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D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria)
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   

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Vax Floors and All Base U86-PF-Be Upright Vacuum
Vax Floors and All Base U86-PF-Be Upright Vacuum
Price: £93.53

5.0 out of 5 stars Value Vacuum, 2 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Carpet cleaners with bellows and rotating brushes first appeared in the 19th century, and they developed into the ‘vacuum’ cleaners of today with pumps, air streaming or centrifugal force to suck dirt into bags or cylinders. It is amazing how cleaners continuously evolve and become better and better all the time - and now this ‘Vax Floors and All Base U86-PF-Be Upright Vacuum Cleaner’ vies for top ranking - and certainly is a 5-star product.

This Vax features dual cyclonic technology that produces a powerful suck for carpets or hard surfaces with and without the rotating brushbar. It incorporates a detachable canister that is easily removed from the cleaner for easier operation on stairs, under furniture, in tight corners etc. Tools provided are a 2-in-1 crevice or brush, and a dust pad - with further tools available

The performance of vacuum cleaners can be gauged by several parameters, and with this Vax is a ‘sticker’ confirming Energy Rating A at 21.6 kWh/annum. It also quotes noise level as 86.5 dB, and on a scale A to G the Vax suction performance is A (dust) and B (dirt) for carpets and B for hard floors, and it is A for lowest level of dust re-emission (best level filtration).

Vax is a highly respected manufacturer of cleaners and washers, and the ‘Vax Floors and All Base U86-PF-Be Upright Vacuum Cleaner’ is of the expected robust level of construction. This results in it being somewhat heavy but is counterbalanced by provision for detaching the canister, when the cable serves well as in the upright mode. The leaflet ‘Let’s get started’ is straightforward and comprehensive including safety, assembly, use and maintenance, and emphasising the 5-star value of this vacuum cleaner.


The Banker's Dilemma
The Banker's Dilemma
by Roman Klee
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Complex and Convoluted, 1 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Banker's Dilemma (Paperback)
It is worth noting right at the start that publicity blurb for `The Banker's Dilemma' is somewhat deceiving and it does not truly describe the book - but then the book is crammed with deception. Also numerous references to acronyms, algebraic algorithms and financial mechanisms as derivatives, hedge funds, credit lines, bilaterals etc. are perplexing - but it is well worth persevering. `The Banker's Dilemma' is complex and convoluted - but it is extremely well written and it incorporates an alleviating degree of humour. It is difficult to avoid spoilers but ...

The story opens as anti-hero Nathan DeAngelis has been made a scapegoat and lost his lucrative job as a Wall Street banker - and troubles multiplied with loss of his wife and family. A suicidal Nathan is ranking his numerous credit cards according to the size of their outstanding debts, but he receives an invitation from Antonio Orofino to a hedonistic gathering of the world's super-rich and powerful which leads to an appointment with the wealth management company Banderbilt Trust. Accidents happen to ultra high net worth individuals involved, office politics intrude, and a partnership with the Trust lands in Nathan's lap.

The focus of the plot is on the obscenely rich Wright family where the wealthy billionaire investor father is in danger, the status conscious wife wants to handle matters herself, the over-indulged children pull in different directions, one child is compromising Nathan, and one has disappeared. Nathan is tasked with making contact with the lost daughter, and he is introduced to shady financial instruments known as LAYDEEs - Life After Your Death Early Endowments. Nathan meets with a variety of intriguing individuals and organisations including his previous employers. The ways in which he is both helped and hindered is at the core of `The Banker's Dilemma'. It dawns on Nathan that for all its public stance of supporting clients the Banderbilt Trust is self-serving and entirely mercenary, and he is increasingly wrapped in bluffs and counterbluffs.

Antonio appears to assist Nathan who increasingly finds himself in conflict as he has to assist both Antonio and his Banderbilt Trust masters. He realises that LAYDEEs purporting to be for financial protection at death are a means for gambling on outcomes - but also providing an opportunity to engineer a person's demise with generation of huge profits. There are insights to the amoral conduct of the super-rich with their unlimited wealth, and particularly to the paranoia over inheritance. Much is made of banking greed, cynicism and manipulative manoeuvring, and widespread dealings of exploitation, fraud, use of client assets etc. can only lead to melt-down, and again spoilers must be avoided - but how does Nathan fare? Sufficient to say the conclusion of `The Banker's Dilemma' remains complex and convoluted - to a degree that loses the novel a star - hence 4-star rating.


