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

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Sony WX500 Compact Digital Camera - Black (18 MP, 30 x Optical Zoom, Wi-Fi, NFC)
Sony WX500 Compact Digital Camera - Black (18 MP, 30 x Optical Zoom, Wi-Fi, NFC)
Price: £276.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Rightly Rated, 30 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This amazing ‘SONY WX500 Compact Digital Camera’ is replacing my aged ‘SONY Cyber-shot’ that has given excellent service but now appears as a poor relation to modern devices. Even so in over 10 years I have not used all the features available as I am an amateur photographer taking mainly family and holiday ‘snaps’. Not only does this new camera eclipse my previous camera with a definition of 18.2 mega pixels instead of 5.1, and an optical zoom of 30x (or image zoom 60x) instead of 3x, it boasts a fantastic array of attributes.

I purchased a 32GB memory card (not included) (and neither is a bag or pouch) and I have tried out all basic functions, but there is so much more and I’ll be learning for some time to come – but already I recognise the ‘SONY WX500 Compact Digital Camera’ as a 5-star product. I am uncertain on the value to me of some features as ‘Beauty Effect’ modes and would not choose such, but on trying out the camera I can appreciate the Wi-Fi connectivity to mobile phones and tablets. Also I have never been drawn to ‘selfie’ shots but the hinged screen viewfinder is ideal for photographs taken at low level.

The type and quality of the lens must be a most important characteristic, and the ‘SONY’ has a top quality ‘ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* with Exmor R CMOS sensor and BIONZ’ – I’m not sure what this means – but it produces highest quality photographs with true colour and texture. The lens zooms from close up portraits to enlarged landscapes with equally sharp results. I have spent more time with stills as I rarely take movies – but this will change now!

Previously I have preferred an eye-piece viewfinder, but the large LCD screen makes this irrelevant. The camera itself is only slightly bigger than my previous ‘Cyber-shot’ but the screen is a massive 2½ x 1¾ inches – brilliant! - and I’ve at last bought a memory card with sufficient storage. The lithium-ion battery took 90 minutes to charge up – a lot less than the 230 minutes predicted in the Instruction Manual, which also claims sufficient power for shooting 400 still images or 75 minutes of movies – wow!.

I need to try further with various exposure modes, movie formats etc. and I’m still coming to terms with transferring images to my computer as there are a number of alternatives – card slot, USB micro connection or special ‘Play Memories’ software. I can update and adjust my review as I gain experience – but nothing will alter the 5-star rating this ‘SONY WX500 Compact Digital Camera’ rightly deserves.


North of Boston
North of Boston
by Elisabeth Elo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Implausible Plot ??, 29 Jun. 2015
This review is from: North of Boston (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Certainly ‘North of Boston’ is a thrilling read, and it’s nice to have an eco-theme, but for me its plot is just too implausible and it becomes more and more convoluted as it progresses, with characters explored rather than developed. Numerous individuals and experiences are hardly relevant to the story, lots of surplus detail is included and there are too many implausible crisis situations when the main protagonist, Pirio Kasparov, unrealistically escapes disaster.

Pirio is aboard a fishing vessel that is rammed by a freighter; her companion is killed but she escapes death via hypothermia due to some super-human condition, and she goes on as first-person narrator to tell of how she seeks justice for her deceased companion and becomes embroiled in struggling to save the whale from hunters and illegal fishing organisations. Not only does Pirio escape disasters, she also leaves out whole chunks of detail between an inescapable situation and the later continuation of the implausible plot. Over and over she acts not just unwisely, but stupidly puts herself in great danger, and though this makes for a thrilling read the novel is only average – hence 3-star rating.


Oral-B Stages Vitality Avengers Electric Toothbrush for Kids
Oral-B Stages Vitality Avengers Electric Toothbrush for Kids
Price: £17.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Beginners Brush, 27 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A wide variety of electric toothbrushes is available from Oral-B ranging from basic for a few quid to sophisticated for hundreds of pounds. This ‘Oral-B Electric Toothbrush for Kids’ is a simple model at the lower end of the price range – but it has been tailored to suit children.

