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Denise4891 (Cheshire)
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Inside the O'Briens
Inside the O'Briens
Price: £7.70

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: £34.17

1 of 1 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: £8.64

1 of 1 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: £12.99

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.


Philips GC2040/20 Easy Speed Steam Iron, 270 ml, 2100 Watt - Blue
Philips GC2040/20 Easy Speed Steam Iron, 270 ml, 2100 Watt - Blue
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish budget iron, 23 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Philips GC2040/20 Easy Speed Steam Iron is a budget, no-frills iron which does a reasonably good job. The dials/buttons are easy to reach and understand and it feels lightweight and irons smoothly.

There's no little plastic jug to fill the water reservoir, and filling it direct from the tap can be a little awkward (depending on what sort of taps you have), so if you have a plastic jug from a previous iron (as I did) then it's worth hanging onto. The reservoir itself is rather small, but I guess that's balanced out in the lightness of the iron.

The iron has the standard features of a burst of steam and/or a mist of water. Given that it's a 2100 watt iron (more powerful than my previous one) I expected the steam to be a bit more powerful. It was fine for lightweight mixed fabrics but I did struggle to get the creases out of a cotton dress. It's billed as non-drip, and so far that seems to be the case. The precision tip is good for getting to hard to reach places such as shoulder points and the space between buttons.

So all in all a fairly decent budget iron, which comes with a reassuring 2 year guarantee should anything go wrong.


The Raven's Head
The Raven's Head
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Medieval murder and mayhem, 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Raven's Head (Kindle Edition)
I’ve read and enjoyed all of Karen Maitland’s novels, which are always full of medieval intrigue and magic, but I do think her latest has taken a much darker turn.

The Raven’s Head tells the story of three young people – Vincent, an apprentice librarian, Gisa who works in her uncle’s apothecary shop, and young boy called Wilky who has been taken from his family by a sinister group of monks in payment for a debt. Vincent is a rogue, but a very likeable one and the star of the book for me. Gisa, apprenticed to her uncle, an apothecary, is an honest and admirable character but it’s the portrayal of the younger boys such as Peter and Wilky (who is named Regulus by the monks as part of their plan), which is particularly poignant.

The story contains Maitland’s distinctive blend of dark arts, magic and superstition. For me it differed from her previous work by the introduction of a much darker element, namely the abuse of the young boys by the monks in their pursuit of their twisted desires. This made for some very uncomfortable reading at times but as usual Maitland’s compelling storytelling kept me turning the pages.


Igenix IG3020 4 Slice Toaster 1,300 W - White
Igenix IG3020 4 Slice Toaster 1,300 W - White
Price: £19.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A 4 slice toaster that actually takes 4 slices, 20 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a basic, reasonably priced toaster. The main bonus is that you can actually fit 4 slices of bread in it - a first for me compared with '4 slice' toasters I've had in the past. Four slices of Hovis granary bread (which perhaps doesn't have the largest slices) fit inside easily on their long sides and toasted evenly (on setting 4). The slots are wide enough for crumpets too, which my previous toaster couldn't accommodate.

The toaster looks modern and has a 'rounded' style, which makes it bulkier than my previous one. The slots are 24.5 cm long. The dials are easy to use and understand. You can toast bread from frozen and reheat toast (I haven't needed to try either of these functions yet). The crumb tray slides out easily and the lead is reasonably long - which it needs to be as it comes out of the end of the toaster where the dials are (which obviously needs to be facing you), which could make it difficult to accommodate on your worktop.

All in all a decent toaster for the price.


Igenix IG3118 Steam Iron with Stainless Steel Soleplate 1,800 W - Green/White
Igenix IG3118 Steam Iron with Stainless Steel Soleplate 1,800 W - Green/White
Price: £17.98

4.0 out of 5 stars A good basic steam iron, 15 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My current steam iron is a Russell Hobbs which I've never been very happy with. It's heavy, the cord has got all twisted and bent and it leaves wet patches over everything, no matter what setting I have it on.

I was immediately impressed with this Igenix iron because it's so lightweight and irons very smoothly. On the down-side the settings were a little bit fiddly to see/operate and it wasn't immediately clear to me which way to turn the dial for the highest setting, but once I'd worked it out it was fine. It ironed a cotton-mix jumper really well with only a small burst of steam needed. For peace of mind it comes with a thermal safety cut-out feature (which I've not had to test yet) and a 2 year guarantee which you register online.

Igenix isn't a brand I've heard of before but I'm impressed so far.


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