No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome 2)
No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome 2)
by Sarah Hilary
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guilt and Grief, 28 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A short prologue looking back 5 years sets up the story of 2 young boys trapped in an underground bunker. The main narrative is then in the present when the bodies of the boys are discovered and DI Marnie Rome and her colleagues search for what happened, but also there are flashbacks and there are interjections from persons involved. ‘No Other Darkness’ is a murder mystery, a horror story and a police procedural where numerous topics are introduced and it becomes partly a social commentary on the failings of care support. There is much that is thought provoking - but above all the novel is a taut 5-star psychological thriller.

Marnie is a complex character with her own personal demons linked to a murderous past, and author Sarah Hilary skilfully interweaves this with Marnie’s obsessive investigations and her relationships with others. It is not sufficient for Marnie to know what, when and who - she also wants to know the wherefore and why - such depth transforms a mundane thriller into a 5-star psychological thriller.

Readers are kept engaged with short punchy chapters, but largely attention is secured by the way truths emerge and the motivations of perpetrators are revealed. A toxic mix of emotions is created with emphasis on guilt and grief displayed by those directly concerned with the death of the boys but also the indirect traumatic effects on others. Within a mix of brutality and compassion with many displays of forms of darkness it is sometimes difficult to know who are victims. ‘No Other Darkness’ is gripping and compelling, and its complex story conjures up unsettling feelings for readers - that’s what 5-star psychological thrillers do!


Ultrasport Rapunzel 330700001011 Children's Climbing Rope 2.6 x 250 cm
Ultrasport Rapunzel 330700001011 Children's Climbing Rope 2.6 x 250 cm
Price: £19.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre and Mean, 27 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With its descriptive title there are two hints at what makes up the ‘Ultrasport Kids Climbing Rope Rapunzel’. It is a kid’s play item and not a mountaineering rope, and it is formed similarly to Rapunzel’s braided hair rather than laid or sheathed core.

From a thickness point of view the cord is easy to grip with a diameter of approx. 1¼ inches, but it is quite slippery smooth resulting in the plastic climbing aids being necessary for most children who are not gymnasts. There are 5 of these spread over the 7 feet long rope, which has a ring to hang it up. An illustration from product information shows a type of ‘figure of 8’ belay device but this is not included with the rope.

Obviously the climbing rope has to be suspended from something, and unless users have some form of frame, swing set or other piece of playground equipment then it is likely to be from a tree branch. A straightforward way of securing the rope is to use a mountaineers’ sling and karabiner. Trees are normally surrounded by grass or soft earth which is necessary for safety and avoidance of injury if the climber falls - it is clearly stated that the climbing rope should not be used above concrete, asphalt or other hard ground, and a sand box is suggested.

Apart from a trial where grandchildren preferred to perch on the plastic climbing aids and use the climbing rope as a Tarzan swing the ‘Ultrasport Kids Climbing Rope Rapunzel’ is unlikely to be popular - and it will certainly be a worry to parents and grandparents - adult supervision is recommended. It may best be described as mediocre as an average product rather than 5-star good or 1-star bad - and hence the mean 3-star rating.


Remember, Remember
Remember, Remember
by Lisa Cutts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Complex and Compelling, 25 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Remember, Remember (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the second of a series of DC Nina Foster crime thrillers, and readers will become aware that a third book will be necessary to deal with the complex and compelling plot - written in simplistic matter of fact fashion with a pleasing degree of humour by Lisa Cutts using her experience as a police officer with degrees in Law and Applied Criminal Investigation. Her exciting narrative may be convoluted but she makes it plausible - and highly entertaining. She uses short chapters that allow for a fast pace whilst it keeps readers engaged.