It is provided with softer bristles than for adults, raised bristles to suit cleaning of chewing surfaces, timer prompting shorter 2 minute cleaning period, and of course it is highly decorative to appeal to kids. The brush head sports a picture of the ‘Incredible Hulk’, and though operation is straightforward (not floss-action, tri-zone, 3D white etc. as available for adults) its replacement heads cost more than adult accessories.

The toothbrush is rechargeable and the capacity of the built-in battery equates to 5 days at twice daily brushing. It comes complete with a charging station with a 2-pin plug suitable for using a bathroom shaver socket. The device seems well-made and robust as expected of Oral-B products, and it truly deserves a 5-star rating.


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

3.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious Misunderstanding, 27 Jun. 2015
This review is from: The Rocks (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A divorced couple meet after decades apart, and die together in 2005 in the opening chapter of ‘The Rocks’. Clearly there is a mystery about what went wrong in the marriage but readers are not made privy to an obvious misunderstanding. Exposure of the mysterious misunderstanding is at the core of the book, but explanations are a long time coming, and readers may well feel that 400 pages and an indefinite finale is too much.

The two main characters are Lulu as the spirited and sensuous proprietor of Villa Los Roques (of the book’s title) on Mallorca, and her introvert ex-husband Gerald as a World War II veteran and a writer-sailor in the Mediterranean. Their failed relationship has enormous implications for both them and their families and friends. By her second marriage Lulu’s son Luc is a screen-writer struggling to make the big-time, and Gerald is being urged by the daughter of his second marriage, Aegina, to make something of a come-back via a book written years before. To keep things complicated Gerald’s daughter is an old flame of Luc, but beyond this there are disturbing events - including a schoolgirl losing her virginity to a dirty old playboy, and a teenage boy seduced by a 70 year old woman. For me ‘The Rocks’ does not qualify as ‘romance’ and it is not a good read.

Narrative unfolds as a double ‘love’ story covering 2005 at the start, but then in reverse through 1995, 1983, 1970, 1966, 1956, 1951 and 1948 before returning to 2005 for resolution to the mysterious misunderstanding. Lulu, Gerald, Luc and Aegina are the main characters, but reading is made difficult by so many others with experiences that come and go. In addition author Peter Nichols seems to hide vital pieces of information, and for me it was an anti-climax to merely to discover what had already happened.


Ambitions of the Deprived
Ambitions of the Deprived
by Emeka Egbuonu
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Peer Pressure, 26 Jun. 2015
The story of ‘Ambitions of the Deprived’ is about 4 teenage friends forging a pact to support one another and to succeed against all odds. They are stereotyped as a source of trouble due to their race and low social status as they live in an area of London described as destitute with a gang culture amongst the youth. I found the book thought provoking and inspirational as interwoven with the storyline are insights to positive factors as support workers, youth projects, workshops, discussions etc. and negative factors as police harassment, prison violence etc. Author Emeka Egbuonu skilfully indicates how peer pressure can be both right and wrong where the friends start well together but there are dangers in being pressured by bad company or lack of effort.

Of the 4 friends two are with A-levels and university places, one is a dedicated and successful sportsman with Olympic aspirations, and the fourth has all material desires met by his parents. They all come from respectable families with a Christian ethic and all struggling to make the best of their lot. To me they are not deprived - there is no consideration of many of the elements of deprivation - no-one is in care, no missing from home, no illiteracy, little reference to anything anti-social, vandalism, recreational rioting, or stagnation of learnt behaviour and domestic violence. However the author introduces concepts of injustice due to ‘joint enterprise’ and the tragedy of suicide amongst prisoners. I am pleased to have received a free review copy - it has given me a lot to think about! I will look out for Emeka Egbuonu books in future.

