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Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England)

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Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Pedi Extra Coarse Power Hard Skin Remover
Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Pedi Extra Coarse Power Hard Skin Remover
Price: £33.74

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tackles hard skin but will only remove it with frequent use, 21 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The packaging is the first problem to solve with this product. The applicants comes in a hard plastic case which is welded together in a couple of places requiring scissors to get into. There is a strong possibility of unplanned skin being removed before you even switch on the product.
Batteries are supplied which is great. There are 4 x AA batteries already inside with a protective cover to be removed before you start to use it.
Unlike a lot of hard skin removal product it advises use on dry skin, complete sense as the product is not waterproof?? Although I suggest washing and drying first so that the skin is softened.
The controls are very easy - on and off - and the noise is not too bad. It does have a safety feature which cuts the power if you press the product too hard onto the skin, the tolerated pressure takes some time to get used to but is pretty easy to use.
As it works, the skin is turned into a heavy dust which does spread about everywhere so I suggest you use this above a bath or bin to save the mess.
It's great at removing skin which is not too hard, for example on toes and the front of the foot - here it is much better than products such as files, creams or blades as this is much more sensitive and removes any hard skin evenly, leaving the skin smooth. It also has a go at the really hard skin on the back of the heel but really didn't make much impact on the first time (as advertised) - use every day though and it does start to make more of an impact.
It's better than some of the other solutions of hard skin removal but is quite expensive. I was looking for some sort of miracle solution but this still isn't it and certainly doesn't remove the hard skin on one use.

Crooked Heart
Crooked Heart
by Lissa Evans
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

4.0 out of 5 stars What some people did to survive the Second World War on the Homefront, 19 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Crooked Heart (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a lovely little book about Noel, who is an evacuee sent to St albans after his guardian (??) dies. Noel is an odd little child who doesn't fit in easily. He goes to live with Vee with whom he, after a period of suspicion, builds a lucrative partnership.
It's an unusual look at living through the Second World War and uses some well drawn (if very odd) characters - as well as the main people involved with the story all those on the periphery are great too.
It's a light way of looking at what people did to survive with a good mixture of deep felt emotion as well.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes
by Anna McPartlin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Few books make me sob but this one did, 18 Mar. 2015
I'd been recommended this book by a few friends - part of me was eager to read it but another (rebellious) part wanted to avoid it because it was too popular and was clearly going to be sentimental rubbish!!
My sentimental side won through and I started reading. It's a strong beginning with the main character Rabbit, a woman in her forties, being taken into a hospice where she is probably going to die of cancer. This is a powerful image that immediately plays on the emotion.
The beauty of how Rabbit's story is revealed is the balance between the desperation of her dying and being surrounded by family and friends who are full of life. The setting of Dublin works brilliantly, with the characters being full of all things which seem to be stereotypical of the Irish people - honesty, friendships, persistence, witty, bluntness and many more. The issue of death is dealt with amazingly sensitively, sometimes with even the darkest subject and the funniest comment being combined in the same sentence. I would suggest this book to anyone dealing with death as this tackles it pragmatically and touchingly, at the same time.
Unsurprisingly, the book concentrates on the ability of Rabbit's family and friends to cope with her imminent death. She has no choice but to deal with it face on whereas those around her are much more complicated and varied in their emotions (as you would expect).
Structurally, the book takes you through day by day with the characters taking it in turn to hold the focus of the narrative but, with nothing written in the first person, the main emphasis is never taken away from Rabbit.
This book is a great reminder that life goes on while someone is dying and then continues after they are dead. I particularly loved all the natural dialogue that goes on around Rabbit's bed and imagine that the same conversations will happen after she has gone with topics flying about all over the place.
This book is very much written in the female fiction genre which I always find myself rebelling against but I have to say that I loved this one. I started crying about 40 pages from the end and by the time I finished reading the novel I was sobbing (good tears though!!)

Red or Dead
Red or Dead
by David Peace
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone but I liked it, 15 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Red or Dead (Paperback)
I'm a football fan but don't specifically support any team so this book appealed to give background of the period rather than particularly adding to any knowledge of the club.
It's a fairly weighty book and is quite a slow read. David Peace does like his facts and relates them in detail. This suited me as it gave me plenty to think about and lots of information.
I would recommend this to others who have a general interest inn the game but if you're not a keen reader then probably best to give it a miss.

The Death's Head Chess Club
The Death's Head Chess Club
by John Donoghue
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea in an Auschwitz setting with great characters but I didn't quite believe it could have happened., 15 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The holocaust is used as an effective background in many novels with the horror of reality always being more compelling than a creation - using real horror means that many assumptions can be made. Here the story attempts to strip away the setting and focus on the chess and the people involved. Chess is used as a distraction from the horror but, at the same time, creates its own terror - it is then chess again, many years later, which brings the three old men back together to consider what happened.
The novel is split into chapters of approximately 10-15 pages, all named after chess strategies. Whilst telling the story, the action flips frequently from 1944 in Auschwitz to 1962 in Amsterdam where an international chess championship is taking place.
From the first page it is clear that the author has done his research well as he manages to immediately create an atmosphere of hopelessness. There is a lot of swapping between the two time periods which is confusing to begin with but settles once you can place the characters. There is also the feeling that the author wants to tell you all about the research and once he has done this then the story is allowed to develop in its own way.
The mechanisms of the chess games were lost on me because I don't play but I think it would be interesting to many people.
I loved how it was written and thought the chess theme was clever. The three main protagonists were also well developed but I never quite believed that the "watchmaker" would have been treated as he was in the book.