On return to work after a near fatal injury (in first book - ‘Never Forget’) Nina is given a supposedly desk based task of reviewing a 50 years old ‘cold case’, but the clues she discovers have a bearing on current murders. Nina is immediately in the thick of it as she tracks down witnesses, comes face to face with killers, builds up evidence, and struggles with her own personal relationships. The genre of ‘Remember Remember’ may be police procedural, but Nina stretches the boundaries of police procedures. She is a feisty female made credible by Lisa Cutts with past family problems and future boyfriend issues, and readers cannot fail to empathize. Nina rides a roller-coaster truly deserving 5-star rating. Book 3 is more than hinted at in the author’s ‘Acknowledgements’ - bring it on!


TECEVO FX3 AptX Bluetooth V4.0 Stereo Earphones With Handsfree Wireless Sports Headset - NFC Enabled - Ideal for use with Apple iTouch, iPad 1 2 3 4 Air iPhone 3 4 4s 5 5s 6 6Plus , HTC, Samsung Galaxy, LG, Nokia etc (FX3 Black)
TECEVO FX3 AptX Bluetooth V4.0 Stereo Earphones With Handsfree Wireless Sports Headset - NFC Enabled - Ideal for use with Apple iTouch, iPad 1 2 3 4 Air iPhone 3 4 4s 5 5s 6 6Plus , HTC, Samsung Galaxy, LG, Nokia etc (FX3 Black)
Offered by DigiDirect
Price: £36.87

4.0 out of 5 stars Fair Fare, 25 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The ‘TEVECO FX3 Bluetooth Stereo Earphones’ are somewhat unique as though there are plenty of over-ear headphones and earplug earphones these fit with loops over the ears, but still with earbuds of which different sizes are included. Earphones are comfortable to ‘wear’ and should be great for long time ‘gaming’ (but not tested). The kit includes a charging cable and a nice protective storage pouch secured with a drawstring.

Instructions are minimal but straightforward and there are no difficulties in making a compatible Bluetooth connection. Obviously there is no problem with smartphone, but with an iPad the range is limited to 10 metres. Controls are inevitably small but work well with volume adjustment for both earphones and the Bluetooth device. There is an integral microphone for hands-free operation (not been tested at review - and neither has the claim as waterproof).

The ‘TEVECO FX3 Bluetooth Stereo Earphones’ are towards the bottom of the price range for headphones and not surprisingly sound quality is not as flawless as expensive devices. However from a value-for-money viewpoint they are more than adequate over a full treble-bass span and with no interference. Playing time is approx. 6 hours with claimed standby capacity for 100 hours. It is fair to say the earphones are average but at a lower than average fare.


Igenix 5-Speed Hand Mixer, 125 Watt, White
Igenix 5-Speed Hand Mixer, 125 Watt, White
Price: £14.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Modest Mixer, 25 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Amongst a kitchen appliance market dominated by big names this ‘Igenix’ is not so well known. However its 5-Speed Hand Mixer is attractive in white, it is robustly constructed and it has a number of excellent features - but also some drawbacks. The instruction leaflet is straightforward, but it includes a warning that the maximum operation time should not exceed 5 minutes and the device should be allowed to cool down for a minimum of 10 minutes between cycles.

With 5 speeds it appears better than many mixers, though it seems to vary from ‘fast’ through faster to ‘extremely fast’ with no ‘slow’. There is a lever button for on/off and changing speeds which operates positively, and there is a separate push button to eject beaters for easy cleaning. These may be fitted in either of 2 holes so there is no ‘wrong’ way, and they fit with a reassuring click.

The mixer is good for its basic function of mixing with its pair of beaters, but it is not provided with a balloon whisk, and there are no dough hooks either. At 125watts the motor is probably not sufficiently powerful for folding, and in any case the appliance lacks a ‘pulse’ function. Beaters are 10.7cms overall with blades 6.5cms long which perform well. Though made of ‘heavy duty chrome’ and probably dishwasher proof they are unlikely to be as durable as stainless steel.

