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

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Simian 10 in 1 Autoloading Ratchet Screwdriver Multi Tool
Simian 10 in 1 Autoloading Ratchet Screwdriver Multi Tool
Offered by iHeadphones UK
Price: £12.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy and Solid, 29 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was impressed by the ‘Simian 10 in 1 Ratchet Screwdriver’ as soon as I picked it up and got a feel of its sturdy and solid construction, together with the easy to grip and firm rotation of its rubbery handle. I rarely need to screw anything, and though I have a battery powered screwdriver I can’t be bothered to get it out of the garage - so I rely on a selection of old-fashioned screwdrivers kept in a kitchen drawer where the one I need is the last I find.

Now I have a handy combination tool with 5 different slot (4mm/6mm) and Phillips bits (#1/#2/#3) within a rotating chamber for selecting via a twisting panel indicating type of bit, and within the handle are stored 4 additional bits as 2 star (T15/T20) and 2 square (1/2), plus an extension piece. The head of the ratchet screwdriver may be positioned in 3 ways as screw/unscrew or fixed . What more could I want? I was delighted to receive a ‘Simian 10 in 1 Ratchet Screwdriver’ to test/review, and I have no hesitation in awarding a 5-star rating.


SOLEMEMO Outdoors Sport Portable Shower Speaker with 12 hour Playtime - Rugged Splashproof Water Resistant IPX-5 Shockproof Dustproof NFC Bluetooth Wireless Speaker Support Mic Hands Free for Phone Calling(H 2.8 x W 2.3 x L 6.7 inches)
SOLEMEMO Outdoors Sport Portable Shower Speaker with 12 hour Playtime - Rugged Splashproof Water Resistant IPX-5 Shockproof Dustproof NFC Bluetooth Wireless Speaker Support Mic Hands Free for Phone Calling(H 2.8 x W 2.3 x L 6.7 inches)
Offered by Solememo
Price: £59.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Super Sound & Alternative Aux, 28 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are a number of small Bluetooth speakers on the market but most are just too small to produce high quality sound, and many are strictly Bluetooth speaker and nothing else. This ‘SOLEMEMO Portable Bluetooth Speaker’ is a practical size at 6¾ x 2¾ x 2¼ inches enclosing reasonable twin speakers 3W audio driver and passive subwoofer with particularly good bass - good for my jazz. So sound is super, but a further reason attracting me to accept a free device for test/review was its support for AUX connection via double jack cable provided - to use with my laptop on which most of my music is stored.

The kit includes a USB - micro cable for charging the built-in battery, plus an Instruction Manual to assist with set up and operation. This is in small print but it includes everything users require. Bluetooth pairing is straightforward and the device works well with mobile phone and tablet. Also there is a built-in microphone to allow hands-free communication - the microphone is located as a small aperture on the speaker’s upper surface. Controls are on this upper surface as rubbery feel buttons for microphone, volume/track selection and on/off, and with the sealed DC In, AUX and reset on the rear surface this makes the SOLEMEMO water resistant. It is also remarkably robust with rubbery feet capable of standing on any surface.

In addition to assisting with Bluetooth pairing LEDs on the front grill indicate battery status. This is 2000 mAh with a charging time of 3-4 hours and a playtime of 10-12 hours. Wireless range is about 30 feet which is fine for most occasions, but I intend to use the AUX connection and rely on setting the volume level via my laptop - with a resultant increase in playtime. Other users may ignore my preference for direct connection, but in any event they can be sure of a 5-star rated Bluetooth arrangement.


The Snow Kimono
The Snow Kimono
by Mark Henshaw
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Love and Loss, 26 May 2015
This review is from: The Snow Kimono (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In Paris in 1989 main protagonists come together. Auguste Jovert, a retired police inspector meets with Tadashi Omura, a former professor of law in Japan, and the story of ‘The Snow Kimino’ goes back over earlier periods of their lives. A third major protagonist is Katsuo Ikeda, a writer and one time friend of Omura in Japan. All 3 have at some time deceived themselves but Omura attempts to use his own experiences of acting as father to a young girl to help Jovert who has been contacted by a long lost daughter from a time of service in Algiers.

