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Lady Fancifull "Tinkerbell" (UK)
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Minds of Winter
Minds of Winter
by Ed O'Loughlin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, but overwhelmed by research and a crowd of narrators, 22 July 2016
This review is from: Minds of Winter (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I started Ed O’ Loughlin’s book about Sir John Franklin’s mysterious, tragic 1845 expedition to discover the North-West Passage, and the subsequent searches and expeditions to unravel the solution to the disappearance of vessels, crew and captain, with high hopes.

The mystery was thickened by the appearance of the chronometer from the ship turning up, disguised as a carriage clock, at auction, 150 years after it was supposed lost with its ship.

O’ Loughlin has clearly deeply researched the expedition, and the later ones, and elects to tell a rather back and forth story narrated by many from the various expeditions which were funded at the time, and for decades later, to try and discover what happened.

He twines the real stories and obviously his interpretations and dramatisations of them, with a modern day dual investigation by an Englishwoman and a Canadian man whose paths cross by chance and who are on searches into mysteries of their own, connected with family members.

However, I began to founder with this book quite early, when the first narrator, point of view voice, that of Sophia, Sir John Franklin’s niece, on the evening of a ball in Van Diemen’s Land, in 1841, seemed to be more a laying out of research than a voice which rang true.

The subject matter of the book is epic, and extremely complex, but unfortunately I failed to be gripped by character to take me through plot, and I began to feel that I might have understood better what was actually going on, or what people at the time thought was going on, if I had instead read a non-fiction book about this. The fictional devices and characterisations were not working well enough for me to steer me through into a ‘what happens next’ interest, and I was, literally, losing the plot, both of time and space, as to where we were at any given point.

Most regrettably, I had to abandon this under half way through, as my engagement with it was waning, the further I went. I stuck with the journey for 200 pages, the 281 still to go just seemed too far, I'm afraid.


Barbera Mago Whole Bean Coffee Blend 500 g
Barbera Mago Whole Bean Coffee Blend 500 g
Offered by caffebarbera
Price: £12.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh joy! At last! Available here again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, 19 July 2016
I got turned on to Barbera Mago/Maghetto some years ago by a coffee aficionado, and it absolutely surpassed all other coffees for me, and I settled into its smooth, dark, very robust and full flavour.

And then, disaster struck.......whoever was importing it into the UK stopped. It vanished. The only source became an outlet in the States, which I found on ebay. But the import duty and shipping costs duly put it into diamond, not coffee, pricing territory. The only option would have been to have ordered a truck load full and set myself up as a distributor to avoid the truck load going stale as I worked through it.

A couple of years passed. Every few months I'd google to see if the much missed coffee had reappeared. And then..............one magic day I found I could source it from the Italian headquarters, and thanks to our EU membership (this was in spring of 2016) the only additional costs were shipping.

Did it taste as good as I remembered?........YOU BETCHA! particularly as in the interim I'd acquired a ceramic burr grinder and could get even fresher with the glossy bean itself.

And this morning, as I was about to order another kilo from Italy I discover o joy oh joy that it has come back in stock on Amazon. I better drink my fill and start saving before Brexit slaps charges on the best coffee in my world.

Thank you Barbera Caffè, for taking pity on coffee loving Brits addicted to your beans
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2016 6:36 PM BST


EarPopper Home Version - Ear Pressure Relief Device
EarPopper Home Version - Ear Pressure Relief Device
Offered by Summit Medical, Inc.
Price: £99.00

5.0 out of 5 stars My go-to Glue Ear/Otitis Media relief device. Grateful user, recommending for about 8 years., 18 July 2016
I have had intermittent hearing problems for some years, identified by an ENT consultant as linked to nasal polyps, poor sinus drainage and a problem with the Eustachian tubes. I had been expecting that I would need to use a hearing aid, so was quite surprised to be offered steroidal nasal drops, and the option of grommets, in with an operation to remove the polyps.

I did quite a bit of research and found the Ear Popper. At the time it was only available from the manufacturers directly, then Axis Medical, and was also advised by them that before buying I should check with my GP/ENT consultant to see if it would be suitable. Obviously, it's an expensive outlay, and that time, was even more so. Axis provided a lot of free information about the product, including clinical trial evidence, and a CD/DVD . I duly took all of this to the consultant, who was surprised, having not heard of the device, but thought that in theory it could/should be helpful for my problem - which was Otitis Media - commonly known as Glue Ear, and common in children.