My Notorious Life by Madame X
My Notorious Life by Madame X
by Kate Manning
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable book which gives a great insight into midwifery services in the nineteenth century!!, 10 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Historical fiction as a genre is always very tempting to me - an element of story being told alongside some interesting historical research - and this is exactly what this book gives. The setting is the later half of the nineteenth century in New York, at a time when NY was being flooded with immigrants, many of whom were being housed in dreadful conditions. This novel is based on a real character, Ann Lohman, a midwife/abortionist practising at the heart of the city. Little has been written about the real person, giving Kate Manning, the author, plenty of scope to create the fiction.
The writing is beautiful. It flows smoothly through all sorts of deprivation and poverty, giving a real feel for the characters reacting to their circumstances. I found that I was making time to sit down with this book for long periods of time so that I could soak up the atmosphere properly.
I wasn't quite sure why the swear words were all censored. There is nothing very offensive in here and it didn't feel that the narrator was the type of person to censor herself. The b*****d asterisks did grate with me but, whilst I thought it was unnecessary, it didn't spoil the reading experience.
The narrator's character is the outstanding feature which makes this book amazing. It is so believeable yet very hard to imagine that she was not allowed to do what she did. The author manages to communicate the outrage felt quietly by many people of the time that there was a better way for women to be treated.
Sadly, the plot tailed off towards the end which was a shame and I found that the end, although probably true, didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story (maybe real life is always less structured than fiction?)

HP 364 Print Cartridge Combo Pack - (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
HP 364 Print Cartridge Combo Pack - (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Offered by CrazyKangaroo
Price: £19.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Does what you'd expect, 2 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
You can't really go too far wrong with a branded cartridge although they do work out quite expensive.

The Rocks
The Rocks
by Peter Nichols
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual backwards structure which made it very intriguing, 2 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Rocks (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are many books which tell the stories of families stretching back over several generations and this is one of those. I've always enjoyed this type of book but they do tend to follow a similar formula. I was attracted to this particular book by the promise of familiarity and the idea of some sunshine (I started the book in a cold February and the setting is Mallorca).
From the index you can see that this book is going to be different in that the dates of the sections run chronologically backwards - 2005, 1995, 1983, etc. The plot is then very interesting and I found myself reading very carefully to try to pick up all the hints about the past which may be explored further in later chapters.
The novel has a relaxing pace even though the gaps between sections are always many years and time passes quickly. The narrative is reminiscent of the Island - warm, dramatic and, sometimes, transient. The unusual time structure makes it very obvious that people come and go in life but there are always constants, with many here being guests who come back to the island every year.
It is a strange experience reading a story backwards. One particular character is introduced as she is dying but then is a major character in the next section (earlier in time of course). A couple of times I found myself flicking back to see the fall out of an event - all very intriguing.
Disappointingly, I found that the story lost its way towards the end and, when the big reveal happens, it felt that too much had been made of it throughout the whole book. Maybe the book could have benefitted from being 50 pages shorter but I did enjoy it regardless.

The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir
The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir
by Graham Norton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable to read and a good way into the personality, 2 Mar. 2015
There is no question that Graham Norton is a great tv presenter. Surprisingly though, for such a high profile figure, his private life isn't always in the press, so this book seemed a good chance to find out more about him.
Becoming 50 seems a good trigger to look back at your life and this is what he does. The book doesn't run chronologically (his autobiography did that I think), instead it puts together various memories and stories grouped into his particular passions which show aspects of his personality.
The chapters are entitled Dogs, Ireland, New York, etc and I think this loose structure allows the author to write in an easy going, comfortable style as if he were talking.
Obviously GN does have a showbiz lifestyle but he seems to strike a great balance between trying to believe that his life is somewhere near normal and not being able to believe that this is all happening to him.
The nature of the book leads to some repetition as the same events relate to multiple sections in the book, an example being when he left university. I wasn't sure about this when it started to happen as it seemed chaotic but quickly the repetition felt comfortable in the way that a conversation does where topics are often repeated for emphasis.
As expected with biographies, the book opens up the personality of the author and, here, that understanding leads to increased admiration. GN is very honest, spending plenty of time discussing his less appealing character traits (in particular his drinking habits) as well as all the fun times he has had - in fact, these are often connected!
I recently read an autobiography by Rev Richard Coles and found these books good to compare, both being gay men of a similar age who have lived very showbiz lives. I felt I learnt more about RRC from his book but thought that GN's book was more entertaining and fluffy - predictable reaction I guess?
And, by the way, I cried too at the letter he received into his problem page which he talks about towards the end of the book.

The Ice Twins
The Ice Twins
by S. K. Tremayne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.00

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some parts stretch the limits of plausibility but generally a very good novel, 22 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Ice Twins (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The question of how well you know your children is topical at the moment with the recent story of two Spanish babies who were swapped, by mistake, in hospital. After years of both mothers feeling something was wrong, the error has finally been discovered.
I love a good psychological thriller and this book has a great set up. They were a perfect family - lovely couple with gorgeous twin girls and great jobs living in London, then one twin dies in an accident, throwing the family into despair. They inherit a remote Scottish island and decide to start a new life in the hope that they can heal. There is, of course, an expectation that everything will get worse as getting better wouldn't make for a good book!
The characters are easy to engage with from the start and I felt huge empathy for their situation.
Structurally, the book is straightforward as it follows the plot chronologically. The story is told from two perspectives, Sarah and Angus, both of which seem to be unreliable in some way. Sarah's account is first person, full of thoughts and feelings, whereas Angus is third person and much more factual. The narrative swap between them is handled in a very subtle way and often you forget whose voice you are listening to.
Having established the characters and plot, the story develops into implausible territory which seems extreme. The confusion of identity is believeable but I was very unsure about how the parents handled it and the move to Scotland just seemed to add one too many complications. I loved the pace of the novel though and the atmosphere built well, working towards an end which I was not expecting.

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