An abundance of physical opportunities for descriptive and evocative writing are skilfully exploited by author Mark Henshaw, and his narrative is beautifully elegant and rich in atmosphere. Yet ‘The Snow Kimono’ is not an easy read with its mixture of writing in first and third person, and the absence of inverted commas makes it difficult to know who is speaking, and what is dialogue and what is commentary. Not the least of difficulties is keeping track of a host of Japanese names, plus alternatives.

However within the settings of Paris, Japan and Algiers the author creates intriguing characters and he entwines individuals with Ikeda’s story-telling to expose deceitful and somewhat degenerate behaviour with women. There is Fumiko who is Ikeda’s daughter brought up by Omura, and amongst others there are Mariko and Sachiko as 2 women abused by Ikeda, even though there is much personal overlap. ‘The Snow Kimono’ is a story of love and loss that is as complex as the Japanese puzzles described by Omura, and it is a philosophical commentary based on a saying in Japan that if you want to see your life you have to see it through the eyes of another.

The story unfolds in 9 parts with 8 titled by separate characters plus a ninth ‘Valediction’. Each unravels a little more, and then a little more as pieces of the puzzle become known. As a policeman Jovert does not take things at face value, and again there is a philosophical element in the truth being what you eventually work out rather than what you are told. Omura’s love for Fumiko and his lost friendship with Ikeda have parallels with Jovert’s life and his secrets. There is something to learn from each of Jovert, Omura and Ikeda where all are flawed, all are bound together, and all harbour desires for redemption from their past deceptions and defections. ‘The Snow Kimono’ is a difficult but thought-provoking read that for me just fails to get a 5-star rating.


Mission Paris: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure (For Kids)
Mission Paris: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure (For Kids)
by Catherine Aragon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Massive Mission, 24 May 2015
The ‘Scavenger Hunt Adventure’ series of exploring and sightseeing books is targeted at ‘special agents’ (kids of all ages!) to engage, inspire and motivate them as they travel with ‘case officers’ (parents or other adults). From the internet I understand 6 cities are covered in separate books - Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Washington DC, London and New York. I received a free review copy of ‘Mission Paris’ covering the city I know best.

The book is a slim paperback of only 64 pages yet I am delighted at its content and presentation. After a brief introduction and a ‘pre-arrival brief’ for Paris it then outlines a total of 16 ‘missions’ - with points collected for users’ discoveries. Everything encourages a personal and hands-on approach in relation to well-known Paris landmarks and visitor attractions - Notre Dame, Palais Royal, Louvre, Louvre Cour Carée, Tuileies Gardens, Champ-Élysées, Trocadéro, Eifel Tower, Catacombs, Luxembourg Gardens, Sacré Coeur, Château de Vincennes, Cité des Enfants, Pompidou Centre, Saint Chapelle and Musée d’ Orsay.

I do not have knowledge of all venues, but for those I have visited I can confirm the accuracy of background, selected features, information detail, historical facts, social commentary etc. Most importantly I can appreciate how well narrative is geared to grasping attention and encouraging participation. It is nicely illustrated with photographs, drawings, maps etc. and though there is not much on the French language there is guidance on pronunciations. Layout and design is attractive and adds to the book’s appeal

The ‘Scavenger Hunt Adventure’ books remind me of ‘I-Spy’ and ‘Observer’ books of my childhood but with increased emphasis on interaction rather than merely ticking off. To strengthen this further the books are supported by a ‘newsletter’ for which users may become ‘insiders’ by signing up, and then receiving a free e-book ‘Museum Spy’ with advice on analysing and acquiring knowledge on trips to museums. Testing ‘missions’ are offered with ‘special agent certificates’ for successfully completing assignments.

There seems no end to opportunities within ‘Mission Paris’ and a difficulty will be finding time to do more - and more. A final section ‘Anytime Missions’ allows ‘agents to collect additional points via ‘situational awareness’ as it tempts users to make the most of France and the French. ‘Mission Paris’ is a fun book that is also an excellent travel guide - it may be small but the impact on kids will be massive - and the publication truly deserves a 5-star rating.