I recommend ‘Ambitions of the Deprived’ as a cleverly constructed story with much dialogue between characters where it is colloquial between main teenage protagonists but very formal language is employed when they talk to parents and persons in position of authority. The style of writing is largely simplistic with chunks of purple prose but few expletives, and I believe it could correctly be presented as ‘young adult’. Even so there is something for everyone in the endorsement of good flowing from ambition and mutual support - and it may be viewed as a motivational case-study for enlightenment of youth on dangers of peer pressure as well as loyal reinforcement of friends.


LEAP® Memory Chronograph Stopwatch Watch Date Calendar Alarm Clock Sports Purple New
LEAP® Memory Chronograph Stopwatch Watch Date Calendar Alarm Clock Sports Purple New
Offered by Tech Leader
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and Cheerful, 26 Jun. 2015
This review is from: leap (Misc.)
In addition to being an accurate stopwatch this lightweight plastic multi-function device tells the time in hours, minutes and seconds, it gives the date in months and days, it has an alarm function, and there is the option of 12 or 24 hour clock. An instruction leaflet is straightforward but it additionally embraces other models. This one has no backlight function (which I prefer to extend battery life) but it has a good display, the buttons are positive, and it fits nicely in the palm, with a handy wrist strap.

The watch is cheap but has a robust feel, and I look forward to using it to time my athletically minded grandchildren for some time to come (pun?). The battery compartment is accessed via 3 screws at the back, and it uses batteries of the lithium variety which are cheaply available for a few quid a dozen on Amazon. The watch was provided free for review purposes and as well as its excellent performance I am delighted with the cheerful purple colour of the item provided. It truly deserves a 5-star rating.


H2D Magicurl Reverse Waver Hair Curling Wand
H2D Magicurl Reverse Waver Hair Curling Wand
Price: £59.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessential Quality, 26 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I needed no help from my wife, 3 daughters and 7 grand-daughters to recognize the worth of this ‘H2D Magicurl Hair Curling Wand’. Immediately an affirmation on ‘quality’ is made by its luxury gift box which is a high class product with its velvety lining - and it validates the contents - a classic hair curling wand.

I did need help in assessing performance and I can confirm the hair curling wand is simple and straightforward in operation, and I am informed that hair is left smooth and silky with no frizzing. Hair is wrapped around a reverse conical barrel (a gemstone grade ‘Tourmaline’ instead of the more usual ceramic) for a few seconds and then release to reveal stylish natural wavy curls.

Product information refers to reliance on infrared heat to 220 degrees - a heat resistant glove is included but doesn’t seem necessary. The ‘H2D Magicurl Hair Curling Wand’ looks great and it performs magnificently - fully deserving a 5-star rating.


Philips HR1868/81 Avance Collection Quick Clean Juicer, 2.5 Litre, 700 Watt - White
Philips HR1868/81 Avance Collection Quick Clean Juicer, 2.5 Litre, 700 Watt - White
Offered by Discount-Select
Price: £108.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Juicer Joy, 25 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The most pertinent information in the title of this juicer is “2.5 Litre, 700 Watt” as it truly highlights the size and power of the ‘Philips HR1868/81 Avance Collection Quick Clean Juicer’. It is huge! Even so in reviewing the product a most pertinent issue is how well does it do its job, and it is a joy to use. From a performance point of view this Philips juicer is unlikely to be bettered - except perhaps by the HR1875/71 which has the same capacity but is rated 1000 Watt.

Another title claim is “Quick Clean” and Philips have clearly given this matter some thought. It is manufactured with smooth easy clean surfaces and it has been designed to make cleaning effortless by a rinsing function of pouring water through and switching on to flush all residue. Components come apart simply and can be washed in a dishwasher (other than electrics!). Instructions are provided using a series of straightforward illustrations for easy set up and operation with rubber cups on the base to prevent vibrating about.

The juicer extracts virtually all the juice as indicated by the dryness of the remaining pulp as seen through the transparent collecting tray. The HR1868/81 makes up to 2.5 litres in a single operation, and it is powerful enough for effective blending, mixing and crushing a range of fruits and vegetables. Guidance is provided on what ingredients are suitable (most) and what are not (few). The juicer has 2 speeds - slow for soft fruits, and fast for such as vegetables. Minimal preparation is necessary and many ingredients can go straight into the feeding tube.

