That said it's still a high quality product and this pack of three items is a particularly good buy (check out the individual prices!) if it suited to your skin type. The Aquamemory range contains a complex of marine plants and algae meant to penetrate the skin and increase the hydration levels below the surface, meanwhile a complex of Hyaluronic Acid and Brown Algae works on the surface of the skin to help seal in moisture and prevent further dryness. If you over-apply the moisturiser you can notice a slight coating left on the skin and a bit of a sheen - it's a light moisturiser and works best with a light application.

You get three items in the pack and the most effective for me was the cream-mask which is intended for weekly use - you apply a generous layer onto the skin and leave it for 15 minutes before wiping away excess. Personally I found it more effective applied, as suggested in the instructions, like a night cream with a thin layer left on the skin overnight and used that way I do notice a slight plumping and re-hydrating effect. The eye cream comes with a roller-ball applicator and is a real pleasure to use and although it's tempting to keep massaging your eye area with the cooling metal ball you can control the amount of product applied quite well. I find the eye cream is cooling and pleasant to use but I don't notice dramatic results, though that's probably more my fault than the product as I don't have particularly puffy eyes and reducing puffiness is a specialty of this product. Finally the oil-free moisturiser has a pleasant cream-gel consistency and can be used relatively sparingly, it travels well over the skin but does dry in quite quickly. For me it was the only disappointing product here, although it's pleasant to use and causes no reactions I didn't see much benefit from it either, despite having dry skin. Other Gatineau products have been much more effective for me, so I'll stick with those.

None of the items are highly scented, the fragrance is subtle and fresh but not overpowering. The bag is a nice inclusion too and is big enough to carry all three items and more too, so could be genuinely useful in the future. For me personally I think I need a richer product that's aimed more at older skin, this feels more like a range aimed at those in their 20's and 30's. However, if it suits your skin it's a great kit to try out Gatineau quality at a more approachable cost.


KitchenCraft Le'Xpress 3-Cup Glass Cafetière, 350 ml (12.5 fl oz) - Copper Finish
KitchenCraft Le'Xpress 3-Cup Glass Cafetière, 350 ml (12.5 fl oz) - Copper Finish
Price: £18.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Drinking solo..., 21 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As usual with cafetières the three-cup capacity of this KitchenCraft Le'Xpress really only refers to tiny coffee cups and 'three-cup' really translates as 'one-mug' - so it's the perfect size if you're drinking solo. I've had a mini-Cafetière before but it wasn't made to the quality of this one and the Le'Xpress is impressive in its own diminutive way. The glass jug inside is made from a good weight of borosilicate glass, thicker than most, and so it doesn't feel as fragile as many do. The metal frame and handle feel sturdy and the metal has a very attractive copper tone - this might not be as tough as the construction because it's really just a copper-coloured lacquer that's been applied to the stainless steel and it could wear or scratch off with time. The mesh filter is also stainless steel (the cheap ones are usually muslin) and should also last for a good amount of plunges.

The lid is made from a metal outer shell and a plastic inner liner, which are held together with a nut and bolt fixing. On my previous (lesser quality) Cafetière soapy water would seep in between these two components during the washing-up and drip out later but there's no sign of this happening with this Le'Express - but it would be worth keeping an eye on later.

The coffee it makes is great and the plunger action is smooth and easy and very few, if any, coffee grounds escape into your final cuppa. The copper colour looks more stylish than shiny gold would and gives it a quality look. If you like to treat yourself to a good cup of coffee in the mornings but want a Cafetière neat enough for the breakfast tray then it's the perfect size and it's made to the same quality as its bigger brothers - the only drawback is that it seems to cost the same as its big brothers too…


Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro Portable Speaker
Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro Portable Speaker
Price: £142.98

4.0 out of 5 stars New for old..., 14 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A couple of years ago I got one of the original Creative SoundBlaster Roar speakers and was very impressed with it and its performance and it's been sitting on my desk beneath my iMac (and used regularly) ever since. So I was especially interested to try this newer Pro version and see if it's still one of the best wireless speakers available at its price. The first thing that strikes you, if you own the original model, is that this Pro version shares the same chassis and is exactly the same size and basic design as the original model - so if you have a carry-case for the original it should fit this one too. There are a few differences with the onboard features and controls, but the basic design is the same. It's a very solid-feeling unit, brick-solid actually with mostly metal construction that's partially wrapped in silicon and there's no creaky or squeaky sounds as you handle it, everything feels very securely and solidly put together. It's small enough to be easily portable but you'll be aware it's in your backpack, it's not the most lightweight unit.

