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Denise4891 (Cheshire)
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GILDA Perfect Eye Cream
GILDA Perfect Eye Cream
Price: £35.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant to use, good results so far, 24 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I usually use a Liz Earle eye cream during the day (which has brightening properties to diminish dark circles and an SPF) and a Clinique one at night. This cream, from a new (to me) brand called Gilda, should be used twice daily (ie night and day) as it claims to deeply hydrate and prevent fine lines as well as brightening dark undereye circles. I’ve been using it for three weeks now.

I have a few tiny lines starting to appear around my eyes but my main problem is dark circles – this seems to be hereditary in my family but is worse at the moment as I’m having very restless nights due to stress at work and in recent weeks I’ve been waking up with extremely tired-looking eyes with very dark circles underneath, so this cream has got its work cut out!

Gilda Perfect Eye Cream is pleasant and cooling to use. It has a non-gloopy, gel-like consistency which spreads easily under and around the eye. The applicator has four small holes at the end and the instructions (such as they are) advise you to apply the cream around the eye using the applicator. However, I found it easier to use the traditional method of applying cream to the tip of my ring finger and gently patting it around the eye.
In terms of my dark circles, they do diminish slightly after applying the cream but this could be due to the patting motion. I still have to apply my normal cosmetic concealer on top of the cream to diminish them further. I haven’t noticed any new lines or wrinkles, so hopefully the cream is keeping them at bay.

The cream contains multipeptides which apparently help to increase collagen and elastin formation, and Vitamin A and wild musk rose oil to reduce wrinkle depth. It doesn’t contain an SPF (which the Liz Earle daytime eye cream does) but is unperfumed and paraben-free. (Other reviewers have said they noticed a slight scent but I couldn’t smell anything.) In terms of cost this cream is at the high end of the scale, certainly more expensive than the other creams I use, and I’m not sure if the results have been good enough for me to consider buying it next time. You only need a tiny amount for each eye so it will last quite a while though.


Ink Jet Remanufactured Ink Cartridge Replacement for HP 301 - Black
Ink Jet Remanufactured Ink Cartridge Replacement for HP 301 - Black
Price: £14.43

4.0 out of 5 stars Working fine but not a massive saving on cost, 24 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Shopping for ink cartridges seems to be a bit of a minefield (and a headache) in terms of comparing cost, reliability and compatibility. I don’t do a lot of printing at home and so far have only used genuine HP cartridges for my 3055A wireless printer. When I first installed this cartridge I did get a message from the printer to say it wasn’t a genuine HP one (or words to that effect) but I knew from other reviews that I should just persevere and ignore it.

The cartridge installed easily and I was prompted to print out an alignment page as per a ‘genuine’ cartridge. To date I’ve probably printed about 10-12 sheets using this cartridge and the print quality is fine. It contains 6 ml of ink, compared to 3 ml for the non-XL genuine HP version. That sound good but this particular remanufactured cartridge is nearly double the price of the genuine HP, so not as good as you would expect in terms of value.

I guess if you do high volume printing the small saving in cost will make it worth it over time (but then again a deskjet printer is not your best bet if you print a lot). So far there have been no problems with this one and I’ll certainly consider it, along with other options, when I need to repurchase.


In My House
In My House
by Alex Hourston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly unsettling, 21 May 2015
This review is from: In My House (Hardcover)
Maggie Benson’s orderly single life is turned on its head when a young woman approaches her in an airport toilet and asks for help. It transpires that the woman, a young Albanian called Anja, is being trafficked into the UK and Maggie’s intervention helps to get the ringleader of the people-smuggling gang arrested. Despite a small amount of newspaper publicity, Maggie thinks her good dead is forgotten and she hopes to return to her solitary life, until Anja contacts her and asks if they can meet.

The book is narrated by Maggie in the first person and, as with all good unreliable narrators, I was never quite sure whether to trust her version of events. She’s certainly very cagey and selective about what she reveals about her former marriage and the estrangement from her daughter, though as the story progresses Maggie’s secrets are slowly revealed. There are echoes of Notes of a Scandal (and other such loner/stalker type novels) in the claustrophobic nature of the relationship between the two women and the way the tension mounts to a point where you suspect things might not end well for one or both of them.