Masterplug LDCC2513/4BL 25 m 13 A 4 Socket Open Cable Reel with Thermal Cut-Out and Reset Button
Masterplug LDCC2513/4BL 25 m 13 A 4 Socket Open Cable Reel with Thermal Cut-Out and Reset Button
Price: £17.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonder Why?, 23 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wonder why it took me so long to get a new electric extension cable? My 40 years old cable resisted coiling, was stiff and kinked, and had defective bits wrapped by insulation tape. With postage paid and next day delivery I now have a ‘Masterplug’ 25m cable on a reel with a 13amp plug and facility for 4 sockets.

The cable shouldn’t be used in the wet, but I never did so with my old cable, and this one now incorporates a thermal cut-out and a reset button - though this has not been needed with my trial using all 4 sockets. The rating is a total load of 3120W when the cable is extended, but only 720W if left on the reel. The cable is fairly heavy duty and certainly quite sufficient for my domestic needs - mainly extension to electric lawnmower.

The reel and winding knob appear good quality, and these are within a metal cage that stands on a flat surface, and it incorporates a rubber grip. The reel rotates easily and it has clips to secure the cable or prevent unnecessarily unwinding. I don’t know if this ‘Masterplug’ cable will last 40 years - but it is welcome as a 5-star product.


Facing the Music
Facing the Music
by Tim Thorogood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and Tiring, 23 May 2015
This review is from: Facing the Music (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Main protagonist Gary Cochrane lost his wife 3 years previous to taking his 2 teenage children to a Glastonbury Festival, and the story of ‘Facing The Music’ takes place over the Festival weekend. If what author Tim Thorogood describes is true to reality then I’m glad I’ve never been to Glastonbury to savour its mud, toilets, drugs etc. - though he introduces some friendly and helpful minor characters. Unfortunately there is very little to like about the main characters who are irritating and irrational, and I constantly felt like giving Gary a kick.

In some ways ‘Facing The Music’ is a clever book as it shifts backwards and forwards between Friday and Sunday, and it has been given a natty title, but unfortunately I found it tedious and tiring as the author’s obvious endeavours to be thought-provoking just fizzled out. Tim Thorogood identifies but fails to develop fully the contrasts of love versus betrayal, happiness versus sadness, secretive versus openness, truth versus lies etc. as he links these to his wife’s demise, his children’s rebellious attitudes, his friend’s match-making etc. with insights to grief, anger, depression, selfishness etc. There is plenty to appeal to Glastonbury fans who will award 5-stars - but to me ‘Facing The Music’ is only an average novel - hence 3-star rating.


Arespark AS100 Mini Bluetooth Speaker with Deep Base (Built-in Mic Hands-free Speakerphone, Works for Iphone, Ipad Mini, Ipad 4/3/2, Itouch, Blackberry, Nexus, Samsung and other Smart Phones and Mp3 Players )
Arespark AS100 Mini Bluetooth Speaker with Deep Base (Built-in Mic Hands-free Speakerphone, Works for Iphone, Ipad Mini, Ipad 4/3/2, Itouch, Blackberry, Nexus, Samsung and other Smart Phones and Mp3 Players )
Offered by AresparkDirect EU
Price: £39.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Massive Mini, 23 May 2015
I was delighted to receive this ‘Arespark AS100 Mini Bluetooth Speaker’ for review - it may be a mini device but it gives massive performance. The speaker is approx 3 inches diameter and 2 inches deep and it is finished with a rubbery feel and coloured as camouflage - a must-have for a scouting grandson. It arrives in a circular package housing a USB-micro charging cable and an audio jack-micro cable, plus a small carabiner for clipping the speaker to belt or rucsac, and a single sheet instruction leaflet.

The leaflet is in tiny print (difficult for my old eyes) but it embraces all important matters - charging and Bluetooth pairing instructions, description of key functions (on/off, play/pause, previous/next track, volume etc) together with guidance on mode change, alternative TF card facility, and use of built-in microphone. All is straightforward and no problem with a little help from a computer savvy grandson (and there are voice prompts in addition to LED indicators). Detailed data is presented on technical matters - frequency response, bit rates, power supply, output power etc. and a reset button if needed (which it hasn’t been). I cannot claim to understand all this - but I don’t need to.