What I have found is that IF I use this regularly, and especially if I combine it by using a nasal rinse NeilMed Original Sinus Rinse Kit with 60 Premixed Sachets I can keep my sinuses clear and my hearing optimal. My challenge is that I get things good, and then drop off daily use, until I discover some weeks later that I'm starting to turn up the volume knobs and asking people to speak a little louder!

This does work, though depending on the weather (damp worsens the condition) and my diet (a binge on cheese is unhelpful!) it may take several days of twice a day usage to pop my ears.

One handy tip for users: you may find that you need to experiment with head position - I can only guess that the Eustachians may block at different surfaces - sometimes I have to drop my head forward as I swallow and pop, and sometimes tip my head backwards to do so. And I've also found, which makes little sense to me, that having warm, rather than cold, water in my mouth to swallow whilst using the device seems to be more effective.

But I can't recommend this highly enough, even though a change of ownership/distribution for this product, from the English Company who pioneered it, Axis Medical, to Summit Medical, a States based company has resulted in the loss of the helpful individual advice and documentation which enabled the user to get expert advice on whether the device would help in their case, or would be a wasted purchase. The upside is a drop in price, and wider availability. Unfortunately the only option available now is to buy and try, a very different option from when a potential consumer could phone Axis and have a helpful conversation!


The Trespasser: The most hotly anticipated crime thriller of the year
The Trespasser: The most hotly anticipated crime thriller of the year
by Tana French
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, twisty and immersive, just as the reader expects from Tana French, 17 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Tana French’s eagerly waited for Dublin Murder Squad 6 did not disappoint.

For those unfamiliar with her writing, she is a literary fiction writer, subject or territory, crime fiction. Where her lit fic credentials are clear is not only in the excellence of her writing itself, but specifically because it is character and relationship, rather than plot, as the driver. Not to mention the fact that her books have larger themes than the particular story unfolding, Though she knows how to keep her readers turning pages, wanting as surely as her detectives do, to unravel the crime. However – if your wish is for a speedier whodunit, howdunit, whydunit, her books might be less grippingly pursued by crime fiction fans, as the dead ends and the solves going nowhere, not to mention the turning towards solutions and the ratchet of tension take their time.

For those who are already firm French fans, this is one to be hugely enjoyed, even if, for this reader, it does not quite touch the giddy heights of Broken Harbour and The Secret Place, books 4 and 5.

As in all her previous books, there is a crime, and that crime will be much more than it seems. Though it will be a murder which has happened to an individual or individuals, the crime will have echoes which happen wider, from the cultural time and place. French’s original approach is to follow a particular detective or pair of detectives in each book. It is as if the entire Dublin Force is like a chorus, out of which the leading player or players will emerge, and through their investigation, the central characters themselves will gain self-knowledge, often painfully

The Trespasser begins with the investigation of what appears to be a murder due to domestic violence. Aislinn Murray, a single woman, but with the table set for a candle-lit dinner a deux, appears to have been punched in the face and hit her head on the fireplace as she fell backwards. Identifying her projected dinner guest, easily done, would seem to nail the suspect. Except, of course, that there is a more tangled trail to follow.

The centre stage detectives in this one are the two from her previous book, The Secret Place. Antoinette Conway and Steve Moran, unwillingly working together for the first time in that book, are now an established professional pairing. Sort of. Both have their histories. Conway, the senior, is wrong, or has always been made to feel wrong, on several counts. Firstly, her gender. Secondly she is mixed race, possibly of Arabic, possibly South American origin – her birth certificate says ‘father unknown’. She is a fighter, bitter, angry, does not suffer fools and takes no prisoners. To say she has chips on her shoulders is an understatement, but the chips have arisen from experience – particularly from the misogyny, overt and covert, from others in the squad. Conway does not need people to like her, or that is what she projects. Moran is very different, charming and a people pleaser, but there is a suspicion, and some background, which shows him to be hugely ambitious and possibly not above using charm to advance his career. That was certainly what Conway thought of him when they first started working together. The two are a natural for a hard cop soft cop pairing. The cynical, distrustful Conway – who is the first person narrator of this, and the much smoother, emollient seeming Moran, have formed a professional working friendship and respect for each other, unlikely though that might seem for both of them. It has partly formed from the excitement both feel, and the ambition both have, for being detectives in the murder squad. Or, in Conway’s narration:

“Murder isn’t like other squads. When it’s working right, it would take your breath away: it’s precision-cut and savage, lithe and momentous, it’s a big cat leaping full-stretch or a beauty of a rifle so smooth it practically fires itself. When I was a floater in the General Unit, fresh out of uniform, a bunch of us got brought in to do the scut work on a murder case, typing and door-to-door. I took one look at the squad in action and I couldn’t stop looking. That’s the nearest I’ve ever been to falling in love”

And, perhaps the trajectory of this book is a kind of love story going wrong, a devastation of love. Conway is well past seeing anything through rose-tinted spectacles. Her acerbic dismissive view of the world and most of those in it is clear, even in her first thoughts about the murder victim

“She’s on her back, knock-kneed, like someone threw her there. One arm is by her side; the other is up over her head, bent at an awkward angle. She’s maybe five seven, skinny, wearing spike heels, plenty of fake tan, a tight-fitting cobalt-blue dress and a chunky fake-gold necklace. Her face is covered by blond hair, straightened and sprayed so ferociously that even murder hasn’t managed to mess it up. She looks like Dead Barbie”

Something I’m beginning to see is a pattern in French’s very different books, is that the crime her particular detective is investigating will be something of a catalyst for them – there will be something which will push the investigator’s button big time, some kind of psychological resonance.

I just hope she is well along in writing book 7, and am wondering who will make their way out of the chorus in that one

4 ½ rounded up


Silentnight Supersoft Pillow, Microfibre, White, Pack of 4
Silentnight Supersoft Pillow, Microfibre, White, Pack of 4
Price: £22.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Soft, comfortable and probably over-priced, 17 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I do like these because they are soft - firm pillows are not for me, as I find it most comfortable to have my head minimally supported. However I do think these are overpriced (just under £30 July 2016) - hence loss of the final star. Softness rating 4 on a rating which may be Silentnight's own where 1 is softest and 10 is firmest

Washable at 40°C, suitable for tumble dry and with 100% polyester fill and cover, this will I imagine be suitable for the allergy prone.

I found these, as advised, readily plump up again with a good shake.

Most importantly, I rested my weary head on them last night, and knew nothing more till the morning, waking as one should after a peaceful night long sleep


Argan Oil Organic 100ml in violet glass bottle - 100% cold-pressed, pure natural & organic certified - moisturizing Body Hair Oil with Vitamin E for soft and young skin healthy nails face. Helps with neurodermatitis psoriasis stretch marks acne eczema
Argan Oil Organic 100ml in violet glass bottle - 100% cold-pressed, pure natural & organic certified - moisturizing Body Hair Oil with Vitamin E for soft and young skin healthy nails face. Helps with neurodermatitis psoriasis stretch marks acne eczema
Offered by Genc Goods
Price: £39.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% argan, thoughtfully presented for best shelf life and with a choice of dispensing methods, 16 July 2016
I received this free from the supplier, as an item for review purposes, and have not been demanded or asked to make my review a positive one.

I'm a big fan of argan, it's rather become a buzz ingredient in natural skin and hair care, like jojoba was some decades ago. And with good reason. It is a nutritious moisturiser for skin, nails and hair, and you only need a tiny amount of it. As long as you don't slap it on in large quantities, it will absorb quickly, without leaving you like a well doused salad leaf.

I find five drops, rubbed between my palms, and then massaged into my face, absorbs in micro moments, leaving no greasy residue. And that is it for moisturising needs, and does not clog the skin

I have a couple of requirements for my argan, and this satisfies them, and more.

Most importantly, I want my argan to be 100% - and this IS. Some suppliers are selling 'Argan Oil' and it has added synthetic silicones, which the product advertising does not hint at. I don't want unnecessary synthetics clogging up my skin

In common with other vegetable carriers this is best stored in glass, not plastic, and as light and heat can degrade, dark glass at that. I can't comment on whether dark violet glass, as this is, is preferable to amber, blue or dark green, but it gets a tick from me that it is in dark glass, and the large label also acts as a further buffer against light

Some people prefer to dispense their argan via pipette, some prefer a pump. Here, you get given both options, and can apply as suits you best

Finally, this comes with a batch number, something else I like. And a shelf life, 12 months from opening. My tip. if you want to avoid rancidity or extend the shelf life, keep it in the fridge.