The Roar starts quickly with a short musical stab sound and then it's ready to play from your choice of 4 sources - you can use Bluetooth (with an NFC connection option), analogue line-in, USB or you can play mp3's directly from a microSD card inserted into the slot on the back. The Bluetooth feature includes support for the aptX codec which can significantly improve the audio quality but only works if you have an aptX-compatible device (most aren't). If you connect the Roar to your PC or Mac using a USB cable it works as a standard USB-audio device, drawing the power it needs over USB too so you only need to connect a single cable. Your Roar can also declare complete independence and carry its own music around stored on a microSD card (FAT/FAT32 format up to 32GB) inserted into the back of the unit. You can add any mix of mp3, WAV or WMA files but there's no support for AAC files, even though the onboard Bluetooth supports playback of AAC sources. You can playback files in shuffle mode or alphabetic order of title and there are basic controls on the back of the unit. You can also activate a 'Bedtime Mode' which fades out the music over either 15 or 30 minutes while you drift off.

There are a couple of audio enhancement options built into the Roar Pro and although normally I'm not a big fan of these Creative do seem to know what they're doing and they do transform the sound the Roar Pro produces. There's a Tera-Bass button which boosts the bass when listening at low volumes - warning this sounds like total overkill at higher volumes and should be avoided. There's also a 'Roar' button and it's pretty much essential as it transforms the sound, without it the Roar can sound very contained and boxy but with 'Roar' enabled the sound opens up with a much wider stereo spread and a much more room-filling sound. There are also three onboard audio profiles which give a Warm, Neutral or Energetic sound and they're also effective and listenable, being much more subtle than some EQ presets would be.

With your Roar connected to your computer via USB you can download and install the SoundBlaster control panel (available for Windows and macOS) that lets you enable nine different audio profiles including options to enhance gaming or movie sound. You can also customise these default profiles (but not add your own) with options including Surround, Crossover Frequency and Dialogue enhancement and as well as tweaking the EQ. I'm not usually a big fan of audio enhancements but Creative seem to know what they're doing and they can sound amazing with the right audio source. Note, the inbuilt microphone isn't available as a sound source for your computer in USB mode. While connected via USB you can also switch on Mass Storage Device mode which disables audio mode temporarily and mounts any microSD card in the Roar on your computer so you can directly add or remove audio files for playback later.

I had a couple of minor issues with the original Roar, particularly that it mutes the speaker if it isn't used for a short time - that sounds sensible but if you're using it connected to your computer and an alert sound triggers you probably won't actually hear it because the Roar won't wake up again quick enough to replay it. This is slightly improved in the Roar Pro but still is an issue. The Roar also shuts down completely if not used, this again makes some sense but the original unit would do it regardless of what was connected which could be quite annoying. The Pro is a bit more sensible and stays powered up (for up to 28 hours of inactivity) if it's connected to the main adaptor or via USB and only shuts down (after 15 minutes of inactivity) if you're using Bluetooth or the microSD card.

There is also an improvement in the sound produced by the Roar Pro but I'd say the difference is subtle and might not be worth the extra expense of an upgrade if you already have an original model. If this would be your first Roar then you're unlikely to be disappointed, the sound is solid and substantial with a real kick in the bass and very nice detailing in the upper registers. You do really need to activate at least one or two of the audio enhancements to get the best results, the Roar Pro sounds a bit flat and unimpressive without them, but the enhancers are more subtle than most and do work well. I haven't hear the Roar 2 so I can't directly compare them but I do wonder if the Pro version is worth the extra spend, judged only on audio quality I seriously doubt it and unless you really need one of the new features it might be worth auditioning one of the cheaper versions before you decide. The Pro does have a slightly more detailed sound and a slightly wider stereo effect, but it's only a slight improvement over the original to my ear. However when compared to other speakers in this price bracket the Roar continues to hold its ground, it's certainly still an impressive little speaker and well worth checking out.


Umbra 1004385-880 Meta Wall Clock Copper
Umbra 1004385-880 Meta Wall Clock Copper
Price: £49.13

5.0 out of 5 stars A sweeping hand..., 13 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Umbra Meta Wall Clock arrives attractively boxed and looks and feels like a quality item from the outset. It's a sturdy and substantial-feeling clock without being over-heavy and should only need a picture hook or pin to hang it on your wall. The front glass is actually glass and has the hour gradations marked on it, giving a nice 3D depth to the look of the clock. The face and outer case have a brushed metal finish with a copper colour - I don't think it's actually copper but it is a really attractive colour, warm and stylish looking without being tacky.

It takes a single AA battery (which is not supplied) and the movement of the hands, the seconds hand in particular, is a smooth sweeping action with no visible (or audible) tick. This slick movement really adds to the stylish appeal of the clock and also means it's completely silent in operation, so would be fine for use in a bedroom. I've only ever seen this smooth action in mains-powered clocks before so I do wonder if it draws more power and would give a shorter battery life than the usual ticking clocks - but it does look really good so is probably worth it.