When I first read the synopsis for the book I assumed we would learn more about Anja’s background and the circumstances which led to her being a victim of sex trafficking, but this wasn’t the case. The book focuses on Maggie’s life and the way Anja’s stealthy and determined encroachment into it causes her to reflect on her past and, in particular, her fractured relationship with her own daughter.
It wasn’t an easy read and Maggie was not a sympathetic or engaging protagonist but she kept me on my toes throughout the book and I enjoyed this sharply written, observational novel.


Jakob's Colours
Jakob's Colours
by Lindsay Hawdon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They were the disappeared. The vanished. The forgotten., 26 April 2015
This review is from: Jakob's Colours (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Lyndsay Hawdon’s harrowing but compelling novel tells the story of one of the lesser known events of the holocaust – the mass murder of thousands of Europe’s gypsies.

The book opens with eight year old Jakob on the run from a terrifying, unseen enemy. Through a series of flashbacks we learn the sad story of how his upper class English mother and Swiss Yenish father met, and the suspicion and hatred with which the family were viewed as they travelled across Europe in their wagon, not just by interfering townspeople but also later by a larger, much more malign force – the Nazis. As Himmler’s extermination programme begins, Jakob and his family are separated and Lyndsay Hawdon doesn’t shy away from describing the brutality and inhumanity of the treatment meted out by the Nazi guards, which makes for very difficult reading at times. However, there are also more than a few glimpses of hope and human kindness along the way to guide Jakob and the reader through the darkness.

We’re sadly all too familiar with the treatment of the Jews in Europe during the 1930s and the subsequent war – and rightly so as remembrance is essential if we are to ensure that it never happens again. However I was shocked to read in the historical information at the end of the book that the gypsy genocide wasn’t even recognised until 1982, even though up to one and half million people were exterminated, and only one Nazi guard has been prosecuted.

The writing has a poetic, almost ethereal quality to it at times, especially when Jakob is remembering the stories his mother used to tell him and his father’s gift for extracting pigment from stones, leaves and other natural elements - a skill he was beginning to pass on to his son and which gives the book it’s title. It’s a harrowing and heartbreaking story, but at the same time captivating and compelling and I’m very glad I read it.


Inside the O'Briens
Inside the O'Briens
Price: £11.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and insightful read, 7 April 2015
The book opens with Boston cop Joe O’Brien unable to find his loaded service weapon and blaming his family when it is eventually discovered on the kitchen counter. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time Joe has had forgetful episodes or lost his temper, and these symptoms, together with the increasing number of unexplained falls and sudden bursts of unco-ordinated movement, are enough for his wife Rose to persuade him to see a doctor. A diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease quickly follows and Joe and Rose’s relatively peaceful lives are thrown into turmoil, as are those of their four children who range in age from 21 to 25. Huntington’s is a hereditary and terminal condition and the children of those affected have a 50% chance of developing the disease, so the family is faced with the heartbreaking dilemma of whether or not they should be tested – is it better to get on with your life and wait for symptoms to occur, if at all, or would you want to know for sure?

I feel as though I’ve been through an emotional wringer with this book over the last couple of days. It’s a powerful and at times harrowing read which isn’t mawkish or over-sentimental but doesn’t shy away from the pain and indignity (and gallows humour) of terminal illness and also raises some interesting points about genetic testing and a person’s right to decide whether or not they should take a test to find out if they carry a gene which will kill them. At a time when Angelia Jolie is in the news for the brave measures she is taking to reduce her risk of developing hereditary cancers, it struck me that one of the cruelest things about Huntington’s is that once a person finds out they have the gene, they can’t do anything to halt its progress.

With her background in neuroscience, it’s perhaps not surprising that Lisa Genova chooses themes such as this for her novels and, although I learned a lot about the disease, I never felt like I was attending a lecture. The synopsis and style of Inside the O’Briens reminded me of some Jodi Picoult’s novels (though Genova’s writing is not as sentimental as Picoult’s) and it certainly proved to be a moving and thought-provoking read which I'm sure would some lively debates at book group meetings.

(Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for letting me have a copy to review.)


Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Pedi Extra Coarse Power Hard Skin Remover
Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Pedi Extra Coarse Power Hard Skin Remover
Price: £26.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive gadget, 3 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've never used a batter-operated foot file before and was cynical about how good the results would be - but I was impressed! The instructions are clear and the unit is robust but lightweight and easy to operate. It comes supplied with the 4 AA batteries required and doesn't need charging, so you're good to go as soon as you take it out of the box.

I've used it three times now and have found it very effective at removing hard skin on my heels. The unit stops if you press too hard to avoid causing any damage to your feet.

In terms of cost, the RRP of £39.99 (currently selling for £33.99 on Amazon) might seem expensive but compares well to the cost of repeated salon pedicures. I'm not sure how long the roller will last (there's only one supplied) but replacements cost £12.25 for two on Amazon.

So I'm converted to this gadget and looking forward to showing off my smooth heels in sandals this summer.


The Shore
The Shore
Price: £8.54

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard-hitting and compelling debut novel, 3 April 2015
This review is from: The Shore (Kindle Edition)
The Shore is an extraordinary debut novel by a very exciting new writer.

The title refers to a group of small islands off the coast of Virginia which has changed over the years from a prosperous resort and farming/fishing community to an impoverished and drug-riddled ghost town. The book consists of 13 closely interlinked short stories featuring the inhabitants of the islands, covering (non-sequentially) the period from 1876 up to a futuristic, post-apocalyptic final chapter set in 2143. Most of the characters are direct descendants of two families, and there's a very helpful family tree at the beginning of the book which I referred back to on several occasions.

My favourite thread was the one telling the story of Medora, the spirited half-native American matriarch of one of the families, but I also really enjoyed the dystopian chapters set in 2037 and 2143, after the area has been devastated by a virus and the inhabitants are battling with disease and devastation in order to survive. In between there are chapters set in the late 20th century when those left behind after the holiday makers and summer residents have long deserted the resort, are struggling to eek out a living in convenience stores and chicken factories and turning to drugs (notably home cooked crystal meth) to take the edge off their poverty-stricken existence. This aspect of the book could easily be grim and depressing, but it's a tribute to Sara Taylor's unsentimental writing, which manages to be economical and magical and the same time, that I didn't feel discouraged, but rather found that I came to care about the people whose desperate lives were laid bare on the page before me.

I devoured The Shore in a little over a day and found that it's the sort of novel that makes you exhale deeply upon finishing, not in relief but in astonishment at what you've just experienced. Sara Taylor is herself originally from Virginia but now lives in the UK, having gained an MA in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia. The Shore has been longlisted for the Baileys Prize for Fiction and despite the stiff competition (I also really enjoyed Elizabeth is Missing, Crooked Heart and Aren't We Sisters and have heard great things about Station Eleven), I really hope it makes the shortlist and perhaps even goes on to win, as this gritty and very memorable novel deserves all the recognition and as wide a readership as it can get.

(Many thanks to Netgalley and Random House Cornerstone for letting me read this book.)

Update 14.04.15: the Baileys shortlist has been announced and unfortunately The Shore isn't on it, but Sara should be congratulated for even making the longlist with her debut novel.


Oral B Vitality Plus Trizone Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Oral B Vitality Plus Trizone Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A good basic introduction to manual toothbrushing, 3 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Vitality Plus Trizone is a basic entry-level toothbrush and was tested by my mum, who has never used an electric toothbrush before. The instructions for 'setting up' the toothbrush when you get it out of the box were clear and it comes ready charged, though you do have to purchase a two pin shaver plug in order to be able to charge it up for next time (this is common with electric toothbrushes).

The body of the toothbrush is easy and comfortable to hold, and it gave good results in terms of the teeth feeling and looking clean - though of course the true test will be the next time my mum visits the dentist. Rather than being round, the head is rectangular in shape, ie more like a convention toothbrush which I guess is better for someone making the switch from manual to electric as it will feel more familiar. The number of 'swipes' per minute is 7,600 - lower than more expensive models but more than manual toothbrushing.