The Fortunes
The Fortunes
by Peter Ho Davies
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars American History through Chinese and Chinese-American eyes., 15 July 2016
This review is from: The Fortunes (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Peter Ho Davies The Fortunes is a mainly American set account of the Chinese American experience, told through 4 different viewpoints, over more than 150 years, starting with the building of the railways, opening up Goldrush routes in California in the 1860s, and ending with the experience of wealthy childless couples in the market for unwanted babies from less wealthy nations – in this case, as a result of China’s ‘One Child’ policy, and the less favoured status of girls.

Ho’s book is extremely well written, but, covering as it does the experience of what it means to be an immigrant – or even to be second generation, but of mixed ethnicity, - it is a remarkably depressing and distressing read, particularly at this time of turmoil and casual, not to mention not-so-casual, evidence of racial hatred and distrust as part of the water table.

The Fortunes (which has a title page subtitle of ‘Tell It Slant’) is beautifully structured in four sections. Each story is set in a different time and place, seemingly disconnected though there are nods to the previous experiences, and 3 of the stores feature real people, though Ho Davies makes it clear this is a fictionalised interpretation. There is a satisfying framing device.

The first section, Gold, is the story of the railroad and the Goldrush. Ah Ling is the son of a ‘saltwater girl’ a prostitute from Hong Kong and a ‘white ghost’, her probably British protector. The reader is battered from the start from everyday racism – both within China itself, as Ah Ling is a Tanka, reviled by the Han Chinese, and then, after he is sold to be a laundry boy to ‘Uncle Ng’ in San Francisco, the blanket racism towards ‘chinks’. We are reminded also, that whatever the experiences suffered by men, the status of Chinese women was even lower. Racially abused, sexually abused. The laundry Ah Ling works at is also a brothel, and Ah Ling, as a young boy, has his eyes opened by ‘Little Sister’ – who of course lacks even her own name, described only by family relationship:

“How can you hate your own people”

“How? I tell you how! You know who sold me to Ng?” She paused to catch her breath. “My father! You know why? So he could send a brother to Gold Mountain to make the family fortune.” She nodded heavily. “That’s right. Chinamen love gold more than girls.”

Silver follows the story of Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star from the 1920’s onwards, whose career covered both silent film, talkies and stage. This section is structured almost like a silent film, with short chapters with headers in capital letters, as if they were scene titles

“THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME

Turned down for the role of a lifetime – O-Lan in The Good Earth, a Chinese female lead; how many of those will she ever see? – and turned down for a white actress. It’s a public humiliation, a famous snub. A loss of face, she’s still Chinese enough to think.

She’d been tipped for the role in the press for years; “born to play it,” they said. It was what she’s been waiting for all this time. But she’d known she wouldn’t get it as soon as they cast Paul Muni, Scarface himself, in the lead. The Hays Code forbade the portrayal of interracial relations on-screen, even when white actors were playing in yellowface.”

Jade, the third section, is based on the true and individual story of Vincent Chin:
“if you remember it a all, if you were around in the eighties, say, what you remember is a Chinese guy being beaten to death in Detroit by two white auto workers who mistook him for a Japanese. This at the height of the import scare, when Japanese manufacturers were being blamed for the collapse of the Big Three U.S. auto companies.

Maybe you remember it happened outside a club where the Chinese guy – actually a Chinese American named Vincent Chin – was celebrating his bachelor party. Maybe you remember he was buried on what should have been his wedding day.

But perhaps you thought it was just an urban legend, a bad joke come to life”

The final story, Pearl, concerns a middle class couple, Chinese American John Ling, teaching university students, and his wife Nola, also a teacher, in their mid-thirties, with a history of difficult and failed pregnancies. They are part of a group of other couples with similar difficulties, going to China to adopt a baby.

Ho Davies, one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, is British born, to Welsh and Chinese parents, though he now lives in the States and is also a University lecturer in Creative Writing.