All is a joy, but unfortunately from my point of view the ‘Philips HR1868/81 Avance Collection Quick Clean Juicer’ is just too big and heavy - it needs a large space with overall dimensions being approx. 20 inches high x 12 inches wide plus a further 7 inches for collecting jug - and it weighs about 11 pounds. For a 5-star performer this bulk loses it a star - hence 4-star review rating.


Vox Popular: The Surprising Life of Language in the Media
Vox Popular: The Surprising Life of Language in the Media
by Robin Queen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.33

3.0 out of 5 stars Rogue Review, 23 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Latin phrase ‘vox populi’ means voice of the people, and in today’s media dominated world and for this book’s title it has come to mean the way people talk and express themselves. So initially ‘Vox Popular’ seemed to offer an interesting read, reinforced by its sub-title ‘The Surprising Life of Language in the Media’.

It sounds quite lightweight but I found it to be one of the most heavyweight text-books I have ever tackled, and I confess to not finishing – only the third time in my reviews of nearly 1,000 books over the past 15 years. This is a ‘rogue review’ as I am not qualified to comment in detail – and I suspect few ‘Vox Popular’ readers will be non-linguists.

Though it concentrates on how America talks and why it does so, it should still have legitimacy for British readers about how media language is linked to social characteristics. For me it was enlightening to have TV shows and films I know dissected, and to realise the extent of American English on us in Britain. Like author Robin Queen we all grew up with television and have become aware of differences in speech affecting listeners and speakers perceiving things and saying things; and more lately with social media communications as Twitter or Facebook and how their messages reflect social identities.

‘Vox Popular’ is pitched at an academic level, and I have no reason to doubt the author’s extensive research and detailed analysis or his scholarship and expertise. It may be impertinent of me to award a rating – hopefully my 3-stars are fair.


Tayogo Wrist Wearable Bluetooth Headset Smart Watch 2014 Innovative Design, Wear your Bluetooth headset on your wrist to Free Your Ear, Black
Tayogo Wrist Wearable Bluetooth Headset Smart Watch 2014 Innovative Design, Wear your Bluetooth headset on your wrist to Free Your Ear, Black
Offered by Tayogo_Direct
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Clever Concept, 21 Jun. 2015
The use of a wristband to hold battery and earpiece is a clever concept, but the first thing I felt about the ‘Tayogo Wrist Wearable Bluetooth Headset’ is that it doesn’t have to be worn on the wrist – it could go in a pocket – but then it wouldn’t look cool – which it does! It is great as a novelty for the fashion conscious, but perhaps it is not best for performance – sound quality is adequate but better for speech than music. Furthermore the separate earpiece lends itself to intermittent mono phone connection rather than stereo music appreciation.

The device is constructed of different parts. First is the rubbery wrist band which is not adjustable but must be cut to size and have its metal end-pieces screwed on – with screwdriver provided. The band incorporates a battery case to which the speaker fits magnetically with a 3-pin connection giving added security – and there is a vibration mode to warn of disconnection. A USB-micro charging cable is provided but the rubber seal to the micro slot is difficult to close. Charging takes 3-4 hours and Tayogo claim 3 hours use and 30 hours standby time.

The accompanying ‘Instruction Manual’ is a single piece of card with very small printing in a light colour, but Bluetooth pairing and operation are straightforward. The end of the speaker is pressed for on/off and play, and a volume control and track selector are incorporated. I suspect the ‘normal’ way of using the ‘Tayogo Wrist Wearable Bluetooth Headset’ will be to keep earpiece fitted to battery until a call is required, and then to place in the ear. For me the ear bud does not feel particularly secure, and it is not improved by the rubber plugs provided.

I receive the device free for review purposes and I was greatly intrigued and impressed at its modus operandi. But let’s be clear – it is not a headset – it is a single ear bud with a mono player and a microphone built in. It is a clever concept but it could be so much better.


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