The RRP for the product is £39.99 (expensive for what it is) but it's currently selling on Amazon for £19.99, which is a much more reason price. I say this because it lacks some features which are common with more expensive models, such as a low battery light and an alert to tell you when you're pressing too hard.

So all in all my mum is impressed and has been converted to electric toothbrushing.


The Ghost Fields: A Ruth Galloway Investigation
The Ghost Fields: A Ruth Galloway Investigation
by Elly Griffiths
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book 7 in the series and I'm still hooked, 30 Mar. 2015
The Ghost Fields is book 7 in Elly Griffiths' series featuring archaeology lecturer Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson. The `crime' element is pretty much the same in each one - a body is unearthed and Nelson calls Galloway in to help with the investigation - but what keeps the series alive, and fans like me hooked, is the dynamics between the two curmudgeonly but very likeable lead characters and their engaging supporting cast.

The title of this book refers to the many abandoned WWII airfields around the Norfolk coast where the series is set, and during development on one of them a fighter plane is unearthed with the (remarkably well preserved) body of the pilot still inside. The airman is identified as the long-lost son of a prominent local family, believed to have been lost at sea, and as Nelson and Ruth both dig deeper (in their different ways), the investigation takes a sinister and murderous turn.

Running alongside this storyline are some intriguing developments in Ruth and Nelson's relationship, as well as prominent roles for Ruth's former love interest Frank Barker (the American historian) and Nelson's bullish but likeable sergeant, Dave Clough. The rugged and windswept Norfolk coastline also plays a central role, from the eerie deserted airfields to the torrential storms and floods which occurred in the county in late 2013, which are incorporated into a particularly frantic and gripping denouement to the investigation.

With this series I think you really do have to start at the beginning to fully understand the dynamics of the sparky relationship between Ruth and Nelson and the character development and connections between their various friends and colleagues. As this is book 7 it might seem a bit daunting to go all the way back to book 1 (The Crossing Places), but trust me, you're in for a treat.

(Many thanks to Netgalley and Quercus for the advance reading copy.)


The Followers
The Followers
by Rebecca Wait
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary and compelling, 23 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Followers (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We first meet 22 year old Judith when she is visiting her mother Stephanie in prison. They chat about films and Judith’s boyfriend, but it’s clear that their relationship is strained, and it soon becomes obvious why. 10 years earlier Stephanie took Judith to live with a religious cult when she fell under the spell of its charismatic leader, Nathaniel. Stephanie, a single mother, had been coasting along in dead-end jobs when Nathaniel inveigled his way into her life and persuaded her to uproot her daughter and live with him and his followers in The Ark, a settlement on a remote and windswept Yorkshire moor.

The bleak setting chimes beautifully with the stark and isolated nature of the group’s existence. Nathaniel rules the house with a rod of iron, literally putting the fear of God into his disciples and not surprisingly Judith struggles to fit in, her only friend being Moses, a lonely and vulnerable boy who has been told all his life that his birthmark is a sign from the devil. The other children, most of whom have been born into this regimented and tyrannical environment, are both bewitched by and suspicious of this wild, red-haired stranger in their midst, and as tensions in the house rise, the storyline builds towards a shocking and dramatic conclusion.

I’m not sure if The Followers is going to be marketed as a Young Adult novel; it has that feel about it but equally could be enjoyed by a wide age range (I am far from being a young adult!). I warmed to Judith’s sparky personality, both as a vulnerable 12 year old and a cynical, world-weary young woman, and my heart went out to poor Moses, always struggling to do the right thing and please everyone at the same time.

My only slight niggle with the book is that I would have liked to have learned more about how Nathaniel groomed Stephanie and persuaded her to join him in The Ark (this isn’t really gone into in any detail), and also a bit more about the backgrounds of the other followers. However, that said I found it a compelling and thought-provoking read. I haven’t read Rebecca Wait’s highly praised debut novel, The View on the Way Down, but after reading The Followers I intend to put that right soon.


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