It works brilliantly with tablet and mobile phone - and what I immediately appreciated is that the sound quality and volume is massively ahead of much bigger speakers. This appears to also be the case for its play times and recharging time. Most importantly this performance of the ‘Arespark AS100 Mini Bluetooth Speaker’ over a full treble-bass range is exceptional - based on what is described as ‘3W audio driver and passive subwoofer’ - it doesn’t matter what it is - its performance is massive for a mini speaker.


Latte Glasses - Set of 2 Coffee Cups with Glass Handles - Ideal for Macchiato, Hot Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, Mocha, Cappuccino - Fits Dolce Gusto, Tassimo, Nespresso - High Quality, Luxurious, Gift Box, 250 ml (8.8oz) - Bring the Modern Coffee Shop to your own Kitchen 100% MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
Latte Glasses - Set of 2 Coffee Cups with Glass Handles - Ideal for Macchiato, Hot Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, Mocha, Cappuccino - Fits Dolce Gusto, Tassimo, Nespresso - High Quality, Luxurious, Gift Box, 250 ml (8.8oz) - Bring the Modern Coffee Shop to your own Kitchen 100% MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
Offered by Pot & Kettle Black (UK)
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Long Lasting, 22 May 2015
I was pleased to receive this pair of latte glasses for review, and I have enjoyed drinking from them as they are the traditional shape with tapering sides, sturdy base and low handle. They are 150mm tall with 70mm dia. base and top, and down to 45mm, with capacity of full 250ml. In clear chunky glass they look good and they are perfect for serving coffee from my Dolce Gusto machine.

The glass is thicker than expected and no doubt this assists in making them dishwasher proof - they feel and look as though they will stand some knocking about - they give confidence in being long-lasting. However there are manufacturing flaws with what seem to be small air bubbles in the glass and a sort of bleb at moulded seams. In practice this does not matter, but it loses the latte glasses one star - hence 4-star rating.


Ink Jet Remanufactured Ink Cartridge Replacement for HP 300 - Tri-colour
Ink Jet Remanufactured Ink Cartridge Replacement for HP 300 - Tri-colour
Price: £15.44

3.0 out of 5 stars My Mistake, 21 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After years of using only genuine Hewlett Packard ink cartridges I recently tried an Inkjet black ink replacement cartridge and it worked well even though my printer warns the cartridge is not genuine - yet it prints deep solid black just the same - no difference. I thought I’d give the Inkjet colours a go - but found the ‘tricolour’ did not fit my printer. My mistake entirely - but how do I fulfil my Vine obligations to review? I gave the black a 5-star rating - all I can do for the ‘tricolour is middle of the scale 3-stars. Sorry!


Keep Quiet
Keep Quiet
by Lisa Scottoline
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Twists, Turns, Trauma and Turmoil, 20 May 2015
This review is from: Keep Quiet (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The exciting story of ‘Keep Quiet’ is based on a split-second decision by respectable accountant Jake Buckman to protect his 17 year old schoolboy son Ryan who has been involved in a hit-and-run accident. Jake starts with a somewhat strained relationship with Ryan, but with an apparently loving connection with his wife Pam who is an ambitious lawyer. Situations develop and change as the story unravels and they get deeper and deeper into a web of secrets, lies and guilt, via which author Lisa Scottoline skilfully explores the limits of sacrifices parents will make as she introduces concepts of family and justice.

‘Keep Quiet’ is a tragic thriller showing how far reaching are the consequences of a single spur-of-the-moment act, and in thought-provoking manner the complex nature of her narrative is made credible. Jake, Ryan and Pam are all affected yet they view circumstances in divergent ways with different reactions to a tragedy they share. Though full of twists, turns, trauma and turmoil the suspenseful plot continues as plausible and the characters remain believable throughout - but whatever can go wrong next? Finally in the face of disaster right at the end a totally satisfying conclusion comes from nowhere - it is totally unexpected. ‘Keep Quiet’ is fiction at its best, and it fully deserves a 5-star rating.


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