The mixer has a ‘wipe-clean’ plastic body that is relatively lightweight, and it is shaped for easy handling, with a ‘lip’ to allow free-standing. The cable is only 85cms long and not 1.5metres as product information, and there is no facility for cord storage other than wrapping around the mixer. The Igenix 5-Speed Hand Mixer is modest in the sense of limited capability and it may fall short of a 5-star rating - but it well deserves 4-stars.


Braun SE830 Face Epilator and Facial Cleansing Brush Premium Edition
Braun SE830 Face Epilator and Facial Cleansing Brush Premium Edition
Price: £57.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dual Device, 24 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Braun is a well-respected manufacturer of personal care products and this SE830 epilator and cleanser is specifically for facial use. According to product information it has been tested by dermatologists for sensitive skins and it is endorsed for daily use, but it is worth noting there is a disclaimer warning how if users suspect a medical condition they should seek specialist advice. For the short period of testing for this review there was nothing to suggest problems - the epilator and brush perform as expected. However also as expected there is a degree of ‘no pain - no gain’ - which is the case for all waxing, plucking etc.

Instructions are comprehensive and straightforward, with a single motor handle plus alternative heads. There is a mirror that magnifies the face and it has LED lighting, and together with epilator and cleanser this fits in a protective travel pouch. The epilator itself is quite neat and small enough for precise positioning, and it can switch direction for easiest locating. It is not possible to comment on the claimed 200 plucking movements per second, but it is certainly fast and it does not take long to remove all hairs including fine ‘fluff’.

For the cleanser again it is not possible to comment on the claimed hundreds of oscillations per minute, but the fine bristle brush head appears to vibrate and it is certainly effective. The epilator is for infrequent use, but the cleanser could be part of a daily routine of skin care. Product information suggests the cleanser may be operated in the shower but this has not been tried - it seems best to use above a washbasin when various soaps, creams or gels may be employed.

Epilation is commonly used for legs, arms and less sensitive body parts, and it has advantages over other means of hair removal. However for the face again advice is qualified to epilate in the evenings so any potential redness can clear before morning, and to limit eyebrow epilation to between and above eyebrows to maintain shape but it is recommended not to use below eyebrow line. The Braun SE830 epilator and cleanser may be a 5-star device for some - but it loses a star due to reservations.


AmiGami Cat Figure
AmiGami Cat Figure
Price: £6.02

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creative Cat, 23 Feb. 2015
This review is from: AmiGami Cat Figure (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This simple cat figure is one of a series of ‘AmiGami’ kits inspired by the ancient art of ‘origami’ or paper sculpture. With all the various paper parts, stickers and pins and with a curling tool to create curves, twirls and spirals it may be claimed there is an almost limitless number of combinations, but once the model is made it is more for decoration than for play. At the fabrication stage, in common with origami, there is no glue and therefore nothing messy, and these kits are ideal for the target age of 6+ years. The advertised dimensions of 26.4 x 19.2 x 7.4 cm refer to overall packaging, but the actual size of the plastic cat before adding ears, tail etc. is 8.5cm high x 6.5cm front to back, and 5.5cm wide. The cat figure is one of the least interesting kits available (reflected in price) and therefore the rating drops to 4-star.


An Affair of Deceit
An Affair of Deceit
by Jamie Michele
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Predictable versus Plausible, 23 Feb. 2015
This review is from: An Affair of Deceit (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a chic-lit romance ‘An Affair of Deceit’ is entirely predictable, but as a spy thriller it is nowhere plausible. As a chic lit the main protagonists meet on page1 of chapter 1 and in spite of them inevitably ending up as lovers they commence as an aloof, self-contained and feisty lawyer and a charmingly cheeky secret agent. The thriller element unfolds with dialogue between them that is entertaining but unrealistic during the will she or he do - or will she or he not do heating up period of their relationship coming to the boil. As a thriller ‘An Affair of Deceit’ is nothing more than unbelievable ridiculously contrived coincidences that tie not only the lovers’ lives together but also their families. For fans of slow build up and explosive love matches ‘An Affair of Deceit’ may be 5-star rated, but for aficionados of the thriller genre it is only 1-star - hence overall 3-star rating.


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