This is, as stated at the beginning, an emotionally difficult read, but a recommended one. He writes very well, his characters are clearly delineated, and complex. It left me with lots to think about, and distressing matters to feel about, particularly within the context of many world events, at this time, and a resurgence of ‘populist’ parties with simplistic foci for ‘blame’


The Trainable Cat: How to Make Life Happier for You and Your Cat
The Trainable Cat: How to Make Life Happier for You and Your Cat
by John Bradshaw
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too dense and unpunchy to be a practical 'how to...', 14 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The problem with The Trainable Cat is that it is too dry, overwritten and wordy to serve as an easy instruction manual if you are interested in finding out the practicalities of cat training.

Without having any desire to launch my cats into becoming stars of stage screen and circus (which, if you bother to read all 300 pages you MIGHT find gives you some long-winded road-maps) there are some situations where all of us might need a trained cat, from time to time - the dreaded cat-basket, trip to the vets, and following this, the dreaded pilling procedure

This book, despite some sweetener photos of authors' cats, is heavy on a rather over-neutral, un-engaging academic voice :

"Both habituation and sensitization change the strength of the cat's existing reactions, but they don't help the cat to develop any new responses: for this, more complex learning processes are required."

Alert readers will spot that spelling is also designed for the American market, which, given the fact the authors are British, is mildly irritating to me

The book is replete with the sort of boxed text, and even the occasional flow chart (a 20 step process to get your cat attuned to its basket) which just makes the heart sink and could have been lifted from a self-help book :

"Practical task

Have a go at training your cat to relax on a specific blanket, using the steps outlined above. It is a good idea to start with a blanket that your cat already uses. It may take several training sessions to teach your cat to relax fully on the blanket. Try keeping notes of each training session - things such as how far you got toward your end goal and what worked best to aid relaxation. These tips will help you progress quickly in your training during your next session"

Much of 'How to Train' is common sense and shouldn't really need repetition and spelling out - reward, don't punish; be gentle and very patient, stop 'the lesson' if your cat walks away and the like. And I think most of us probably know that WE need to make sure we are very calm, quiet and unthreatening in our demeanour when attempting to do anything which might frighten this very hypersensitive, and yet easily soothed, species.

I've certainly discovered, with the many cats I've had, over the years, that the trick to the cat basket is to make sure I am in a deeply serene state in order to ensure cat can be quickly and gently put into a carrier before it realises quite what is happening. Admittedly, there will be loud howls once the door is shut. But I had not a flow chart in site


Scotch C38 19 mm x 8.89 m Dispenser and Tape 810 - Fuchsia
Scotch C38 19 mm x 8.89 m Dispenser and Tape 810 - Fuchsia
Price: £6.14

4.0 out of 5 stars If only it had a more space-saving dispenser it would be perfect, 12 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I like the heaviness of this dispenser (you could do yourself a painful injury if you dropped it on your toes, and it would not be a good move to throw it to someone who lacked advanced catching skills) It certainly does what it claims to do - one handed tear off, without the need to hold the dispenser with the other.

I do think it is bigger and bulkier than it needs to be, and a shorter prow and stern, without too much loss of weight, should have been possible, making it more appealing to those with limited desk space. This ocean liner of a dispenser is nearly 16mm long, and almost 7mm broad in the beam.

The slot for the sellotape roll is long, so presumably a larger/longer roll will also easily fit (as long as it has the same size internal centre) This dispenser comes with a small (9m) roll of my favourite kind of 'sello' - the softer, invisible kind, rather than the harder cracklier kind, which I invariably manage to twist and catch back on itself.


Rapesco A4+ Popper Wallet Portrait with Press Stud - Clear Transparent, Pack of 5
Rapesco A4+ Popper Wallet Portrait with Press Stud - Clear Transparent, Pack of 5
Price: £5.14

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But i still prefer the Landscape orientation......., 11 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Plastic wallets are always needed in this house. They are well used and over time begin to crack and split so more will be needed. I expect it will be the same with these, though they certainly seem thicker and sturdier than the bulk of the ones I have from a couple of other manufacturers. Rapesco seem to produce stronger and more durable options. The shaped and cut out top edge allows a pen, even one with a high clicker, to be clipped inside the wallet

Four star for me, only because for ease of stuffing lots of A4 sheets in, the wider opening edge of Landscape is the practical option, compared to the A4 Portrait closure edge of this. Another reviewer helpfully pointed out that Portrait might win out if you were keen on presentation aspects. This makes sense, as i was wondering why the (to my mind) less practical Portrait was chosen anyway


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