The overall style is quite simple and minimal without being boring or clinical-looking and it would fit into many interiors or decorating styles. My only slight complaint was that the clock-face and front glass were slightly out of alignment on ours which put the Umbra logo slightly skewwhiff - a little thing really but the kind of detail that irks me. Luckily the clock and glass are fixed into the case using spring clips and I was able to release these and slightly twist the clock-face back into proper alignment - curing my little irk. At the time of writing the clock seems a little pricey (at £50) compared to similar-looking clocks, but it does have a quality look and feel to (at least partly) justify it.


Silentnight Warm And Cosy 15 Tog Duvet - Single, White
Silentnight Warm And Cosy 15 Tog Duvet - Single, White
Price: £22.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cosy cloud..., 31 Jan. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Freed from its packaging the Silentnight Warm & Cosy 15-tog Duvet plumps up to its full size quite quickly, so it doesn't keep you waiting before it keeps you cosy. The duvet is really plump and fully stuffed with hollow-fibre wadding which is evenly distributed with no signs of clumping or pilling. It sewn into separate channels to keep the filling in place, but slightly unusually they're sewn in horizontally rather than along the length of the duvet - this makes it look a bit like a puffa-jacket for your bed and means the duvet tends to drape over you rather than tucking in around you. However it is a very warm and snuggly duvet in use and certainly effective enough for a chilly bedroom whatever time of year.

It seems well-made, the seams are all securely sewn and neat, and looks like it should last well. Even brand new and straight from it packaging I couldn't detect any odour, despite the man-made fibres used. Although it's a thickly padded duvet it's still very lightweight and pleasant to sleep under and seems to keep its shape well. It might not be the cheapest but the quality seems great and it still seems really good value.


Weleda Mens Moisture Cream
Weleda Mens Moisture Cream
Price: £13.95

3.0 out of 5 stars A calming influence..., 30 Jan. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Weleda Moisture Cream for Men arrives in a disappointingly small tube, given the price, although the cream itself feels quite rich and goes quite far. The scent is vaguely botanical and sightly medical and mostly seems to smell of Lavender (not my favourite smell) and it does tend to linger for a while after application. As mentioned it's a very rich-feeling cream, slightly waxy, and a little goes quite a long way so the diminutive tube should last longer than you might at first expect. If you over-apply it there's a tendency for it to leave a shiny effect on the skin too, which is something most men will prefer to avoid, so less is certainly more. I also notice that it's best applied to bare clean skin and avoid applying it over any other products, like serums, as it's not very well absorbed when it's not applied directly to skin.

The cream seems to mostly be based on plant oils and waxes and is well tolerated, even by my slightly sensitive skin, with no irritation or side-effects, in fact I find it quite calming and soothing. I can't say I've noticed any real benefits from regular use, there are no obvious anti-ageing effects for example, but it does soothe and feel protective. I think I'd recommend it more fro night-time use, it's rich enough to work as a night cream and has a soothing effect. It does seem over-priced given the small quantity supplied and the (apparent) lack of any real active ingredients, you could spend the same and get more with some other brands, but as a daily moisturiser it's good quality and pleasant enough to use.


Zyliss "Tili'N Grate" Grater, White
Zyliss "Tili'N Grate" Grater, White
Price: £23.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Almost great grater..., 30 Jan. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Zyliss grater is quite outsized, compared to many box-graters, and the main body made from chunky plastic with the stainless steel blades individually set into it. The handle at the top has a rubbery non-slip covering and the base has a pointed shape which allows the grater to be set at an angle in use. Actually the angled base allows the main grating surfaces to sit securely at either of two angles, either vertical or slightly angled back, so you can use whichever works for you.

The blades seem to be very securely attached to the main body but you don't need to use much force with them because they're really razor sharp. Actually using too much force can be unhelpful because the flat surface of the blades, between the cutting blades themselves, has a matte smooth finish which feels a bit sticky with some foods, cheese in particular, and doesn't always allow things to glide smoothly over the blades. This, combined with the razor sharp cutters, means you do have to take a little care when grating to avoid accidentally seasoning your food with added fingernail or fingertip.

The grated results are quite impressive and you get a very finely cut result, but it is slightly different from the more traditional box graters you may have used before. There are four different graters onboard and each gives a finer and thinner effect then you might expect. The standard grating surface creates short, wafer-thin ribbon-style shavings and not the longer bootlace-style results most graters would. The fine grater produces incredibly delicate vermicelli-style results and there's a mid-guage grater that you could use for nutmeg or lemon zesting. On the side of the grater is a set of small cutters which can produce those very professional-looking shavings of Parmesan you find on top of pizzas or Waldorf salads.

The blades are so sharp they can also be tricky to wash afterwards, if you're doing it by hand you have to keep your fingers clear and be careful you don't shred your washing-up brush by mistake. The grater is dishwasher safe though and that's probably the best method.

You might have to adjust your expectations and methods with this Zyliss grater, it's a tricky thing to use safely but the results are very professional looking. It creates a finer, thinner grate than most which might not be what you're used to but can be very effective in most dishes.


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